Toddler Literacy?

From my “Let’s totally not believe in our kids” file comes this press release. I say “not believe” because it is only fear that would make anyone think that literacy must be shoved into a 2-year-old — fear that playing and exploring are not enough, fear that a child’s brain is already atrophying, or missing out on “real” education. As if play ISN’T education. As if kids aren’t PRIMED to learn, and must have knowledge crammed into them, or hidden like medicine in “fun and games” directed by adults. This is so false — the idea that kids aren’t learning unless they are being literally TAUGHT, by a grown-up, a program or an app. – L 

Early Years Literacy Programme … Set to Launch at Prestigious Childcare Expo

A mother and daughter team based in Glasgow will this week launch their brand new educational venture; an early years programme which combines learning with fun and games in order to teach toddlers those all-important ABCs.

…The ground breaking new programme aims to help improve literacy in infants and make a real difference to children’s learning. Tailored specifically for children up to two years old, with another programme for children aged between three and five, the developmentally-appropriate programmes are multi-sensory, with lessons featuring puppets, songs, drama and games, as well as traditional learning techniques that have been included in curriculums. The children’s literacy programmes are also downloadable online, so parents and early years nursery teams alike can be involved in the improvement of literacy among all children….

[The developers said] “we have written the programmes specifically to appeal to the younger audience; those that love fun and games while they learn the alphabet!”

Get back in the classroom and start LEARNING already!!

Get back in the classroom and start LEARNING already!!

 

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94 Responses to Toddler Literacy?

  1. SOA May 29, 2014 at 7:08 am #

    Honestly before 2 there is only one good way to promote literacy in your children and it is fairly easy and free if you go to the library. Just read books to them. Done and done.

  2. Elfir May 29, 2014 at 7:36 am #

    Two weeks ago we had our first parent-teacher conference for our 3.5-year-old. She’s perfect in every way except she doesn’t know her letters (and she likes to say “octogon” so they weren’t sure she knew her shapes.) Thing is, she’s not interested in letters. She’s an artistic sort. “A” finally clicked when I showed her it’s a triangle with the third side moved in.

    If this program is free I’ll check it out to see what they have that would appeal to an artsy kid, but I refuse to stress over it. On days she’s not at preschool she’s learning to swim, gymnastics, and teaching herself photography. Plus some cooking and gardening. Plenty of her childhood will be dedicated to academics. We can focus on other stuff right now.

  3. Marcy May 29, 2014 at 7:59 am #

    My kid learned to read as a toddler….they have a name for that “hyperlexia”…it’s a pathology…it’s a signal that things are not necessarily going right. I was so relieved my younger children didn’t start reading until the “normal” time. There is no way I’d push a toddler in that direction.

  4. MichaelF May 29, 2014 at 8:10 am #

    How is this different than Your Baby Can Read?

    Maybe if it teaches my kids to speak in a Scottish accent that would be cool. It might impress the teachers.

  5. Lianne May 29, 2014 at 8:18 am #

    When my niece was a todler, my dad would often babysit her. At those times when he wanted to do something, but she wanted him to play with her, he had a game where he put the alphabet blocks in a pile in the living room, then went off to do his thing. She would come, and he would say ‘go find me the B’, and she run to the living room and go through blocks until she found the B. When she brought it back, he’d ask for a different letter.

    Result: She was occupied, he had time to do the other things that also needed doing, and she learned her alphabet really fast.

    Then he started her on simple words, and reading books to her. Both my nieces read in advance of what standards say they should.

  6. Lex May 29, 2014 at 8:22 am #

    I was reading at three. When I was a kid, they didn’t have words like “hyperlexia” for it, just assorted pejoratives. It didn’t make school any easier for me, as most teachers resented greatly that they had nothing to teach me. Seriously, where are these kids going to go to school that it will be any benefit to them?

    My 9 YO reads a lot – up to 100 pages a day, high school level comprehension. He started at 5-6. My 3.5 YO knows all her letters, but isn’t interested in putting them together. The idea that I could make her do anything she doesn’t want to is laughable. She’ll read when she’s good and ready, and I don’t want to hear anything about “preschool readiness” or “kindergarten prep.” In fall she starts a play-based daycare where they spend most of the morning outside.

    The major dysfunctions in our educational systems are complementary: on the one hand, we have a huge population of desperately poor children who don’t eat until they get to school and will never see a book in its natural habitat; on the other hand we have a Parent Advice Industry whose literature is consumed like porn and doo-dads bought up like crack by paranoid overparenters. The idea of academic preschool being an advantage is caused by a crossing of the wires: for those kids in Category A, it would be a great improvement. But it’s the parents in Category B who want to pay for it and believe in it – despite the fact their kids would be better off staying at home and playing all day.

  7. Nicole May 29, 2014 at 8:31 am #

    I’m a librarian who specializes in children’s librarianship. In my circle, the best road to literacy is to speak your child from birth, using rich language, read to your child, and provide play opportunities that allow them to explore. There are some theories aboout early childhood literacy espoused by librarians that seem to mirror this program, but I firmly beieve that reading and speaking to your child and providing plenty of books, along with ample creative and active play time, are the best ways to develop early childhood literacy. And frankly, with a library card, that’s all 100% free.

  8. Wendy Constantinoff May 29, 2014 at 8:32 am #

    This all makes me so cross. Some schools in England now are taking 2 year olds into their nursery classes. It means that children will be tested earlier and earlier and some sadly will be labelled failures before the statutory school age of 5.

  9. Silver Fang May 29, 2014 at 8:33 am #

    Marcy, why is hyperlexia considered a pathology? Isn’t it more the sign of a rare and keen intellect?

  10. Renee Anne May 29, 2014 at 8:42 am #

    I was the kid that was reading early (started around 3.5 or 4 years old). My husband, on the other hand, slipped through the cracks and wasn’t diagnosed with his learning disability until he was in 5th grade (reading, which was discovered by his MATH teacher of all things!).

    Little Man (3.5 years) has just recently started sitting still long enough for me to read him a book. He’s also started showing some interest in his letters. Even though my background is in education, I’m not pushing it because he will learn it eventually. The kid knows every part on his little body, basic 2D shapes, a couple 3D shapes, his colors, he can count to 10 without help (and 20 with help)…he’s a typical little boy.

    And we have tons of books.

  11. anonymous mom May 29, 2014 at 9:30 am #

    @Marcy, learning to read very early is only a sign of a potential problem if there are other developmental issues. A child who learns to read at 2 or 3 but doesn’t start speaking until 4 or 5 probably needs some intervention, but a child who reads at 3 but is otherwise developmentally typical is probably fine.

    @Elfir, I hate that so many educators now think a child not knowing their alphabet by 3 or 4 or 5 has a problem. Knowing the alphabet used to be, at earliest, a sign of kindergarten readiness. I have a friend whose son, at 3-1/2, had no interest in letters at all, and his preschool teacher was not very tolerant about it and would say he was the slowest kid in the class, etc. It was really troubling for both him and his mother, who is a teacher herself. Around the time he was 4-1/2 or so, letters clicked for him, and now at 6 he’s totally on grade level with his classmates. I don’t see what pushing kids to learn at 3 what they will be just fine learning at 4 or 5 accomplishes. Certainly if a child shows an interest in letter learning early it’s fine to nurture that, but putting academic pressure on toddlers and preschoolers is crazy and does NOT have the long-term effects we’re hoping for.

    One particularly concern I have, as a college English teacher, is that we put so much emphasis now on early literacy, but as far as I can tell there’s very little on later literacy. Once they get to middle and high school, even later elementary school, it’s all about math and science. I’m not saying STEM fields aren’t important, but I have lots of students who are not reading and writing at a level I’d expect from a high school student, much less a college student. It seems like we want this huge push for students to be reading and writing beyond what might be developmentally appropriate until about 2nd grade (things like wanting preschoolers to decode CVC words and 1st graders to compose paragraphs, both of which I think are entirely developmentally inappropriate) and then we figure we’ve done our job with that and stop putting much effort into continual literacy development. I’d love to see us put half as much effort into teaching older elementary, middle, and high school students to become careful readers and thoughtful writers as we put into promoting early literacy.

  12. anonymous mom May 29, 2014 at 9:40 am #

    @SOA, reading to children is great, but it’s not going to ensure an early reader. I have friends who faithfully read to their kids 30-60 minutes a day from birth whose kids didn’t learn to read until 5 or 6 (normal!). I totally dropped the reading ball with my youngest–he’s a silly, active kid and doesn’t really want to sit still for a story, so he usually gets maybe 10 minutes of reading before bed, when he’s in his crib and can’t run away!–but he knew all of his letters and letter sounds before he was 2, thanks to watching Leap Frog’s Letter Factory DVD a couple of times.

    The big thing is that I don’t think we need to “promote literacy” in most kids. It’s unnecessary. Yes, if a child is in a language-deprived environment–if they lack access to books, if they are never read to, especially if they are rarely spoken to and with–they may benefit from specific interventions aimed at providing a more language-rich environment. But your average child in this country is not in a language-deprived home, and I really don’t think there’s anything special parents in that situation need to do to help their child learn to read. The child will learn, when they are ready.

    With a lot of parenting things, we seem to have taken interventions recommended to at-risk children from impoverished environments–interventions that unfortunately don’t seem to have any long-term positive impact–and suddenly made them parenting requirements for all families, even though for most kids they just aren’t necessary.

  13. Lola May 29, 2014 at 9:41 am #

    Yeah, well… My 7 yo just discovered prime numbers by himself (something that hit him while brushing his teeth). But he keeps getting low grades in maths. I guess it’s because they keep asking him the wrong questions.

  14. SKL May 29, 2014 at 9:58 am #

    “Literacy” nowadays doesn’t really mean reading as in being able to make sense of a bunch of written words. It really means having some experience with the richness of language and in particular written language. Basically having been read to and knowing some nice kiddy songs and stories and knowing what a book is equals toddler literacy.

    All kids are different, so no one program (with or without ABCs) is going to be best for every kid. I had to put my kids in daycare, so I checked out the nearest Montessori. It would have been an unmitigated disaster for my eldest – 51 kids in one room, running around doing different things and making different noises all day long. She would have been crouched in a corner the whole time. But my youngest would have been fine with that.

