Kindergarten teacher resigns over too much testing – and the TODAY show pays attention!

teacherquitsA powerful story got some much-needed attention this week. Susan Sluyter, a veteran kindergarten teacher based in Cambridge, MA, had her resignation letter posted by Valerie Strauss at The Washington Post’s education blog, The Answer Sheet: Kindergarten teacher: My job is now about tests and data — not children. I quit.

In her resignation letter submitted last month, Sluyter wrote,

“I have watched as my job requirements swung away from a focus on the children, their individual learning styles, emotional needs, and their individual families, interests and strengths to a focus on testing, assessing, and scoring young children, thereby ramping up the academic demands and pressures on them. 

“Each year, I have been required to spend more time attending classes and workshops to learn about new academic demands that smack of 1st and 2nd grade, instead of kindergarten and PreK.  I have needed to schedule and attend more and more meetings about increasingly extreme behaviors and emotional needs of children in my classroom; I recognize many of these behaviors as children shouting out to the adults in their world, ‘I can’t do this!  Look at me!  Know me!  Help me!  See me!’ “

Garnering over 500 comments at The Answer Sheet, it is obvious that Sluyter has struck a nerve. And on Wednesday, the TODAY Show invited Sluyter on to tell her story. Interestingly, the TODAY Show, in conjunction with this story, posted a poll on their Facebook page and their Facebook page “exploded”. The question asked was, “Do you think standardized tests are the best way for kids to learn?” The results were clear: 5,692 people answered, “No” and only 41 answered, “Yes”.
TODAY show pollNext time, perhaps TODAY will invite Diane Ravitch instead of Michelle Rhee for the follow up Q & A – though very glad Michelle Rhee got to see those poll results!

Setting Children up to Hate Reading – guest post by Nancy Bailey

Nancy Bailey is a former special education teacher and principal from Tennessee who is committed to getting education reform on the right track. She is the author of Misguided Education Reform: Debating the Impact on Students. Nancy has agreed to share her latest blog post, Setting Children Up to Hate Reading, which appeared yesterday on her own website. Here, Nancy describes how the current push for reading in kindergarten is actually harmful to many children. In the face of this, Nancy’s arguments presented here can help parents and early childhood educators defend good practice and the type of teaching that we know is best for young children.

Setting Children up to Hate Reading

alphabet-letters-300x221Any educator or parent who understands the beauty of reading and the importance of helping a child learn to do it right was appalled to read two recent articles about the subject. Both should make all of us concerned that children are being set up to hate reading. They are being pushed to read earlier than ever before!

Consider the February 1, 2014, headlines of The Oregonian: “Too Many Oregon Students Unready for Kindergarten State Officials Lament.”

What is the crisis?

  •  “The typical Oregon kindergartner arrived at school last fall knowing only 19 capital and lower-case letters and just seven letter sounds out of at least 100 possible correct answers, the state reported Friday.”
  • “They also were shown a page with 110 letter sounds on it. The average kindergartner could pronounce just 6.7.”
  • “Gov. John Kitzhaber, in prepared remarks, called the results ‘sobering’”…
  • “‘Things have changed in terms of what is expected when students start kindergarten,’ said Jada Rupley, Oregon’s early learning system director. ‘We would hope they would know most of their letters and many of their sounds.’”

http://www.oregonlive.com/education/index.ssf/2014/02/too_many_oregon_students_unrea.html

Politicians, venture philanthropists, and even the President, make early learning into an emergency. What’s a poor kindergartener or preschooler to do when they must carry the weight of the nation on their backs—when every letter and pronunciation is scrutinized like never before?

Unfortunately, many kindergarten teachers have bought into this harmful message. Many have thrown out their play kitchens, blocks, napping rugs, and doll houses believing it is critical that children should learn to read in kindergarten!

