“This remarkable book manages to pinpoint the critical issues in the care and education of young children with up-to-date research, and all of this in a pleasurable and lively style. This needs to be read widely, and right away.” – Deborah Meier
The good news is, Reading Instruction in Kindergarten: Little to Gain and Much to Lose has been getting some positive attention. Our YouTube video outlining our new report has reached almost 30, 000 views. DEY co-authored this piece with the Alliance for Childhood. It has been written about in The Washington Post here, here and here. Our website has had more hits in the last few weeks than we had all last year.
We are thankful that word of our report is spreading – and beginning to make an impact on the current conversation. Below, is an excerpt from DEY’s Senior Adviser Diane Levin’s blog at the Huffington Post, as she reflects on the potential long-term costs of the current misguided focus on early reading instruction:
Reading Instruction in Kindergarten: What Will it Cost in the Long Haul?
“The young children in today’s early childhood classrooms deserve a chance to develop all of the skills necessary to succeed in school and in life. By focusing so narrowly on developmentally inappropriate academic skills, children are being deprived of the experiences they need to hone self-regulation skills, critical thinking skills, and the love of learning that will truly inspire them to work hard in school for the long haul.”
– Public School Teacher & Parent, Washington, DC
Every time I hear or think about the immediate impact of the mandated Common Core State Standards on the young children of today, I get deeply concerned. Last month, Defending the Early Years and the Alliance for Childhood released the report “Reading Instruction in Kindergarten: Little to Gain and Much to Lose” which provides a research-based case for why teaching reading in kindergarten, as outlined by the Common Core State Standards (CCSS), is inappropriate for young children. And it describes what a developmentally appropriate, play-based kindergarten that lays the foundations for learning to read looks like.
The kinds of issues raised in this report lead to me having a constant voice in my head asking and trying to answer a myriad of questions over and over again about where these misguided school reforms will lead our children, in both the short and the long term. I am also led to ask many questions about what the impact of the current mandates will be for teachers, families and the wider society in the long haul, if policymakers fail to heed a key recommendation of the “Reading Instruction in Kindergarten” report namely, to “withdraw kindergarten standards from the Common Core so that they can be rethought along developmental lines.”
DEY will be presenting and exhibiting at NAEYC’s Annual Conference in Dallas, TX on November 5-8th! If you are attending, here are some sessions we recommend:
1. Defending the Early Years’ toolkit: Resources to help you advocate for appropriate practices for young children. Thursday, 11/6, 10:00 – 11:30 am, Omni Dallas Hotel
2. Diane Levin’s Beyond Remote-Controlled Teaching & Learning: Reclaiming Early Education from Misguided Academic Mandates, Friday, 11/7, 3:00-4:30 pm, Kay Bailey Hutchinson Convention Center
3. Play, Policy and Practice Panel: The Play Imperative: Why Do All Children Need to Play for Learning and for Success in School? Friday, 11/7, 8:00-9:30 am, Kay Bailey Hutchinson Convention Center, Room D166, with Jim Johnson, Susan Linn, Joan Almon and Diane Levin
4. DEY’s National Advisory Board Member Constance Kamii will also be presenting on Friday, 11/7, 3:00-4:30 pm at the Kay Bailey Hutchinson Center, Room D162/164
And our 2nd Annual Organizing Meeting for Early Childhood Activists!
Please join us!
During the NAEYC Conference we will be hosting our 2nd annual organizing meeting for early childhood activists on Friday, 11/7, 6:00-7:30 pm at the Aloft Dallas Hotel, 1033 Young Street. Join some of DEY’s National Advisory Board in a conversation as we hear about successful Action Mini-Grants and plan next steps. Light refreshments will be served. See attached flyer for details.
And…In the exhibit hall – find us at #333 in the booth we share with our friend Hugh Hanley and his Circle of Song. We will be sharing DEY resources for you to take home.
Looking forward to seeing many of you!
Please read and share DEY’s feature article, Are the Common Core State Standards failing our kids? in the current issue of Boston Parent’s Paper.
Here is a snippet of our article – which outlines our concerns as well as action steps that parents can take at home and at school:
by Geralyn McLaughlin, Diane Levin & Nancy Carlsson-Paige
If you are the parent of a young child, chances are you have seen firsthand that kindergarten has changed dramatically since you were young. There has been a well-documented, though highly controversial, push-down of academics into the earlier years. If your child is just now entering school, you may not have experienced this change – though you may have heard much debate about the Common Core State Standards.