    We ended up with a preschool that had 8 kids in a classroom, usually pretty quiet, with sitting, painting, tracing, taking turns, as well as times for movement etc. This was the best environment for my eldest (who was, ironically, very athletic and not a particularly early reader). My youngest thrived there too because there was usually enough free choice to satisfy her.

    A play-in-the-dirt-all-day preschool would not have made either of my kids happy. One of my kids was chomping at the bit to learn academics, the other liked things to be neat and clean. They both balked at “finger painting” (smearing) on their first day (age 2.5). Yes, there are kids like that. They can grow up just fine too.

  15. Havva May 29, 2014 at 10:00 am #

    What gets to me is the idea that there is one right answer for every kid. I think this notion of one right answer, one right age is why we have some people fighting to force kids who aren’t ready to start reading, and others refusing the opportunity to those who can. Also perhaps why we have people trying to make early literacy a pathology. Do we force kids who walk or crawl “too early” to stop? Why should we stop the early readers?

    I started learning to read at 3. It is my favorite memory. The whole world rapidly came into focus. It felt like magic. Yes I was taught, I am ever so grateful that I was.

    My husband apparently is hyperlexic. His mom said he started reading almost as soon as he could speak. His dad confirms the same. NO he doesn’t have a mental disorder. He has a gift. I’ve watched him decode Hebrew letters with no instruction in a few hours just from watching my finger while it was read. He knows every numeric system in the world, and learned the Cyrillic alphabet pretty much to play with it during the winter Olympics. Yes the ability to decode can often outstrip the understanding. And for this we label it a pathology? And we label young reading a problem? SO WHAT? Have the people who say this never sounded out a word they didn’t know and asked what it meant or looked it up? My ability to read exceed my understanding too. It got me to ask questions about the meaning of words, it helped me learn. Again becoming literate is my favorite memory.

    My daughter is 3 and she is deeply fascinated by writing, and by words. Given crayons and paper in a restaurant and she asks us to write words for her, she has been on this for over a year. She picks a sound and asks for words starting/ending with it, and adds her own too. So of course I have gotten some phonics books to help her understand to bring it together. Her teacher at daycare also showed the 3 year olds some ‘sight words’ which she loved, and was so excited about. But some parents complained that they “didn’t want their children learning to read.” (not that their children were frustrated and unready. But that they didn’t *want* them to *read*). That is as wrong in my mind as trying to cram it into frustrated children who aren’t ready.

    And of course I have heard the arguments that early reading isn’t an advantage in school. 1)Our schools are terrible at letting children take advantage their accomplishments and pursue further knowledge. 2) So what? Climbing a tree doesn’t have a clear advantage in school. That doesn’t make it worthless. Literacy made my *life* happier. It was a joy to be able to grab a book and read quietly to myself anytime I wanted a story, anytime I was told to be quiet, anytime I was told to wait. This was my husband’s experience as well.

  16. lihtox May 29, 2014 at 10:00 am #

    Ugh, it reminds me of all the talking toys we have that say things like “It’s learning time!” Desperately trying to convince parents that their product is “educational”. Nothing wrong with incorporating letters and numbers into toddler toys, but stop patting yourselves on the back about it.

  17. lollipoplover May 29, 2014 at 10:02 am #

    If I could go back in time and tell my new mama self anything, it would be to ignore these prestigiously marketed programs aimed at small children and naive new parents to spend money on things they can and should be doing for free like singing, talking, and bedtime stories.

    I would instead read him the world and make him observant of every word, sign around him instead of signing him up for 2 year-old Kumon reading support with puppets. I would ignore the urge to feel competitive with other moms reaching *firsts* with their children like reading early. Having your 4 year-old ask you what a topless go-go bar is while driving is not an advantage (though I answered “A place that exploits women” and she still identifies them as such now:))

  18. anonymous mom May 29, 2014 at 10:27 am #

    @Hawa, the fact that early literacy doesn’t have many later advantages isn’t to discourage kids INTERESTED in literacy from having that interest nurtured, but to discourage undue pressure on kids who are not interested.

    My younger two are 15 months apart in age. My youngest is extremely interested in letters and numbers. He cannot get enough of them. He loves to write his letters and play letter games. And, I don’t discourage that, even though I know that by the time he’s in third or fourth grade, he will likely not see many benefits from it. Because, it’s fun for him right now, and it’s something he really likes to do. If you give him sticks, he’ll try to build letters out of them and ask you what letter he made. He walks around identifying shapes in the objects he sees. These are things he enjoys doing, and I’m not going to discourage that because there will likely be no later benefit.

    But, his older sister, who just turned four, is just not interested in these things as much. She knows her letters and letter sounds, but she’s not super interested in talking about them, and she has NO interest in learning to write her letters. I am not going to push it. She has plenty of time to learn to write, when she’s interested. Right now, what she really loves to do is draw, and drawing is developing the fine motor skills that will help her when she’s ready to learn to write. Now, if she was six and still had no interest in learning to write, I’d probably push it a bit more, but at four, no. Because, there’s no real benefit to her learning to write at this age, and there’s a lot of benefit to letting her take things at her own pace and spend time doing what does interest her.

  19. marie May 29, 2014 at 10:28 am #

    lolipoplover, your 4-y-o knows how to drive? My…that IS advanced. 😉

    I thought with all the talk about reading, you wouldn’t mind a grammar joke.

    Yeah, if I could talk to my new-mama self, I would tell me to relax, to send the kids outside to play more often, and just let them learn whatever they are learning.

    The one thing I have no regrets about is getting potty-training done by two.

  20. SKL May 29, 2014 at 10:28 am #

    And there is nothing new about tots learning the alphabet. When I was a kid (almost half a century ago) it was very typical for wee ones to run up and say “I can say my ABCs” and start singing it, and gradually they’d learn the printed letters as they were ready. Sesame Street has been teaching the ABCs for at least 50 years.

    My youngest has always had a love affair with books, since before she could crawl. Luckily for her, she also had good vision, so interest and ability came together to make her an early reader. She had read hundreds if not thousands of books (her own choice) before the age some people would say she should start learning to read. It has definitely made her life happier. It’s not the only thing she does, obviously, but what is wrong with it? She can go all over the world and all through history without requiring adult assistance or supervision. Isn’t that free range enough?

    I agree with Havva’s comments about “early reading doesn’t help in school.” Well, if they design school assuming nobody in the class has done much reading or could read, then yeah. When my kids were in 1st grade, they could both read the questions in the math book, but the teacher didn’t allow that. She would make the class go through the worksheets together, listening to her ask the questions and watching her solve them on a whiteboard. Unfortunately, one of my kids has problems with visual and auditory processing, so she would fall behind. She had to pretty much learn math at home (by doing her own reading and thinking). If I didn’t provide this opportunity and she ended up flunking 1st grade, then yeah, you could say her reading ability didn’t do squat for her in school. But is that really fair?

    As for my other kid, the early reader, she learns very little in school, but that is not my fault. The school does not differentiate enough to accommodate kids who like to teach themselves. Is it really free range to take away the kids’ greatest joy (books) so they can conform to the average expectation at school?

  21. SKL May 29, 2014 at 11:01 am #

    I also think it’s fair to take parents’ interests and personalities into consideration.

    I did teach my eldest to read, starting around her 5th birthday, and it wasn’t particularly easy for her. However, she loves to work with me one-on-one, so this was happy stuff for her. Could we have done something less bookish with that time, like, say, finding and identifying worms in the backyard? Sure, but you know what? I am not interested in worms. My kid isn’t exactly dying to go study them either. I made sure my kids played outside, but the one-on-one learning time I spent with my 5yo was spent on reading, because that was more interesting to me, and it certainly wasn’t hurting her. It’s something all kids need to get comfortable with sooner or later.

    If I had a kid who protested looking at books etc., that would be different, but for one who is just happy to spend time with the parent, there is nothing wrong with the parent pursuing an activity the parent prefers.

    If my “thing” was cooking or gardening, I’d get free range kudos for sharing that with my kids, but somehow reading doesn’t make the free range cut?

  22. Marcy May 29, 2014 at 11:11 am #

    @Marcy, learning to read very early is only a sign of a potential problem if there are other developmental issues. A child who learns to read at 2 or 3 but doesn’t start speaking until 4 or 5 probably needs some intervention, but a child who reads at 3 but is otherwise developmentally typical is probably fine.

    Yes, I should have been clearer. My son was reading at 2 and for years we could almost only communicate with him via written language…which is hard when he’s about to run into a busy street. I felt like I had to carry around little note cards that said “STOP!” So I was relieved when the other kids did not rely so much on the written word.

  23. pentamom May 29, 2014 at 11:40 am #

    @anonymous mom, that is a great point about confusing interventions for at-risk situations with the way everyone “must” parent. People who read to their kids when they feel like it, but actually do feel like it occasionally, keep books around, are seen reading those books (or newspapers or magazines or blogs) and talk to their kids about lots of things (as opposed to almost exclusively uttering commands, threats, and pleas) aren’t short-changing their kids if they don’t do “ten minutes of reading a day from birth” or whatever. People who have grown up without books or in a language-poor environment may need to take more positive steps because their kids are more at risk. But that’s not most of us, and probably almost none of us sitting here reading and commenting on a blog about parenting.

  24. anonymous mom May 29, 2014 at 11:41 am #

    @Marcy, I only mentioned that because I know how easy it is to start obsessing about child development, and being aware of hyperlexia, I was actually very worried about my youngest, who was naming letters and their sounds before he was talking. I mentioned it to his pediatrician, and she was pretty insistent that as long as his language was otherwise developing typically (which it has), it’s very likely just an interest and not a sign of a problem.

  25. anonymous mom May 29, 2014 at 11:50 am #

    @SKL, I don’t think anybody thinks there’s a problem with parents enjoying sharing reading with their kids. It’s just that products like the one described, designed to teach reading skills to under-3s, are marketed via fear, that somehow your child will be behind (and you will be failing as a parent) if you don’t start doing formal education with them from birth.

