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I want my kid to read. I want him to read right now. I want
him to be able to go on adventures through the pages of a book. I want him to
know and love the characters I grew up with and the new characters being
created every day for his generation. I want him to be able to write his own
book. Have you noticed anything as you read this? There are a whole lot of "I"s
in this paragraph. Never once did I mention what my kid actually wants or needs.
The thing with reading and writing is that every child will
learn at his or her own pace—even when they are given all of the resources in the
world to be successful at these two seemingly basic skills.
If you do, you may wind up with a child who hates to read, which, to me, would be
the worst fate of all for any child (and a book-loving parent). My own
mother, who is a trained reading specialist, saw how I was trying to force my
son to learn to decode words (reading just by looking at the letters) just before
his 5th birthday. She saw the frustration on my son's face as he disappointed
me (or he thought he did), when he didn't get every word correct. My mom took
me aside and said, "He isn't ready and if you push him, he will lose his love
A wake-up call.
Nothing like your mother telling you to
knock it off, right? I needed to stop pushing my son and let him learn to read
at his own pace.
Kindergarteners are now expected to know how to read and solve math problems, which would have been far above their academic level just 20, or even10, years ago.
My need to have my son read as soon as possible wasn't just
personally motivated, but also motivated by the new Common Core State Standards that have been adopted by dozens of states. These new standards are changing the classroom curriculum and objectives, and have been criticized by many early years education experts for being developmentally inappropriate. Joseph Ganem wrote a compelling OpEd piece
for the Baltimore Sun in June 2015, "The
Common Core can't speed up development." He argues that standards have been raised so high
that our children cannot physically or mentally catch up or stay on track, no
matter how much we push them.
"The school curriculum has become blind not only
to the progression of normal child development but also to natural variations
in the rate that children develop," Ganem writes.
Our children cannot neurologically—biologically—keep up
with the expectations put on them. While a few succeed, they are outliers. Those who need more
time to grow and develop before being able to demonstrate they can do these tasks will be left behind or labeled unfairly.
Kindergarteners are now expected to know how to read and solve math problems, which would have been far above their academic level just 20, or even10, years
While we in the U.S. drive our kids to succeed at an early
age—and, let's be honest, we feel that our children have to be ahead of the
pack so they can be successful later in life—kids over in Finland, where high
school students routinely show academic excellence on an international level aren't starting their children in kindergarten until they are 6 years old. Even then they only go to school four hours a day. And they play most of that
In an article by Tim Walker in The
Atlantic, one inherent truth about children came out while he was talking
to teachers and students in Finland: "[Children] learn so well through play. They
don't even realize that they are learning, because they're so interested [in
what they're doing]."
As I stepped back and looked at the reasons why I wanted my son to read, I saw how selfish my motives were. I also realized how harmful my intentions could be to his academic career.
Play-based learning is scientifically proven to give
children a desire to figure things out and learn more about them. So, why are
we forcing a pen-and-paper method on our kindergartners?
As I stepped back and looked at the reasons why I wanted my
son to read, I saw how selfish my motives were. I also realized how harmful my intentions could
be to his academic career. Yes, I want my children to excel in school. But even
more so, I want them to want to go back to school. If they don't have fun
learning, I will start a battle that I'm not prepared to fight until they are at
least in high school and hitting the snooze button on their alarms.
pushing my son. He started kindergarten this fall at age 6 (he is a fall
baby) and is excelling at an age-appropriate level with his reading. Will he
enjoy the books I love one day? Yes. We've already started reading chapter
books together, because he wants to hear more stories.
One day we will get into
a fight over when he needs to turn his lamp off and go to bed. For now,
I'll let him lead the way towards his reading goals.