Are we really teaching kids to read too early?

Discussion in 'Elementary Education' started by Backroads, Feb 1, 2020.

  1. Backroads

    Backroads Aficionado

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    I see this debate strewn across the casual world. Parents complain about the high pressure we place on kids. Teachers bemoan how the standards keep increasing. We point at other countries like Finland.

    Then on the other side we have plenty of the opposite. Programs purchased by parents guaranteeing an early reader. Praise for the intelligence and skill of our kids if they just try or get the right education. The importance of preparing them for a competitive future.

    So... Which is it? Where do you stand?
     
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  3. a2z

    a2z Maven

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    I'm looking forward to this discussion, but I don't have time to post my thoughts now.
     
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  4. Ima Teacher

    Ima Teacher Maven

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    I teach older kids, and some just don’t read, ever. They don’t like it. They have other things to do. They can’t read well, A few can’t read and/or comprehend with any functional fluency.

    I don’t know the answer, but I do know that I have always loved books. I was read to daily. I owned tons of books. I don’t ever remember not having a library card. I skipped kindergarten, and I was always the top reader in my class. I still read frequently.

    Then again, I know that you can kill a child’s interest in just about anything by forcing it when they aren’t developmentally ready or have an interest. Many of the kids in our area come to school with developmental delays, and school is a struggle from day one because they just aren’t ready. The solution has been taking kids in earlier and earlier.
     
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  5. rpan

    rpan Cohort

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    I think teaching kids to read from a young age, without forcing them or putting pressure on them, helps them develop a love of reading. My parents would show me flash cards of alphabets and phonetic sounds from age 2. There was no pressure at all. Felt like a game. So I could “read” very simple books when I was about 3 (so my mum says). That is to say I could recognise words, but had no clue what I was actually reading because I didn’t understand the meaning of the words I recognised. As I got older and understood more and more words, I just couldn’t get enough of books. I was a bookworm. And I have to say that being a bookworm has helped me immensely academically and professionally. That’s just my personal experience. These days, I have a lot more students who cannot read or sound out simple words, let alone spell them. It’s a concern.
    I have no evidence to back this up but I feel that if you don’t love reading or cannot read well when you’re a child then you don’t develop a love for reading as a teenager or an adult. Not being able to read well affects every aspect of life (again, my opinion)
     
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  6. swansong1

    swansong1 Virtuoso

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    My personal opinion is no matter how early we try to force children to read, they are still not going to be successful until they are ready developmentally.

    That doesn't mean that we shouldn't expose them to books as early as possible and they will gain tons from just being read to. But all the money being spent on technology to force kids to learn is just a waste of money for many of these parents.
     
  7. Tired Teacher

    Tired Teacher Devotee

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    I think we should have high standards, and at the same time realize not all kids will be ready to read at the same time and that is OK. I had a similar experience to rpan.
    My mom even had everything labeled in our house ( like cupboards, dressers, closets) during our early years, played phonics games with us, and used flashcards for sight words. She read to/ with us daily. She'd been a HS English teacher and stressed vocabulary when she spoke, talked to us, and asked us questions. I remember being able to sound out adult books at age 3- 4. I didn't understand them, but I did understand books that were for kids.
    Reading was made fun, not forced down our throats. We repeat our parent's patterns often, and my kids read well really young.
    Kids who have parents who make reading fun seldom struggle with reading from my experience.
    Parenting levels vary in extremes. I was fortunate to have parents who cared, had the ability and time to teach us, and knew reading was important.
    I usually now see about 2 kids per yr who come from families like that. Then I see the other extreme where parents do not even look up from their phones to talk to their kids. Then there are scatterings of parents who interact with their kids at different levels. Many are forced to work long hours just to survive this economy.
    Not all kids come from the same backgrounds, and many will develop at a later age once they are exposed. When they are ready to "take off", they need to be moved to the next level.
    I see a couple of solutions to this. It would cost money, but could be done. Many schools would need to be bigger or be better staffed. I think it'd be great if kids were grouped for specific instruction due to ability instead of age.
    Then they could still have social time ( PE, recess, lunch, music) with their peers. I moved to a huge school as a kid that was ability grouped. Also, I spent years teaching in a school that ability grouped classrooms.
    There were some cons to it, but there were pros too. Kids who were ready, could take off. Kids who needed to be exposed to phonemic awareness, vocabulary, sight words, etc. could be get saturated with it.
    Not everyone comes to school at the same starting line, and it seems unrealistic if you are being expected to teach everyone at the same level. The school I am at is not like that. Kids are able to move up or down a year or 2 for specific instruction. Some kids get individual instruction. Others are taught math and reading at a level w/ 3-6 kids.
    A part of the problem I noticed maybe 12 years ago....not sure exactly... was they took all of the standards and moved them down 1 grade level.
    This must have been a nightmare for kids who were in school at the time. I noticed it more in math because kids could usually read by the time I got them. I think a lot of schools may be rushing kids when they are not ready and leaving other kids bored beyond belief when they expect every kid to be in the same place at the same time. I am not sure if that is the case in different schools or not, but it sounds like it sometimes.
     