  26. anonymous mom May 29, 2014 at 12:00 pm #

    @pentamom, having taken some courses in literacy development, as far as I can tell, nearly all of our advice about what “good parents” will do regarding literacy development were originally designed as interventions for at-risk populations of language-deprived children. There is nothing magical about reading to your child 20 minutes a day. Nothing. Yes, if a child is in a home where they are never being read to and rarely being talked to, being read to for 20 minutes a day will likely help provide them with enough language exposure to overcome some of that, in the short term. (Again, though, the unfortunate thing is that none of these interventions do seem to have a long-term positive impact on these at-risk kids, who tend to fall behind again by mid or late elementary school no matter what early interventions they are given.)

    But for most kids, who are talked to throughout the day, who ask questions and have them answered, who make requests and are heard, who have a shelf or two of books that they sometimes carry over to their parents and get read to them, who see adults reading and writing and speaking, 20 minutes of reading a day is not going to have an impact. Is it a bad thing? No. Can the time be good for bonding and fun? Sure. I like to read to my kids, especially once they are old enough that they want me to. But, if you don’t read to them 20 minutes a day, they will still be fine, as long as the environment supports language development, which most do.

    I just know it’s very easy to feel like you suck as a parent because you aren’t reading to your kid 20 minutes a day and so are failing them, as if 20 minutes of reading a day is as essential to a child’s health and wellness as making sure they stay fed and hydrated. It’s not. It’s a guideline designed to help parents who genuinely need help promoting language skills have some tools for doing so, not a mandate for all parents everywhere, including those whose kids are being raised in a sufficiently language-rich environment.

  27. Christine Hancock May 29, 2014 at 12:21 pm #

    I find that most early childhood products that are touted as “educational” or some gobbledygook about sensory development, are just noisy and annoying. They are the bottom of the barrel of bad ideas for toys and can not be sold unless labeled as scientifically or educationally wholesome.

    Truly educational toys and products are remarkably simple: dolls, classic stories and faerie tales, balls, blocks, things that have stood the test of time as things children like to play with. Most children are not academic, they are literal thinkers that want to understand the physical world and relationships.

    Adults are placing their own regrets and fears on children’s shoulders and it’s becoming abusive. Let them be children. A happy childhood running around an open field is not time lost.

  28. Reziac May 29, 2014 at 12:23 pm #

    SOA says:
    =====
    Honestly before 2 there is only one good way to promote literacy in your children and it is fairly easy and free if you go to the library. Just read books to them. Done and done.
    =====

    My mom read to me from the time I could sit up, letting me see the words and follow her finger for as long as a little kid would sit still. That’s it. The rest of the time before kindergarten, I spent just being a kid.

    By the time I hit first grade, I read at a 4th grade level and I had grasped phonics well enough to sound out any unfamiliar word. (I hadn’t been taught phonics yet; I’d just made the connection during that “reading along” earlier.) I had already read one complete novel written for adults (I even still remember it — Gray Canaan by David Garth; I grokked the battle scenes, even re-enacted them with my toy soldiers, but the love scenes went right overhead.) I had read an entire book on how children learn to read, and could poke along in its made-up alphabet (tho it was much harder to read). I wound up skipping first grade mostly because I could already read (writing followed so readily that there was no learning curve), which was the main thing taught at that level. I was ready for more.

    But none of this was forced, or scheduled, or studied. There was no “sensory enhancement”. It was entirely the natural result of exposure to words in a way that was very akin to play.

    And I remain a compulsive reader to this day. 😀

  29. Andrea May 29, 2014 at 12:23 pm #

    Can you imagine how tedious this thing must be for parents? Honestly, one of my biggest indicators of quality in a children’s toy or book is that it doesn’t make me the parent cringe and want to leave the room.

  30. Jenna K. May 29, 2014 at 1:13 pm #

    My kids were all reading on their own by age four. While it gave them a slight leg-up in school, it didn’t, by any means, make them super readers. My now 11-year-old will barely touch a book unless I force him to read. Same with my 9-year-old. Honestly, I almost believe that early reading leads to a decline in interest at younger ages. Of course, the fact that they are boys might also contribute. I think boys, in general, are less inclined to want to sit and read than girls are and there are certainly less books out there written to appeal to boys. I don’t think that’s for a lack of trying either–I keep finding books that I think will be great and spark their interest, and they do for about a minute, and then my boys lose interest and head back outside to ride their bikes and make up games.

    Yes, reading is an important, fundamental skill, but once a person can read, why do we push them to read so much and make them accountable for every word they read by testing them to death? Making them read at two will only make them loathe it by five instead of by eight or nine.

    And this comes from someone who is a huge supporter of education and learning.

  31. SKL May 29, 2014 at 1:14 pm #

    We don’t even know what this product is and we’re bashing it. I didn’t see any fear-mongering in the release. It’s something “new” for people who may be interested.

    There are good and bad approaches to early learning. I would like to see what this is and then maybe I would have a good or bad opinion of it.

    The knee-jerk reaction to reject it outright just because the word “literacy” is attached is disappointing.

    The fact is that a lot of kids have to be in group care and the owners of the care centers have to use some sort of programing. It is an area with lots of room for creativity on the part of professionals. I say let them be creative, give them their turn to talk, maybe test it if it’s not too crazy, and then judge.

  32. Dee May 29, 2014 at 1:21 pm #

    Ugh. Don’t get me started on the rush to push kids to Learn with a capital L. The National Association for the Education of Young Children has tons of literature on how children learn by playing normal kids stuff, not learning letters and math. Yet, despite that, we are pushing learning down so that preschoolers are being expected to read and Kindergarten is the new first grade and elementary kids are doing algebra. There’s this assumption that if we don’t do it faster and more of it, our kids will be behind. Only problem is that we are burning kids out and pushing kids who aren’t ready so they will only be MORE behind.

  33. Maggie in VA May 29, 2014 at 1:32 pm #

    The weird thing is, when I expressed dismay at all the pushing kids to learn their numbers and reading before kindergarten at a kindergarten preparedness seminar, some of the teachers in attendance were just rolling their eyes and saying, oh, yeah, well that’s just overkill. Even teachers don’t believe in this. I seriously think day cares and preschools do this just to keep the kids busy and to convince parents they’re Doing Something to Improve the children.

  34. Donna May 29, 2014 at 1:33 pm #

    So many here are making false comparisons. Not learning ABCs does not equate to free play for the 71% of the child population being raised in homes where all the parents present in the home work outside the home. They spend the vast majority of their waking hours in daycare, not roaming through fields.

    Most children spend their day with a dedicated child-minder – a person whose sole responsibility is to watch them for 8 hours a day – and not a mother who also has to clean house, cook meals, run errands, engage in her own hobbies, socialize with her own friends, read, relax and whatever else she can come up with to kill her own time, which, in turn, gives Jr. plenty of time to do his own thing. A dedicated child-minder will interact the kids pretty consistently throughout the day. The alternative is to do absolutely nothing and die of boredom by lunch of your first day.

    If a puppet show is going to happen anyway, I see no reason that it shouldn’t be a puppet show that teaches the ABCs. Same with the myriad of activities that go on during the daycare day. I think putting pressure on kids and parents to achieve pre-schoolage is wrong, but creating activities around literacy when activities are going to happen anyway, doesn’t seem problematic to me.

    While lots of free play outside may be best, that is not the world that most kids grow up in anymore.

  35. Uly May 29, 2014 at 1:42 pm #

    Hyperlexia is a sign of autism, which is why people keep an eye out for it. I know somebody who learned to read at 2, she is the smartest person I know and also, seriously, the most autistic person I know.

    I myself learned to read at a normal, respectable 3 🙂

    Additionally, the term is often used to mean not simply “reading early” but “reading well ahead of comprehension” – for example, being able to read, oh, this entire paragraph, but not having one single little clue what any of it even means.

  36. SKL May 29, 2014 at 1:45 pm #

    Not long ago the book To Kill a Mockingbird was discussed as a great example of free range. WELL guess who was learning to read at home before the teacher thought she should? Ah ha.

  37. Kenny Felder May 29, 2014 at 2:08 pm #

    All the studies I have seen suggest that kids who read very early do *not* gain any long-term advantage in love of reading or ability to read. They get a head start that is completely erased within a few years.

  38. SKL May 29, 2014 at 2:16 pm #

    Kenny, I hear that statement all the time, but I’ve never seen any actual studies to back it up. Do you have any citations?

    And again, they are not talking about “reading,” they are talking about literacy, which is a completely different thing.

    A child who comes to school completely unfamiliar with fairy tales has a literacy deficit. A child who comes to KG without being able to decode “I see sam” does not.

  39. anonymous mom May 29, 2014 at 2:23 pm #

    @SKL, I think, though, that there are far fewer cases of children who are ready to read but discouraged from doing so at school then children who are not ready to read yet but expected to be able to. I don’t think what drives the market for products like this is parents wanting to help children who are developmentally ready to read to do so, but parents who are told or are afraid their children are or will be “behind” because we’ve suddenly decided that not being able to read at 4 or 5 is a sign of a problem.

    The issue I have with this is that it does follow our trend of expecting more academically from kids at younger ages, even when it is developmentally inappropriate. There is NOTHING wrong with a child who, at 3, does not know the alphabet. There is NOTHING wrong with a child who, at 4, can’t decode CVC words. There is NOTHING wrong with a child who, at 5, struggles with printing. And when teachers (and marketers) start acting as if there is something wrong, and then parents start to think there must be something wrong, that’s just bad for everybody. The solution for the 3 year old who doesn’t know the alphabet or the 4 year old who can’t decode is, in most cases, not programs and interventions and enrichment, but time. Give the kid a year or two (or maybe even a few months), and they will likely be ready, whether we burden them and stress out their parents with interventions and programs or just let them be. Again, if we’re talking about a child who is truly at risk, either due to a genuinely language-impoverished environment or a special need, interventions may be warranted, but your average 3yo who isn’t catching on to letter sounds or 5yo who is struggling with decoding needs nothing but time, and time there is no real reason we can’t allow them.

    That is not to say reading to kids isn’t fun, or watching a Leap Frog DVD is a problem. But, we are certainly becoming more and more accepting of unrealistic academic expectations for young children, and that’s where my problem is. First, it’s not fair to kids, who should be allowed to learn at a pace that is right for them. Second, it simply isn’t working, and we aren’t seeing children better in the long-term because we’re trying to rush them through the basics when they are young.

