Phonemic Awareness and Reading - is it appropriate expectation for Kindergarten? - Mothering Forums

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Old 02-07-2008, 05:58 AM - Thread Starter
 
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OK - this is a spinoff from my other thread - but I am looking to see what people's opinions are here. As I ponder what is going on with my DS right now - I can't help but think - "hey - when I was in Kindergarten I played in the pretend kitchen, sang songs and had nap time" . . .I certainly did not read . . . hence my question . . . . What do people think? If your DC is not showing aptitude in this pre-reading skill - is that even an appropriate expectation for every child in Kindergarten?

Thanks in advance.

TripMom . . . . . loving mom : to DS (7) and BBG (4.5)
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Old 02-07-2008, 06:10 AM
 
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The public elementary where my dd1 and dd2 both attended kindergarten expected all K kids to read by the end of the year. All 25 kids in each of their classes did. If it were an unrealistic expectation for 5 year olds, I'd think they couldn't pull that off.

The summer birthday (youngest in class) kids were often toward the end of the year, but they all could read a book to the class by the year's end. My dd read Are You My Mother? - I have some darling pictures (yes, I was that mom who went and sat in the back of the classroom with my zoom lens...)

I think it may not come easy for all K age kids, but I think it is possible in most cases. At least in the experience of the kids in my kids' classes.
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Old 02-07-2008, 06:33 AM - Thread Starter
 
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Kirsten -

Thank you for your reply. After reading it I can see I need to clarify my question. My point was not so much is it possible to teach them to read - yes, as you pointed out it clearly is. My question was really should we be doing it? At least in the "no child left behind way" meaning every kid must pass a certain level by the end of kinder . . . .

For instance - my DS is being put through extraordinary measures to ensure that he develops these skills this year. When maybe he really isn't ready to read this year? Maybe he will be ready to read in 1st grade? And back again to my comment - but I can't help but repeat the comparison - if it wasn't important for me to read in kindergarten - why is it now so important that the kindergartners of today read at this stage? And is it so important that we are willing to push the development on those that may not be ready, and moreso - are willing to risk the stigma of labeling them "problem readers" - which I can only believe on some level is what happens when DS gets released to go to "learning lab" . . . . .which by the way happens 5 minutes after the "smart" kids get released to do "advanced reading" . . . .

Maybe it is that you really believe because children are capable of reading in kindergarten, that means it is appropriate? So I don't mean to put words in your mouth . . . but felt some clarification on my part was warranted here. .

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Old 02-07-2008, 07:37 AM
 
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As I posted in another thread, my mom (who taught preschool for 17 years and has done literally hundreds of "kindergarten readiness" tests) ranted at me for 15 minutes on the phone the other day at now developmentally INappropriate the current kindergarten expectations are. This was in response to my DS's pre-K parent-teacher conference last week and my questions about phonetic awareness (which his teacher is really worried about). Our public kindergarten is VERY CLEAR that they expect the kids to be reading and writing sentences by the end of the year. My DS has a June birthday. We can't afford another year of preschool but we are already getting flack from the preschool director because she has made up her mind that he is "too young" to go to kindergarten (FYI the cutoff in our area 5 by September 1st). It is maddening.
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Old 02-07-2008, 11:04 AM
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I really don't know. But I have my doubts about the expectations for kindergartners now--not just for reading. So much so that we are very seriously considering moving to the other end of a metro area to put our child in a private school that we believe will fit our child much better.

Our son's preschool explained their expectations--that 4 1/2 year olds sit cross-legged and still (no patting your legs to the beat of the music)--as necessary to prepare them for K so they can learn to read and write in K so they can be reading for the standardized tests. I found that maddening.
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Old 02-07-2008, 02:10 PM
 
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I do not think it is best to expect children to learn to read in K. To me it seems quite early. I really think it is best to follow a childs lead. I think learning to read anytime between 4-8 is fairly normal.

If you can forgive the toilet training analogy:

If you try and foist toilet training on a child who is not ready, you will have to spend quite a bit of time being frustrated. You may develop power struggles where none existed before. If you wait until the child shows signs of readiness, it will be so much more pleasant and easier on everyone.