A new study through the University of Virginia has determined that kindergarten is the new first grade! The study, by Bassok and Rorem, from the University of Virginia’s Weldon Cooper Center for Public Service, “used two large nationally representative datasets to track changes in kindergarten classrooms between 1998 and 2006.” They found “that in 1998, 31 percent of kindergarten teachers indicated that most children should learn to read while in kindergarten. By 2006, 65 percent of teachers agreed with this statement. To accommodate this new reality, classroom time spent on literacy rose by 25 percent, from roughly 5.5 to seven hours per week.”

http://news.virginia.edu/content/uva-researchers-find-kindergarten-new-first-grade.

What’s wrong with these high-stress pictures?

There is a mistaken idea of what young children should be able to do—what is age-appropriate. Here’s a list of what “typical” children know upon entering kindergarten, from the National Center for Education Statistics report Entering Kindergarten: Findings from the Condition of Education 2000:

  • Sixty-six percent of children entering kindergarten recognize letters in the alphabet.
  • Sixty-one percent of children entering kindergarten know you read left to right.
  • Many kindergartners do not yet possess early reading skills.
  • Children might not point to letters representing sounds.
  • New kindergartners might not be able to read basic words by sight yet.
  • Only 1 in 50 actually read basic and complex words entering kindergarten.

http://nces.ed.gov/pubs2001/2001035.pdf

Note this is what occurs but isn’t what young children should necessarily be doing when it comes to reading.

Don’t believe me? Pick up any book about normal reading development and you will find that young children progress when they are ready—at their own pace.

The American Academy of Pediatrics notes the critical factor as to how a student will learn to read “is not how aggressively,” the child is given instruction, but rather their “own enthusiasm for learning.” They also state that many early learning programs “interfere with the child’s natural enthusiasm” by imposing on children to “concentrate on tasks” when they aren’t ready.

Why are young children being made to learn at a faster rate? Why is there this mistaken notion that children’s brains have somehow evolved to a higher level where they are supposed to read earlier and earlier?

All of this emergency talk has filtered into America’s classrooms. That’s why kindergarten teachers now believe all children must learn how to read in kindergarten. Having worked for years with reading and language problems in middle and high school students, I can tell you these new reading requirements for young children are terribly worrisome—even dangerous.

Many children will not be ready—not because they’re slow, not because they have learning disabilities, but because they’re normal and moving along at their own pace! The door should be opened to them in kindergarten and beyond to learn how to read in a relaxed manner. Even when a child has difficulty learning to read (dyslexia for example), you don’t attack the problem by pushing the child to read beyond what is considered normal.

When kindergarten teachers expect every kindergartner to focus on reading and learn it at that age, it opens the door for all kinds of problems. Here are a few:

  1. No Joy in Reading. Children learn to hate reading. When you assess children too early, currently done in kindergarten with Response to Intervention testing like DIBELS, children learn reading is a chore. It becomes something serious—even fearful for a young child.
  2. Vocabulary Emphasis.  Most memorization is boring. When teachers focus on vocabulary acquisition and word recognition, young children lose interest in the stories. Curiosity is squelched. Some sight word instruction is fine, of course, but focusing so much and tracking every word as a data point is obsessive.
  3. Self-Fulfilling Prophesy. If a kindergartener is not reading yet (normal), but they are treated like they have a problem, they really could develop a problem.
  4. Loss of Cognitive Ability/Play. Heavily focusing on reading, at the expense of other important kindergarten tasks, like play, destroys critical aspects of learning. Without play, children lose the ability to think about things on their own. How does this toy work? How do I put the blocks together to build a house? What can I create on my own?
  5. Loss of Self-Worth. It is fine for some children to show up reading in kindergarten, but children who are not reading yet (perfectly normal) may lose the feeling of self-worth. They could also act out becoming a behavior problem. Adults, after all, never trusted them to learn some things on their own.
  6. Reading Ability Isn’t Everything. Kindergarten students who already read fluently might have other problems that are overlooked by the teacher. Or they become bored because they are given nothing new to learn.
  7. A Lack of Socialization. We know through research, like the study notes above, that socialization at this period of development is important, but with the total emphasis on learning to read at such a young age, socialization skills, including play, are pushed aside. Students miss out on developing relationships with other children. How will they get along later interacting with others as adults?
  8. Too Competitive. Children are taught at an early age that they must compete and win in order to receive approval. They don’t learn to care about others. They know some students read better or worse than they do. The emphasis is on reading not on the students and who they are.
  9. Disadvantaged Children. While some students from poor backgrounds may not have been exposed to books and a good reading environment early on, pushing them to read through assessment and drill could squelch their interest in reading forever.
  10. Research. Pushing children to read too soon defies past research by many recognized and well-regarded developmental psychologists and educators whose studies have stood the test of time.                     

