Reading Instruction in Kindergarten: Little to Gain and Much to Lose

In the United States there is a widespread belief that teaching children to read early — in kindergarten or even prekindergarten — will help them be better readers in the long-run.

Unfortunately, there is no scientific evidence that this is so.

How then did this idea take hold so strongly?

Today, in conjunction with the Alliance for Childhood,  we are thrilled to release our report Reading Instruction in Kindergarten: Little to Gain and Much to Lose.

In the report we concluded that Common Core reading requirements for kindergarten are inappropriate and not well-grounded in research.

Under Common Core, students are expected to be able to read before entering first grade.

  • Many children are not developmentally ready to read in kindergarten, yet the Common Core State Standards require them to do just that. This is leading to inappropriate classroom practices.
  • Research shows greater gains from play-based programs than from preschools and kindergartens with a more academic focus.
  • Active, play-based experiences in language rich environments help children develop their ideas about symbols, oral language and the printed word — all vital components
    of reading.
In play-based kindergartens and preschools, teachers intentionally design language and literacy experiences which help prepare children to become fluent readers.

The report maintains that the pressure of implementing the reading standard is leading many kindergarten teachers to resort to inappropriate drilling on specific skills and excessive testing.

Teacher-led instruction in kindergartens has almost entirely replaced the active, play-based experiential learning that children need based on decades of research in cognitive and developmental psychology and neuroscience.

In an effort to shift back to a developmentally appropriate, child-centered curriculum, Defending the Early Years and Alliance for Childhood call for the withdrawal of the kindergarten standards from the Common Core so they can be rethought along developmental lines.