I am all for early literacy - when it means exposing them to good books, going to the library, playing word games if the child wants to - my DD loves to play "name a word that starts with(insert letter sound)", circle times, etc.

I just think we need to shelve the expectation that they learn to read in K. (which, btw, I think is a fear based decision. I think schools are justly afraid of children NOT learning to read - so they want to get them started as soon as possible - which is K)


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Old 02-07-2008, 02:27 PM
 
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I can't speak from personal experience b/c my girls were interested and ready to learn to read by K, but I do agree with you in philosophy. Most of what I've read doesn't support the idea that learning to read earlier necessarily portends to long-term better reading skills if the child is not yet ready and the earlier age. For instance, you can drill a 5 y/o and teach him to read. If he wouldn't have otherwise been ready to read until 6 or 7, he probably won't be a better reader at 10 if he learned at 5 rather than 7 than if he had been allowed to learn on his own time-table.

I also believe that there is a risk to teaching a child before s/he is ready. The risk is turning reading into an unpleasant chore and creating a child who doesn't like to read. Also, you set the child up to feel like s/he is a poor reader, which tends to diminish enjoyment of reading and later success.
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Old 02-07-2008, 03:45 PM
 
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My name is Kirsten too . My daughter is in kindergarten right now, and I think they really try too hard to teach reading. I think it's great to work on pre-reading skills like letter sounds, letter recognition and numbers. However she is clearly not ready for the reading. She can start to do it if forced, but really she has other skills that she wants and needs to work on.

I really wish they'd spend less time on learning the mechanics of reading and alot more time just reading great literature to the kids. In my experience with my son, I taught him to read at 6-1/2 yrs. After getting through the mechanics of phonics, his vocabulary exposure was much more important to reading fluently.

I find that my daughter is just frustrated with these expectations, so I don't even do the reading homework with her at home. I just make an effort to read fairytale stories and picture books that she loves, that also use good language and vocabulary- like the Beatrix Potter stories.
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Old 02-07-2008, 04:05 PM
 
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I'm registering my oldest son for kindergarten next week and I've been worrying a lot about reading and writing pressures that he'll have when he gets there. He absolutely LOVES to hear new books and will sit still for an hour to listen to new books from the library. He also has no interest in learning to read or write right now. I don't want pressure to learn to read or being labelled as a slow learner to turn him off to reading when he starts school. I don't think reading by the end of kindergarten is an appropriate expectation. Yes, some children will want to and be able to do it, but not all. I've always felt that allowing my son to develop an interest in things and learn them at his own pace has been the best way for him to learn, but I guess I'll have little control over that come Sept.

Marie-Mom to two boys and a girl.
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Old 02-07-2008, 04:51 PM
 
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What a great topic. I am a former elementary teacher, and I spent several years teaching Kindergarten. (I quit when my oldest son, now eight, was born.) I am so discouraged by the changes that I have seen in education in the last several years that I pulled him out of school last year and am now homeschooling him.

Yes Kindergarten children are learning to read. There is a saying that Kindergarten is the new first grade. I find this so sad. Some of the questions I have are: What is the hurry? Why are we pushing our kids so hard? Is education supposed to be a journey or a race? And most importantly, at what cost is this to a child's imagination, creativity, self-esteem and sense of competence? Many children are not developmentally ready for the academics that they are being pushed to do. We accept that children learn to crawl, walk, talk, etc. at different rates, so why do schools throw this paradigm out the window when they reach age five?

With all the focus on early reading, math etc. there is less time for play. There is a lot of research that shows that child-initiated play helps children grow and develop intellectually, socially and emotionally. There is also research that shows that children who start out in a heavily academic setting may initially be "ahead" of children who are in a more play-based setting, but they show no significant gains of standardized test scores by the time they reach third or fourth grade.

