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My kindergartner already reads. Will she be bored?

By Debra Collins, Family therapist

Question:

I am the mother of a 5-year-old girl currently attending kindergarten. We've spoken with her teacher about the curriculum planned for this year and among other great things, he stated that he will be teaching the kids to read. The problem is, our daughter started reading at age 4 and can now read second- and third-grade level books.

My concern is while the other children will be learning, she will be held back or not advance as we'd like for her to. We found out that her school has advanced-placement classes. She would have to be tested to find out whether or not she is eligible (which we think she would be) to be placed in those classes for a limited amount of time each day.

Do you think this is a good idea? Is there anything she will benefit from if she stays in the class setting while the other children are just beginning to read?

Answer:

It sounds like you want a nice balance between challenging your daughter academically and allowing her to ease into the kindergarten experience. Having the advanced-placement testing will give you a more through understanding of the scope of her reading abilities and skills. With more information, you can work with her teacher to determine what placement best meets her current skill level, or if she is fine where she is.

It will be important for you to know if they are testing for comprehension. Some children can read the words of higher grade levels, but don't fully understand what they are reading, or how to put what they read in context. This type of "disconnect" is not uncommon and is, in part, a developmental issue. A child can learn to read words before she has a full understanding of what the words mean.

If you do find that she is fully comprehending more advanced reading material, find out from her teacher if she seems bored during reading, or if she is enjoying herself. If she is engaged with the experience of learning with her classmates, then you may want to advance her later when she needs more of a challenge. You may also want to find out from your daughter how reading in class is going for her.

Kindergarten is a time for children to acclimate to school-based learning and socialization. It is OK to take your time so that you get enough information to make a decision you are comfortable with. It is good that you are looking at her overall needs and not just the fact that she is a good reader. A "whole child" approach will benefit your daughter now and throughout her academic career.


Debra Collins is a licensed marriage and family therapist and has worked in both primary and middle schools as a school counselor. She gives workshops to teachers and students and offers parenting classes in the San Francisco Bay Area. To learn more, visit her website.

Advice from our experts is not a substitute for professional diagnosis or treatment from a health-care provider or learning expert familiar with your unique situation. We recommend consulting a qualified professional if you have concerns about your child's condition.

Comments from GreatSchools.org readers

01/25/2011:
"As a parent of a book loving 4 year old, I completely understand the concerns/worries/questions posted on this page. I, too, spend countless time researching and debating, searching and planning...and I think it all comes down to the effort that WE as parents are willing to put into the education our children received. Not many schools have the ability to completely personalize your child's learning experience. However, YOU DO! My plan: no matter where my daughter goes, I will be COMPLETELY immersed in her school life, stay in constant communication with her teachers so that I can be sure she is getting the most out of her education, and constantly give her even more advanced instruction at home. While I have yet to find a kindergarten that I am content with sending her to (I almost tear up if I even think about resorting to the nearest public school), I know FOR SURE that I cannot rely on others to ensure my children reach their full potential."
01/24/2011:
"As a parent of a book loving 4 year old, I completely understand the concerns/worries/questions posted on this page. I, too, spend countless time researching and debating, searching and planning...and I think it all comes down to the effort that WE as parents are willing to put into the education our children recieved. Not many schools have the ability to completely personalize your child's learning experience. However, YOU DO! My plan: no matter where my daughter goes, I will be COMPLETELY immersed in her school life, stay in constant communication with her teachers so that I can be sure she is getting the most out of her education, and constantly give her even more advanced instruction at home. While I have yet to find a kindergarten that I am content with sending her to (I almost tear up if I even think about resorting to the nearest public school), I know FOR SURE that I cannot rely on others to ensure my children reach their full potential."
11/9/2007:
"I would suggest that this mother have her child's IQ tested. She may have a highly gifted child, and the traditional classroom does not cater to the highly gifted child, which can be a terrible tragedy. There are many schools now available for gifted (IQ>130) and highly gifted (IQ>145) children."
09/4/2007:
"Don't forget the social piece. Being academically gifted is not all there is to the whole child. A child needs to be nurtured emotionally and learn to interact successfully with peers. There is also a great deal of content being taught in kindergarten. A good teacher will be able to challenge your child's advanced skill levels as well as give them the opportunity to be a typical, social 5 year old. "
07/13/2007:
"I am also the mother of a very bright 5 year old set to begin kindergarten this fall of 2007. He began reading and writing at the age of 3. And Choosing an Elementary school for him is a very grueling task. Right now he is doing multiplication and some division at his preschool. He was accepted into a neighborhood gifted and talent program and a wonderful progressive program at a magnet school very far away. I am afraid he will not be chalenged enough at the progressive school and the gifted and talented program is housed in a disruptive school, reputation is not what it once was. At this point I am considering private school because everyone says your child is too bright for public school. I don't know what to do....please help."
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