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  8. MellowMoon

    MellowMoon Rookie

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    My opinion is that the brain of a 3-5 y.o. kid is like a sponge and easily takes in all the information you got. So that's not only the right thing to teach him/her to read at that age, but also that's a great idea to start studying the alphabet of Hispanic language, for example
     
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  9. swansong1

    swansong1 Virtuoso

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    Again, that's great if the child is ready.
    I'll use my own children as an example. My daughter was one of those "sponges". She was ready to read at 3. My son struggled from the beginning. He was so frustrated because he couldn't grasp reading in K and 1st that he suffered emotionally. In 2nd grade, he was ready and picked up reading quickly. By 3rd grade he tested for the gifted class and did well the rest of his school career.
     
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  10. otterpop

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    I agree. I think encouraging a love for reading at a young age is more important than actually being able to read. Children who are read to at a young age are often ready to begin to read in kindergarten. But for some kids, they’ve rarely held a book or been read to when they turn five. Those kids need someone teaching them to love books before they start being expected to understand phonemes and sounding out words.

    In other words - some kids have a five year head start when they get to kindergarten and have been exposed to books often and attended preschool. Some kids are five years behind in that particular area, and expecting them to catch up instantly is unrealistic. Unless pre-k or preschool is universally available for free, there’s a huge number of students starting with a large disadvantage. It’s not fair that those students will nearly immediately be labeled “low”.
     
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  11. a2z

    a2z Maven

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    I haven't experienced the same. It really depends on the child. I guess my biggest disagreement is my interpretation of seldom. What percentage would you put on seldom? Also, many students who struggle with reading have parents who struggle with reading so those parents are not often making "reading fun".
     
  12. a2z

    a2z Maven

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    I see schools pushing children to read and write who don't even know their letter sounds. To me, aside from some sight words and identifying a picture with a word, I think we do a disservice to children by pushing them when they don't yet have the base skills necessary to read.

    I see parents pressured into thinking their children must be reading before school. I don't blame them with the accusations against the parents that are made when students struggle. Word gets around fast when you have teachers insinuating that their children aren't reading well because the parents didn't do enough to teach them to become readers before school teaches them to read. Then add a reading disability to the mix the poor parents get torn apart and crucified for not "reading to their child enough".

    Yep, I do think we push to hard. I think we are all to blame. I think we all have reasons we do so.
     
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  13. Tired Teacher

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    Just random guess...not stats, but I'd say about 85% of the kids whose parents read and make reading fun, don't have problems learning to read.
     
  14. a2z

    a2z Maven

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    When I think of seldom I think very rare. 15% is not rare to me.

    I agree that 85% would fit in this category, but since about 20% of people have reading disabilities, it seems that parents who make things fun would have about 15 (possibly close to 20%) of kids not do well even though parents make it fun.
    But then again, if schools taught kids the basics before making them read and read to them and worked on language development with the students who are not ready to read, we would have much higher rates of kids reading (and catching up to grade level).
     
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  15. RainStorm

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    I think we push too much, too young. I think back to my own childhood. My parents always read to me and I was highly motivated to read. My brother spontaneously knew how to read when he was 3 years old. (He was a child prodigy, and a genius, so this surprised no one.)

    I, on the other hand, never "taught" myself to read. I loved to listen to reading, and we went to the public library every week. However, I did not learn to read until the end of 1st grade. I was the last in my class to learn to read. I was well aware that I was unable to read, and that everyone else in my class could. Of course, back then, nobody was taught to read until the middle of first grade. We didn't even learn letters and letter sounds until first grade. (Kindergarten was colors, numbers, and shapes -- but no letters.)

    So you would think I would be behind for life because of this. But I wasn't. I became an avid reader, soaking up everything once I knew how to read. I had a huge vocabulary (still do.) In fifth grade, we took our very first standardized test. I finished the reading section quite early, much to the dismay of my teacher. When the scores came back, I not only was in the top 99 percentile, I had the highest score not just in my school, or in my district, but the entire state. My parents were called in (they didn't know why, they thought maybe I had "failed" the test or something.) My reading scores were at a college level equivalency.
    The moral of my story is this -- I was the last in my class to read. I struggled terribly. I didn't learn to read until the end of first grade. But I ended up being a high reader for the rest of my life. I loved to read so much that by the end of junior high, I had read every single book on the high school's recommended reading list (we had to keep a book log to make sure we didn't write book reports on books we had read in previous grades.)

