Your Six Greatest Worries About Kindergarten, and What to Do About Them
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Whether you’re waking up in the middle of the night or just feeling on edge, worries can eat at you—especially when you’re facing big new steps, like having your child start out in the world of "real" school. Kindergarten is a big adjustment ... for kids and for parents.
Kids are usually pretty good at sharing their worries, such as where the bathroom is, what cubbies are for, and if the teacher is nice. Teachers spend the first few weeks of school addressing these rookie jitters, but you may have some Major League anxieties of your own about what could go wrong in kindergarten.
Here are some answers to six questions kindergarten teachers hear a lot.
Reading: Some kids are already reading. Is my child hopelessly behind?
“No parent should be nervous about reading in November,” says Debra Redlo Wing, 30-year teacher and coauthor of Welcome to Kindergarten: a Month by Month Guide for Teaching and Learning. Thanks to today’s academic preschools, some children may arrive in kindergarten able to read, but teachers don’t require or even expect it.
In the early months of kindergarten, they want kids to practice writing their own name, identifying letters and matching them to sounds. They want kids to start understanding “concepts of print,” like our method of reading from left to right on a page and from front to back in a book, and the idea that every spoken word has a written version, too. With today’s precocious readers, teachers worry about “reading robots”— kids who can “read” but don’t really understand and who fall behind later.
What should you do to help? Go ahead and have fun with all the letters and sounds, practice writing names, and most of all, enjoy those books! Read aloud as often as possible. Savor the pictures, and talk, talk, talk. "Who is that character?" "What is she feeling?" "What do you think will happen next?" Independent reading is just around the corner for your child. What you’re doing now is ensuring that the encounter will be richly satisfying now and for years to come.
Writing: My kid writes b for d and d for b all the time. Is this dyslexia?
Lots and lots of kindergarteners—and first graders—do this, and don’t be surprised if they mix p and q or write a backward s while they’re at it. That’s because in kindergarten they are just beginning to develop thefine motor skills they need, as well as the visual and perceptual skills, to form consistent letters. Mix-ups are all part of the experimental process.
Is this dyslexia? Most likely not. Dyslexia is a “brain-based learning disability in which people have difficulty associating sounds with letters,” says Linda Selvin, executive director of the New York branch of the International Dyslexia Association. While some dyslexic people may reverse letters—even into adulthood—the real signs of the disorder are much broader. Eileen Marzola, PhD., reading specialist and past board president of the International Dyslexia Association, says you should only look further into the situation if, after a year of appropriate instruction, your child can’t do most of the following:
- easily name all the letters of the alphabet
- detect rhymes
- identify initial sounds
- recognize basic sight words
- write her own name