Tag Archives: kindergarten reading

Should my child go to a full-day kindergarten? I have a choice.

Yes!  Research shows that

  • Students in full-day programs learn more than in half- day kindergartens, particularly in reading and math. Most full-day programs are 4.5 to 6 hours daily, while most half-day classes are 2 to 3 hours daily (30 hours weekly v. 15 hours weekly).

    Reading time in full-day and half-day kindergarten.

    Making the Most of Kindergarten: Present Trends and Future Issues in the Provision of Full-day Programs by Debra J. Ackerman, W. Steven Barnett, and Kenneth B. Robin (March 2005)

  • Full-day programs allow the student to spend close to an hour on self-directed activities which are linked to long-term learning, compared to about a half hour for such activities in half-day programs.

However, most states do not require districts to offer full-day kindergartens.

  • Alabama, Arkansas, Delaware, Louisiana, Maryland, Minnesota, Mississippi, North Carolina, Oklahoma, South Carolina, West Virginia and the District of Columbia require districts to offer full-day kindergartens.
  • Thirty-four other states require half-day kindergartens; however, many districts in those states offer full-day kindergarten.
  • Five states—Alaska, Idaho, Michigan, New Jersey, New York and Pennsylvania—do not require school districts to offer any kind of kindergarten, though most districts do.

The trend to attend kindergarten full-days is growing.  Only ten percent of kindergarteners attended full-days in the 1970’s, while more than half do now.

What is driving this trend?

  • Research showing academic gains by children in full-day programs is convincing legislators to budget more state money for full-day kindergartens.
  • The rigor of Common Core standards may be spurring longer kindergarten days.
  • The emphasis on early learning in general (prekindergarten through third grade) and the push to make all kids readers by third grade has educators looking for more time to teach children.

My older two children attended half-day kindergarten in Michigan—all that was offered in the school they attended.  But my youngest child attended full-days in Georgia.  He had not attended a pre-K program, so he found the long day in school tiring at first even though, after lunch, the lights went out and the blinds were drawn while the children lay on mats and were encouraged to nap.  Within a few weeks he had adjusted, paging through picture books while his friends napped.

Did I notice an academic advantage in my third child?  No.  Would I send all three to full-day kindergarten now if I had that opportunity?  Yes.  The growing research convinces me that full-day kindergarten gives children an advantage as they start first grade.  Other research shows that many students eventually lose that advantage as they move on to second and third grades.  However, that cannot be blamed on the kindergarten program.  –Mrs. K

I think the issue of full day kindergarten has changed from years ago.  The real question is, “What will my child be doing during the other half of the day if he is not in school?”  If a parent is lucky enough to be a full-time, stay-at-home parent, then maybe the child will be better off getting more TLC at home.   But if both parents are working, then those parents will probably want full day kindergarten .

One of my children had full-day kindergarten.  The other one had half-day kindergarten and half-day daycare.  My grandson is lucky enough to live in one of the three states that offer free preschool for four year olds.  He attends a half day program five days a week.  It seems to me that this year of preschool for four year olds is very much like what we used to call half-day kindergarten.  –Mrs. A

How about you?  Did you send your child to full-day kindergarten?  To half-day kindergarten?  Did it make a difference?

One example of how to teach a four-year-old to read

For several weeks I have been tutoring a four-year-old, teaching her to read.