  40. Clair May 29, 2014 at 2:25 pm #

    Not sure if you’d seen this yet…

    http://1079ishot.com/police-stick-family-decals/?trackback=fbshare_mobile_top

  41. marie May 29, 2014 at 2:25 pm #

    Kids used to go to kindergarten expecting to learn letters and numbers. In first grade, they learned to read. People educated this way–with chalk and blackboards and recess, walking to and from school–grew up to put man on the moon, to invent and develop computers, to build major industries. All of that accomplishment without preschool of any kind for the most part.

    Someone who knows how to read–no matter how old they are when they learn–can learn anything after that. Reading is used to learn everything else. This is still true today, no matter how much clamoring there is for technology in the classroom. Schools boast about having iPads for kindergartners, SmartBoards in all classroom, laptops for all middle and high school students…but that technology isn’t necessary to learn. Plenty of old folks who never touched a computer until long after high school are coding software; they learned it all as adults.

    Learning everything as an adult may not be something to shoot for–neither is spending scads of money on feel-good measures. Johnny using an iPad in kindergarten is not an indicator of a good education. Johnny being a solid reader who can understand a computer science textbook in high school…that is an indicator of a good education.

    Some technology gives us excellent tools. Keeping track of grades is probably easier with a spreadsheet, communicating via email and text is faster than the post office. Blindly grasping at every new technology and pretending that it improves education is foolish, wasteful, and non-productive.

  42. anonymous mom May 29, 2014 at 2:36 pm #

    @SKL, I’m not sure what recent studies have been done. I do know that in the early 2000s, when I was studying literacy, studies were mostly looking at things like programs for at-risk kids. We do know, pretty conclusively, that taking an at-risk child and putting them into a literacy-rich preschool program like Head Start will give them an academic advantage over their peers who did not attend such a program until about third or fourth grade, at which point the advantage is lost and they start performing identically to their peers.

    My own guess, as both an educator and parent, would be that children who show a natural bent toward reading and writing early on probably will perform better academically than their peers. A child who learns to read at 3 because they showed an interest in and inclination toward it that their parents nurtured will probably have academic advantages over their peers. (Although, that advantage will probably decrease over the years. The kid who is reading five or six grade levels above average in kindergarten will probably not remain that far ahead in three or four years, although some will.)

    But, the kid who learns to decode at 4 because their parent or preschool teacher kept drilling them on it will probably not end up more academically successful than the kid who learns to decode at 5 or 6 with less intervention.

  43. anonymous mom May 29, 2014 at 2:42 pm #

    @Jenna, finding good books for advanced upper-elementary readers is HARD, especially for boys. I have this issue with my 10yo. He’s already read many of the book series that seem to be aimed at kids around his age. He could technically read young adult and even adult literature, but many of those books have themes too mature for me to be comfortable giving to him and really for him to be interested in. At this point he mostly re-reads Harry Potter, Narnia, and Calvin & Hobbes, and every once in a while we find a new book he’ll enjoy. I’d love to find more books that were both age-appropriate and closer to his reading level.

  44. lollipoplover May 29, 2014 at 2:43 pm #

    “While lots of free play outside may be best, that is not the world that most kids grow up in anymore.”

    That’s truly sad. If we want what’s best for young children (free play), why aren’t we meeting their needs? Part of the problem and what creates the demand for a product like this at *prestigious* childcare expos is parents who pay for childcare wanting a return on their investment, even at early ages. Starting the educational focus at earlier ages puts pressure on both kids and teachers to meet the needs of the parent who expects her 2 year-old to recite her ABC’s and complains about the quality of childcare when she doesn’t.

  45. SKL May 29, 2014 at 2:49 pm #

    I agree that it does no good to force preschoolers to try to sound out words when do not understand how that works.

    But again, that is not what “literacy” is.

    An environment that encourages literacy at an early age is an environment full of rich vocabulary, compelling art, interesting ideas, song, poetry, and story. Without these things, knowing how to sound out or call out a bunch of words is pretty meaningless.

    Yes, this is more than possible without purchasing a program. But again, if your kid is going to be in a program anyway (because you work during the day), and you don’t have time to read to him etc. very often, is it terrible that the daycare considers literacy in developing its program?

    A quick google search shows that different people define “early reading” in very different ways. Thus it seems as if different outcomes (some good, some bad) come from so-called “early reading.” But I don’t see any disagreement over whether a literacy-rich environment is good for young kids.

    Even Waldorf schools, which don’t allow kids to attempt to read before age 7, is very heavy on literature.

  46. SKL May 29, 2014 at 2:50 pm #

    (“are heavy,” not “is heavy.”)

  47. lollipoplover May 29, 2014 at 2:52 pm #

    @anonymous mom-
    Try this site:
    http://www.readkiddoread.com/

    We had the same problem but my daughter’s teacher recommended this site and we use it all the time to find the *just right* book for interests and reading levels. My middle daughter was an early reader but would never read for pleasure but found many great books with this website.

  48. SKL May 29, 2014 at 2:59 pm #

    lollipop lover, do you actually know parents who complain about their child care center if their kid doesn’t recite the ABCs at 3?

    I’m pretty sure the reason kids don’t play outside all the time at daycare centers is because of regulations and inconvenience. Everything is a pain in the butt when you have to be able to document a specific teacher-child ratio every second of the day, prevent every remotely foreseeable injury (but without ever restraining a child), etc., and if you live where there are long winters, you’re talking about getting the kids all bundled up in 8 different items of outdoor clothing and then someone has to pee … it’s just not that easy. I’m pretty sure they took my kids outside 2x per day when they were in daycare, plus they had “large motor time” on the indoor playground, on a strict schedule. (Plus you could pay for your kid to do coached pull-out activities.)

    I love when my kids get more vs. less time outside. I really can’t think of any real parent who would complain about too much outdoor play time.

  49. Donna May 29, 2014 at 3:06 pm #

    “If we want what’s best for young children (free play), why aren’t we meeting their needs?”

    First note that I say “may,” because I’m not convinced that it is. I was simply not arguing the premise that so many were supporting. Frankly, I don’t have the slightest problem whatsoever with my child’s upbringing which has included learning her ABCs as a toddler, starting to write at around 3, phonics in prek and reading in kindergarten. She is an extremely happy, well-adjusted kid. I have a problem with pressuring kids, but not the slightest one with presenting the information.

    Nor do I find it markedly different from my childhood. I learned to read a year later, but that was not universal (plenty of kids even in 1975 learned how to read in kindergarten) and I already knew my ABCs, writing, etc. well before starting kindergarten. I also spoke French (wish I still knew that) and a little Spanish (thanks to Sesame Street).

    But to answer the question, the world economy and people’s desires have changed. Should only people who can afford to stay home with children be allowed to have them? Should one parent be required by law to drop out of the workforce at the birth of children regardless of their own desires? Until those things happen, the vast majority of children are going to be cared for each day by child-minders who, in keeping their own sanity, regularly interact with their charges and develop activities to cut down on the chaos.

  50. anonymous mom May 29, 2014 at 3:08 pm #

    @SKL, I’d say it’s a little of both.

    My mom was a preschool teacher for 23 years. And, yes, there are definitely regulations about everything, and having an entirely-outside-all-day preschool would not be feasible given those.

    However, she definitely saw a shift in what parents expected from when she started teaching to when she ended. They were a play-based preschool. They did have some light academics for 4-year-olds, and things like story time and music time for all ages, but they didn’t follow a formal academic curriculum. They did have a lot of parents in later years who were disappointed by that or took their children elsewhere. There were a few new preschools that opened up that boasted of having computers and academics that cut into their student body quite a bit. So there are absolutely parents out there who want academic preschools, rather than play-based ones.

    My oldest attended, for a couple of years, a preschool that had started out as a Montessori. Then they started hearing from parents that their children’s kindergarten teachers were complaining that the kids were coming in not knowing how to write their names or knowing all of their letter sounds and especially not knowing how to sit and do seat work (seriously), which were apparently skills that pre-kindergarteners were expected to have mastered, so they moved to being an academic kindergarten. It was actually not a good thing for my oldest to have formal handwriting work at 2 and 3, because he didn’t have the fine motor skills to do it and picked up a LOT of bad writing habits that it took us years to get him out of.

    So I think it’s a confluence of things: state regulations, demand from parents, and pressure from elementary schools.

  51. anonymous mom May 29, 2014 at 3:18 pm #

    @Donna: “But to answer the question, the world economy and people’s desires have changed. Should only people who can afford to stay home with children be allowed to have them? Should one parent be required by law to drop out of the workforce at the birth of children regardless of their own desires? Until those things happen, the vast majority of children are going to be cared for each day by child-minders who, in keeping their own sanity, regularly interact with their charges and develop activities to cut down on the chaos.”

    I actually think it’s stay-at-home parents, at this point, who are the only ones with the luxury to NOT push their kids. That’s where I see the problem. People who can either afford a special private school that focuses on play (Montessori, Waldorf) or who have one parent at home can choose not to force their 3yo to start doing academic work, as more and more preschools move toward an academic model.

    And, one thing we need to recognize is that, in some areas, poor instruction is far worse than no instruction. Frankly, many childcare providers and preschool teachers are not highly-trained educators. In many cases they don’t even have or need degrees. It’s not like they are necessarily providing high-quality instruction to kids, especially if we aren’t talking about private preschools or those in really affluent areas. So, sure, if you have a well-qualified teacher exposing 3yos to an age-appropriate and highly-regarded handwriting program could work very well. But, you won’t have that in most cases. You’ll have teachers with no formal training in teaching young children how to write handing out pencils and dittos, and many of the kids, especially the boys, taking on a task they lack the fine motor skills to do and so developing bad form and habits that they may carry with them all through school. My oldest, for example, was not, in his preschool, instructed about proper pencil grip, or started letters at the top, or any of the habits of good handwriting. Instead, they’d get pencils, dittos, and be expected to stay in their seats and finish them, and that was all. I don’t think that’s uncommon, given the state of much of our early-childhood education.

  52. anonymous mom May 29, 2014 at 3:29 pm #

    @SKL: “But again, that is not what ‘literacy’ is.
    An environment that encourages literacy at an early age is an environment full of rich vocabulary, compelling art, interesting ideas, song, poetry, and story. Without these things, knowing how to sound out or call out a bunch of words is pretty meaningless.”

