Stop teaching children to read and write! There is a serious decline of play in preschool and kindergarten. Learning to read and write should not be the top priority. There is nothing wrong with practicing writing the letters of their name or recognizing the letters as long as we are not trying to teach them something they aren’t developmentally ready for. Reading and writing is a skill that comes later around the age of 7. Kindergartners are not seven, so why is their curriculum centered around reading by the time they graduate kindergarten? Twenty years ago kindergartners were learning their phone number, address and social skills. What happened?
People got scared and worried about competing with the rest of the world academically. Policy makers who are not teachers and know nothing about development are making the guidelines. Pushing teachers and students to go beyond what they are ready for or can realistically accomplish. Sure, kindergartners can a will learn to read by the end of their kindergarten year, but at what cost? Are we causing stress and anxiety in our children to meet some criteria someone else set? Can we assess whether our child is ready to learn to read and begin teaching them when they give us the signs? Yes, absolutely!
I remember potty training my children, I knew they were ready to use the potty when they actually showed an interest in it. Pushing my toddlers into potting training almost always ended in disaster. When toddlers are ready to ditch the diaper they communicate in some way to let you know they are ready. They will take off their own diaper and try to sit on their little toilet. And yeah, if they tell you that they are stinky, they are ready for the toilet.
I believe that children are ready to read when they show an interest in books or learning something new. According to the article You and Your Child’s Health by Susan R. Johnson M.D.
“Children who are ready to read and write should be able to sit still and to pay attention for 20 minutes ( without needing to wiggle or sit on their feet or wrap their feet around the legs of a chair). They should easily be able to balance on one foot with their arms stretched out in front of them with palms facing up, with both eyes open and then closed for ten seconds and not lose their balance. Children should be able to walk heal to toe on a balance beam and not fall off. They should be able to reproduce patterns with paper and a pencil when someone draws them on their back (Susan R. Johnson M.D.)”.
Children in preschool through second grade should be focusing on learning through play. I also believe that children can learn to read through play based activities. (heck, I think everyone should learn through play based activities) I don’t understand how worksheets help children learn any better than experience through structured activities and play. Learning about the water cycle can be accomplished by going outside and actually experimenting with water. The water cycle can also be taught through engaging science experiments or art projects. I have even seen movement activities where groups of children represent the wind, water and the clouds.
Learning should come through play when children are young. Pushing them to read and write before they are ready is bound to cause sensory problems and depression. There is also a lot to be said for giving children the opportunity to go outside and just be kids. Rough and tumble play is important to development and so is interacting with peers without the direction and guidance of adults.
There is a lot of research out there regarding play-based learning and some really great resources too. My hope is that we will stop competing with the world and start worrying about what our children really need. Brainstorming and creating a curriculum that makes students excited to learn should be a priority. I know it will be my priority as a teacher now and in the future. What do you think about play-based learning?
Until next time….Have a great day!