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Is my child Ready for Kindergarten?

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When Is a Child Ready for Kindergarten?

Published: June 2, 2011 New York Times

To the Editor:

Re “ Too Young for Kindergarten? Tide Turning Against 4-Year-Olds” (front page, May 28):

Here’s a simple solution to the problem of too-young children in kindergarten: Restore kindergarten to what it was before we went off the rails in this country, sucking the joy and life out of learning and school by viewing education solely through the narrow lens of tests, tests and more tests.

The fact that parents of means are choosing to hold their children back until they are as old as 6 proves that kindergarten has morphed into first grade. Four-and-a-half and 5-year-olds are simply developmentally unable to perform the tasks that are being asked of them.

Kindergartners’ days should be filled with learning and fun that is accomplished through music, dance and movement, art-making, storytelling, read-alouds, pretend, dress up, blocks, play of all varieties, a multitude of science explorations, and, yes, a nap.

Such kindergartners will emerge well prepared for first grade, and guess what? They will do better on standardized tests down the road.

Brooklyn, May 29, 2011

The writer is a K-12 art teacher.

To the Editor:

What is so sacred about the academic year? There is sufficient anecdotal evidence that the October-, November- and December-birthday kindergarten children may be at a disadvantage and become so frustrated that they “turn off” school at a very young age. Children of this age develop at different levels, not on a straight path.

In the past, admissions to, and promotions in, elementary school were two semesters a year. In this system there would be opportunities to advance by half a year, and if a student needed to be held back, only one term, not a full year, would be lost.

New York, May 28, 2011

The writer is professor emerita of behavioral sciences at Kingsborough Community College, CUNY.

To the Editor:

Your article is an example of how developmentally inappropriate expectations for young children are transforming kindergarten away from the active play-based environments recommended by research on how children learn. This research reveals that young children learn best through active engagement with materials, experiences and relationships.

Whether children are born in January or December, long periods of time spent in the kindergarten classroom on paper and pencil literacy and math tasks take away from the crucial experiences needed to develop the critical thinking and creative skills that lead to later school success.

New York, May 31, 2011

The writer is professor of early childhood education at the City College of New York, CUNY.

To the Editor:

Your article doesn’t mention another implication in increasing the legal age of kindergarten entry: a decrease in the diagnosis of attention deficit hyperactivity disorder and the use of Ritalin-type drugs.

Several studies have shown higher rates of diagnosed A.D.H.D. in children who are not 5 by September of their year of entry to kindergarten. At fifth and eighth grade, these children are nearly twice as likely to be using a drug like Ritalin or Adderall compared with their older peers.

Many children, younger just by several months, are simply not ready developmentally to handle the increased academic demands of the last 20 years on kindergartners. This academic stress translates to increased agitation, inattention and hyperactivity, especially in boys.

California’s enlightened decision to add a state-supported pre-K transition year for 5-year-old children born after September should over time decrease the number of children taking psychiatric drugs.

Walnut Creek, Calif., May 28, 2011

The writer is a behavioral-developmental pediatrician.

To the Editor:

The picture just keeps getting bleaker for low-income families with young children. Research confirms that children who attend high-quality preschools and kindergartens have better developmental outcomes.

Unfortunately, far too many low-income and disadvantaged families require outside resources to afford such preschools.

At the same time that kindergarten cutoff dates are changing, many states are grappling with budget crises that are forcing cuts to child-care subsidies and prekindergarten programs, leaving poor families even further behind.

These trends presage a troubling future for young children and their families who are likely to derive the biggest benefit from societal investment in quality early-learning programs.

Washington, May 30, 2011

The writer is president of Child Trends, a nonprofit research center that studies children at all stages of development.


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