  • I started with letter tiles, placing one before her at a time and asking her what sound each letter represented. She knew many of them, but not all of them.  As I expected, she couldn’t sound out “e” and “i” and was vague on “u” too.  The consonants “d,” “j,” “q,” “x,” “y” and “z” also were mysteries.
  • On a paper I had written all the sounds associated with individual letters, and as she said them properly, I crossed them out, to know which letters we needed to focus on.
  • Reading tutor with 4-year-oldSince she was confident about “o” and “a,” I used those letters to form CVC words, real and imaginary, spelling them phonetically. With the letter “a” I sandwiched two consonants, one on either side, separating the tiles and then moving them closer and closer until they looked like a word.  All the time I was pronouncing the sounds, such as “c” “a” and “t.”
  • Since the hardest letter sounds for beginning readers to hear are the middle sounds in CVC words, I kept using the same vowel sound, the letter “a,” for one half-hour lesson. I put a “t” after the “a” and kept it there for several minutes, exchanging one beginning consonant for another as she read the words.
  • My little student caught on quickly that the sound in the middle and at the end of the word didn’t change, so all she had to focus on was the beginning sound. When we encountered one of her difficult letter sounds, I would say it and then she would.
  • At our next lesson, I repeated much of the first lesson, asking her to pronounce the sound for each letter tile. This time she sounded the “q” consistently correct, so I crossed out that letter sound on my list.
  • I made CVC words using the letter “o.” Some words were real; some were nonsense words or real words spelled phonetically.  What she showed me was that she knows the sounds of various letters.
  • The next week I used both “a” and “o” words. This was more difficult because my student needed to keep track of two sounds in CVC words.
  • This past week I used “u” as the vowel. At first, my student would forget the sound “u” represents, but by the end of the lesson, she was remembering it.

Because the lesson lasts just 30 minutes, this student hangs in there, but by the end of a half hour she is losing interest.  I compliment her work often, telling her, “You didn’t know that letter last week, and now you do!” or “You figured out that word all by yourself.”  Sometimes she acts out a word or tells me what it means, and I compliment her on that too.

These early lessons focus on letter sounds and how combining sounds gives us words.  It might seem boring to an adult, but brain research shows that there are no built-in pathways in our brains for reading, the way there are for movement and speech.  A novice reader, like my student, must activate much more of her brain to read “cat” than an experienced reader like me.  Over years of reading, my brain has built shortcuts to figuring out words that this child’s brain hasn’t done yet.

At our next lesson, we will do more CVC words using “u” as the vowel, and then exchange the “u” for “a” and “o.”  We will focus on letter sounds my student is still learning.  Her progress may seem slow, but it is steady.

When is the best time to prepare babies for reading?

Click on the graphic below to enlarge it.Questions

Anwsers:  Question 1, Question 2, Question 3, Question 4, Question 5  (each answer will open a browser tab)

Pregnant mom talking to baby in womb.What has this to do with reading?  Babies who have been spoken to often pick up the sounds of their native language.  They learn the patterns of sound that make words and sentences.  They learn that when there is a pause in the sounds, that is a good time for them to respond (with babbling at first).  They learn vocabulary.  When the time comes for them to connect sounds, intonations, pauses and vocabulary with written letters, they are way ahead of children who have limited exposure to oral language.

It’s fair to say that the groundwork for teaching a child to read begins in the womb.  –Mrs. K



Does having a small number of books in my child’s kindergarten classroom make a difference as long as there is a media center in the school?

girl looking at book displayYes.  It makes a big difference.

Research shows that if children have easy access to reading material, they are more likely to read.  In a classroom with few books, children will read less.

A classroom that encourages reading is bursting with books, magazines, comic books, tablets or whatever will entice children to read.  Some classroom teachers allocate a box per student that at all times is full of books for the child to read.  The box is on the child’s desk or at the child’s feet, but within reach of the child.

Most teachers have a classroom library full of age-level, appropriate books of all kinds.  Before morning classes begin, it is the student’s responsibility to get a book or two for her desk, so if she finishes an assignment early, she can pull it out and read quietly.

Why does your child’s classroom have few books?  Depending on the reason, there are many remedies.

New teachers right out of college usually don’t have a stockpile of children’s books for their classrooms.  Sometimes retiring teachers pass along their classroom books to new teachers, but many times the new teacher depends on her own resources to develop a classroom library.  Some schools offer books to new teachers, but usually not enough to suffice.

