Saturday, 15 August 2015

Why Does He Want to Hurt Kindergartners?

Wood anemone, a childhood favourite. 

Why Does He Want to Hurt Kindergartners?

Two groups that are strong advocates in early childhood education
(Defending the Early Years and the Alliance for Childhood),
released a report called Reading Instruction in Kindergarten: Little to Gain and Much to Lose (see They claim there is no research base
for the importance of learning to read in kindergarten
(so that its inclusion in the Common Core as a goal for K is potentially harmful).   

I think they are wrong about the research here, but wanted to seek out your reaction.
Does research suggest that learning to read, especially as indicated in the Common Core,
is associated with long-term positive or negative effects? 

Great question. This is one that I’ve been thinking about since I was 5-years-old (no, really).
My mom asked my kindergarten teacher if she should do anything with me to help
and the teacher discouraged any efforts in that regard. At the time, the “experts” believed that any early academic learning was damaging to children—to their academic futures and to their psyches.

When I became a first-grade teacher, we were still holding back on such teaching,
at least during the first-semester of grade one. We didn't want to cause the mental disabilities, academic failure, and vision problems predicted by the anti-teaching types. 

These days we are doing a great job of protecting poverty children and minority children
from this kind of damage. Of course, many of us middle-class white parents are risking our own kids. It is not uncommon these days for suburban kids to enter first-grade,
and even kindergarten, knowing how to read.
As I’ve written before, I taught both of my kids to read before they entered school.

There are not now, and there never have been data showing any damage to kids
from early language or literacy learning—despite the overheated claims of the G. Stanley Halls, Arnold Gessells, Hans Furths and David Elkinds (and many others).

Let me first admit that if you seek studies that randomly assign kids
either to kindergarten literacy instruction and no kindergarten literacy instruction
and then follow those kids through high school or something… there are no such studies
and I very much doubt that there will be. 
Given how strong the evidence is on the immediate benefits of early literacy instruction
I don’t think a scholar could get ethics board approval to conduct such a study.

That it wouldn’t be ethical to withhold such teaching for research purposes should give pause.
If it isn’t ethical to do it for research, should it be ethical to do so for philosophical reasons? Yikes.

What we do have is a lot of data showing that literacy instruction improves the literacy skills
of the kids who receive that instruction in preschool and kindergarten, and another body of research showing that early literacy skills predict later reading and academic achievement
(and, of course, there is another literature showing the connections between academic success
and later economic success). There are studies showing that the most literate kids
are the ones who are emotionally strongest
and there is even research on Head Start programs showing that as we have improved
the early literacy skills in those programs, emotional abilities have improved as well.

And, as for the claim that early teaching makes no difference,
I wonder why our fourth-graders are performing at the highest levels ever according to NAEP?

The studies showing the immediate benefits to literacy and language functioning from kindergarten instruction are summarized in the National Early Literacy Panel Report which is available on line.

And here are some of studies showing the long-term benefits of early literacy achievement:

Early reading performance is predictive of later school success (Cunningham & Stanovich, 1997; Duncan, Dowsett, Claessens, Magnuson, et al., 2007; Juel, 1988; Snow, Tabors, & Dickinson, 2001; Smart, Prior, Sansor, & Oberkind, 2005). This means that young children’s reading performances tend to be pretty stable: kindergarten literacy development is predictive of 1stgrade performance; 1st grade predicts achievement in various upper grades
and the performance at each of these levels is predictive of later levels.

If a youngster is behind in reading in grade 3, then he/she would likely still be behind in high school, which can have a serious and deleterious impact on content learning (science, history,
literature, math), high school graduation rates, and economic viability
(the students’ college and career readiness). 

The research seems clear to me: teach kids reading early and then build on those early reading skills as they progress through school. Don’t expect early skills alone to transfer to higher later skills;
you have to teach students more literacy as they move up the grades
(something that has not always happened).

Cunningham, A. E., & Stanovich, K. E., (1997). Early reading acquisition and the relation to reading experience and ability ten years later. Developmental Psychology, 33, 934-945.
Duncan, G. J., Dowsett, C. J., Claessens, A., Magnuson, K., Huston, A. C., et al. (2007).
School readiness and later achievement. Developmental Psychology, 43, 1428-1446.
Juel, C. (1988). Learning to read and write: A longitudinal study of 54 children
from first through fourth grades. Journal of Educational Psychology, 81, 437-447.
Smart, D., Prior, M., Sansor, A., & Oberkind, F. (2005). Children with reading difficulties:
A six year follow-up from early primary to secondary school. 
Australia Journal of Learning Difficulties, 10, 63-75.

Snow, C. E., Tabors, P. O., & Dickinson, D. K. (2001). Language development in the preschool years.
In D. K. Dickinson & P. O. Tabors (Eds.), Beginning literacy with language:
Young children learning at home and school (pp. 1–26). Baltimore: Paul H. Brookes.
(preschool literacy and language predicts 7th grade performance)

Shanahan on Literacy

You can TCR specialist and language dictionaries that are spontaneously accessed.
I can Turbo Charge Read a novel 6-7 times faster and remember what I’ve read.
I can TCR an instructional/academic book around 20 times faster and remember what I’ve read.
Introduction to Turbo Charged Reading YouTube
A practical overview of Turbo Charged Reading YouTube 
How to choose a book. A Turbo Charged Reading YouTube
Emotions when Turbo Charged Reading YouTube

Advanced Reading Skills Perhaps you’d like to join my FaceBook group ?

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To quote the Dr Seuss himself, “The more that you read, the more things you will know.
The more that you learn; the more places you'll go.”

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