While kindergarten is now the new 1st grade, in 10 more years will kindergarten be the next 2nd or 3rd grade? When will the current reformers be satisfied? When will they quit demeaning children and making them jump through inappropriate developmental hoops?

Enough is enough! Let children be children. Let them be their age. Bring back the joy of learning to read.

Citation

Shelov, Steven P. M.D. F.A.A.P. Editor-in Chief. The American Academy of Pediatrics. Caring for Your Baby and Young Child: Birth to Age 5. The Complete and Authoritative Guide. (New York: Bantam, 1991) 348-349.

Early Learning: This is Not a Test – printed in today’s NY Times!

Nancy Carlsson-Paige has co-authored an important op-ed piece with American Federation of Teachers President Randi Weingarten. Early Learning: This is Not a Test speaks to our nation’s increased focus on early childhood education – and acknowledges that “what is being required of young children is unreasonable and developmentally unsound.”
Among other suggestions, Carlsson-Paige and Weingarten stress that we must “Address questions about the appropriateness and the implementation of the Common Core standards for young learners by convening a task force of early childhood and early elementary educators to review the standards and recommend developmentally appropriate, culturally responsive guidelines for supporting young children’s optimal learning.”

The momentum of resistance to the Common Core State Standards and high-stakes testing is growing, as we highlighted in a recent DEY blog post. We urge you to share Early Learning: This is Not a Test far and wide as resistance continues to build.

Diane Levin writes – and testifies – in support of media literacy for young children

dianeEarlier this week DEY’s Senior Adviser Diane Levin published the piece Media Literacy for Young Children: Essential for School Success in Today’s World in her education blog at the Huffington Post. Levin describes why she testified before the Massachusetts Legislature’s House-Senate Joint Committee on Education in favor of media education for all children in the state. Levin has been looking closely for decades at media’s impact on children’s lives. Her writings and research on the topic are extensive. Her new book Beyond Remote Controlled Childhood: Teaching Young Children in the Media Age (NAEYC, 2013) is a much-needed resource for teachers who are seeking ways to support children (and families) whose lives and learning have been impacted by today’s media-saturated world.

This issue speaks directly to DEY’s concerns about the loss of play as well as the increase in scripted curricula and testing in early childhood classrooms. Levin writes:

“If passed, Massachusetts will become the first state in the country with the wisdom and foresight to remove the blinders that most of today’s policymakers and educators are wearing as they fail to take into account the impact of media and technology on children’s optimal development and learning in their more and more narrowly-scripted educational mandates in schools.”

and

“Technology is affecting most aspects of children’s lives. I have used the term Remote-Controlled Childhood to capture the fact that more and more of children’s time, ideas and behavior are controlled and conditioned by what they see and do on screens–by following programs created by someone else. The more educators understand and work to counteract the resulting remote-controlled learning and behavior, the more successful they will be at promoting optimal learning in children.”

Click here to read Levin’s entire blog post at The Huffington Post.

Calling all early childhood teacher-activists!

Are you concerned about the current direction of early childhood education policy in our country?

Are you worried about the lasting negative effects that come from the loss of child-directed, hands-on play?

