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20 Things Parents of Young Children Need to Know About Common Core and Early Reading Instruction

School Officials Are Letting Parents Down

As a former preschool and kindergarten teacher, I have a special place in my heart for the parents of young children. They’re so gung ho when their kids start school and want to be involved in every part of their educational journey.

When I was teaching, I had parents who’d enthusiastically volunteer in the classroom each week: supervising at the easels, helping in the dress-up corner, and reading books to kids in our classroom library.

During these years, I also saw how moms and dads of young children led hectic lives, juggling careers and families. Because of this, they relied on teachers, administrators, and policy-makers to know their stuff, act with integrity, and do what’s best for kids.

Because of the Common Core standards in kindergarten, parents are misled into thinking early reading is highly beneficial.

Because of the Common Core standards in kindergarten, parents are misled into thinking early reading is highly beneficial.

The Failure of Common Core

Sadly, since Common Core standards were introduced in kindergarten, we’ve been failing parents of young children.

We’ve misled them into believing formal reading instruction in preschool and kindergarten is critical for their kids and will put them on the road to success. Now, moms and dads are convinced that if their youngsters aren’t reading in kindergarten there is something wrong with them.

What they haven’t been told is the truth. They don’t know that many experts in early childhood education believe formal reading instruction in preschool and kindergarten is detrimental to kids and makes them feel inadequate.

Furthermore, these professionals argue Common Core standards greatly narrow learning at a time when it should be broad. Kindergarten teachers must focus on these circumscribed goals instead of making learning fun, empowering, and limitless.

Not Grounded in Research

Two of the toughest critics of Common Core standards in grades K-3 are Edward Miller, an author and teacher, and Nancy Carlsson-Paige, professor emerita of early childhood education at Lesley University.

The two co-authored an article entitled “A Tough Critique of Common Core on Early Childhood Education." They wrote:

"The promoters of the standards claim they are based in research. They are not. There is no convincing research, for example, showing that certain skills or bits of knowledge (such as counting to 100 or being able to read a certain number of words) if mastered in kindergarten will lead to later success in school. Two recent studies show that direct instruction can actually limit young children’s learning. At best, the standards reflect guesswork, not cognitive or developmental science."

By drilling kids to recognize sight words and hammering them with decoding skills, we are narrowing the once broad scope of kindergarten education.

Kindergarten once held a lofty place in a child's academic journey—a year to play, explore, paint, pretend, and make friends. The possibilities for learning were endless as youngsters joyfully discovered the world around them through sensory experiences.

Sadly, Common Core standards have reduced kindergarten to just another academic year. The imaginations of youngsters have been stifled and play has dramatically decreased. As a result, more children now suffer from anxiety and depression.

20 Lies About Common Core

1. Experts in early childhood education wrote the Common Core standards for grades K-3

There were 135 people on the panel who wrote and reviewed the standards. Yet, not a single one was a K-3 classroom teacher or an early childhood professional.That's why we wound up with such inappropriate goals that focused on all the wrong things.

Most likely, these folks were intentionally left off the committee because they wouldn't endorse early reading instruction. They believe, based on their experience and expertise, that forcing children to read before they're ready is both harmful and pointless.

2. Experts in early childhood education support the Common Core standards

In truth, many actively oppose the Common Core standards for grades K-3 including two organizations that advocate for early childhood education: Defending the Early Years and Alliance for Childhood.

In the report "Reading in Kindergarten: Little to Gain and Much to Lose," the authors argue the benefits of early reading in pre-kindergarten and kindergarten aren't backed up by any evidence. Moreover, early reading instruction doesn't result in stronger readers and greater academic achievement in the long run.

3. The best and brightest in their fields endorse Common Core

More than 500 esteemed professionals—educators, pediatricians, early childhood professionals, and developmental psychologists—have signed a joint statement opposing the K-3 standards.

Their statement reads: “We have grave concerns about the core standards...The proposed standards conflict with compelling new research in cognitive science, neuroscience, child development, and early childhood education about how young children learn, what they need to learn, and how best to teach them in kindergarten and the early grades.”

4. Experts in early childhood education agree that students should be reading by the end of kindergarten

Readiness to read varies greatly, mirroring the uniqueness of each child. Contrary to popular belief, early reading does not represent intelligence or predict future achievement.

Acknowledging that each child develops differently is key to promoting reading success. It takes skilled and experienced teachers to appreciate these individual differences among learners.

Moreover, it takes talented teachers to communicate this fact to parents so they don't panic if their youngster isn't reading in kindergarten.

5. Early readers have a distinct advantage

Research shows children who receive early reading instruction often become indifferent to reading. Conversely, those who learn to read later are more likely to become passionate about books and are more apt to read for pleasure.

6. Phonics is the most important early reading skill

Young children need to have a positive emotional connection to reading.

Knowing T says “tuh” and B says “buh” is far less important than associating books with feelings of security, excitement, suspense, comfort, and pleasure. It's their early emotional experiences with books that will either turn kids into enthusiastic life-long readers or make them see reading as a chore.

