Perhaps We Have It All Backwards

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     A preschooler building a word by listening to the sounds in it.

This past week I was surrounded by incredible people – parents, teachers, administrators, and friends – all grappling with the huge need to better prepare preschool children for success in school. One administrator’s comment, “Our kids are well prepared for kindergarten, except they do not know their letter-sounds!” gives critical direction for the litter-strewn path to reading and writing. Our culture insists on prioritizing the 26 letter names, of which only 5 are used for reading and writing. On the other hand, all 26 letter- sound associations are directly linked to reading and writing. Why do we have it backwards?

Monsters – marketing, fear of failing our children, crippling schedules, and rigid curriculum – invade every discussion, home, and classroom. The front line of education, reading and writing, has been engulfed in a dense, blinding, consuming fog. We can’t see the hand in front of us! We can only hear the shouting voices from every direction. Which do we follow?  Which voices are serving our children?  Which are serving political or financial agendas? The child waits, holding on with complete faith as we scramble to find our footing for the next step.

Such a cacophony can “blind” us to the obvious?  Perhaps we should not be leading the child! Perhaps the child should be leading us! Children are the experts about how they learn best. Research confirms how rapidly the brain is developing between 0-5 years of age. The young child is uniquely programmed for language learning, and, if introduced incrementally, reading and writing fits comfortably and naturally along side language learning. In education design, preschool, not kindergarten, is the time for learning to read and write. That is not the case now. It seems we may have that backwards, too?

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