There’s an elephant in the room ….. but, can he read?

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There’s an elephant in the room ….. but, can he read?

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There’s an elephant in the room ….. but, can he read?

Iowa Reading Association

June 2015

Kate Hornung & Cindy Waters


Kate & Cindy’s background

Kate: Iowa Falls, Pineview ElementaryKindergarten instructor, 27 yearsPreK-3 endorsementCindy:Upper Iowa University Teacher EducatorBackground in FCS, Child Development37 years in public & higher ed


What Elephant?! Consider……

Public schools believe that children should learn to read in kindergarten.Teachers comply. However, is it right? Is it truly necessary that children read at age 5?Are we pressuring children to read when they are not developmentally ready?



ParentsStress of doing all the “right” thingsDoing little/nothing: “school’s responsibility”TeachersStudents with huge skill rangeAre there unrealistic expectations?Developmentally inappropriate?AdministratorsTest scores!!ElephantNo one likes this; everyone talks about it, but not one is taking a stand & so… status quo


Grounds for concern

Outdated views of literacy development and/or learning theories Demands that children try to read Early reading tests to be prepared by third-grade.The push to read when kids are too immatureThe principal and assistance team (erroneously) determine kids need of programming or retention when they are clearly just not readyLabeling kids as struggling can cause permanent emotional and academic damage 



Teaching reading at an early age can lead to poor reading habits Alienates children from the enjoyment of reading. Reading becomes a chore & can embitter kids on not only reading, but school and learning in generalNo evidence to support the widespread belief that children must read in prekindergarten or kindergarten to become strong readers and achieve academic success


Right or wrong?

Many can learn to read in kindergarten or earlierHowever…..plenty who aren’t ready Each child can and should learn to read on his/her own terms and pace As educators, we may support and encourage, but should not force reading


Climate of learning

Many educators agree with the philosophy of less testingYet, the prevailing school attitude (often set by legislators and administrators) is read soon and test Instead, provide more encouragement to promote readingLet the child set his/her own learning journey


Then …… & now


Teach letters & soundsNumbers 1-10Address, phone numberTie shoes


Letters & sounds (if needed)Segmenting/blendingNonsense wordsSight wordsReading!


Developmentally Appropriate Practice

Preschool children canEnjoy listening to & discussing storybooksUnderstand that print carries a messageEngage in reading & writing attemptsIdentify labels & signs in their environmentParticipate in rhyming gamesIdentify some letters & make some sound matchesUse known letters to represent meaningful language (NAEYC, 1998)


Recommended Teaching Practices

PreschoolModel reading behaviorsFoster children’s interest in & enjoyment of readingPrint-rich environmentsDraw attention to specific letters & wordsDaily read aloud to individuals or small groupsDiscussion on what is readStrategies & experiences to develop phonemic awareness, i.e., songs, fingerplays, games, poems, & stories, including rhyme & alliterationPlay that incorporates literacy toolsFirsthand experiences that expand vocabulary (NAEYC, 1998)


Developmentally Appropriate Practice

Kindergartners canEnjoy being read to & retell simple narratives or simple informational textsUse descriptive language to explain & exploreRecognize letters & letter-sound matchesShow familiarity with rhyming & beginning soundsUnderstand left-to-right and top-to-bottom orientation & familiar concepts of printMatch spoken words with written onesBegin to write letters of the alphabet & some high-frequency words (NAEYC, 1988)


Recommended Teaching Practices

KindergartenDaily read aloudIndependent readingSystematic code instructionMeaningful reading & writing activitiesOpportunity to write many kinds of textExperiences to use nonconventional forms of writing, moving to conventional formsOpportunities to work in small groups for collaborationEngaging & challenging curriculum to expand knowledge of world & vocabularyDifferentiated instruction if child fails to make expected progress or when literacy skills are advanced (NAEYC, 1998)


Common Core/Iowa Core

Standards 1-9 are DAP, involving retelling, recognition, & vocabularyStandard 10: Actively engage in group reading activities with purpose and understanding. Pushes young children & leads to poor resultsDevelop coping mechanisms; not helpful laterSome say this is misinterpretation of what standards require (Iowa Dept. of Ed, 2015)Core standards describe range of skillsMuch of concern is about implementationNothing precludes safe, warm, nurturing, play-based classrooms (Pondisco, 2015)Difficult to teach standards in DAP when worried about standardized tests


Academic v Play based: Reading

Developmental progression of sensory-motor skills needed before age 7 Many K teachers have thrown out kitchens, blocks, napping rugs & dollhouses!Left v. right brain activityLeft: analytical7-9 yearsPhonicsStresses child’s mind & bodyRight: intuitive, looks at wholeChild must guess w/o sounding outDifficulty switching to left brain(Johnson, 2003)Play environment develops executive function


The educators who established early childhood as a time for guided learning all emphasized the dangers of introducing the world of symbols too early in life. (Elkind,2001)


Is early reading necessary?

