The trend to teach reading in kindergarten is an unreasonable expectation for five year olds because they do not have the maturity of brain function needed for reading. Certain, specific visual-processing learning problems arise, as well as problems in attention and motivation.
Another type of spelling issue that can arise from premature reading instruction is the inability to recognize jumbled letter order—again, it matters only that the first and last letters are in the correct placement. The word “Teudseay” will be read as “Tuesday” despite misspelling, and the child may not even be able to recognize that it was spelled incorrectly.
The right brain’s language center also contributes to the process of applying phonics. A young child is able to memorize the sound that a letter “makes”–they usually enjoy the fun games and songs utilized to teach this. However, the application of those sounds to a group of letters making a word is a different process. When kids’ language centers have the ability to process words only as composite pictures made of connected lines–instead of as a series of letters each representing abstract sounds–the task to apply sounds to parts of the images remains developmentally hard to grasp. Proficient readers perform the task of applying phonics with the left brain’s language center, which remains undeveloped in most brains until the seventh year.
When five year olds are pushed to tasks requiring the abilities of the undeveloped hemisphere, patterns for learning problems in the future may develop. If children were permitted to wait until the left side of their brain was adequately developed, they could learn to read and spell with the parts of the brain designed to do it efficiently. Decades ago, when intense reading instruction occurred mid-year of first grade, just as most kids were turning seven, educational expectations were more in line with children’s developmental abilities. This turn of the seventh year, on average, is the magical time to start reading instruction because this is not only when the left brain is developed, but also the corpus callosum, which allows the two hemispheres to communicate to complete a task together.
When children have been taught to read before this bridge-like function has developed, they experience difficulties in reading comprehension. Because the right brain is largely responsible for painting the pictures that act out the words, perhaps we would expect comprehension to be no problem, as five year olds have this portion developed. However, because the right hemispheres is constantly taxed, trying to do the work the left hemisphere is designed to do, the child resorts to the only resource he has: memory. Short words work just fine as sight words, but when kids have only the right brain to utilize, they must encounter every word as a sight word. Memorization is their only way to cope and meet expectations, and they tire quickly reading only a short passage this way.
Published in: Family