The Atlantic published an article about what kindergarten is like in Finland. I was prepared for the usual "kids in Finland actually have time to play-- inside and outside!" and "nary a worksheet to be seen!" comments.
But what has stuck with me for several days are the words of a counselor from the Finnish National Board of Education the author interviewed for the article:
The rest of the article focuses on literacy, and in particular how the Common Core State Standards expect kindergartners to be reading basic texts by the end of the school year. Again, this is not news to people who've been paying attention to the education world."There's an old Finnish saying,” Holappa said. “Those things you learn without joy you will forget easily.”
The author says:
Researchers at the University of Virginia, led by the education-policy researcher Daphna Bassok, analyzed survey responses from American kindergarten teachers between 1998 and 2010. “Almost every dimension that we examined,” noted Bassok, “had major shifts over this period towards a heightened focus on academics, and particularly a heightened focus on literacy, and within literacy, a focus on more advanced skills than what had been taught before.”Reading that, I couldn't help but make the connection that the time period of that research coincides with when the Public Library Association's Early Literacy Project (what birthed ECRR in 2004 and the revised ECRR2 in 2010) was released into the wild, shall we say.
I sat at my desk wondering, "Am I part of the problem?" What I meant was, being someone who recognized the importance of the research findings related to literacy and pre-literacy skills, geeked out learning about early brain and childhood development, and found it easy to incorporate all I learned into how I chose to interact with and present material in library programs, in doing that, was I (and my profession) part of the culture that has created unrealistic expectations for learners?
I know that disadvantaged kids and their caregivers NEED to be exposed to techniques like dialogic reading because it encourages them to question, predict, and express comprehension of texts, which all provides opportunities to talk together and decrease the 30 million word gap. Library and library outreach programs services are great vehicles for this exposure because of the fact that we offer free, unbiased (theoretically) services and support to anyone in our community. But are we really reaching those children and caregivers who benefit the most or are we oversaturating (is that even a thing?) kids who are already well on their way to school readiness?
I have long used the phrase "choose joy today," as a sort of personal motto. I know it isn't possible to create a joyful learning moment for each child and caregiver I interact with, but I know I will be reflecting on how I might provide more opportunities for them to find or choose joy at the library. After all, what is the benefit in a perfect demonstration of phonological awareness through a singing activity accompanied with the best caregiver aside if everyone forgets it as soon as the moment passes because it brought them no joy?