    Forcing a child to read before they are ready can be disastrous. It can make them feel like a failure and kill their love of reading. My first grade teacher was very kind, and let me know that I would read when I was ready to read -- just a like flower will bloom when it is ready -- you can't force it. If you try to force it, you might end up killing the plant, or lessoning the bloom. I came from a family of readers who provided me with every support -- but I still was a late bloomer when it came to reading. In the end, it made no real difference.

    I think we force young children to try to read before it is developmentally appropriate, teach them "shortcuts" instead of real understanding, and do them a real disservice.
     
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  16. waterfall

    waterfall Maven

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    Yes and no. I absolutely think standards have been pushed down to younger grade levels and that does students a disservice. I also think the idea of measuring reading success by trying to get every child to meet a certain percentile is absurd. At least in my area, DIBELS is huge. "Grade level expectation" is the 40th percentile. Whenever we try to problem solve around kids not meeting the grade level expectation, we are told to "stop making excuses" and "these are national norms." Yeah, that means nationally 39% did NOT meet the target. If every child is at the 40th percentile, it's no longer the 40th percentile! Why do other people not see this? Kids are not standardized and it's ridiculous to think we can just "improve teaching" and get all kids to develop at the exact same pace.

    OTOH, I think about what I used to do with my Kindergarten sped students years ago and what I do now, and I can see that being more "rigorous" with what they need to learn is making a huge difference. I have also heard that Finnish is a very "shallow" language in terms of phonetics. So I think it's impossible to make comparisons when their students have to learn so much less. I admittedly don't know any specifics about Finnish, but I've thought about this for Spanish before. In Spanish, every letter has one sound and it makes that sound every time, regardless of what other letters are in the word, and there are no "irregular words." It would be the equivalent of learning to read the CVC pattern in English and that's all you'd need to know. Imagine how much better our kids would be doing if all we had to teach them phonetically was CVC words! It would absolutely be feasible to start teaching kids to read much later as there wouldn't be much to learn/you could switch to "reading to learn" very quickly.

    I'm all over the place on this. My other thought is about students who enter school younger than their peers- those that enter K as 4 year olds and turn 5 just before the Sept. 30th cut off date. Those kids are almost always behind even years later. A lot of "school time" is wasted for them as they're simply not developmentally ready to do/learn what's being asked of them.

    As for as Kindergarten readiness, I honestly think "making reading fun" has very little to do with it. The difference we see between high/middle SES kids and low SES families is background knowledge and language- i.e. the "million word gap" study. Wealthier kids come in ready to learn with a lot of skills even if parents haven't been directly teaching basics like letter names and sounds.
     
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  17. a2z

    a2z Maven

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    What a beautiful story. Rain, you must be very bright also. In order to comprehend at that level at such a young age, you are probably a genius too. Don't sell yourself short.

    General points not made to Rain:
    Imagine if the first grade teacher sat there with conviction and said to your mother that she must not be reading to you enough or exposing you to enough reading materials? I'm bringing this up again because this is common place in our local elementary schools and across our district along with every teacher board I have ever been on.

    I would say, though, that the "you will read when you are ready" can be the flip side of an equally bad outcome for children who have reading disabilities. Like in the past, they don't get the support needed until they are beyond help and too far behind to catch up.
     
  18. a2z

    a2z Maven

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    Yes and no.

    At present, I don't see an issue with this if we believe, on a whole, the students in our country are reading below where they should be reading for their grade. If, across the country, students continue to improve, each time DIBELS is normed what constitutes a 40% will be a higher reading level. This approach will not be sustainable. But at present, I think that it is possible to expect students to achieve certain benchmarks and norms.
     
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  19. a2z

    a2z Maven

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    In Finland their early readers have dots between the syllables to help their children segment the words. In our country we have a fit if a student chooses to use a finger or a pencil to help them move through words or from word to word on a page with no guidance for syllabication. Although it is starting to come back now, for decades we removed almost all word level decoding skills. We had large percentages of students who had no idea what a syllable was because the two days they clapped words in Kindergarten didn't follow them through their next years. (no exaggerating here)
     
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  20. Linguist92021

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    In Hungary we start school a year later and we don't have kindergarten. The last year of preschool is sort of a preparation for school, but it's more like making sure the kids are ready.
    Because I was born in November, by the time I started 1st grade I was turning 7. That's the year we started learning to read.
    I actually was reading by the age of because my sister is 3 years older so she was in 1st grade at the time and taught me, however that will just happen with some kids.

    I think waiting a little longer to start school until the child is developmentally ready is better. Yes, we learn to read when we're 6-7, yet our school systems is much stronger than the one in the US.
    In this country we're always in a rush teaching the kids, yet, a large percentage can't really understand what they're reading even in high school.
     
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