Joshua Barr (M.A. M.Ed)
Let’s Talk About Reading! Part 3 FAQs
In our previous two articles on reading instruction we talked about what the research says on teaching children to read (Part 1) and how a good ECE program develops those pre reading skills (Part 2) rather than simply teaching children like they are in primary school. In this article, Let's Talk About Reading! Part 3, we are going to answer some of the most common questions we get from parents and other teachers about reading.
Does this mean children shouldn’t have any formal reading instruction in ECE?
There will be some ECE experts that would say absolutely no! We don’t hold as strong a feeling on this and would say having a little bit is ok (but not necessary). For example, maybe a three year old class would have 10 minutes per day, the four year old class 15 minutes per day and then five year old class 20 minutes per day. The problem is when reading and writing instruction becomes the major part of the day and week. Usually schools that spend lots of time on reading instruction also spend it on other areas like math, science, art, music, PE etc. that are all directed by adults.
If a child is getting a little bit of reading instruction each day watch closely to see if the skills and knowledge taught are being applied in their play. Are they finding letters that were taught around them in books or their friends names? Are they mark making and writing letters or words, utilizing the skills shown to them? Are they hearing and identifying taught sounds in speech during play? For example, saying ‘dog has a /d/ sound’. If they are doing these things then they are making connections in their play and to the real world. This shows an interest in literacy and a development of reading skills. But if the reading instruction time is the part of the day they don’t like. The activity each day where they keep asking ‘can I go play now?’ And if the child isn’t bringing any of that instruction into their life and play then the teacher and parents should question the purpose and benefit of asking the students to do it at this stage.
What if my child is interested in learning to read?
Some children in kindergarten (2-6 years) develop a passion or interest for literacy very young. We have both had students that learnt to read at a very young age. If a child has a keen interest in learning to read and/or write, then it should be supported by teachers and parents. A large part of Developmentally Appropriate Practice (DAP) is following, supporting and extending children’s interests. We would also say that if a child has an interest in learning to read and write they will learn a great deal independently and won’t need hours of adult instruction telling, repeating and checking for understanding.
What if the primary school I want my child to attend tests their reading level?
This is a difficult question to answer. Many primary schools assess children applying to their school and look to see their academic level. We worked at a school where even the three-year-old preschool children were assessed on their academic level. These things shouldn’t happen and testing children this young to determine if they should go to a school is wrong. Unfortunately, it is the way of many schools now. As a parent you must do what you think is best for your child. All we try to do is outline what the research says with our professional opinion. Many private and international schools have kindergarten programs because it helps them to have students ready to move into their primary school. The best advice we can give is research the school you want your child to attend. Ask current parents and students about the school. Even seek out teachers at that school. If it is a good school, they should assess each child as a person not just if they can read and write at six years old. If your child went to a good play based school, they will have many skills that will benefit the new school long term.
What are some pre-reading activities I can do with my child?
Reading with your child every night! This shouldn’t be a tedious activity but something you and your child look forward to. It doesn’t always need to be from a book, and you can tell a story orally. It also doesn’t have to be a different story every night. Sometimes children will want to read the same book for days or weeks. This is ok too!
If your child has that interest in learning to read it will be obvious and you can let them take over and do more of the reading.
Model good habits. Read in front of your child. Don’t spend lots of time watching TV or playing on your phone. I have a WeChat friend who regularly goes with his son to a coffee shop where they both sit down and read together. Dad has a book and his son has one too. Children develop habits based on what they observe. If a child grows up in a family that read often and for pleasure, then they will be more likely to follow that behavior. If they grow up in a family where most entertainment comes from the phone or TV then they will follow that habit. It really is the basics that help children read for pleasure.
Also remember to have conversations with your child (not just yes and no questions). Get them thinking and wondering about the world.
By Joshua Barr