The Common Core State Standards call for kindergartners to
learn how to read, but a new report by early childhood
experts says that forcing some kids to read before they are
ready could be harmful.
Two organizations that advocate for early childhood
education -- Defending the Early Years and Alliance for
Childhood -- issued the report titled "Reading in
Kindergarten: Little to Gain and Much to Lose." It says
there is no evidence to support a widespread belief in the
United States that children must read in prekindergarten or
kindergarten to become strong readers and achieve academic
The authors -- Nancy Carlsson-Paige, Geralyn Bywater
McLaughlin and Joan Wolfsheimer Almon -- found that:
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
No research documents long-term gains from learning
to read in kindergarten.
Research shows greater gains from play-based
programs than from preschools and kindergartens with a more
Children learn through playful, hands-on experiences
with materials, the natural world, and engaging, caring adults.
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.
We are setting unrealistic reading goals and
frequently using inappropriate methods to accomplish them.
In play-based kindergartens and preschools, teachers
intentionally design language and literacy experiences which
help prepare children to become fluent readers.
The adoption of the Common Core State Standards
falsely implies that having children achieve these standards
will overcome the impact of poverty on development and
learning, and will create equal educational opportunity for
The report says that kindergarten has since the 1980s become
increasingly academic -- with big pushes from President
George W. Bush's No Child Left Behind and President Obama's
Race to the Top -- and that today many children are being
asked to do things they are not ready to do. It says:
Under the Common Core State Standards (CCSS) the
snowball has escalated into an avalanche which threatens to
destroy appropriate and effective approaches to early
education. The kindergarten standards, in use in over 40
states, place huge emphasis on print literacy and state
bluntly that, by the end of kindergarten, children are to
"read emergent-reader texts with purpose and understanding."
Large amounts of time and money are being devoted to this
goal, and its impact is felt strongly in many preschools as
Many children are not developmentally ready to read in
kindergarten. In addition, the pressure of implementing the
standards leads many kindergarten teachers to resort to
inappropriate didactic methods combined with frequent
testing. Teacher-led instruction in kindergartens has almost
entirely replaced the active, play-based, experiential
learning that we know children need from decades of research
in cognitive and developmental psychology and neuroscience.
When children have educational experiences that are not
geared to their developmental level or in tune with their
learning needs and cultures, it can cause them great harm,
including feelings of inadequacy, anxiety and confusion. A
grandmother from Massachusetts told this story:
My 5-year-old grandson adored his play-based preschool,
but it was a different story when he started an all-day,
very academic, public kindergarten. From the first day he
had mostly worksheets and table tasks, which he said were
"hard." On the fifth day of kindergarten he refused to go to
school, locked himself in his bedroom, and hid under his bed!
Here from the report are some examples from the Core that
the authors cite as inappropriate for many kindergartners:
The CCSS website states, "Students advancing through the
grades are expected to meet each year's grade-specific
standards and retain or further develop skills and
understandings mastered in preceding grades." However, there
is no evidence that mastering these standards in
kindergarten rather than in first grade brings lasting
gains. To achieve them usually calls for long hours of drill
and worksheets -- and reduces other vital areas of learning
such as math, science, social
studies, art, music and creative play.
CCSS.ELA-LITERACY.RF.K.4: Read emergent-reader texts
with purpose and understanding.
CCSS.ELA-LITERACY.RF.K.1.D: Recognize and name all
upper- and lowercase letters of the alphabet.
Phonics and Word Recognition
CCSS.ELA-LITERACY.RF.K.3.B: Associate the long and short
sounds with common spellings (graphemes) for the five major
Integration of Knowledge and Ideas
CCSS.ELA-LITERACY.RI.K.9: With prompting and support,
identify basic similarities in and differences between two
texts on the same topic (e.g., in illustrations,
descriptions, or procedures).
Research to Build and Present Knowledge
CCSS.ELA-LITERACY.W.K.7: Participate in shared research
and writing projects.
Vocabulary Acquisition and Use
CCSS.ELA-LITERACY.L.K.4.B: Use the most frequently
occurring inflections and affixes (e.g., -ed, -s, re-, un-,
pre-, -ful, -less) as a clue to the meaning of an unknown word.
The authors call for the withdrawal and rewriting of the
kindergarten Common Core standards. Other recommendations
from the report are:
Invest in high quality, long-term research to
identify which approaches in preschool and kindergarten best
help children become fluent readers by fourth grade and
beyond, paying particular attention to children living in
Convene a task force of early childhood educators to
recommend developmentally appropriate, culturally responsive
guidelines for supporting young children's optimal learning
from birth to age 8.
End the use of high-stakes testing with children up
to third grade and the use of test scores for teacher
evaluation and the
closing of schools. Promote the use of assessments
that are based on observations of children, their
development and learning.
Ensure a high level of professionalism for all early
childhood educators. Strive to reduce the income achievement
placing experienced teachers in low-income
communities. Invest in high-quality teacher preparation and
ongoing professional development.