Why Parents Should Seek Reading Programs for 4-Year-Olds in Addition to Preschool - Student Resources

Why Parents Should Seek Reading Programs for 4-Year-Olds in Addition to Preschool

A 4 year old practices her reading at a library

For many parents, sending children to preschool seems like a huge first step toward starting school. But is it enough? Do parents with children in preschool also need to enroll them in supplemental reading programs for 4-year-olds?

The answer may depend on a parent’s goals. Do they want their preschoolers to learn to read? To be ready for kindergarten? To develop good habits?

Preschoolers enrolled in supplemental reading programs along with traditional preschool are more likely to develop the foundational skills they need before starting kindergarten.

“My youngest was 2 1/2 when he did Kumon early learners,” says Reena Thomas, now the Instructor at Kumon of Augusta, Georgia. “The most important thing they learn is work ethic! There are so many distractions for children at that age.”

Skill Building Activities

Thomas, then an engineer, enrolled her two older children in Kumon before she opened her own center 15 years ago. She says preschool provides important socialization for children, especially those who do not attend day care, while Kumon’s early learner program introduces them to a more structured classroom.

Thomas tells parents that Kumon teaches children different skills than they would learn in preschool – such as perseverance, independence and confidence. “These years are the most important, because once they get to fifth grade, it’s too late. If their confidence drops in fourth or fifth grade, they aren’t even going to try to get on a math team or anything like that. But for the little ones, it’s like ‘Fear Factor.’ Their confidence is off the charts. They’ll try anything.”

Parents enrolling their young children at Thomas’s center tell her they want their children to learn to read or add before they go to kindergarten, but she says they actually may learn something that prepares them even more for kindergarten. “They might know how to read and add and still not be ready to learn,” Thomas says. “Part of the early learner program is that we work for 15 minutes on worksheets or a task before we go to the next task, so they learn to stay with learning activities for at least that long. If you have the work ethic, the rest will come.”

Developing Fine Motor Skills

Instructors teach early learners the right way to use learning tools. They teach them how to hold a pencil and demonstrate for parents the correct desk height for a child learning to write. Thomas says, “In my personal experiences, the pre-K teacher isn’t necessarily showing them how to hold a pencil correctly. They are teaching them ABCs, but not how to hold the pencil to write them.”

She adds: “The worksheets (we use) are designed to help a child develop fine motor skills. I ask my students, ‘Can you draw a straight line to connect this bumble bee to this bumble bee?’ And they are so invested in those activities! They concentrate so hard.”

Expanding Vocabulary

Early learners build their vocabulary and learn sight words using picture clues even before learning the sounds that some individual letters make, a pre-reading skill known as “phonemic awareness.”

“One word we learn is ‘suntan,’ which is a concept some kids may not know. We use those words to develop phonics and get them reading,” Thomas says. “I remember my kids having the sight word ‘dial,’ which they never knew even though I tried to explain how we used to change TV channels with a round knob. The definition of a word and how it fits into their life makes a difference.”

Laying a Foundation

Parents sometimes tell Thomas that their children are bored because the work they are doing – like learning to hold a pencil or tracing letters – is too easy, but Thomas says that is often a misconception, which reinforces why kids must master essential skills and then build on them. “I think when kids act out, parents think it’s boredom, but it’s really that the kids are getting frustrated because they don’t know how to do something,” Thomas says. “Small children lack perseverance, so they act out if something is taking too long for them to figure out. Children need a good foundation, and they need discipline.”

She recommends parents combine supplemental reading programs with preschool or elementary school to get young learners off to the most successful start possible.

“It pays off in such a big way. Anybody who gets in as early learners could get two to three grade levels ahead in elementary school … before middle school,” Thomas says. “How are they going to get above grade level by middle school if they don’t start really early?”