A good resource for learning more about the importance of play, and the detrimental effect of pushing early academics is the Alliance for Childhood website at http://www.allianceforchildhood.net/

Another interesting link is: http://www.ted.com/index.php/talks/view/id/66
Which is a talk by Sir Ken Robinson entitled "Do schools kill creativity?" In which he argues that given how fast our society and technology are changing, and the huge challenges we will face in the future, creativity is at least as important as literacy.
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Old 02-07-2008, 06:29 PM
 
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I think that most kids will start reading 5/6/7, but I do think that phonemic awareness is very appropriate for kindergarten. We did do this in kindergarten, too, but maybe we didn't have a word for it. Segmenting words, blending sounds, rhyming words, playing with language-- in my experience many kids in preschool are interested and able to do this. I do think that public school teachers do get locked into the way their school does something and don't know that there are other methods out there that work fine, too. My experience is with Montessori where kids tend to start writing and reading at 4 or 5. As I understand it, Waldorf doesn't teach reading til 7. Both systems seem to work; there isn't just one way.

I think that schools and teachers are under a lot of pressure to not let even one child "fall behind." I've had a principal sit down with me and go over test scores one by one asking for justification for few that weren't at standard. If the school is under pressure, there isn't much room to say,"Well, he just isn't ready. . " we are expected to show results, regardless of the method.
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Old 02-07-2008, 07:50 PM
 
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The lack of play in my son's kindy class drives me crazy. He has an iep and so I called and complained that he's coming home too wired and asked how much movement they are getting during the day. Of course, it wasn't really answered. But I know their movement is moving from the rug to the table to the rug. What I find hard to believe is that teachers who have been in kindergarten for 20 years or so are letting these children sit there so long.
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Old 02-07-2008, 08:28 PM
 
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Segmenting words, blending sounds, rhyming words, playing with language-- in my experience many kids in preschool are interested and able to do this.
Word and Sound play is good. I'd love it if the focus was on pre-reading play, not actually the skill of reading phonetically.
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Old 02-07-2008, 09:27 PM
 
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What I find hard to believe is that teachers who have been in kindergarten for 20 years or so are letting these children sit there so long.
I don't think they have a choice. A friend of mine who teaches Kindergarten was told by her principal that they no longer want to hear her using the term "developmentally appropriate."
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Old 02-07-2008, 09:30 PM
 
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I don't think they have a choice either. In our small rural school system, the entire faculty group votes on one elementary school curriculum. So one curriculum may be more appropriate for the older kids, but not great for the littler ones. Ours uses the Scott Foresman system. It seems ok for 1st grade and up, but I don't like the kindergarten approach.
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Old 02-07-2008, 09:38 PM
 
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I don't think they have a choice. A friend of mine who teaches Kindergarten was told by her principal that they no longer want to hear her using the term "developmentally appropriate."
:
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Old 02-07-2008, 10:13 PM
 
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There IS a lot of pressure to read. I am a 1st grade teacher and yes, the pressure is intense. There is a benefit in that l.d. can be diagnosed and therefore treated much earlier. But I do feel like we are getting more and more obsessed. The idea behind it is that there are so many teen-agers that are reading at an elementary level, and they don't have the vocabulary to get through Harry Potter novels. The logical conclusion is that troubleshooting problems, teaching when the brain is at a high level for absorption, etc begins from 3-6, not 9-12, not 13-16. If a student is in danger of falling behind, pre-k thru 1st grade is the time to take care of it. You set them on a solid start, the rest of the way will be far smoother.

That said, aren't we getting a little nutty, here? I mean, scoring and grading and evaluating is so meticulous. It's such a pain! And does it really help? Whole language, phonics, guided reading, wildly different results....it all gets murky and unclear as to how it helps and what's better than the other.
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Old 02-07-2008, 10:52 PM
 
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The idea behind it is that there are so many teen-agers that are reading at an elementary level, and they don't have the vocabulary to get through Harry Potter novels.
I think that comes more from not getting any literature at home. I really appreciate the teachers who spend lots of time reading aloud to the kids, as well as teaching them to read. My son's first grade teacher did a lot of reading to the kids. You probably do the same.
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Old 02-07-2008, 11:06 PM - Thread Starter
 
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Thank you for all your great posts. Very thoughtful and insightful. I am trying to gather as much info on this topic as I can as we continue to worry about our sweet DS - DH says I'm "obsessing" - but I literally couldn't sleep last night. I told myself that I would be very in tune to DS needs and how public school was meeting them - and be quick to make needed changes . . . . I just never thought that we'd face this issue so soon?

