Wednesday, April 23, 2008

Parents: Take the time to choose a good preschool

Einstein never used flashcards and almost everyone in the student body at Harvard Law School didn’t have heavy duty academics and homework forced on them at age three!

If you are looking for preschool for your child in Salt Lake County, be more diligent than simply attending the one the neighbors go to or being enticed to the chain school that claims to teach your four year old to read. There is a whole lot more to Early Childhood Education than just the three R’s. Kids are best served when they have a very deliberately balanced preschool experience that contains the developmentally appropriate elements that science (and your instincts) say are right for a preschooler

There is cult of achievement that has sprung up in Utah that is attempting to sell you as a parent on the need for your preschooler to be plopped at a desk and drilled in an accelerated fashion to compete in this world.

The science of how children learn best concludes just the opposite… and there is a significant body of work that proves it.

Don’t get drawn in as parent by the accelerated learning industry’s advertising. It is not beneficial to “drill and kill” your preschooler to become an early reader. If you do, you run the risk of having a 1st grader that hates school. By third grade all his peers have caught up and you end up with a child that’s emotionally scarred, stressed out and has a fragile self esteem that depends on how he ranks versus his peers.

Here’s a quote from a book* written by a distinguished panel of Early Childhood Ed. scientists on the subject:

“In sum, treating children like empty vessels whose heads can be filled with knowledge because we select what they will learn and teach it directly leads to problems in two domains. First, studies show that children in these programs often learn less academically than their peers who are not being taught concepts directly but in a more playful manner. Second , these programs have the unintended social consequences of creating students who are less likely to experience empathy with their peers , more likely to show evidence of stress-induced hyperactivity , and more likely to engage in delinquent acts.”

Don’t do that to your child!

Take some time to look around, there are preschools that do have their act together and know how to properly portion out academics along with the arts and play.


Play = Learning: How Play Motivates and Enhances Children's Cognitive and Social-Emotional Growth

Dorothy G. Singer, Roberta Michnick Golinkoff, Kathy Hirsh-Pasek. Play = Learning: How Play Motivates and Enhances Children's Cognitive and Social-Emotional Growth. (Oxford University Press, USA, 2006). Page 10.

Tuesday, April 22, 2008

Best Age To Teach A Child To Read


What age is the best age to teach kids to read? Are there any studies on teaching children to read at age four or five? Do children that learn to read at preschool show an advantage over kids that learn in Kindergarten? I’m getting advice from friends that say if you teach too late he/she will be behind other kids.


As a parent, be at Peace!

Kids will learn to read when they are ready. Forcing artificial standards on them prematurely will only make them dislike the task. My view is that there is no one right age to teach a child to read.

Before I go further you might want to check out Brian Ray's research at the National Home Education Research Institute He's done a lot of research from the home education point of view and would have more resources than I. Also check out the work of a book called Einstein Never Used Flashcards by an Early Childhood scientist Dr. Roberta Michnick Golinkoff.

As to an advantage to early reading... the research I’ve read shows clearly that any advantage gained by really drilling a four year old with flash cards and worksheets on reading skills is short term. Children, who learn to read conceptually as they develop, tend to be more interested and more competent readers in the long term.

The age children become emergent readers varies greatly.

My two daughters were both reading by age six, my son didn't get it until about age eight. This isn't unusual for boys, they have "other things" to do, but it certainly isn't a hard and fast rule. I've known my share of girls who just weren't ready to read until they were older.

For me, it didn't click until I was nine and I became a voracious reader in elementary school.

I have two nieces the same age. At five years old, one taught herself to read (now reads beyond her grade level at nine). The other girl basically said "I don't need to know that yet. I will learn that in school next year" and she learned how to read at six.

My oldest child could recognize many words at four and at five and taught herself to read. My baby is almost three and is recognizing letters and many words and memorizes books and repeats them back to us. That’s all happened because those two kids have been exposed to books as literature, not as part of formal reading drills.

Kids learn to read when they are interested. I found with my kids, the single biggest thing that inspired them to learn was being exposed to computer reading games, on their own timing. We set up the program so they could simply play on it. I do mean PLAY. If you position computer educational games as WORK, it causes a child to turn off to the idea. There is a particularly good web site now for reading: This site really walks kids through the phonics and makes reading fun in creative ways, with songs, stories, games. I think it is helpful for kids to learn at their own pace, and this kind of site can make learning so much fun.

Some of the research shows that the best way to get children interested in reading is by seeing mom/dad read. The other thing that continually gets mentioned in the research is that the real key to stimulate kids to read is to read to them and with them.

Let the kids develop at their own pace; it will work out much better in the long run. The best age to teach reading is when the window opens up in the kid's brain. It's like walking.