We are, too!

We are working to identify, connect and strengthen our coalition of early childhood activists.

DEY will be hosting a gathering for early childhood teacher-activists on Friday, November 22nd, 6:00 pm – 7:30 pm at the Henley Park Hotel, 926 Massachusetts Avenue, NW, Washington, DC. The gathering will be a follow-up to DEY’s session Finding Your Voice: Becoming a Teacher-Activist (Friday, 11/22/13, 3:00 – 4:30 pm in Room 101 at the Convention Center) at NAEYC’s Annual Conference.

Our goal is to connect teachers who are looking to promote quality early childhood policies in their school, local community, state and nationwide. We will have a structured conversation aimed at defining ways to strengthen our network of early childhood teacher-activists and developing a shared voice.  If you are attending NAEYC’s Annual Conference, or will be in the area, please join us. Please RSVP to me at: geralynbywater@gmail.com.

Please share this flier with anyone who might be interested!

A Grandmother’s Story about the Impact of Today’s Kindergarten on One Little Boy

This piece was written by our colleague Blakely Bundy. Bundy is the Outgoing Executive Director of The Alliance for Early Childhood, based on the North Shore of Chicago. We share her story here as an illustration of what is happening in too many kindergarten classrooms across our country.

A Grandmother’s Story about the Impact of Today’s Kindergarten on One Little Boy

I wanted to relate my “tale of woe” about my grandson’s experience in kindergarten this fall.   I will call him William. I know that it’s a common story now, but this is a first for me on a personal level.  Aside from being William’s grandmother, I am a former teacher and have been involved as an early childhood professional in several different capacities for my entire career.

Over the summer, my daughter and her family moved from Winnetka, IL, a progressive school district on the North Shore of Chicago, to a town on the East Coast. They chose that town after doing quite a bit of research on the schools and I even accompanied them and talked to teachers and administrators in three of the communities that they were considering.  We thought that the town they chose was the most similar to the school system they had just left.

William, a third child with two older sisters, had had a happy, fulfilling experience at  Willow Wood Preschool in Winnetka ,  a half-day (afternoon), play-based, NAEYC accredited program (where I had actually taught for 10 years in the 80s and early 90s).  He had eagerly looked forward to going to kindergarten at Hubbard Woods School, his sisters’ beloved elementary school, which has a half-day, play-based kindergarten, with a long history of a progressive, child-centered philosophy that has survived since it was put in place in the 1920s.  In our area, under the umbrella of The Alliance for Early Childhood, there are articulation meetings between the preschools and the area kindergartens each year and the message is loud and clear that the kindergartens have no academic expectations for their incoming students but hope for some social and emotional indications that children are ready for kindergarten (sitting still to hear a story, love of books, ability to wait and take turns, etc.).

The first clue that the new school was going to be different was when we learned that the first day of kindergarten would be a full day, 9 am to 3:15 pm, with no time or plans for transition beyond a reception for families in the kindergarten room two days before.  The second indication was the set-up of the classroom and, while there were blocks and a small housekeeping corner, there were also a lot of folders with the kids’ names of them for “reading,” “math,” and other academic indications and posted class schedules that indicated a lot of “work” and not much play.

My daughter expressed concern to the kindergarten teacher about the lack of a transition plan and the long first day (and the teacher completely agreed, but could do nothing about it).  William went off like a trooper.  After a long six and a quarter hours of waiting to see how it had gone, William and his classmates marched out to the pick-up spot at the front of the school (no parents allowed into the school) or, I should say, “dragged” out.  I’ve never seen so many exhausted kindergartners in my life (and all with the required large backpacks on their backs)!  The next two days, William went off to school somewhat reluctantly.  Though teary, the teacher emailed my daughter that he had recovered enough to participate in some of the activities, including some table work.  By the fourth day, William wasn’t sure that he wanted to go back to school.  There were emails from his teacher and the social worker and the social worker met us at the front door and escorted William to class.  (Again, no parents allowed in).

