WMU News

More emphasis on pencils than play robs childhood

Aug. 30, 2002

KALAMAZOO -- For parents of young children, getting a grip on what constitutes a good academic program and whether a child is prepared to enter school can be difficult. And all too often, says WMU early childhood education expert Dr. Ariel Anderson, little ones are being pushed away from the playground and hammered with "paper and pencil" exercises.

"Increasingly, we're seeing kids move away from a play-based curriculum, which is the natural way children learn, toward the American obsession with having kids at the head of the pack, and having them labeled as 'gifted.' The milk-and-cookies, nap-on-the-mat approach to kindergarten is no longer there," says Anderson, a professor of teaching learning and leadership.

A look at school readiness testing in many of the nation's school districts reveals that nearly 50 percent of youngsters are not ready to enter kindergarten, says the longtime researcher and author of dozens of articles on the importance of play in children's lives.

"This is a very basic issue: should the child be ready for school, or should the school be ready for the child? If half our kids are testing as not ready for kindergarten, then it seems like we're asking children to do too much too soon, and grow up too early," says Anderson, who can be reached at <ariel.anderson@wmich.edu>.

Media contact: Gail H. Towns, 269 387-8400, gail.towns@wmich.edu

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