Question: I teach a group of preK kids who missed the deadline for kindergarten by two to three months. This particular group of kids is very interested in learning to read and write; more so than the developmentally-age appropriate standards describe. Since they are an older group of fives, is it okay to teach them aspects of reading and writing that are considered to be kindergarten material—offering the challenge they seem eager to have?

Adele Brodkin: Age has been shown to be an arbitrary measure of readiness, so I agree with your inclination to individualize your program. That is why we are so eager to promote “Developmentally Appropriate” offerings to all children. No two children develop at the same rate in all readiness areas.  You are to be commended for offering an individualized prek program.

I am not sure whether these apparently “ready” children make up your entire class or just some members. It’s a relevant issue only because it is essential that you individualize the opportunities you describe. For those youngsters who are eager to move on with reading readiness, etc., of course, it is fine to provide them with the opportunity. In other words, be sure that you take each child exactly where he or she is and open the door to the next achievable step in each one’s learning. Let the children be the guides of how much and how fast they move ahead. As long as each child can succeed at least most of the time, you are on the right track. It’s a lot more work to allow each whatever pace is comfortable; but I think, worth the effort.

For more advice by Adele, check out the Between Teacher and Parent column.