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Get Ahead Kids - Vol. 5, No. 1 - January/February 2013

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School & Your 5 Year Old Important Questions

By Amanda Tocci

For many parents the question of whether to send their 5 year old to school or not is a time full of uncertainty and fear. Will my child be socially ready? Will my child be academically ready? These are questions faced by parents each and every year and the solutions are as unclear as the questions themselves.

The early development of literacy and numeracy skills is paramount for academic success throughout a child's life. The skill of reading is a vital component for each and every child, giving them skills in order to function as contributing citizens to their community. Not only does success in reading contribute to the development of emerging citizens it also gives children a sense of worth and develops their self esteem.

Major Questions in Reading Development

Is the brain ready for reading at 5 years of age? Can a child be taught a phoneme (the smallest phonetic unit in the sound system of a language ) at 5 years and then be taught the letter name, understand their relationship, put a vowel and consonant blend together, understand sound families, and decode? Can this all occur and be retained in a given period of time? The simple answer is no. Reading is a process that relies on the brain's development; it cannot be rushed, pushed, prodded or poked. If the brain is not ready then it does not matter how many times you repeat, rehearse or rehash the material to be learned. Be mindful that expectations do not blur what is cognitively appropriate.

Is my child receiving a research based reading program? There are currently 24 known reading programs in place in NSW primary schools with the majority of these not having a valid research base. The basis of the choice of these reading programs is a mystery to me!

With over 5000 NSW 8 year olds currently not meeting reading age criteria the question needs to be asked...are the programs we're utilising accurate, valid, reliable or research based? Are we giving our kindy kids the best possible start?

As we go back to school or start school for the first time ask yourself:

  1. Is my child 'developmentally' ready? Are my expectations realistic?
  2. Is the reading program used at my school based on valid research?

These are 2 of the most important questions that can be asked because getting it wrong can prove to be detrimental to your child.

About Amanda Tocci

Amanda Tocci is a Literacy Specialist and Managing Director of the Australian Literacy Clinic Pty Ltd. Amanda is currently undertaking her PhD in Psychology at Newcastle University, investigating appropriate strategy instruction for children with working memory and reading disabilities. The Australian Literacy Clinic Pty Ltd is a specialist centre located in Maitland and Newcastle, working with families and schools in assessment, planning and intervention for children with reading difficulties.

More Information

Amanda Tocci
Managing Director & Literacy Specialist
Australian Literacy Clinic Pty Ltd.
P: 1300 869 905

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