Even comedian Louis C.K. added his ideas to the debate when he tweeted, “My kids used to love math. Now it makes them cry. Thanks standardized testing and Common Core!”
Our organization, Defending the Early Years, is deeply concerned about the current direction of early education in the United States. We hear stories all the time from teachers who are struggling to balance the reform mandates with what they know is best for young children. One teacher told us with regret, “I am being forced to shove academics down the throats of 4-, 5- and 6-year-old children. I used to be proud of my teaching – now I feel that I am being forced to do wrong by my students every day.”
Our article noted some local parent actions that are happening – and we are wondering what actions parents have been taking in your community. We would love to be able to pitch the article to other Parents Papers around the country – with your local examples included. Leave a comment here or contact us at firstname.lastname@example.org if you have thoughts about this and want to help us spread the word through the Parents Paper in your community. Thanks!
Memo to: All Families of Young Children
From: Diane E. Levin
Date: May 2014
Subject: Advocating for Play at School and at Home
Play is essential for children’s optimal development and learning. Through play, children use what they already know to help them figure out new things, see how they work, and master skills. As they do this, children add new social, emotional, and intellectual knowledge and skills to what they already know. They experience the satisfaction that comes from working things out and solving problems on their own. They think and sometimes say out loud, “I can do it!” This is the kind of learning through play that prepares children to feel confident in themselves as learners who see new information and ideas as interesting problems to be solved.
However, all play is not the same and today several forces can endanger quality play. First, many of today’s toys are linked to what children see in movies and on television. These media experiences channel children into imitating what they see on screens instead of creating their own play. Second, the use of electronic media takes young children away from play and can make their child-created play seem boring. Finally, growing pressure to teach academic skills at younger and younger ages takes time and resources away from the quality, teacher-facilitated play that young children need in preschool and kindergarten.
I encourage you to learn about the ways child-created active play supports learning and to advocate for play and encourage it at home. Play will give your children a foundation for positive social and emotional health as well as later academic success in school.
Back now from Washington, DC and beginning to reflect on all that happened. Here are just a few initial thoughts — and more soon.
There were some encouraging indicators. Quite exciting was the turnout for DEY Senior Adviser Diane Levin’s featured session Beyond Remote-Controlled Childhood: Teaching Young Children in the Media Age. The massive room was filled – the estimate was at least 1,000 people in attendance. Diane explained the many ways in which young children are affected by popular culture and exposure to media. She shared successful strategies for working with children and families. In her speech Diane called for creating schools that take into account who today’s children are – and to much applause she questioned current misguided school reform.
Many thanks to Community Playthings for sponsoring this important session! If you missed the session and want to know more, Diane’s book is available through the NAEYC online bookstore.
Many thanks also to the early childhood teacher activists who joined us at our session Finding Your Voice: Becoming A Teacher Activist, and for our evening meeting at The Henley Park Hotel. You shared your stories and your ideas – and we learned as much from you as you (hopefully!) learned from us. It was encouraging to finally meet many of you in person, after having met only online until now. DEY will be working to follow up on the ideas shared, and so please stay tuned.
In the opening session it was heartening to hear NAEYC’s new executive director Rhian Evans Allvin encourage attendees to go out and vote. Democrats, Republicans, Independents, Green Party…whatever your political inclination is: vote! Voting is one way for early childhood educators to use their voices. As this new bill, the Strong Start for America’s Children Act gains traction, it will be our voices that help to keep what is best for children at the center.
Finally, although I wasn’t able to attend the session, I heard great things about a reflection on advocacy from folks who have been working for high-quality early childhood education for decades – folks like Joan Lombardi and Marcy Whitebook.
Those are a few initial reflections…more will be forthcoming. Please feel free to add your own reflections and/or questions…
Friday evening: DEY will be hosting a gathering for teacher-activists 6:00 – 7:30 pm at the Henley Park Hotel, 926 Massachusetts Avenue, NW, Washington, DC – just one block from the convention center. See flier here. Please RSVP to email@example.com.
In the exhibit hall: Booth #935 with Hugh Hanley Circle of Song and TRUCE (Teachers Resisting Unhealthy Children’s Entertainment). Stop by and introduce yourself. Check out DEY materials, TRUCE materials, and with great songs for young children from our dear friend Hugh Hanley!