Keen parents often invest the time educating their child prior to entering grade one or Kindergarten to ensure school readiness. A frequently asked question asked is, “Will my child be bored in school? What will they learn if they already know how to read?”
Bored, by definition, is feeling weary because one is unoccupied or lack’s interest in one’s current activity. What’s the reality of school life for a child entering school reading? Whether it’s kindergarten or grade one here’s the scoop on what it can look like and mean for your child.
As a teacher, administrator and educational consultant for over 30 years I have seen a lot of children come through those school doors: children entering with varying skills, ability levels, intelligence levels, socioeconomic backgrounds, social and emotional capacities, children who are talented, well-traveled, and with many different life experiences, all impacting their interest, success and overall performance in school.
Here is a snapshot of my experience with an advanced early reader in my Kindergarten classroom.
At first sight, our class seemed like a regular Kindergarten classroom. Children were bustling about, chatting and playing with one another in the centers. During the carpet time they all seemed engaged and interested in the discussion on "bats" from our “Nocturnal Animals” theme.
However, taking a closer look revealed so much more going on than what meets the eye. When I took a much longer and closer look at my students’ I noticed there was that there was one boy, who we will call Liam, who stood out not in height or stature but in mental acuity and social confidence. He was constantly engaged in the class discussions during carpet time and continually contributed relevant and interesting information. Liam patiently listened to his peers, was respectful of his peers and seemed to have a strong sense of self-composure.
Liam entered Kindergarten reading at a grade one level. He was a regular boy full of energy and excitement for all things that had wheels and especially monster trucks! He was a happy boy who didn’t have an overly dominant personality however he was curious and well-read for his age.
During center time Liam was a popular playmate. He offered to read to others, he was sought after for help and advice and when a dispute or problem erupted, he was the go-to friend, a mediator and a helper. He did get excited about monster trucks and super heroes! I was impressed with his self-discipline and thoughtful analysis of the situation which his mom determined he developed from reading longer and longer books.
Liam had remarkable confidence in his social interactions with his peers and adults; he could hold a conversation and he had great focus on his daily work. His strong reading skillset set him apart from his peers and despite his advanced reading capability he was not doing extra worksheets. There were plenty of opportunities to enrich his learning such as: assist his classmates by reading them stories, reading game instructions, writing notes to their peers and spelling words for them.
When his classmates were learning letter sounds and simple reading activities Liam was not just writing the initial sound of the word but the whole word and then writing it with help in sentences. He was simply taking the activity a few steps further in application and study. He also made signs to label the classroom such as desk, table, chairs, computer, chart, floor, pencils etc. And he wrote a little book on "All About Bats" for the theme of Nocturnal Animals using magazines, his own illustrations, and information from a stack of books on bats.
Liam was quite capable of working independently; his ability to read had led to a fascination with words and during work time he was looking through books on bats and making notes on a piece of paper about them to share with the class. With the help of a teacher, together they read a story called, Stellaluna and he was able to sequence the story into 3 events and then present it to the class along with a puppet show. There was such creativity and diversity in the way we were able to enrich his learning in comprehension, looking up words on the computer, making a diorama about bats, including his own pictures with trees and a cave. One activity he was very engaged in and often led his peers through was a centre where he was to sort the words on cards into the following categories: 1) What bats can do 2) What bats are and 3) What bats have. He read the words on the sticky notes and then placed them with his buddies in the correct category.
During center time, work time and discussion time Liam was a strong contributor, he was helpful and knowledgeable. He could read what his peers could not, he was there to help his friends. When I asked him how he got the ideas to help with his classmates’ arguments he shared it was how they did it in Franklin or Arthur or some other book he had read.
There was a noticeable difference between Liam and his peers socially; he was confident in his interactions with his peers, teachers, older school children and other adults. He displayed confidence, good manners and self-control in waiting his turn to speak. His mother noted self-control and good manners were behaviors he learned while learning to read, and from reading stories about being a good friend. As he interacted with his peers, both he and they realized his reading skills were advanced, they looked up to Liam and he grew in confidence in his interactions, learning situations and overall achievement. Liam developed a maturity in the way he expressed himself and articulated his thoughts, feelings and questions.
He seemed to enjoy the status of being a leader and grew in many ways. I saw greater empathy and compassion in his interactions and when asked how he learned it; he most often related it to a story that handled a similar situation. He displayed wisdom beyond his peers, was more mature, more knowledgeable, more articulate, self-assured and had a strong intrinsic desire to learn and understand what they were reading and learning.
Numerous times throughout the year he was asked by staff and his parents if he was bored in school. Never once did he say he was bored or made any indication that school was boring. On a cautionary note I would encourage you to always frame questions for your child in a positive manner such as; What is it you like about school? and/or If you could change something what would it be? Those two questions will provide you with a lot of information that will help you assess the situation. The fact was Liam was enjoying school, learning and he was thriving. He was a regular kid whose parents simply decided that they wanted him to learn to read before he entered school. He entered school as an accomplished early reader with a strong reading skillset that set him apart from his peers. Did it help him adjust to school? Absolutely! Did it help him have confidence socially and emotionally? Absolutely it did!
The advantage Liam had was that he was positioned as a leader, a role model, a very capable, accelerated reader and student who had a distinct academic, social and emotional advantage. He learned to read at home, without the frustration in a busy classroom, vying for attention/help from his teacher, and he carried a self-assurance and maturity in solving problems not seen in his non-reader classmates.
Was this class unique or special? Not really, within the class there were typical peers of different religious and ethnic backgrounds, ADHD, aspergers, autism, speech and language issues and a child with cerebral palsy. This was a class with inclusive education with a mix of diverse abilities and diagnoses. This is what classrooms are comprised of today. There is no avoiding it. Parents often ask who gets the attention in such a demanding class? Who do you think would? It’s often those who are slower to learn a concept, those with behavior issues and those who need supports. Who gets left behind? You know it, the children in the middle. They often come from very caring, invested families, who value education and read to their children every day. These are the ones who are not getting the attention and the help they need to be successful or to advance their skills. It’s sad but true. The leaders in the class are more independent and are not afraid to ask for help if they don’t understand.
How would you like your child to enter school? The decision is yours. Your child’s future is in your hands. A child entering school reading has many advantages that their peers simply do not have. As a veteran teacher, my experience has shown that children entering school reading and even writing do not get bored but rather flourish and thrive! You can prepare them to enter school in many, many ways and one of best gifts is being able to read. Interestingly, the children who say they are bored are often the ones that have hit something quite challenging for them and that is their way of saying that they are not enjoying themselves and don’t want to do the work.
Liam's mom sums it up in saying, "Having my son know how to read when he entered Kindergarten gave both of us confidence that school would be that much easier and enjoyable. What I found was that it did so much more for my son that I could have imagined. He became so much more confident, he was like by his classmates and he developed an empathy for others that carried over into the next year. The empathy gave him a stronger sense of security, better relationships, and a beautiful care and concern for others. It was one of the best things for his own mental health. I am thankful that my son was an early reader and he did not have that burden to deal with when he started school. All of this made for the best start to school we could have ever hoped for!
Stay tuned for more ways to set your child up for school success in the early years.
Connect with the staff at Early Readers Academy.ca to get your child set up for reading with a simple, easy to follow video lesson format, that comes with a 100% guarantee, check out Early Readers Bright Future Reading System Level 1 and Level 2. Your child too, can start school off being a confident, capable reader!!
Children are our future and regardless of age, readers are leaders!