I have a little secret for you.
Neither of the girls pictured above read when they were in kindergarten.
In fact, neither of them were truly fluent readers until the end of first grade. They both had excellent kindergarten and first grade teachers. Our school is one of the highest ranking public elementary schools in the state. I hold masters degrees in speech-language pathology and reading education. We are a family of book lovers. And neither of the girls read on their own until the end of first grade.
And now, if they have a spare moment, you know what they do?
You guessed it. They read.
There are any number of reasons for this. Good luck might be one of them. And the fact that neither girl has a learning disability. I attest, though, that one of the main reasons the girls are readers is that from the start and through to the end of their ‘learning to read’ process, my girls associated reading with happiness.
Both girls heard stories and nursery rhymes read aloud from birth. I would spend hours of those quiet early days reading. When the girls were a bit older, they were surrounded by piles of books as they played on their floor. There were times when books were used as blocks or as teething toys more than things to be read but books were there all the same. When the girls began to work on the art of reading, I supported what was going on in the classrooms, but more than that, we kept reading as a family. At that point, that meant a lot of reading aloud. When the girls were struggling through decoding work, I never let that be their ‘reading’ time for the day. I wanted them to understand that time was work and reading was, well reading. This way, reading was always something fun.
Now I am so grateful that I did rush the reading process and I am even more grateful that their school did not. I have not truly entered the Common Core debate here. Our district is fully implementing the CCSS and it’s associated testing this year for the first time so I taking these months to form my opinion on the topic.
That said when I read a piece in the Washington Post last week titled, “Requiring kindergartners to read- as Common Core doe- may harm some.” I knew I had to chime in on this topic.
The article summarizes a report commissioned by the groups, Defending the Early Years and Allicance for Childhood that states,
“Under the Common Core State Standards (CCSS) the snowball has escalated into an avalanche which threatens to destroy appropriate and effective approaches to early education. The kindergarten standards, in use in over 40 states, place huge emphasis on print literacy and state bluntly, by the end of kindergarten, children are to “read emergent-reader texts with purpose and understanding.”
Now, in all fairness, I am not certain how our kindergarten and first grade standards were written when my girls were younger. It is possible that we had similar standards but that we also had teachers who were able to appropriately interpret how to implement those standards in reality. It is possible that there are still classrooms where teachers are making wise decisions regarding their own individual little people but I attest that it is most likely getting harder to make those decisions.
I shudder when I imagine what might have happened to the girls as readers if they were forced to read in kindergarten. While it is tempting as I think about all of this to crawl under a blanket and never come out, I think instead that there an important message for me to share.
As parents, we play an enormous role in raising the readers in our house. If your child is being pushed to read too early in school, you can still control what reading looks like in your home. You can take any and all pressure off of ‘learning to read’ at home. You can model how fun reading is by always having a book of your own to read. And of course, you can read aloud every single day.
I know where I look at something as big and overwhelming as the Common Core, I am tempted to do nothing. Instead I say, let’s fight questionably inappropriate reading instruction in the schools but let’s not fight it in the school. Let’s fight it by filling our homes with reading fun.