Later that day, my daughter and I met with William’s teacher and the school social worker to brainstorm how to proceed.  Calling on my many years as a teacher and early childhood professional, I suggested going back to transition procedures you might use with younger children, i.e., mom in the classroom and engaged with her child the first day; mom in the classroom but “busy” with a book or helping the teacher the second day; mom in and out of the classroom the 3rd day, etc.  Alas, both because of school procedures and the fact that they already knew that it was a challenging class with many crying children who would all want their mothers, that plan was vetoed, although, again, William’s teacher was sympathetic and truly wanted to do what was best for William.  We also learned that they had done an “informal” evaluation of William’s academic abilities and that he was “low.”  William reported that he hated the table tasks and said to us that he “couldn’t do them” and that they were “hard.”

By the way, this is a little boy who can spend hours creating elaborate block and Lego structures, inventing scenarios for his cars and trucks, which all have names and personalities.  Also, his fine motor skills are ahead of many five year old boys, as he observes and copies his sisters’ drawings.  On the other hand, he is not as interested in spending a great deal of time on art projects and drawing and has not indicated an interest in learning letters and numbers yet, although he adores being read to and has a long attention span for some fairly sophisticated books, including those of his sisters.

On the fifth day of kindergarten, William locked himself in his room and refused to go to school.  I raced over to their house to help my daughter.  I was able to get into William’s room, but, by then, he was hiding under his bed and refused to come out.  I tried to talk him out, but he wouldn’t budge.  The school’s social worker arrived downstairs but my daughter wisely decided that she needed to keep “school” out of William’s safe home and the social worker departed.  It’s then that we decided that we needed to find a different school for William.  We knew that this was not going to work!

My daughter had asked other moms and had learned that people have dealt with the highly academic kindergarten in this town in two ways.  Those who can afford it, send their children to an extra year of preschool.  Those who can’t send them to two years of (free) kindergarten.  At the open house that we attended, many of the boys were a head taller than William and, of course, had been “redshirted.”

We asked around and got some wise advice from a helpful early childhood colleague who happened to live in the town.  She knew all about the highly academic kindergarten and mentioned that she had stopped teaching kindergarten in a neighboring town for just that reason.  We eventually found a nearby preschool program with a young 5s class, which would help William with transition and also had room for him.  Although that school is play-based and child-centered in their philosophy, it introduces some more academic tasks during the school year to prepare children for what’s ahead when they enter the public kindergarten.

I often say that schools in Winnetka and surrounding communities are like an “island” in a “sea” of over-tested, push-down academics and this story certainly illustrates that fact.  I wanted to tell this story as one more indication of what is happening in kindergartens throughout the country.  We must keep fighting and educating and working on making changes!  And I understand more than ever– now on a personal level– how vitally important this work is and how many hundreds of thousands of “Williams” there are who are impacted by what’s going on in our nation’s too academic kindergartens –and who may not have families able advocate for them.

Nancy Carlsson-Paige receives Lifetime Achievement Award

” I have a dream. And I hope it is the American Dream that every child deserves a safe and healthy childhood. That every child deserves an equal opportunity for a great education. And I thank all of you for helping to keep this dream alive.”

-Nancy Carlsson-Paige

As we announced earlier this year, Nancy Carlsson-Paige has been honored with a lifetime achievement Bammy award from the Academy of Education Arts and Sciences.   The award ceremony was this past Saturday in Washington D.C. “celebrates what is right in American Education”. We are incredibly proud of Nancy, all that she has accomplished, and the powerful words she shared in her acceptance speech. Below you will find a link to video of the awards ceremony and the transcript of the award presentation.

Bammy Awards 2013

ANNOUNCER:  . . . And with that, we’re going to close this evening’s festivities by presenting our three final Bammy awards.  Presenting our first Lifetime Achievement Award for the evening is my colleague, my good friend from the early education, and the physical education communities, and co-founder of the BAM Radio Network.  A wonderful educator – a terrific person – Rae Pica.