    I agree. But the problem is that what we’re seeing is many preschool and early-elementary programs moving AWAY from doing these things–cutting out art, cutting out music, cutting out story time–in order to go through scripted phonics programs. I have nothing against phonics. I think it’s the best way to learn to decode. But, when we make learning to decode at the youngest age possible the only measure by which we decide if a program is successful (and that is what we currently do), that’s a problem.

    I don’t think anybody has suggested that preschools shouldn’t have story time, at all. That’s not the issue. I love story time. I think that hard-and-fast rules like “You must read to your child 20 minutes a day” are silly and unsupported by evidence, but I also think that reading to kids is a good thing.

    That’s not what this is about, though. This is about formal reading instruction for babies and toddlers, not literacy-rich preschools.

  53. SKL May 29, 2014 at 3:35 pm #

    anonymous mom, in my world, it is definitely typical that preschool teachers have training if not a bachelor’s degree in early childhood education. You can find that if you want it in private, and I suspect it is required in public pre-K / Head Start. If not for all the teachers, then at least for whoever is in charge of programing / supervision.

    I don’t think anyone was promoting the idea of untrained child-minders stuffing information into the ears and eyes of young children.

    Another thing. Even if it is believed that early exposure to certain pre-reading skills is not giving kids a long-term educational advantage – does that mean it is hurting kids? Kids like to do what they see adults and older siblings doing. That includes playing around with letters and numbers and books and pencils. Most kids love this stuff as long as it is done positively and in age-appropriate amounts. Plus, these are activities that are convenient, portable, and lend themselves to a great deal of creativity. So what if those pencil marks are not going to translate to higher SAT scores? Now who is focusing too much on “educational advantage”?

  54. SKL May 29, 2014 at 3:38 pm #

    anonymous mom: “That’s not what this is about, though. This is about formal reading instruction for babies and toddlers, not literacy-rich preschools.”

    How do you know? I didn’t see a link to the actual product. As far as I know it’s just the word “literacy” that has everyone up in arms.

  55. SOA May 29, 2014 at 3:38 pm #

    One program I do recommend is Preschool Prep DVDS. My Mother in law bought them for the kids and I thought they were probably not going to work, but they actually did! My kids got them around 4 and they liked watching them as much as any other cartoon. They still like them at 7. And it teaches letters, letter sounds, numbers, blends, digraphs and sight words. I think they really had a lot to do with why my typical son learned to read so quickly and easily. He is reading a grade level ahead now.

  56. Matthew B May 29, 2014 at 3:40 pm #

    The problem with most studies around early literacy is that it doesn’t control for confounding variables.

    I would not expect students in highly structured, age based curriculums to see much benefit from early literacy, since what they’re using their literacy on is regulated. As someone that was literate early (reading non-fiction for the content, to learn, at age 4), I did not benefit me at all in public school. Their reading lists were pathetic, and the school librarian throttled my selection for “age appropriateness”.

    I would also expect no benefit to those not academically ambitious and self driven.

    On the other hand, my parents signed waivers at the library for me to have full access when I was 7, and when it comes to learning I’ve always been extremely driven. The time dedicated to learning to read and understand early was an extreme benefit that has lasted. Once I was removed from public school at 9, I completed HS equivilency by 12.

    It is interesting how literacy is defined. I rejected Mother Goose, and my kindergarten teachers considered me behind material wise, but I did like Aesop and knew my fables (and lessons) while the other kids didn’t get them as well. Simple explanation. Mother Goose has no application I’ve ever seen, Aesop does.

  57. anonymous mom May 29, 2014 at 3:52 pm #

    @SKL, I agree, except that it *isn’t* being done properly and in age-appropriate amounts. I think, honestly, it can be hard for many of us with academically-inclined or accelerated children–which seems to be many of the parents here–to recognize how frustrating inappropriate expectations are for parents and children.

    Introducing 3yos to letters and the alphabet song is fine. Expecting that 3yos will all know their letters and letter sounds, and spending a lot of time on worksheets and drills to try to ensure that, is not. And, what we are increasingly seeing is the latter. We are not simply thinking “Age 3 is a good age to start learning the ABCs” but “Students must master their alphabet by 4.” We aren’t thinking, “4 year olds might enjoy some time to do age-appropriate handwriting readiness play” but “A child who enters kindergarten without knowing how to write their letters is behind.”

    I can’t tell you how many parents I know who have been told their child is “behind” in reading or writing or math during their Pre-K to second grade years, simply because they were performing in ways that were entirely developmentally typical. And there are absolutely downsides to a curriculum based on unrealistic expectations.

  58. SKL May 29, 2014 at 4:05 pm #

    Well, maybe this is regional or something. I have never heard of anyone suggesting that a 4yo who does not know all his letters/sounds has a problem. What I do hear is that a 4yo who DOES know all the letters/sounds is doing great in that area. Maybe the problem is that some parents are too competitive about how wonderful their kids are. Don’t blame the schools for that.

    My kids have been in two private schools that boast their academic superiority. My eldest is young for her grade and not a quick study academically. Nobody ever said she was “behind” in reading skills, in fact they recruited her for early (private) KG despite not knowing all her letters. The only academic complaints I got related to listening / following along in class. (She did bomb the standardized test in 1st grade when she had the flu, which got her placed in Title I tutoring, but that was an anomaly. And nobody complained about it.)

  59. Andy May 29, 2014 at 4:27 pm #

    I do not get the big deal about those letter. Being able to name all 25 letter just show the kid is able to memorize 25 arbitrary facts. Which is good for sure, but I see no difference between that and a kid being able to name 25 animals or recognize characters from book or whatever.

    If I would be choosing preschool for learning, I would prefer it to teach understanding of things – I would welcome kiddo physical experiments or hands on learning about nature or about materials (how they behave) or anything that requires problem solving on their part.

    Anything like that would be a bonus. Memorization of 25 letters or numbers or shapes? Not so much. I do not know why there is so much focus on what kid memorized and so little focus on what the kid understand or whether the kid can use the brain so solve problems.

    My kid was interested in letters and knew almost all of them at the age of two. She then lost interest and remember maybe only few of them now – the ones she considers important (P as parking lot and similar). I guess I could spend time and energy and repeating letters with her over and over and she would not forget them. But, what for?

    The older kid is, the easier the kid memorizes things. Normal six years old can do it pretty effectively and all of them can read by the time they hit second grade.

  60. J- May 29, 2014 at 5:29 pm #

    I am 100% convinced at this point, that getting a 2-year-old to read has NOTHING to do with the 2-year-old, and EVERYTHING with mom getting to brag at her mommy group that her 2-year-old is reading. This type of program I see appealing to the mom in the white coat from this ad: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=UgoDcCQZzIg&feature=kp

    What concerns me is the potential for backlash. If the kid is forced to read in a way that takes all the enjoyment out of reading, the kid won’t ever be “a reader.” Every study shows that parents should just read to their children. Reading to becomes reading with and children learn to read. Children should read because it is fun. It should never become forced exercise, wherein if they aren’t tackling Dostoyevsky by age 3, they are not being pushed hard enough.

    On a side note: I’d love to do a revision of One Day in the Life of Ivan Denisovich as a popup book. “The guard wakes Ivan up at five o’clock in the morning. Ivan looks outside and sees blowing snow ‘It’s too cold to work outside today’ says Ivan. ‘No it is not’ says the guard. ‘But’ says Ivan ‘the rules in the gulag say if it is more than 40 degrees below zero, it is too cold to work outside.’ The guard says ‘the thermometer registers only seventeen degrees below zero.’ ‘But’ says Ivan ‘the thermometer is broken, it never reads less than seventeen degrees below zero.’ The guard replies ‘in that case, it is never too cold to work outside.'”

    When it comes to middle and high school, things do need to change. Kids should be required to read books that are intellectually challenging and that have cultural significance.

    Another side note: Nothing by a Bronte sister is culturally significant. Their books were the Victorian equivalent of the Twilight series. They were (trashy) romance novels, today they would be paperbacks sold on a rack in the grocery store with an embossed picture of shirtless Fabio on the cover, probably standing on a rock, surrounded by waves, hair blowing in the wind.

    @anonymous mom, the low reading levels in schools are due to a number of factors, none of which have to to with a focus on STEM. First, there is no way to advance STEM abilities if the kids can’t read. Second, the kids that can’t read, also can’t do math. Most of the kids with poor literary skills have them because they come from a lower socio-economic group where the parent/parents don’t read to them. Either because they work long hours, or the parent/parents are not readers themselves, and they are continuing bad reading habits. If the kid comes home and turns on the TV to daytime crap, there is very little an English teacher can do in an hour a day.

  61. Donna May 29, 2014 at 5:56 pm #

    “I actually think it’s stay-at-home parents, at this point, who are the only ones with the luxury to NOT push their kids.”

    Which assumes that learning ABCs, etc. is pushing. I didn’t feel pushed to learn my ABCs, etc. in school. It was fun. My daughter and her classmates didn’t feel pushed to learn their ABCs, etc. in preschool. It was fun.

    I’ve seen nothing to indicate that it is markedly different from earlier generations. I just talked to my mother. She knew her ABCs before starting school. They learned these things at home, rather than in preschool, but they learned them at the same age.

    “But the problem is that what we’re seeing is many preschool and early-elementary programs moving AWAY from doing these things–cutting out art, cutting out music, cutting out story time–in order to go through scripted phonics programs.”

    Must be a regional thing because that is not even close to my experience at all. Our preschool was heavy on play, art, music, story time, etc. AND the kids all left knowing all their letters and numbers (able to read when written and able to write with varying levels of clarity), and phonics to varying degrees.

    Her kindergarten class started with everything from kids who knew no letters and couldn’t recognize their own names to kids who didn’t speak English to a girl who could read chapter books. Nobody was considered behind.

    “Even if it is believed that early exposure to certain pre-reading skills is not giving kids a long-term educational advantage – does that mean it is hurting kids?”