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Old 02-07-2008, 11:21 PM
 
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I don't think they have a choice. A friend of mine who teaches Kindergarten was told by her principal that they no longer want to hear her using the term "developmentally appropriate."
There is almost always some flexibility in how things are taught. I think most people have had teachers who made class more interesting. It's the same with lower grades. There are ways to add movement to class very easily. I know this is a little different from the OP's question, but children need to move and it's my pet peeve this year.
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Old 02-07-2008, 11:25 PM
 
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I thought I'd add that at my husband's school (he teaches kindy), they are starting this huge testing program to see which class has kids reading at the highest levels. While I do see benefit in this kind of testing in relation to reflecting on teaching strategies, it's going to be used to say one particular teacher's program is the best (she happens to have 13 hand picked kids plus a full time program aide whereas the other 3 teachers have 17 or 18 kids) -- assuming that teaching kindergarten like it's a first grade class does teach kids to read better. I told my husband that if they do this, to not only get the union involved with respect to the student/teacher/aide ratio, but for his person growth project for the year, to search for some kind of survey that questions how much children actually LIKE to read.
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Old 02-07-2008, 11:31 PM
 
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My dd tells me how lucky I was when I describe a similar K experience as the OP. My ds is going to start at a montessori school next week,and while they do some reading I am hoping it is far less stressed compared to what ds was forced to do in public school this past fall. Since I pulled him out of ps I read TO him,and I had him read a few bob books or calvert readers.If he gets frustrated we just move on to something else.

I liked it the way it was when I was a kid,but now (even when we hs) I feel a push to make sure they can do as well as the children they meet so no one makes fun of them.
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Old 02-08-2008, 12:28 AM
 
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It's not done this way everywhere. I taught for a while in Poland where children begin school and begin learning to read at age 7... and that's when reading is taught uniformly across the country to every child. I don't think it's any better of a system overall, but I think what takes 3 years to teach to a not-ready 4 1/2 yr old, will take 3 months to teach to a ready 7 yr old. If nothing else, starting later just seems more efficient.

These sorts of curriculum ideas are coming from the top down... not from what an individual child needs.
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Old 02-08-2008, 06:37 AM
 
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I don't think it's a big deal. In the UK, grade one starts one year early, at age 5, and they are all learning to read then. The kids all seem to do it, no problem. In Montessori schools, which are based on "each child at his/her own rhythm", many children are reading at age 4, most are reading at age 5 and are reading chapter books by age 6.

If you ask me, if anything, delaying reading for all children until age 6 is a bad idea. Many children want to and are very ready to learn to read and engage in other more intellectual subjects and are tired of just being expected to play all day.

I think it would be far better to have a "window" of between ages 4 and 7 where children learn to read. Some may not learn until age 7 (which is perfectly ok) but many if not most will learn by age 5, solely because they are eager to learn to read, and without being pushed.

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Old 02-08-2008, 11:51 AM
 
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I think a lot depends on the approach. My concern with teaching reading in kindergarten is that:

a) I believe that in order to succeed in learning abstract concepts later (algebra, geometry, and yes, critical thinking/reading/writing) kids at young ages need to be grounded in the physical. Playing blocks and with sand and at the water table; making up stories at the playhouse about the "sad baby" - all these things are FOUNDATIONS for education, not wasted time. It makes me very sad that this is not valued. And honestly I worry we will raise literate kids with not as much to say about the world.

b) I think probably most kids can succeed at this age but some can't, and if we start teaching kids in KINDERGARTEN that they don't measure up, what does that do to them?

