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Starting Out Right: A Guide to Promoting Children’s Reading Success
The Kindergarten Challenge
One major goal of kindergarten has always been to help children become comfortable in a formal classroom setting. Indeed, it is a major adjustment. Five-year-old children who enter kindergarten must learn how to sit quietly, to share, to listen, to communicate cooperatively, and to do what is asked. Even in the most individualized class, they must make do with far less personal attention than they probably are used to. Helping children meet this emotional and behavioral challenge is extremely important.
But kindergarten must also prepare children to learn to read, and this must be a key priority. Children enter kindergarten with different preschool reading and writing experiences: some write with scribbling and others with letters; some have lots of storybooks in their past and recite them eagerly; for others, books seem pretty unfamiliar. Research consistently demonstrates that children need to enter first grade with good attitudes and knowledge about literacy. Otherwise, they will probably find first grade instruction inaccessible.
What Must Be Accomplished—Goals of Kindergarten
The delicate balance for the kindergarten teacher is to promote literacy in well-thought-out, appropriate ways. Two goals are paramount:
When children leave kindergarten, they should have a solid familiarity with the structure and uses of print. They should know about the format of books and other print resources. They should be familiar with sentence-by-sentence, word-by-word, and sound-by-sound analysis of language. They should achieve basic phonemic awareness and the ability to recognize and write most of the letters of the alphabet.
Kindergarten should help children get comfortable with learning from print, since much of their future education will depend on this. By the end of the year, kindergartners should have an interest in the types of language and knowledge that books can bring them.
In this following section we present activities for kindergarteners. As for the earlier sets of activities, the main purpose is to illustrate the concepts underlying reading instruction in kindergarten. We expect that the individual activities included will be helpful for most children; however, they are not a substitute for a comprehensive curriculum.