PICA:  I have long been a fan of this next honoree – and as someone who has been entrenched in early childhood education for more than 30 years, I am delighted at ECE is so well represented here tonight, and that this special honor is going to this person who is such a fierce defender of early childhood education.

To give you a brief overview of Nancy Carlsson-Paige’s work, I’d like to read you some titles.  Her most recent book is called Taking Back Childhood.  Her TED talk is called “When Education Goes Wrong: Taking Creativity and Play Out of Learning.”  Some of her articles include: “How education policy is harming early childhood education” ; “How corporate education reforms are harming children” ; and “Academic skills- important only if they make us more human”.

When Mitt Romney and Barack Obama were running for president, she urged them to please start over, if they wanted to get early childhood education right.

Did I mention that she’s fierce?

When it comes to fighting back against education reforms that promote standardized testing – and the fight to keep early childhood a sacred time – Nancy does not back down.

But Nancy is also a promoter of peace, at Lesley University where she taught for more than 30 years – where she taught teachers for more than 30 years.  She was the founder of the university’s Center for Peaceable Schools.  She writes and speaks widely on peace education, conflict resolution, and education policies and practices that promote social justice and children’s well-being.

Nancy is the recipient of many awards, including Peace Educator of The Year; Outstanding Educator of The Year; Family Advocate of The Year.  But she’s also famous for turning down an award, based on her principles.  I’m delighted that she chose to accept this one, and I am most honored to be the one who presents a Bammy Award for Lifetime Achievement to Nancy Carlsson-Paige.

[applause – Nancy comes to front of stage]

CARLSSON-PAIGE:  That was such a beautiful, beautiful appreciation . . . [aside] You hold it [award] for me.

[to audience]  I think I didn’t quite take in what it means to get a Lifetime Achievement Award until this moment.  Typical of me, actually.  But they gave me a minute, instead of two sentences.  And I wrote it, and timed it.  Ready?

Um – it’s – it’s a great honor.  Thank you so much, Rae, for that beautiful description.  And thank you, to the Academy of Education, Arts and Sciences, for celebrating educators – and honoring the amazing work that you all do – and all the people who work in our field do.

The good will of this nine-pound award – can I feel it? – I lift weights, but that’s heavy.  The good will of this award goes out to all teachers, especially early childhood teachers – too frequently underpaid, undervalued – but you do such important work.

Things are not that good in early childhood education right now.  Almost a quarter of our nation’s children suffer the stresses of poverty.  We’re the richest country in the world, and we have the highest child poverty rate among advanced nations.  That bears repeating.  We’re the richest nation in the world, and we have the highest child poverty rate among advanced nations.

Too few children have education at all in the early years.  And even fewer have quality education.  The standards and the testing and the accountability pressures that have been coming down and imposing on the upper grades have pushed down now to second grade, to first grade, to kindergarten, and even to pre-K.

I’m feeling so bad, because we’re talking about what’s right in education tonight and I’m – I’m not doing that, but – hey – it’s me.  We have a much more scripted curriculum in the early years. Much more teacher directed instruction. We are seeing much less active, hands-on, meaningful learning and almost no play. We are seeing a phenomenal disappearance of play in early childhood classrooms. For those of you who know education and child development you I am sure you understand that play is really the cornerstone of understanding in the early years.

My inbox has more and more messages every day from mothers, father, teachers.  Just the other day, this is what I saw…

“They’ve eliminated play and recess for first graders and kindergarteners in my child’s school. In kindergarten they are completely scheduled. They have no time to play. My 5-year-old has to eat snack while working at her desk.”

So I have a dream. And I hope it is the American Dream that every child deserves a safe and healthy childhood. That every child deserves an equal opportunity for a great education. And I thank all of you for helping to keep this dream alive. Thank you.

Dowload our new resource for parents of young children!