    This. I don’t think there is really any long term advantage to learning to read early other than enjoyment for those who enjoy reading. That girl who read chapter books at the start of kindergarten was not one of the top readers in 2nd grade. But I also don’t think it is this evil detriment either. It CAN be an evil detriment in highly competitive environments, but that is a problem with the environment not the subject matter.

    I am much more concerned about the heavy reliance on standardized tests – and the stress they place on kids – than I am introducing phonics in preschool.

  62. CrazyCatLady May 29, 2014 at 6:54 pm #

    I was arguing with my son’s “teacher” the other day. (We do a charter type of homeschool.) I was complaining that Common Core expects that 3rd graders will not only have mastered multiplication, that they will be able to do add fractions with different denominators.

    “But all of MY third graders knew how to do that when I taught!” Was her comment. But my thoughts are, sure, the kids learned it because their parents drilled them at home, for hours and hours. At the expense of going outside.

    I learned multiplication in 4th grade, in basically a few hours on the bus ride home. My daughter started in 2nd grade. And we drilled, and drilled, and in 5th grade we were able to do the same math equally well. But I spent many less hours doing the work than she had. I spend way more time outside playing, reading things I wanted to read.

    SURE, you can teach some toddlers to read. But MOST kids will not be ready for a much longer time. If some are ready, sure, help them learn. Those that are not ready? Let them do things that there brains ARE ready to do – run, climb, build sand or block castles, learn how to get along with other kids. Read to them, about what ever they want including ceiling fans, horses, ponies, dinosaurs, fairies and gross tales where Cinderella’s sisters cut off their toes and heals to fit in the shoes. But that should only be a PART of what they are doing in a day. The place that Lenore says sounds like it is totally focused on the learning the alphabet and literacy. Not the other stuff that kids actually need to know too.

  63. Uly May 29, 2014 at 7:16 pm #

    CrazyCatLady, I once read a piece from a Russian woman recounting how she learned her times tables. Her class spent 15 minutes a day on it in the second grade, starting in September, and by April they had it memorized. No homework.

    If learning math skills at an age where most of the world thinks it is appropriate takes hours and hours away from your child, then either your child needs extra help OR you’re doing it wrong.

  64. J.T. Wenting May 29, 2014 at 7:20 pm #

    “Marcy, why is hyperlexia considered a pathology? Isn’t it more the sign of a rare and keen intellect?”

    Probably because anything different from the norm is automatically a disease now…

  65. bmj2k May 29, 2014 at 8:00 pm #

    There is nothing quite like learning life skills from a school setting, isn’t there?

    Seriously, “literacy in infants?” What does that even mean?

  66. Kimberly Herbert May 29, 2014 at 9:33 pm #

    Programs like this are harmful to kids. It is like hothousing a flower and making it bloom early.

    Kids brains develop hopefully along a certain pattern and some of the connections needed for reading develop around 6-7 yo. This is why we don’t test for reading/writing LD’s at a younger age, unless something is wildly out of wack. Forcing kids to sit and do lessons 0 – 6, is like training a toddler to run a full marathon. You might pull it off but you are causing damage.

    There have been long term studies that show the kids that learn to read from being hot housed tend to level out by 7-8 years old, when they reach the developmental level appropriate for more difficult reading (chapter books).

    Now this is different from the child that picks up reading after being read to regularly. That is a product of learning to love stories and reading.

    The type of hyperlexia that in a concern is when kids are skipping entire developmental steps, not just completing them early. This might mean they have atypical brain development that can cause trouble with other skills later.

    An example that isn’t exactly spot on but shows the potential problems. I never crawled. I scooted, bear walked (butt in the air move right arm/leg then left arm/leg). Then when I walked I did the same move right arm/leg then left arm/leg at same time. I also didn’t cross my midline I would pick up a pencil write/color/draw to the middle of my body, then switch to my right hand. The same if I was moving something – like setting the table. If the silverware was in a pile on my left. I would pick out the forks, and put them on the left side. Then I would pick up the knife with my left hand. At the midline hand it to myself receiving it in my right hand and put it down. Drove my parents batty with that one.

    I have what is called a crossover. I’m not fully amidexerious, but I’m not left or right handed either. This is now a huge red flag for LD’s. But I was in JH before it was caught by med students who were giving me an eye exam. I got physical therapy, and that helped with some of the problems. My handwriting is still horrible. I’m also atypically dyslexic. My reading level was always through the roof. So I didn’t get help for my LD’s till university, where I wrote an entire exam in mirror image. While my reading wasn’t a problem there are related problems. For example I can’t take notes because I literally cannot listen and write at the same time. If I start writing the sound fades out. I also have to repeat everything said to me inside my head.

    My niece bear walked and didn’t crawl. Sis got her into movement class (easy because her paternal grandmother owns a dance studio). It was a fun way to help her develop gross motor skills especially those that involve moving her hand and the opposite leg. Still she was diagnosed in Kinder as dyslexic. She was tested early because a developmental check list shows some skills being very accelerated and others lagging years behind, our family history of female dyslexics (including her Mom and 4/5 of our generation on Dad’s side of the family), and her history of problems with motor skills.

  67. Donna May 29, 2014 at 10:04 pm #

    “There have been long term studies that show the kids that learn to read from being hot housed tend to level out by 7-8 years old, when they reach the developmental level appropriate for more difficult reading (chapter books).”

    That is not the same as damage. That is simply the basic tenet that you can’t outwit innate intelligence level by starting education sooner. At some point, natural intelligence level wins. Teaching kids to read at kindergarten may be meaningless in the grand scheme of education, but that is not damage.

    Provide cites for the independent studies that indicate that there is actual damage from learning to read at 5 instead of 6 or 7. Since all my friends learned how to read in kindergarten and none appear to be brain damaged some 40 years later as a result, I really don’t think that you are going to find such studies.

  68. Havva May 29, 2014 at 10:14 pm #

    @Jenna K,
    My husband recommends the Encyclopedia Brown series and Two Minute Mysteries. Those are short chunks and pose an interesting challenge to the reader. Granted he wasn’t avoiding books at that age, but they worked well for him in the 9 to 11 age range.

    Though I see nothing wrong with them having a greater interest in getting outside and playing. It is summer, save the books for foul weather.

    Also a comment on the loosing interest in reading/evaluating kids to death on it. I think there you may have stuck the heart of the issue. I don’t think reading earlier just means they start loathing reading earlier, unless we start evaluating earlier too. But the structure of reading class is in some cases (most cases in my experience) badly flawed. I transferred from Montessori to a GATE program in the public school in 4th grade. Both groups of students were highly capable, intelligent, and (usually) affluent. In Montessori we kids, with no direction, would erupt into spirited debates about favorite authors, best books by an author or in a genera. Usually in the middle of working other lessons. The debates took us all back to the library wanting more because someone always said something awesome about something you hadn’t read. There was a vibrant love for and culture of reading entirely independent from the teachers. We went through books like water. Reading lessons involved a few easy at your own pace work books, encouragement to write stories, and a couple lectures on parts of speech and punctuation. The first time I defied my parents was to read “The Lion The Witch and the Wardrobe” because I felt like the only kid who couldn’t carry a conversation on that topic.

    But in the public school GATE program all the kids declared that they ‘hated reading.’ I quickly found out why. One of our early reading assignments was “Island of the Blue Dolphins.” We were required to read chapter one that night, I read the whole thing. It was quite fun and I scratched my head at my sister’s loathing. Next day, I got in trouble for focusing on the ‘wrong’ concepts from the book (what kind of messed up 9 year old focuses on adventure and survival skills). And I got told my assessment and thoughts were wrong with no explanation. When I tried to make my case I mentioned info from a later chapter and got told it was wrong to talk about that, and wrong that I read ahead. That sucked the life out of reading badly. In high scool I was assigned to stop every 6 pages to write my impressions about “The Scarlet Letter.” Not only was it often an incoherent place to stop, but it seemed like just when I was starting to have a glimmer of interest in the characters I was forced to stop reading.

  69. CrazyCatLady May 29, 2014 at 10:21 pm #

    Uly, maybe I was not doing multiplication right with my daughter.

    But, 15 minutes a day (that you give,) times 180 days equals 45 hours, or about a 7 school days (at 6 hours a day.) What I did took about 2 hours. Total. When I waited until 4th grade to learn the multiplication table. When my brain was ready to do it. Less than one minute per day if you go for the whole school year.

    Which is a better use of time? Maybe we could just send all the 2nd graders home 15 minutes early so they could play outside? Maybe the teacher could read some really good classic literature to the kids – something that they wouldn’t be getting at home? Maybe do some other project that is dear to the teacher that she/he feels like they don’t have enough time to do but is very age appropriate?

  70. Andy May 30, 2014 at 3:20 am #

    We were taught a bunch of tricks on how to multiply numbers. We never had to memorize it whole, just some part of and the rest could be deduced. Bonus: this way forces you to understand how numbers work and it makes equations much easier to understand later on and you are able to multiply even if you encounter slightly bigger number then the one in table.

    Example of trick: 7*6 = 5*6 + 6 + 6 .

  71. Andy May 30, 2014 at 4:43 am #

    It seems like most strategies devised to make kids read focus on making chore out of it.

    Even that “read the kid 20 minutes a day from the day it is born” suspicious. Babies, at least mine, are not interested in every day reading that soon. It must be horrible chore for parent. Reading a book kid enjoy is one thing, reading because you are supposed to and the kid is uninterested is another.

    And it does matter greatly which book you read to the kid, they are not create equal. Some are more interesting then others. Except that fun book selection seems to be completely ignored in the usually advice while most small kid books do not even contain nice language.

    I suspect the kids would be much likely to read, if we focused on showing them reading is interesting and fun.

  72. Uly May 30, 2014 at 5:30 am #

    CrazyCatLady, you might want to check your math – it’s not 180 days, and most people learn better from repetition than from one big lesson.

    Learning your times tables at the age of 7 IS developmentally appropriate. There is a reason students overseas are more likely to take advanced math in high school than American students, and that reason is largely because they learn skills earlier than we do.

    Love your assumption that parents aren’t reading to their kids, btw.

  73. SOA May 30, 2014 at 7:59 am #

    My twins always loved me reading to them. When they were infants they liked to just sit in their bouncy seats and listen to the sound of my voice while I read to them. They found it soothing.

