Golden Valley News

Within the Apple Blossom kindergarten, I recently sent home Susan Johnson's article that explains the connection to the Waldorf pedagogy and a child's readiness for first grade. Some signs of first grade readiness include a curiosity about learning to read and questions about reading and writing letters. Parents often ask me what they should do when their child shows an interest in learning how to read and write. The best advice I have is to never discourage a child's curiosity, but also, to never directly begin to teach them to read and write. Direct teaching would include providing your child tools and opportunities considered age-appropriate in a mainstream kindergarten, such as offering worksheets about letters, taking them to an accelerated program outside of school, or setting them up on a screen with a game about letters or reading. (There are very rare instances of children learning to read all on their own without these tools and teachers never say no to that.) Instead, you can reassure your child that their curiosity is a part of what first grade will be about: beginning to learn letters and how to read them. It will be wonderful! While you both wait for first grade learning, go to the library regularly. Check out books and read them to your child. You might even follow along the words with your finger while you read. Answer questions about reading as simply as you can, without providing more than the child asked for. Create enthusiasm for how much he or she will learn about reading from their teacher when arriving in the first grade.
 
If you choose picture books at the library, choose books with pictures that are aesthetically pleasing, beautiful really. (As an aside, we can always use beautiful picture books for our kindergarten book basket, if you would like to donate. These books serve as tools for a child needing grounding and seeking a quiet corner during our day. They are not generally read aloud, but serve as a distraction: something to look at for a child needing a break.) For the most part, I prefer reading aloud books with no pictures because we want to encourage the child's capacity for creating their own mental pictures of the stories. More importantly, picture books are short and we adults tend to read aloud too many in a row. By choosing more developmentally appropriate chapter books (sustained in the same imaginative world), without so much illustration, we avoid flooding reading time with so many different tales/worlds/characters/settings in one session, or just before bed. Instead, we want the world that the child is living in to stay with them without being cluttered by the next story in their imagination.
 
First grade ready children respond well to chapter books, such as the Tales of Tiptoes Lightly (sold at the bookstore or online) or even the classic Burgess Bedtime Stories (written at the turn of the last century, these stories require some parental editing during reading to remain PC in our time. My daughter loved the Burgess Tale about Paddy the Beaver). Pre literacy building is all around us, so even though you aren't "teaching" your child the letters and their sounds (which I would say is best left for the first grade teacher so they are at the same place as their classmates in receiving the teacher's stories and offerings about the letters), your child is learning much from your reading to them: the components of a book and familiarity with navigating the geography of a text (cover, front, back, author, left to right), and phonological awareness, not to mention motivation and joy for oral storytelling and building inner pictures. All of these things many children are able to learn at their own pace, without adults explaining it to them, just by being read to. Please let me know if you have any questions about this topic.
 
Sally Buck
Apple Blossom Kindergarten Teacher

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