When I was teaching in a learning centre (special ed) there was teacher folklore that you do not need to pull in the reading specialist about kids who aren't reading until two months after their baby teeth start falling out. I thought this was ridiculous, until I watched an entire cohort of boys (mostly boys I must say) totally bomb on reading until - yes - one of their baby teeth fell out. I now have a totally unsupported theory that the same hormonal process that signals the permanent teeth to come down or whatever it is encourages the kind of visual/conceptual thinking that reading requires. Wish I were a researcher. Although I read well before my teeth fell out, although I did knock one out a few months after I started reading.

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Old 02-08-2008, 11:57 AM
 
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When I was teaching in a learning centre (special ed) there was teacher folklore that you do not need to pull in the reading specialist about kids who aren't reading until two months after their baby teeth start falling out. I thought this was ridiculous, until I watched an entire cohort of boys (mostly boys I must say) totally bomb on reading until - yes - one of their baby teeth fell out. I now have a totally unsupported theory that the same hormonal process that signals the permanent teeth to come down or whatever it is encourages the kind of visual/conceptual thinking that reading requires. Wish I were a researcher. Although I read well before my teeth fell out, although I did knock one out a few months after I started reading.
Thank you Rudolph Steiner.

But when baby teeth fall out really really varies in age. Happens at age 4 in some kids, age 6 or even 7 for other kids.

Which I guess once again supports the view that really, we should have a "window" of time for learning to read and not a specific age.

And yes, I do agree that learning at that age is best based in concrete activities and not in the abstract.

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Old 02-08-2008, 11:59 AM
 
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Thank you Rudolph Steiner.

But when baby teeth fall out really really varies in age. Happens at age 4 in some kids, age 6 or even 7 for other kids.

Which I guess once again supports the view that really, we should have a "window" of time for learning to read and not a specific age.

And yes, I do agree that learning at that age is best based in concrete activities and not in the abstract.
Oh yes, I totally agree - until I read your post I didn't really think of kids being discouraged or prevented from reading. I just wish it were more optional!

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Old 02-08-2008, 12:50 PM - Thread Starter
 
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I don't think it's a big deal. In the UK, grade one starts one year early, at age 5, and they are all learning to read then. The kids all seem to do it, no problem. In Montessori schools, which are based on "each child at his/her own rhythm", many children are reading at age 4, most are reading at age 5 and are reading chapter books by age 6.

If you ask me, if anything, delaying reading for all children until age 6 is a bad idea. Many children want to and are very ready to learn to read and engage in other more intellectual subjects and are tired of just being expected to play all day.

I think it would be far better to have a "window" of between ages 4 and 7 where children learn to read. Some may not learn until age 7 (which is perfectly ok) but many if not most will learn by age 5, solely because they are eager to learn to read, and without being pushed.
Sorry - but you might think its a "big deal" - if your child was one of the kids not ready to read in kindergarten and being sent to "learning lab" every day where you hope against hope that he hasn't figured out that is for kids who aren't doing as well as anyone else . . . . but since you know he is a super-smart kid . . .he probably HAS figured that out . . . but now, because he IS smart and just not interested in reading yet . . . he may not only be developing an internal sense of failure but may also be starting to consider himself "not smart" . . . .

I'm not saying don't teach reading to every single kid - what I am talking about is the expectation - and demanding that all kids read in kindergarten when some clearly are not ready OR interested . . . is that really going to pose a problem to his developing reading skills in the future when he is ready . . . DS went to a GREAT very pure-Montessori program for 2 years . . . where he had absolutely no interest in reading . . many kids did . . but he didn't . . . and I never thought twice . . until now. .

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Old 02-08-2008, 01:54 PM
 
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Dss lost his first tooth at 8 years old!
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Old 02-08-2008, 07:46 PM
 
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The expectation for children to be reading at such a young age is one of the reasons I'm planning on waiting until DS is 6 to send him to school. Having a child fail at reading so early will turn them off school for the rest of the time they are there. And that's a long long time.

I've just read Boys Adrift and it really gets into why reading (and I don't mean exposing children to reading, I mean expecting them to be reading by January) is turning some boys off of school for life. Which leads to all kinds of other problems.

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