So how can you help a teacher to create a classroom library?  You could

  • Contact neighbors to ask for books their older children are no longer reading.
  • Contact used book stores or Goodwill to get boxes of books at a huge discount.
  • Attend garage sales or estate sales and pick up books there for a slight cost.  If you go at the last hour on the last day, you might be able to obtain books free if you will just haul them away.
  • Convince the PTSA to donate money so the teacher could buy books she would like in the classroom.

The books don’t need to be new.  If you go in any classroom with its own library, you’ll see that the books are dog-eared, the bindings are splitting, and pages are taped.  New books are great, but the point is to have many, many books, new or old, for the children to pick up, sample, and read.

Another reason a classroom teacher might not have many books is the socio-economic status (SES) of the community in which the school is located.  A study of 20 first grade classrooms in low SES communities showed these classrooms had fewer books and fewer types of books, and children there used books less than in schools located in wealthier communities.

What can you do to help a classroom teacher in such a school?

  • If the school is a Title 1 School, money might be available to buy classroom books.  Check with your principal to see if some money could be allocated for classroom book purchases.
  • You could ask your PTSA for a “grant” to buy books for your child’s classroom.
  • You could pair up with the PTSA of a school in a wealthier community, which might be willing to donate books to your school.
  • You could find out the names of kindergarten and elementary teachers who retired recently, contact them, and see if they have any books they might be willing to donate.
  • You could contact your local library and see if they have children’s books which they are “retiring” due to multiple copies or the need for more space on the shelves.  Or perhaps they have books that will be tossed because they are torn, soiled or less than perfect.  You could offer to fix them for your child’s classroom.
  • If your community has a city council or neighborhood groups, you could go to meetings and plead for books for the classrooms of the local school.  Chambers of Commerce, church groups and fraternal organizations sometimes have money available.  Or they might have wealthier members who would make a donation in exchange for a tax write-off.

A lot of work?  Yes, but keep in mind your goal:  a print-rich classroom that will encourage children to read.  –Mrs. K

Do you have a list of good books for my kindergartener to read? Or for me to read to her?

Yes!  The Common Core State Standards for English Language Arts and Literacy has published lists of recommended books by grade level.  These lists do not include all good books (far from it!).  Rather the lists suggest books of the right complexity and quality for children by grade level.  The lists also suggest the wide range of subjects that a student should encounter in reading.

The Common Core Standards developers would prefer that you use these lists as guides to find appropriate reading material for you child.  One of the criticisms of the Common Core Standards is that teachers will limit themselves to only the reading material listed.

For kindergarteners and first graders, the lists include stories, poetry, read-aloud stories, read-aloud poetry, informational texts and read-aloud informational texts.  Some of the stories are classics such as Are You My Mother by P. D. Eastman and Green Eggs and Ham by Dr. Seuss.  Others are newer stories.

When you read these or any books with your child, pause as you read and ask the child to tell you what is happening.  If there are pictures, ask him what he learns from them.  Ask him what he thinks will happen next.  When you complete the book, ask him what it was about.   Can he name the setting (time and place) and important characters?  Pick out two or three new words and see if he remembers what they mean.

To find complete lists of recommended books for all grade levels, review the contents listing at the front of the Common Core State Standards for English Language Arts & Literacy in History/Social Studies, Science, and Technical Subjects.

Below are the books recommended for kindergarten and first grade.

kindergarten to 1st grade stories.

To enlarge the graphic, click on it.

kindergarten to 1st grade poetry.

To enlarge the graphic. click on it.

kindergarten to 1st grade informational text

To enlarge the graphic, click on it.

Barbara Park, “mother” of Junie B. Jones, leaves behind millions of happy child readers

If there is one favorite book of little girls learning to read in English, it is every book starring Junie B. Jones, the rambunctious kindergartener and then first grader, who so often gets in trouble for being herself. With more than 55 million copies of “Junie B. Jones” books in circulation, author Barbara Park has reached millions of children with the antics of her sassy child character, Junie B., and her friends Lucille, that Grace, William, and Meanie Jim.Girl reading Junie B. Jones.