7. Play is a waste of time in kindergarten

According to research, preschools and kindergartens that emphasize play show greater long-term gains for their students than those that focus on academics. Children learn far more through hands-on experiences, sensory activities, and interacting with teachers and peers than through structured academic lessons.

The Common Core standards for reading reduce the amount of time children have for activities that benefit them in the long-term: playing, hands-on learning, and socializing.

The Common Core standards for reading reduce the amount of time children have for activities that benefit them in the long-term: playing, hands-on learning, and socializing.

8. The Common Core standards for K-3 are research-based

There is no compelling research that proves learning the isolated skills on the kindergarten Common Core checklist translates into long-term academic achievement.

When teachers inform parents their child isn't meeting the standards, they create needless worry for them. They make kids feel inadequate when they're just beginning their schooling.

9. Standardized testing with young children garners reliable results

Standardized test results for children younger than 8 are largely meaningless. The companies who make the tests are reaping huge financial benefits, but parents, teachers, and kids are getting nothing of use.

10. Educational psychologists support the push for early learning

Most of today's educational policy goes against what we have learned recently in neuroscience. Neuroscience shows that no two brains are alike. Therefore, it's foolhardy to treat all learners the same and expect the same outcomes.

11. Common Core promotes a child-centered learning environment

Teachers have 90 standards to present in kindergarten regarding early literacy.

Therefore, the classroom becomes teacher-directed with structured lessons, children sitting and listening, and rote learning taking place. It's no longer child-centered like it once was when we were kids with an emphasis on play, exploration, imagination, interaction, and self-regulation.

12. Direct instruction is a powerful way to teach reading skills

Direct instruction is an effective teaching method in special education but far less so in a regular classroom.

Research shows that early literacy is most effective when presented in an organic way throughout the school day. This happens when students recite nursery rhymes and poems, sing songs, dictate stories to their teacher, and write words with inventive spelling.

It happens when they listen to stories and then act them. It happens when they make meaningful connections between words on the page and their own real life experiences.

13. Parents should let teachers do the teaching and stay out of it

Moms and dads, without a doubt, are their children's most powerful teachers and influential role models. Moreover, they're best equipped to instill in their kids a love of books.

Reading to their youngsters is the best way for moms and dads to promote that all-important emotional connection to literature. Unlike a classroom teacher with 20+ students, a parent can stop reading at any time to help the youngster make the all-important connections between their own life and the lives of the characters.

Countless studies show the positive impact of reading aloud to kids. The quintessential book on the subject is The Read-Aloud-Handbook by Jim Trelease.

Parents are the best ones to instill in their children a love of books. The emotional connection between love and reading begins early and can last a lifetime.

Parents are the best ones to instill in their children a love of books. The emotional connection between love and reading begins early and can last a lifetime.

14. Parents can best help their children by teaching them decoding skills (sounding out words)

In truth, the most effective way moms and dads can help children develop a life-long enthusiasm for books is by being good role models and reading themselves.

Children should see their moms and dad reading for pleasure (fiction books, magazines, the sports pages) and for knowledge (non-fiction books, newspapers, instruction manuals, recipes, materials for work). This gives youngsters the crucial message that reading is both important and enjoyable.

15. Earlier is better

With politicians pushing for academic rigor at younger and younger ages, many parents become convinced early instruction reaps long-term benefits. However, there's no evidence to suggest that's true.

Youngsters who learn to read at 5 aren't better readers than those who learn at 6, 7 or even later. Finland has exemplary schools and doesn't start formal academic instruction in reading and other subjects until age 7.

16. Common Core empowers parents

Today, more than ever, parents are getting pushed out of their children's learning. This now happens even in the early years.

Because of this, moms and dads get the wrong impression. They're made to think learning takes place only in classrooms, and students should only be taught by their teachers.

17. Common Core empowers teachers

Common Core—with its scripted lessons, standardized tests, ongoing assessments, and checklists of skills—strips authority from teachers. It degrades their profession and minimizes their years of education and experience.

This is especially true for teachers of young children. Today, these educators must forsake what they know about developmentally appropriate practices and use a one-size-fits-all approach.

18. Learning to read is unquestionably the most important skill to learn in kindergarten

Teaching discrete reading skills in kindergarten narrows the scope of learning.

It takes time and focus away from promoting deeper engagement, investigation, exploration, and play. Children develop strong vocabularies through socializing and playing together, which becomes extremely helpful to them when it's time to learn how to read.

19. Common Core prepares students for the workplace of tomorrow

Common Core promotes memorization over investigation.

Workers in the future, though, will need to be curious, think critically, and have a love of learning to succeed. In other words, they'll need all the skills that were once promoted in preschool and kindergarten before Common Core.

20. Common Core makes kindergarten a happier place for kids

New research shows that, while play has decreased at preschools and kindergartens, rates of anxiety and depression among children has increased.

Play is how children learn and how they become emotionally, socially, and psychologically well-adjusted. Denying them opportunities to explore, interact, and use their imaginations in order to stuff them with information they're not ready for is wrong.

© 2015 McKenna Meyers