    Then I found board books they loved like Dig Dig Digging. They would crawl over to me with the book and hand it to me and sit in my lap for me to read it to them at like 11 months old. We read that book so much it fell apart and I had to buy more copies.

    They look forward to nightly storytime and cry if they act up at bed time and I take away storytime as punishment. I don’t buy that kids don’t like being read to. My kids are the most hyper crazy kids you could probably find and yet they have ALWAYS loved being read to.

  74. anonymous mom May 30, 2014 at 9:05 am #

    @SOA, sorry you don’t “buy” it, but some kids, at some ages, don’t like being read to. It’s true.

    My oldest always loved being read to. My younger two both went through a phase between about 1-1/2 and 2-1/2 where they really, truly did NOT like being read to. Well, it was less that they didn’t like being read to than that 1) they didn’t enjoy sitting still for more than a few moments and 2) they didn’t have the attention span for more than a page or two of a book. My younger two also, during those ages, tended to just not be super-cuddly (although both then went back to wanting to spend a lot of time on my lap or getting hugs once they hit about 2-1/2). They wanted to run around and explore the world.

    That’s fine with me. Again, if kids like being read to, that’s great. However, you are NOT doing any harm to your children if they do not want to sit still for 20 minutes of story time when they are 2. My daughter, who never wanted to hear stories at 2, now at 4 sits still at night to go through a Magic Tree House book with her dad every two days–they read for about thirty minutes a night, of a chapter book with few pictures. Not forcing her to have story times she didn’t want to have when she was younger doesn’t seem to have made her averse to being read to in any way. (And, my oldest, who was the kid who WOULD, at 2, sit down and listen to stories for an hour or more, has the most behavioral issues and worst attention span of all of my kids, not that that proves anything, but just to say that reading to under-2s is not parenting magic.)

    Basically, at this point, I really believe that, absent truly egregious behavior–like genuine abuse and neglect (for which not reading to a child 20 minutes a day does not qualify)–very little of what we do as parents matters in the long-term. Loving, engaged, caring parents are going to make different decisions, and those different decisions are likely going to have very little impact on who the child ends up being. To believe that how much we read to our child at 1 is going to have a significant–or really any–impact on their future seems like a big overestimation of parental power to me.

  75. anonymous mom May 30, 2014 at 9:29 am #

    I don’t think the issue with accelerating instruction for all children is whether or not it does harm to the child, but whether it has a positive educational impact. I mean, we could presumably introduce algebra in first grade without actually harming children, but it would not have a positive educational impact.

    My concern is from the perspective of an educator seeing this from the other side, what kind of students our educational system is sending into colleges. And, I routinely have students who are unable to compose a grammatical correct sentence or a coherent paragraph. These are not just students from impoverished inner-city school districts, but students from good suburban schools. Something is going wrong.

    And I think what’s going wrong is that we see the problem but come up with the wrong solution. We know that many students are entering college lacking the skills they need to do college work. So, we decide the solution is to like list the skills they’ll need in college and start introducing them as early as possible. But that backfires. Introducing phonics in preschool wouldn’t be that big of a deal if we didn’t then expect that kids should be over and done with phonics by kindergarten and read to write multi-paragraph essays in first and second grade. They aren’t. Rushing them into doing higher-level work that they are going to complete poorly, before they have really mastered basic skills, is absolutely the wrong tactic.

    I’m not the biggest critic of Common Core by any means, but it does exemplify this problem. Reading through the list of its language arts standards for fourth graders, there were things there that my college freshman cannot do. Yes, it would be lovely if all of my college freshman could draw inferences from a text and write a persuasive argument based on the evidence from a text. But, you don’t get there by having them do these things in fourth grade. You get there slowly, by first making sure they are able to actually comprehend the surface meaning of a text, which many of my college students–and certainly MANY fourth graders–cannot do. You can’t make inferences from a text or write a compelling argument based on a text if you don’t actually understand the text well.

    And I think we’re producing students who have been rushed so quickly through the basics that they are unable to do more advanced work well. They might be able to do it well enough–with enough teacher and/or parental assistance–to b.s. their way through high school, but they are at a huge disadvantage when it comes to doing higher-level work in college. I would take a student who has never been asked to develop a thesis or draw an inference from a text or write a research paper but can read carefully and with good comprehension, write grammatically-correct sentences, and put those sentences together into a coherent, well-organized paragraph, I can teach them what they need to know to do well in Comp 101 and college writing generally. But if they come to me having been writing arguments since fifth grade and having been taught to identify what a thesis is since third grade, but still lack the basic reading comprehension or writing skills to do so well, there is not a whole lot I can do. I can teach you how to develop a thesis in a semester, but I cannot teach reading comprehension or basic grammar, to students who lack those skills, in that time.

    I know many college instructors who feel the same way. We’d rather have students who have mastered the basics, which we can then build on, then students who have been exposed to higher-level work that have a very shaky grasp of basics, which is more and more what we’re getting and what the school system is producing.

  76. Andy May 30, 2014 at 10:11 am #

    @SOA You can buy what you want, my kids were uninterested when too small. And even after they were interested, they tended to switch between periods of “I want to read a lot” and “I do not care for months”. They were neither hyper crazy nor running around, they were just uninterested and played as if I would not be there.

    They occasionally left the room, so I’m sure they were not listening while playing. Alternatively they would reach the book and close it in the middle of sentence.

    Judging from what I heard from other parents, this behavior is far from being exceptional. It is not like me reading would be the only time when they heard me talk anyway.

  77. SKL May 30, 2014 at 10:17 am #

    anonymous mom, if that is what you are observing, you must live in a unique place, because I don’t think that is happening throughout most of the US. My kids are finishing 2nd grade in a high standards school, and they are still doing phonics, and they haven’t moved from the paragraph to the multi-paragraph essay yet (except for their one year-end “project” that required parental guidance). I am certain their peers in public school have not done so either – unless they’ve wanted to. I have many online friends with similar aged kids around the country, and they are not doing that either.

    I don’t know if we are doing a better or worse job of “encouraging a love for reading” these days. I’m not even sure that is something you can control. I mean, I love reading but I hate cooking. Reading was imposed on me much earlier and more often than cooking. I just happen to like it.

    Nowadays many/most schools use the “accelerated reader” program that encourages a lot more independent reading. It helps some kids. My eldest would never read as much if there weren’t an incentive (year-end ice cream party!). My youngest / advanced reader is definitely turned off by the testing and the requirement to stay within a certain range of reading levels. However, she always exceeds the “stretch goal” and does plenty of other reading. So overall, I think it is better than just having specific required class texts like they did when I was a kid.

    As for reading being a “chore” for some kids, I ask, is it wrong to give kids chores? I thought it was good for them to have chores. Why must all chores be physical? Meaningful, yes – and I think learning to read is pretty meaningful.

    As a general comment, I think we have a tendency to reject ideas that we haven’t experienced first-hand in a positive way. That doesn’t make sense, though, unless you believe that there is no room for new ideas in the world.

  78. SKL May 30, 2014 at 10:25 am #

    The guideline to read to little kids __ minutes per day is just a guideline. It’s a communication to inform those who did not already know that reading to kids is very good for them. It is not a federal law.

    Once kids are school-aged (KG), then it makes sense for a targeted reading time to be taken more seriously, at least on school nights.

    One of my kids used to get up and leave the room if I opened a book. Seriously. She had pretty severe vision problems and the input really bothered her. She also could not watch a video unless it was about movement (dance, yoga…). She needed vision therapy. She didn’t start voluntarily following along with my reading until she was about 5yo. Did I tie her down and force her to read with me as a tot? No. I just went on reading to my other kid. You can only do what you can do. It’s great when they finally come around and look and ask questions about the book you’re reading. 🙂

  79. Puzzled May 30, 2014 at 10:53 am #

    This whole mess is like peeling an onion. “She hasn’t learned her letters yet.” “We’re moving from one paragraph to multi-paragraph.” Just as an experiment, try taking anything you learned outside of school and imagine doing it this way – say, for instance, talking, or walking. Should kids learn to read at a certain age? I don’t know – but we certainly shouldn’t say no because of a stupid system where, if they do, they’ll be stuck in a room learning it again, or because the teacher will be annoyed. If we say yes, it shouldn’t be because they’ll get ahead academically, as if learning were some sort of linear process.

    The best answer, of course, is that it depends on the kid. I say they should learn to read when they learn to read – when they pick up a book and make efforts to do it.

  80. CrazyCatLady May 30, 2014 at 10:53 am #

    Uly, in my state, WA, the school year is 180 days long, mandated by law. Kids here don’t go a day more, or a day less. (We had last Friday off due to not using all the snow days.) And I still feel that 7 full school days is a lot of time that could be well spent on other things that teachers want to do that is more appropriate. Sure, spread it out over time if you want…but have the kids practice in 3rd or 4th grade for two minutes and then be done with it.

    I see complaints from teachers all the time how they are mandated to do this, that and the other, and can’t do the meaningful things that they really want to do.

    I just don’t get why we PUSH to have kids do things that are HARD developmentally, instead of having them wait until the time when it is easy. If we force them to do it when it is hard they tend to think that all of that subject is hard, but if we wait a little, then they can see that, no, it is not a big deal.

  81. Puzzled May 30, 2014 at 11:00 am #

    CrazyCatLady – you’ve touched on one of my real major hate-issues – the 180 day rule. Enlightenment is so not measured in units of time it’s not even funny. It’s insane.

  82. SKL May 30, 2014 at 11:24 am #

    CrazyCatLady, it is not strange that your child takes more or less time than you took to learn certain things. Maybe you are more mathy than your kid is.

    My 7yo (whom I would NOT call mathy – quite the contrary) was thrilled to do multiplication this year. It was one of her favorite new skills. Of course she does not have all the facts memorized – they really don’t drill that in her school – but she is happy to practice and eventually she’ll know them by heart.

    I am certainly no dummy, didn’t meet multiplication until 3rd grade, and I took more than 2 hours to memorize all the facts. I suspect that is unusual in the 4th grade as well.

