In 2013, a University of Cambridge research team published a study that followed the reading history of two groups of children. One group began formal instruction in reading at the age of five. The second group had a more play-based curriculum and began their formal reading study at the age of seven. The results of the study were quite interesting. They concluded that by the age of 11 there was no difference in reading ability level between the two groups, but the children who started at 5 tended to develop less positive attitudes to reading, and showed poorer text comprehension than those children who had started later.The report advised that “formal schooling” should be delayed until children are at least seven and that pushing it earlier is damaging children’s “academic achievement, especially when it comes to reading.”
This report is particularly interesting to consider during this pandemic when children’s schooling has been so suddenly disrupted. No Child Left Behind, Race to The Top, Common Core Learning Standards, High Stakes Standardized Testing….all of these have traumatized educators, parents, and children, turning what should be the joy of learning into a competitive race. Now we add to this pressurized school environment the terror of a destructive pandemic.
There have been many magazine and newspaper articles where parents of young children expressed the fear that their children were falling behind. Parents and teachers worried that children would have difficulty when they were able to return to regular school. In a New York Times article, a mother of a kindergarten child voiced anxiety about her child and the other children in her child’s class. She worried about what would lie ahead for them when they entered first grade. ” If they are transitioning into first grade, will there be time to catch up and get them up to par?”
On Tuesday, January 5, 2020, I met with four extraordinary educators, Kathy Collins, Aeriale Johnson, Vicki Vinton and Matt Glover, to discuss their thoughts on how we can best support young learners during this time. What does reading and writing mean for a 4, 5, 6 and 7 year old? Should we have particular expectations? Can a child of that age be falling behind?
Their conversation will, I believe, provide much comfort and food for thought for parents, teachers and school administrators.
Books by the participating educators