The objective of this article is to provide parents with information on the hazards of pushing children too early in academic learning.
By: Susan Adams, M. Ed.
Too Young for Academic Learning?
Summary: Many parents believe that they can develop gifted children by exposing them to academic learning at an early age. Much to the contrary, this can actually turn children off of learning and create learning problems. This article provides a discussion of these issues.
Many parents encourage or actually try to teach their preschool children to read and do math. However, some research has shown that teaching reading to preschoolers may create problems. For one thing, the eyes of very young children may not yet focus as is necessary for reading. Also, the need for young children to learn from experience is paramount. It helps them understand what they later read and calculate in their schoolwork.
Too much early rote academic learning is soon lost and not integrated into the child’s long-term fund of knowledge, and may actually be damaging. Many studies on how long and how well very young children retain such learning have come up with remarkably uniform results on almost all grade and socioeconomic levels: Those who begin to read at age 6 or 7 usually do as well as or better than those pushed into reading at 3 or 4.
Arnold Gesell observed years ago that school tasks such as reading and writing and arithmetic depend on motor skills which are subject to the same laws of growth which govern creeping, walking, and grasping. He recommended as much flexibility in issues of reading readiness as in walking readiness.
Many experts believe that more important than early academic learning is allowing children to see how they can have an effect on their world. Otherwise they feel that the pressures are on them alone and that they are powerless to make any changes. A preschool curriculum should include ample opportunity for children to develop important social skills. Bringing a treat to school, setting the table and conversing with friends and teacher are a good social experience for a 4-year old. Learning to share materials and take turns on equipment smooths the path to later social relationships. Developing confidence in early social experiences also paves the way for a foundation of self-esteem that is so important in tackling future learning as children mature.