Key question is it optimal to teach early reading?Introduced too early; learn more quickly & with less stress at 6 (Russell, 2015)Explicit & programmatic teaching; text reading & decoding—not recommendedEarly reading=early language skillsEvidence doesn’t fully support the need (Suggate, 2013)


Reading Readiness

Enthusiasm for reading diminishes if pressuredNeed to engage in wanting to read (Russell, 2015)Teaching reading & writing at 5 can dent interest in books Kiddos see themselves as inept (Katz, in Curtis, 2007)Have children’s brains evolved to a higher level? (AAP, in Bailey, 2014)Greatest barrier is standards & testing (Kohn, 2013)



4 aspects: access to books– supported by researchtime for recreational reading– supported by research Testsrewards only affects short-term behaviorInconsistent evidence; gains were not present or smallNo lasting effect on comprehension, reading frequency, or enthusiasmIncentives do not promote additional readingMay have long term harmful effects (Krashen, 2003).


Your 2 cents worth?

How are you responding? Agree/disagree?What have you done? Could or will do? How do we bring this to the table as a serious discussion issue with admins, parents?


What promotes this “elephant”?

Teachers/schools Limited by mandatesFAST testingReadiness for next gradeParental & societal pressureSs who are sent, but not ready for schoolSs with no literacy experience or preKParents who are “too busy” to collaborate


Is there a solution? What to do?!

No simple solution, maybe not even a viable one, but the conversation needs to ariseData/documentationIntentionality about literacy & languageDon’t bombard or overwhelm kiddosAwareness– do parents, people in general really realize the problem & why it is a problem? Parents must band together; speak to administrators to find a happy medium


Be courageous

Have we, as teachers, lost the capacity to be outraged at outrageous things?Question traditional practices/criteriaTake responsibilityShare powerBe active & assertive (Kohn, 2013)Advocate for yourself, your classroom, your kids!



What are YOU going to do about this Elephant in the room?!Thank you for attending & your input



Bailey, N. (2014). Setting children up to hate reading. Nancy Bailey’s Education Website. Retrieved from children-up-to-hate-reading/Curtis, P. (2007). Under-sevens ‘too young to learn to read.’ The Guardian. Retrieved from, D. (2001). Young Einsteins. Education Matters. Retrieved from www.edmatters.orgJohnson, S. (2003). Teaching academics in preschool & kindergarten. You and Your Child’s Health. Retrieved from www.youandyourchildshealth/articles/Kohn, A. (2013). Encouraging educator courage. Education Week. Retrieved from TFySwn1LbKrashen, S. (2003). The experimental evidence supporting the use of Accelerated Reader. Journal of Children’s Literature, 29, 16-30. url?sa= t&rct=j&q=&esrc=s&source=web&cd=1&ved=0CB4QFjAA&url= _accelerated_reader_work.pdf&ei=ECp3VYm4NozWoATH24GAAg &usg=AFQjCNFRyLIc2JztZTqyHnZI7GFAmeM0MwNational Association for the Education of Young Children.(1998). Young Children, 53, 30–46. Retrieved from rite


References, cont.


, R. (2015). Is Common Core too hard for kindergarten?




Institute. Retrieved from common-core-too-hard-for-kindergarten

Russell, F. (2014). Children must learn to love reading, not

just learn to read.

The Guardian.





, K. (2015). Does Common Core ask too much of

kindergarten readers?

KQED News.

Retrieved from


/2015/04/27/does-common-core-ask-too-much-of-kindergarten- readers



, S. (2013). Does early reading instruction help reading in the long-term? A review of empirical evidence.

Research on Steiner Education,

4,123-131. Retrieved from


Contact information

Ms. Kate HornungPineview Elementary 1510 Washington Ave. Iowa Falls, IA 50126khornung@ifacadets.netDr. Cindy WatersUpper Iowa University605 WashingtonFayette, IA

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