    Many people argue that it’s better to wait until stuff comes easy and quick. A couple reasons I am not so impressed with that argument. One, if a child has a problem that needs intervention (which may not be identified if he’s making mud pies all day), a late start=> late intervention can limit the opportunity to remediate. Two, there is nothing wrong with hard work. I think it’s good for kids. Not constant frustration, but hard work. Again, we are all about giving kids challenges in non-academic areas, why are we so overprotective when it comes to the academic areas?

    My eldest works her butt off to keep up in school, and I think it’s great (as long as the teachers don’t punish her disabilities or force the easy way out). She won’t be easily discouraged when life throws her lemons. She’ll be on her own in a short 10.5 years and I want to see her hard-working and resilient, because the good life isn’t going to arrive on a silver platter.

  83. anonymous mom May 30, 2014 at 12:12 pm #

    @SKL, there’s a difference between high expectations and presenting challenges and having developmentally-inappropriate expectations. For example, I *do* think it’s damaging to start introducing handwriting in preschool, unless it’s done in an extremely careful and age-appropriate way. Why? Because many kids, especially boys, will genuinely lack the necessary fine-motor skills to do so at that point. It’s not just that it will be hard for them, it will be impossible for them.

    I mean, I assume nobody would suggest teaching phonics to a 6 month old or multiplication tables to a 3 year old. Why not? Why not see it as a challenge? Because, we understand that it is developmentally inappropriate. For many–not all, but many–children, learning to read at 3 or 4 is just as developmentally inappropriate. It is not that they need to work harder, but that their brains are simply not ready to do the job, but will in a few months or years. And inappropriate expectations for children cause frustration, not hard work.

    I also think we misplace academic challenge. I don’t really think the early elementary school years are the time to be presenting children with academic challenges, but a time to be having them learning and overlearning and mastering basic skills. One common complaint of homeschoolers, which I share, is that schools tend to push children unreasonably hard throughout preschool and early elementary school, and then totally pull back around 5th grade, with many schools having pretty stagnant curriculum through middle school and not challenging kids. This has certainly been my experience, as well, that at a time when kids *should* really started being challenged and asked to work hard, we suddenly drop our expectations (and then expect them to pick it back up again around 14 or 15, in order to get ready for college).

    But, I do honestly believe that, in the early years, a less-is-more approach to academics works. For example, I wouldn’t ask a first or second grader to write a paragraph. I just wouldn’t. At that age, I think they need to be learning and internalizing how to write a correct sentence, and that is challenge enough. My kids, at that age, do a lot of reading, a lot of copywork, and very little original writing. Now, at 10, I really work with my oldest on things like writing well-organized paragraphs. I realize that in many schools kids his age are writing reports, and as an English teacher, I honestly don’t see the benefit to having kids write 3-page reports full of grammatically-incorrect sentences. I will take three well-written sentences over three pages riddled with errors any day, especially at that age. It’s all about building really strong foundations, which I just don’t see us doing. Instead, we want to impress with how much and how hard we can make kids work, without giving quality of work the attention we should.

  84. SKL May 30, 2014 at 12:38 pm #

    Again, I doubt the product / program being promoted by the above-quoted blurb intends that all children learn to actually read at age 3-4. For all we know it could be a program to do just what you are suggesting – develop a solid, age-appropriate foundation upon which decoding and comprehension skills are eventually built. Without either of us seeing the product, it is impossible to argue that one way or the other.

    While I agree that beating a dead horse is stupid – e.g., expecting lovely handwriting from a preschooler – it is just as bad to force a kid to keep “re-learning” stuff when s/he’s ready to build on it, to put it to actual use. Man, that used to drive me crazy as a kid. But on the positive side, I learned about 100 ways to zone out without getting caught. Sitting and doing nothing useful with the body or the mind for hours on end – super free range.

    For the record, unlike when I was a kid, my kids have never had their penmanship graded. I don’t know how typical that is. I hope it’s becoming the norm now. When I was a kid, handwriting was always my worst subject – I always got Cs and Ds no matter how hard I tried. (Of course nobody would know how hard I was trying if I had a disability. I’m sure I appeared careless.) The other thing is that primary teachers don’t generally dock the writing grade for spelling errors. So the kids don’t feel limited in the vocabulary they can use. These are good developments IMO.

  85. Donna May 30, 2014 at 1:30 pm #

    SKL’s description of her girls’ 2nd grade, pretty much mirrors my experience and I know that we are not neighbors. My daughter didn’t do much phonics because she went to a special class for reading, but the rest of her class did. And, while my daughter often wrote pages and pages for her writing assignments, it is not what was expected (in fact, she was sometimes told that she needed to move on something else) nor have they taught anything resembling paragraph structure. Her many pages were just one, very long, paragraph.

    If accelerated education is not damaging, then I guess I don’t see the problem in offering it. I see a problem in insisting that all achieve it, but that hasn’t been my experience in any of the 3 schools that my child has attended thus far (pre-k, home, A. Samoa). The fact is that many DO get it and many DO achieve. I think you are doing them a HUGE disservice by not moving them forward for no reason that I can gather other than everyone can’t do it yet so they shouldn’t be given the opportunity either. If my child had had to suffer through the kindergarten, 1st and 2nd grades that you want, she would have been completely bored and my guess is that we would have already totally turned her off of education.

    What purpose does “overlearning” anything serve? All it does is create bored kids.

  86. invader May 30, 2014 at 6:21 pm #

    Kingsly was right when he wrote the part water babies where the kids have become turnips with heads full of facts. They have crammed them with facts so much they no longer know how to be kids and live in fear of “the examiner” ! There parents are also is hysterics as well for fear that there kids will not be good enough, and if they grow leaves they are plucked away lest it is disadvantageous to them.

  87. SKL May 30, 2014 at 11:37 pm #

    Is there any evidence that learning to read makes kids too stupid to go outside and play? Who are these kids who don’t know how to be kids?

  88. Andy May 31, 2014 at 1:56 am #

    @SKL No one is saying kids should be kept away from books and prevented to learn no matter how much they want to. What people are saying is that there is an unhealthy obsession by early reading.

    As for chores, there is nothing wrong with chores. However, there are plenty of real chores I have to do and can assign to kid. There is no reason to turn something potentially pleasurable to one. Especially when there seems to be no added benefit.

  89. SOA May 31, 2014 at 7:18 am #

    when my kids were that toddler running around can’t sit still age, I read to them at meal times. While they sat and ate, I read to them. So I kinda kept them calm while they ate and got to read to them. So there are ways to still make it happen. I often read to mine while they were eating snacks in their high chairs, or stuck in a traffic jam in the car, or waiting at the doctor’s office. I got the point across that reading is a way of life and any time can be reading time. So you can do it without them tolerating just sitting still. And again I have some of the most hyper kids I know.

  90. SOA May 31, 2014 at 7:21 am #

    Not saying it applies to you but I have a friend who also swore her Daughter would not be read to. But I also noticed that tv stayed on all day long….. and when I babysat her she calmly sat and let me read to her but the tv was off….. hmmmm correlation? So that is why I tend to be skeptical when moms claim they can’t read to their kids and their kids won’t tolerate it. That is just one example but yeah I busted that theory.

  91. SKL May 31, 2014 at 12:14 pm #

    Speaking of reading times, I had to be creative because of my always tight schedule. Like SOA I used to read to them at meals sometimes, because I ate faster than them. (I still do this some days.) When they were potty training (age 1) I would read to them when they were on the potties. One of mine then insisted on keeping a pile of books on the shelf next to the toilet for a long time. LOL. Whatever works. Their nanny used to take books with them on midday hikes and stop for “circle time” in odd places.

    I used to go to the library reading hours, and those were fine up to a certain age. Around age 2 or so, pretty much every session was made worthless by kids getting up and running around laughing – and parents trying ineffectively to discipline. Even my kids started doing that at one point, so I stopped going. Better to run around at the park and not bother other people.

    At preschool age, there seems to be a benefit to group reading time, as kids naturally conform to their group of age-mates.

    For preschoolers / young schoolers who will sit for screen time but not for a book, there are some great DVDs by Scholastic that are basically animated audiobooks. You can choose subtitles or no subtitles. My kids really loved these, and so did I.

    But no, if your kid totally rejects literature for a time, it is not the end of the world. I really don’t think anyone is saying that.

    I think of Christopher Robin (based on a real boy), who certainly seemed creative and reasonably free-range, and yet mentioned that he had studies too. And I vaguely remember many other examples of old stories where the kids had lovely adventures as well as enjoyable reading time. Balance is the key.

  92. Andy May 31, 2014 at 4:04 pm #

    @SOA The assumption that if your kids do not like stories at small age means that you are crappy parent and let them watch tv whole day kinda proves both “unnecessary pressure on parents” point and “unhealthy obsession point”.

    People are too pushy about that issue and resort to attacks too easily.

    As anonymous mom said, there is nothing wrong with kids that do not care about being read at small age. If you want to run circles around it, then it is fine as long as you do not insist on all parents running those same circles. I eat together with kids and like it that way.

    Plus, if you need to run too many circles and need to use the time the kid is hungry and can not escape, then the kid is probably not interested anyway.

    It is the same with early reading. There is supposed to be only fun and games. Except that when your kid does not know letters by four and can not read by five, it is probably your parenting failure. Lets assume so. But, no pressure, no additional stress, what do you complain about?

    Anyway, if parent of normal healthy kid needs to stage special theaters and points and strategies to make some point, then that the parent is pushing that issue too hard. Kids are good in recognizing parents values. If X is really important for you, then kids will pick up on those values.

  93. SOA May 31, 2014 at 4:39 pm #

    I agree Andy. And to my friend reading to her daughter was honestly not important to her. She was not read to much as a kid and she is not a reader and even though because her husband is a reader and therefore she tried to read to her daughter I think her daughter picked up on it. I mean if she can’t turn the tv off to try to read to her, then yeah, her daughter is probably not going to care either. But when she was with me, she all of a sudden wanted to be read to probably because she picked up that reading was important to me.

  94. Nic June 1, 2014 at 8:35 pm #

    Well expressed Lollipoplover.
    There is so much evidence out there that having access to books and being read to are all kids need prior to school to be ready to learn formally.
    If they pick a few things up along the way, great, but anything that puts itself out there to “teach” or hot house your kids is not necessary, and can even be detrimental. Play,share,talk,have fun, and the rest will follow in it’s own good time.