Sadly, there will be no more “Junie B. Jones” books. Author Barbara Park died on Friday, November 15.

I first used Junie B. books to teach children how to read with a Korean-born girl who didn’t know what to make of the cheeky kindergartener, laughing out loud at the silly ways Junie B. used to avoid taking the school bus home. At first we read together, but eventually my student couldn’t wait for a whole week to pass before starting another Junie B. book. She took them out of the library four or five at a time. When book number 26, “Aloah-ha-ha,” was about to be published, she was tingling with excitement and rushed to the book store the day it came out. She lent me that book after she read it, but told me I needed to return it so her brother could read it when he was old enough.

Another little girl whom I introduced to Junie B. stayed up late into the night reading with a flashlight.

If you are not familiar with Park’s series, the books are appropriate for students who have mastered basic phonics skills—short and long-vowel words, and some multi-syllabic words. For students who are not there yet, reading with an adult or older child is a way to enjoy Junie B.’s antics, with the adult reading the parts the child cannot.

Start your child with the first book, “Junie B. Jones and the Stupid, Smelly Bus.” You will be hooked by the ebullient Junie B. who hides atop a pile of construction paper in a kindergarten cupboard while her teacher walks the students to the buses. Later, when the school is empty, Junie B. uses her teacher’s new modeling clay, and sneaks into the nurse’s office and tries on bandages and crutches, all blithely unaware that her frantic teacher, mother and the police are searching for her.

The stories are so humorous that children find them page-turners. Clever line drawings throughout the books add to their appeal. In one book, Junie B. thinks her mother has given birth to a monkey. In another, she receives a Valentine from a secret admirer. Junie B. practices to be a beautician by cutting her own hair. She dresses up for career day by copying the school janitor, whose large ring of keys she admires so much.

Sometimes Junie B. says things the wrong way which children find funny. But she makes the same kinds of mistakes that all children do when they learn English. In some of the books, Junie B. keeps a journal in which she crosses out mistakes and fixes them.

But it is her wacky world view that lures children to read book after book. Like J. K. Rowling with her “Harry Potter” series, Barbara Park has created an unforgettable child character set in the familiar world of kindergarten and first grade. When my granddaughter was learning to read in kindergarten, I gave her a set of Junie B. kindergarten books. When my granddaughter started first grade, I gave her a set of Junie B. first grade books. When she lost a tooth, we read “Junie B., First Grader Toothless Wonder.”

Luckily for us, Barbara Park’s work lives on, and Junie B. Jones will be engaging young readers for generations to come.

My child can read basic words. What kind of literature skills should s/he have for kindergarten?

Most states have adopted a common core of standards now used to teach and to assess children’s learning at each grade level and in academic subjects.  Included in these standards are ones for kindergarten reading which include understanding literature, informational texts and reading skills.  Those standards are

kindergarden literature skill standards

Go to http://www.corestandards.org/ELA-Literacy/RL/K for more on the common core of standards.

Key Ideas and Details

  • With prompting and support, the child should be able to ask and answer questions about key details in a text.
  • With prompting and support, the child should be able to retell familiar stories, including key details.
  • With prompting and support, the child should be able to identify characters, settings, and major events in a story.

Craft and Structure

  • The child should be able to ask and answer questions about unknown words in a text
  • The child should be able to recognize common types of texts (e.g., storybooks, poems).
  • The child, with prompting and support, should be able to name the author and illustrator of a story and define the role of each in telling the story.

Integration of Knowledge and Ideas

  • With prompting and support, the child should be able to describe the relationship between illustrations and the story in which they appear (e.g., what moment in a story an illustration depicts).
  • With prompting and support, the child should be able to compare and contrast the adventures and experiences of characters in familiar stories.

Range of Reading and Level of Text Complexity

  • The child should actively engage in group reading activities with purpose and understanding.

For more information, go to www.corestandards.org/ELA-Literacy/RL/K