Thursday, March 24, 2016

Wednesday with Words: Preschoolers and Language

I am looking forward to reading Erika Christakis' new book The Importance of Being Little.  For now though, I am reading her articles.  She talks about ideas that have been around since Meaningful Differences was published in 1995.  It is really all about conversation and reading aloud with young children.  Conversation because it helps develop connection and gives children a way to label and know their world.  Reading aloud because it uses elevated language, teaches the concept of story (beginning, middle and end) and is just plain FUN!

I could go on . . . but let's just read a few key quotes from The New Preschool is Crushing Kids.

This first shows just how much has changed in 12 years.  This is what I hold on to when people talk about how they were fine when they went through the system.  The expectations have changed DRASTICALLY.

One study, titled “Is Kindergarten the New First Grade?,” compared kindergarten teachers’ attitudes nationwide in 1998 and 2010 and found that the percentage of teachers expecting children to know how to read by the end of the year had risen from 30 to 80 percent. 

Why do 80% of teachers expect 5 yos to read?  What makes me sad is that many homeschool moms expect the same thing and then feel frustrated and push little Johnny when really it it is too early! In the end, reading programs at this age really aren't the key to success. Here is the crux of what we should be doing with our kids

The real focus in the preschool years should be not just on vocabulary and reading, but on talking and listening. We forget how vital spontaneous, unstructured conversation is to young children’s understanding. By talking with adults, and one another, they pick up information.

Using studies, we can say it this way:

Conversation is gold. It’s the most efficient early-learning system we have. And it’s far more valuable than most of the reading-skills curricula we have been implementing: One meta-analysis of 13 early-childhood literacy programs “failed to find any evidence of effects on language or print-based outcomes.” Take a moment to digest that devastating conclusion.

Yes, it is as simple as just talking with them!  This is why I feel so sad when I meet grandma's who are about to have their grandchildren taken out of their care and put into day care because the child's mom feels they need to be socialized at 2 or 2 and a half.  Really?  I know there are more complex social things going on in some families, but a normal grandma who loves them and talks with them ALL day - what could be better?

Finally, she discusses the "Finnish Miracle" and the conclusion is

Having rejected many of the pseudo-academic benchmarks that can, and do, fit on a scorecard, preschool teachers in Finland are free to focus on what’s really essential: their relationship with the growing child.

In the end, this is what is important with young children - relationships with those who love them.

This whole conversation is also why I love Charlotte Mason's focus on narration. You will not be putting vocabulary words into random sentences and answering comprehension questions the rest of your life.  Instead, people will ask you what you liked about an article, how that fits with another idea they are thinking about, etc. Narration trains you how to do this and helps you see into what your child finds most interesting in what you are reading.  I also love that CM encourages you to delay this until at least 6.  Before that let them play!

See what others are reading at Ladydusk.

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