Is it dangerous to push early academics?

Many countries, including the United States, seem to put an emphasis on teaching children to read by the age of six, or earlier. However, is this always the best option for the child? In some countries, children are not expected to read until 8 or 9 years old.

Programs like “No Child Left Behind”, tends to force children into early academics. They push books and reading, they test their abilities, and this can cause negative effects. Children who are told to or forced to read are known to recall less detail, and tend to not develop a passion for reading. Children who are pushed into reading too early may consider themselves “bad” readers.

Brain research as shown that the brain of a five or six year old is not wired for letter recognition or for comprehending the sounds letters combine to make words. Therefore, the trend of reading in Kindergarten can be seen as unreasonable because children at this age do not have the brain function needed for reading. This push on early academics can be detrimental to a young child.

Studies have found in Scandinavian children (who tend to read around the age of eight) that they consistently achieve better educational results as well as higher levels of wellbeing”. What should children do instead? Some experts say that play based activities with no formal literacy and numeracy requirements could lead to better overall academic achievement. These experts claim that,

 “The continued focus on an early start to formal learning is likely to cause profound damage to the self-image and learning dispositions of a generation of children,”

Developmental psychologist Dr. David Elkind agrees saying that there has been “no correlation between pushing children into early reading and later academic success”. These experts agree that children who are taught to read early will read better than their peers who have not been taught, however within a couple of years the difference disappears.

So, what does all this mean for parents and caregivers? It is simple. Let kids be kids. Let them play, let them learn by exploring the world around them. Don’t push reading, math, or other formal academics on them. Let them learn at their own pace. Let them do their job well, the job of being a child!



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