School reform has taken a toll on children starting in kindergarten (even preschool). There’s little doubt that children are being forced to learn to read earlier than ever before. The reading gap likely reflects the developmental differences found in children when they are forced to read too soon.
Why are schools doing this? Forcing kindergarteners to read before they’re ready means that many will fail.
Are the resulting poor reading scores being used to bring teachers and public schools down?
Blaming teachers and public schools for reading failure, might make parents more amenable to placing their children in front of computer screens for unproven reading instruction, or it helps to sell reading programs that promise miracles for all children.
Great Schools is a nonprofit that rates public schools and promotes virtual education. They’re no friend to teachers or public education.
If learning to read is like building a skyscraper, then kindergarten is the year to construct the most solid foundation possible. As part of that foundation, kindergartners will be working on the five pillars of kindergarten reading: understanding the relationship between sounds and words (phonetics), reading fluently, understanding what they read, expanding vocabulary, and building knowledge.
Most of us remember learning to read in first grade. Kindergarten was a time for play, recess, and naps. Often, it only lasted half a day.
The media promotes this troubling message. Emily Hanford has already churned out articles criticizing teachers, and she has another new one by NPR called “Why Millions of Kids Can’t Read, And What Better Teaching Can Do About It.”
Her premise is demeaning to teachers, implying that they and their education schools don’t know the “science” of reading instruction.
Many of us discounted Hanford’s previous articles upon learning that she highlights the National Council on Teacher Quality, a bogus group that attacks teachers and their education schools. It is backed by the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation and other corporations.
She also emphasizes the National Reading Panel results which have been debunked.
With this new article, Hanford is back in Bethlehem, Pennsylvania, and she makes lots of negative generalizations to other schools and teachers. The district’s chief academic officer says he knows nothing about reading, but Hanford focuses on claims that teachers are unprepared.
Teachers now get workshops about the “science” of reading. Science implies phonics, so this creates debate among parents and teachers.
The message that children are forced to learn to read too soon gets lost.
What Hanford doesn’t mention is the name of Bethlehem’s new $962,000 reading program by McGraw Hill.
“Reading Wonders” is listed as the first and only reading program designed specifically for the Common Core State Standards for Reading/Language Arts. Combining research-based instruction with new tools to meet today’s challenges, every component and every lesson is designed for effective and efficient CCSS.
It promises miracle scores and is in print or digital form.
Teachers have always chosen reading programs to teach reading. The difference is the way teachers are now cast as failing. The implication is that they must rely on outside corporate programs, including Common Core, to save them and their students. This weakens teacher professionalism at a time when the country needs good teachers.
Many teachers and parents aren’t buying Hanford’s claims. They wonder if formal reading programs are age inappropriate.
Here are some thoughts. Help me brainstorm.
- Reading is a joyful subject to teach.
- Parents and teachers with the school board should choose reading programs.
- Don’t tell children that they should be reading by 3rd grade, or any grade.
- Children should have a chance to learn to enjoy books.
- Kindergartners need to have a chance to be curious about stories.
- Language is developed through play and is critical to reading.
- Quit using Response to Intervention.
- Provide resource classes with reading specialists.
- Don’t start formal reading instruction until first grade.
- Reading instruction should be age appropriate.
- Let teachers assess students with tests they choose.
- Lower class sizes especially K-3rd grades.
- Recognize that children learn to read at different rates.
- Ensure that teachers recognize what’s developmentally correct.
- Parents and teachers need to positively communicate.
- Don’t force children who already read to do irrelevant work.
- Let children explore books.
- Read to children often and make it interesting.
- Reading instruction should not be scary.
- Children need more than a computer to learn how to read.
- Some students need more phonics than others.
- Kindergarten should be an introduction to the wonderful world of reading.
- Phonics might be better after children learn to like books.
- Children should not be cast as reading failures in kindergarten, or ever!
- Reading should quit being used to destroy teachers and public schools.
- Libraries and certified librarians.
It’s time for teachers and parents to take back public school classrooms and create developmentally appropriate reading instruction.
Return the joy of reading to children.