My response, as always, is that every child is an individual. Even identical twins learn differently. No two children learn the same way or on the same timetable. That is why we use 12 different teaching techniques in my Reading Orienteering Club after-school program. (I’m working on a new book that will explain these 12 techniques and show how they work with intrinsic motivation and group-centered prevention. For now, keep reading my blog. I’ll briefly preview these techniques in the months ahead.)
I also reminded the parent that, just a few short years ago, she was cheering as her child learned to walk, run, and ride a bike. Now, kindergarten and preschools want children to sit for long periods of time and work on memorizing words. Some children are simply not ready to do that. Normal development for this age group is action, not sitting. Therefore, there is nothing wrong with a child who is still exhibiting normal development and wanting to be active. It is education that needs to adapt, not the child. I use workstations so that the period of sitting is shortened as children move from workstation to workstation. I also use hands-on learning interventions (see After-School Prevention Programs for At-Risk Students) so that children are learning by doing things.
There is nothing wrong if a child wants to learn to read before kindergarten, but we shouldn’t push a child to learn to read that early. As long as you are not teaching memorized word lists or pre-read words from the front or back of a book, reading is wonderful. Instead, teach the child to decode (break words down into letter sounds) and encode (reassemble those sounds and pronounce the word) (See my blog post of December 31, 2016).
For now, I explained, just work on learning the letters. Preschool and kindergarten should actually be working on (1) identifying both capital and lower-case letters, (2) writing on manuscript paper capital and lower-case letters separately (remember, we mostly read with lower case letters), and (3) learning the sounds for all of the consonant letters. I do not teach vowel sounds until first grade. If you like, you can teach the short vowel sound for the letter A: at, bat, cat, …. (See my June 5, 2017 blog post to read a more detailed explanation of vowel clustering).
The important thing is not to teach children to memorize the words. As neuroimaging research shows, it is much better to teach a child to sound out the word c a t than to teach a child to memorize the word cat (see my blog post of February 5, 2017).
It is time for a change. We need to learn to work with the brain instead of against the brain’s natural learning tendencies. The brain is “wired” for learning letter sounds (See my September 30, 2017 blog post). If we teach letter sounds instead of memorization, then almost every child across the nation could learn to read (Shaywitz, 2003). And, yes, it’s good for children to be active while they are learning.