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[Susan notes: Another great letter from Stephen Krashen. Again he asks readers (and journalists) to look at what policies are doing to children.]

Submitted to Washington Post but not published

To the editor

The Post reported the "good news" that this year's Montgomery county kindergarten children are better at recognizing letters and simple

words than last year's ("Kindergartners Reading Better," December 2, 2003). Is this really good news? A previous article in the Post told us that in Montgomery, children are now experiencing a curriculum based on systematic intensive phonics ("All-Day Kindergarten Posts Big Gains in Montgomery, "Oct. 1, 2002). This kind of approach, according to National Reading Panel data, produces gains only in words read aloud in isolation; it has minimal effects on tests of real reading given after grade one. Not only is there no real payoff for this policy, it also means that kindergarten is no longer kindergarten, that five year old children are spending more time being "trained" on letters and words, being prepared for tests, and are experiencing a tougher, more "serious" school day. One must ask what valuable activities and experiences they are missing.

Consider this: The country in the world with the highest scores on tests of literacy is Finland. In Finland, children start school at age seven, and there is no literacy "training" in preschool.

Stephen Krashen

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