The 3 R's (Reading, 'Riting, and 'Rithmetic)



Readiness - the Controversy

Early versus Late Starters

  1. Early Starters—many parents begin getting anxious about their children’s education as soon as their child can hold a pencil. There is a lot of pressure out there encouraging you to start teaching your children as early as 2, 3 or 4 years old - friends, relatives, the education system, etc. Parents who get caught up in this read books about how to teach their one year old to read, put labels on furniture at age two, play phonics tapes while their three year old naps, and spend hours forcing their four year old to write on worksheets, etc.

  2. Late Starters—the other side of the controversy is the late starters. These parents are more relaxed. They read to their children, teach them to cook, garden, and fix the car. They are not upset when their child doesn’t show a desire to read until age 8 -12.

  3. A school district studied two groups of children from K- 3rd grade. One group received extensive instruction in reading. The other group spent the same amount of time learning science. They melted ice. They observed thermometers in hot and cold places. They played with magnets, grew plants, learned about animal life, and so on. Books and pictures available but no formal lessons in reading were held. What did the school district learn? By third grade the ‘science’ children were far ahead of the ‘reading’ children in their reading scores. The reason? Their vocabularies and thinking skills were more advanced. They could read on more topics and understand higher level materials. The ‘reading’ children, by starting earlier, used up a lot of learning time on the skills of reading, while the ‘science’ children spent the time learning real stuff. And when they did begin reading, they were older and knew more and learned in a fraction of the time that the others took.” (pg. 4, A Home Start in Reading by Ruth Beechick.)

  4. The answer to the early starters vs. late starters controversy depends upon your child.

God made each child unique and has given them different gifts and callings.

  1. Each child has a special calling from God. The apostle Paul said, “For even before I was born God has chosen me to be his and called me …so I could go to the Gentiles and show them the Good News about Jesus.” (Gal 1:15, LB)

  2. Each child receives special gifts from God to serve his family, his community, and the body of Christ. 1 Peter 4:10 “As each one has received a special gift, employ it in serving one another, as good stewards of the manifold grace of God.” (NAS)

Each child is given different talents or skills. (Matt 25:14-28, parable of the talents)

  1. Because each child is unique, with different skills, gifts, and callings, each one will learn at a different rate.

  2. Skills that develop early in one child may develop years later in another. Talents that develop in one child may never develop in another. Einstein was four before he could speak and seven before he could read. Both Sir Isaac Newton and Thomas Edison were considered poor students in elementary school. But as we know, they eventually discovered their gifts, pursued them, and became the successful people that we know them as today.

  3. On the other hand, Mozart was playing the keyboard confidently when only four years of age and composing his first pieces of music at age five.

The bottom line is start formal reading, writing, and arithmetic when your child is ready, not when your neighbor’s child is ready or even when your child’s older brother or sister was ready.

Even with children who appear ready early, caution is advised.

  1. Research shows that waiting and/or limiting the time spent in formal schoolwork is more beneficial.

  2. Psychologists Dr. Frances Ilg and Dr. Louise Ames concluded from their studies that it is “…probable that a large amount of the so-called ‘reading disability’ cases which are so unfortunately prevalent in our schools today come not from actual ‘disability’ on the part of the children who are failing their reading requirements in the school but from the school’s attempt to force unready children to perform at levels for which they are not prepared.” (pg. 96, Better Late Than Early by Dr. Raymond Moore)

  3. Louise Ames, director of research at the Gesell Institute of Child Development states that, “a delay in reading instruction would be a preventative measure in avoiding nearly all reading failure.”
    Ruth Beechick in her book, A Home Start in Reading says, “Too much pressure on a child can cause a dislike of reading and of books. The very goal you want the most can be lost.”

  4. Dr. Raymond and Dorothy Moore said, “Waiting helps children develop maturity and logic skills and prevents frustration and discouragement.”

  5. Mary Griffith, author of the Homeschooling Handbook. says, “The late reader frequently blossoms suddenly into a capable and independent reader and the late-reading homeschooler remains an eager and interested learner.”

  6. Most children’s eyes are not fully developed until at least age 8. Too much close work, watching TV, or playing video games can lead to near-sightedness. “Children’s readiness for academic achievement such as reading, writing, arithmetic, and language arts depends a great deal on the maturity of their sensory systems—vision, hearing, taste, touch, smell—on their motor coordination or ability to handle a pencil or chalk and to manipulate small things. It depends also on the development of their brains and central nervous systems, and on their ability to reason consistently from cause to effect—such as to be able to answer ‘why’; to make judgments of distance, time, and space; and to evaluate motives.” (pg. 36, Better Late Than Early by Dr. Raymond Moore.)

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What do you do while you are waiting?

Everything your child learns during this waiting period increases his vocabulary and develops his reasoning skills.
Thomas Edison was homeschooled by his mother. Her methods were simple. She allowed him time to pursue his interests and she read to him daily from the newspaper and from books such as David Copperfield and The Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire. Consequently, even before he could read himself, he not only developed an excellent vocabulary but he also acquired knowledge and reasoning skills that he wouldn't have been able to obtain on his own.

Because schools rely so heavily on textbooks, we tend to forget there are other ways to acquire knowledge. Here are some suggestions:

  1. Give your child time to play outdoors, play with friends and family members, play games, do art projects, “pretend”, listen to music, and garden. Give them time to see, touch, feel, taste, and hear the things that God created. Sign up for Preschool Express's free newsletter with lots of preschool activities, stories, and songs.

  2. Let your child work with you around the house. Let them go with you as you minister to a friend, neighbor, and in a church or community outreach program. Let them be involved in what you do.

  3. Read books to them - all kinds - in all subject matters and at all reading levels.

  4. Play and listen to all types of music and musical instruments. Attend concerts, plays, and other cultural events.

  5. Put together puzzles.

  6. Play games like Candyland, Cariboo, and dominoes.

  7. Visit the zoo; art, science and history museums; and historical landmarks in your state and throughout the country (if you can afford it - all over the world).

  8. Take him to watch a trial at your county courthouse and a bill being passed in your local legislature.

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Readiness Testing Resources

Online Kindergarten Readiness Test.

Get Ready To Read Screening Tool.

Some of my other favorite Preschool Resources:

GIANT BOOK OF PRESCHOOL ACTIVITIES. Lots of fun activities to practice preschool skills.

Daily Summer Activities: Moving From Preschool to Kindergarten by Evan-Moor.

Big Preschool Workbook. Plenty of cutting, pasting, matching, and coloring activities to practice preschool and kindergarten skills.

Free printable PreK/K assessment sheets.

World Book Reading Readiness List


Go to Teaching Reading.

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