A Guide for Parents: Advocating for Your Child in the Early Years

 

 

 

 

 

 

We want to let you know about an exciting project that has just been completed. DEY has collaborated with United Opt Out to produce a fantastic new resource – A Guide for Parents: Advocating for Your Child in the Early Years.

United Opt Out is a nonprofit registered in Florida. It is a group of parents, educators, students and social activists who are dedicated to the elimination of high stakes testing in public education. The guide we collaborated on is part of their “Back-to-School Protest Pack” and is specifically geared to parents of young children who are just entering the public school system.

The guide includes many ideas for what parents can do to advocate for their child in the midst of our current testing mania. Click here to see the guide. Please share it far and wide!

Diane Levin’s new book now available!

BRCCHow can teachers protect and promote children’s positive development in today’s media-saturated world? Our own Diane Levin has some powerful ideas on this topic – which she shares in her new book, Beyond Remote-Controlled Childhood: Teaching Young Children in the Media Age. Published by NAEYC (National Association for the Education of Young Children), it is featured as the current Comprehensive Membership book. That means NAEYC is sending the book to over 20,000 members. This is excellent news for our early childhood field.

With the explosion of technology in young children’s lives – both in school and out of school – this book comes at a critical time. As the NAEYC website explains, it aims to help teachers:

  • Adapt classroom practice to take into account the realities of remote-controlled childhood- the experiences of today’s connected children
  • Counteract the potentially harmful impact media can have on both the process and content of children’s development and learning
  • Help children and their families make informed decisions about screen time and media in children’s lives
  • Work with families to address the impact of screen media

Here are some reviews:

“Never has it been more urgent for all who are responsible for the care, development, and education of young children, as well as for those involved in creating relevant legislation and regulations, to learn from Diane Levin’s extensive experience and research on media-related issues. This book includes recommendations and suggestions for how teachers and parents can best protect and promote the well-being of all our young children.”
— Lilian Katz, Professor Emerita, University of Illinois

“Diane Levin offers wise and timely advice to early childhood teachers about how to help children get beyond the powerful and pervasive media messages that can lead to remote-controlled childhood. “
— Stephanie Feeney, Professor Emerita, University of Hawaii at Manoa

“As one of the world’s premier experts on children and the media, Diane Levin understands how today’s media culture is impacting children. This book analyzes how all types of media—TV programs, videos, video games, websites, music, advertisements, apps—are affecting children’s lives, including what and how they learn from these experiences, and offers realistic suggestions to teachers and parents for what to do about it.”
Blakely Bundy, Executive Director, The Alliance for Early Childhood

(See more reviews at the NAEYC website)

Gearing up for the new school year – recommended reading

The Classrooms All Young Children NeedMany early childhood teachers across the nation are gearing up for the new school year just a few weeks away (even sooner in some parts of the country!). If you are looking for inspiration, there is a great book by Patricia M. Cooper called The Classrooms All Young Children Need: Lessons in Teaching from Vivian Paley (University of Chicago Press, 2011).

Vivian Paley is arguably the best known early childhood educator alive today. The quintessential observer of children, she is reflective and prolific. Paley has written over a dozen books reflecting on her journey as an educator and the craft of teaching young children. Here, Cooper takes a look at the work of Paley, and what we can learn from her experiences. Notably, Cooper also expertly describes the misguided shift in our country from early childhood education to early literacy education.

With The Classrooms All Young Children Need, Cooper inspires (or re-inspires) early childhood educators with what we know is good practice – capturing the stories of young children and bringing these stories to life in the classroom. Literacy begins with language, and imaginative play is where real learning takes place.  This book reminds us that not only is it okay, it is in fact essential to stop and listen to young children at play; to take time to observe them closely; to ask questions to extend their thinking. In the current climate of education reform pushing direct instruction at younger and younger ages, The Classrooms All Young Children Need is like oxygen to the suffocating early childhood educator.