Friday, January 27, 2012

More School Readiness Research

I mentioned in a previous post about my son starting kindergarten a year later due to his birthday. I even had a doctor recently tell me it's a wonderful thing because now he'll be the tallest, smartest and most advanced physically and developmentally over his classmates.  I've also had mom friends who intentionally start their kids a year later so their child can be "better" in those areas and be top of the class through their schooling years.  

Here are two articles citing studies on the subject.  Don't be'll feel smarter afterwards! :)

"Historically and currently, the main criterion for assessing school readiness has been age (Crnic & Lamberty, 1994). Prior to a specified age, children are generally considered to be ‘just playing’. In line with a maturational viewpoint, all children in Australia, regardless of experience, and to a large extent genetic make-up, are deemed ready to start school at the age of five years (or even 4 years 7 months in some states). This is the age when children are regarded as being ‘ready to learn’.

However, the range of school starting ages, even amongst Western countries demonstrates the complexity of these issues. 

In Britain and the Netherlands, like Australia, the school starting age is five years, in Germany it is six years, and in Sweden, Norway and Finland children often start school at seven years (Routley & de Lemos, 1993). 

The disparities between countries are indicative of differences in cultural beliefs about childhood and differences in the definition of what constitutes ‘readiness to learn’. The definition has been most widely considered and researched in the United States after the educational goals of the National Educational Goals Panel were announced in 1990. The first goal was that “by the year 2000 every child in America should start school ready to learn” (Boyer, 1991 p.5).

The results of this research has lead to a wider acceptance of the notion that children might be learning at an earlier age and that the people caring for them at this age are, in fact, educating them rather than ‘just minding’ them. This understanding has lead to paradoxical responses. 

On the one hand parents are calling for more structured learning (Garrett, 2001). For instance, they ask that long day care centres have pre-school programs with an emphasis on pre-reading and pre-numeracy skills to ensure that their children are ‘ready for school’ and are not falling behind in a knowledge acquisition race, which is starting ever younger. 

On the other hand, researchers and early childhood educators are recognising the importance of less structured aspects of early childhood learning on children’s readiness for school.

"Educators are commonly recommending that children born during the summer months be given an extra year to mature so that they will not suffer from the academic disadvantages of being among the youngest children in a class. Terms such as "academic red-shirting" and "graying of the kindergarten" have been invented to describe the practice and effects of holding children back from kindergarten (Bracey, 1989; Suro, 1992).
Small-scale studies of limited geographic areas suggest that delayed kindergarten entrance involves anywhere from 9% to 64% of the eligible kindergarten population (Meisels, 1992). However, data collected for the large-scale National Household Education Survey (National Center for Education Statistics [NCES], 1997) indicated that 9% of the first- and second-graders had been held back from kindergarten. Surveyed parents reported that children who had delayed kindergarten entrance 1 year were most likely to have been male (64%), white (73%), and born between July and December (70%). Compared to children born in the first quarter of the year, children born in the summer months were twice as likely to have delayed kindergarten entrance 1 year after they were first eligible.
Substantial numbers of parents and educators believe that children born in the summer months will gain an academic advantage if kindergarten entrance is delayed 1 year. Is it a disadvantage to be among the youngest, rather than the oldest, in a kindergarten class?

What Does the Research Reveal?

A review of the relevant literature reveals that few studies have been undertaken to examine whether or not children with summer birthdays do better academically when they postpone kindergarten entrance 1 year. Problems also arise because some of the research often cited in support of delayed entrance is poorly designed, has focused on children with learning disabilities or on early entrants, has relied on subjective parent or teacher reports, or has not looked specifically at children born during the summer months.
The related research is meager and somewhat contradictory. In general, studies indicate that the youngest children in a class may score slightly below the oldest children in a class, but any differences tend to be small and may be transitory (Morrison, Griffith, & Alberts, 1997; Cameron & Wilson, 1990; Kinard & Reinherz, 1986; Smith & Shepard, 1987; NCES, 1997).
The sparsity of evidence related specifically to summer-born children prompted an investigation comparing the academic achievement of two groups of children born in June, July, August, or September: those who entered kindergarten just after turning 5 and those who were held out 1 year and entered kindergarten at age 6 (Crosser, 1991). Each child who delayed entrance was matched with a child of like intelligence who had not delayed entrance. Boys were matched with boys, and girls with girls.
All of the children took standardized achievement tests during fifth or sixth grade. Those test scores were used to compare the achievement of summer-born, held-out children to that of summer-born children who had entered school on time.
Results of the study indicated that, given similar levels of intelligence, boys with summer birth dates tended to be advantaged academically by postponing kindergarten entrance 1 year. That advantage was greatest in the area of reading. Reading scores for females and math scores for both males and females did not show significant statistical differences.
Results of such small-scale studies need to be replicated before educators will be able to make informed recommendations about optimum kindergarten entrance age. There is no clear-cut evidence that delaying kindergarten for the youngest entrants will provide some magical academic advantage. Because there is so little entrance age evidence, and because some of that evidence is conflicting, there does not appear to be a strong academic basis for delaying kindergarten entrance for summer-born children.
A responsible physician would not recommend any treatment that had not been scientifically tested and retested for effectiveness. She would need to know the specific symptoms for which the treatment was effective. She would need to know the success rate of the treatment and what complicating side effects and interactions were possible before prescribing the treatment.
Responsible educators also have a need to know the facts before recommending treatment for a child whose only symptoms are being born in July and being male. Nevertheless, the reality is that both teachers and parents are accepting the idea that delaying school entrance for summer birth date children is sound practice.

How Does Holding out Affect the Kindergarten Experience?

It has been reported that affluent parents tend to hold out their summer-born children more often than do low socioeconomic status parents (Meisels, 1992). If that is the case, then children who may be at academic risk from factors associated with poverty face the additional hurdle of being compared to advantaged children who are 12 to 15 months older. We should expect that the economically disadvantaged children may be outperformed by their classmates who are both chronologically and developmentally their seniors.
In the real-life kindergarten classroom, the youngest children may appear to be immature and unready to tackle the tasks that their significantly older classmates find challenging and intriguing. As the curriculum and academic expectations increase to meet the needs of the 6-year-old children, there is a real danger that the kindergarten program will become developmentally inappropriate for the very young children it is meant to serve."

Sunday, January 22, 2012

Jumprope Jargon

"Mousetrap jump in, Strawberry Shortcake, no hot chili pepper."

"Mess up's don't count"

"Texaco, Texaco, all the way to Mexico..."

I learned a lot on recess duty one day.  Here's the latest on jumprope protocol.

Tuesday, January 17, 2012

Top Ten Bad Teachers

Gathered from found HERE is a list of the top 10 worst teachers ever.  What do you think?  I could add a few I've met in real life.

10.  Charlie Brown's Teacher

9.  Mr. Herbert Garrison on South Park

8.  Miss Viola Swamp, Miss Nelson is Missing

7. Dolores Jane Umbridge, Harry Potter

6.  Edna Krabappel, The Simpsons

5.  Mrs. Gorf, Sideways Stories from Wayside School

4.  Sue Sylvester, Glee

3.  Miss Trunchbull, Matilda

2.  Professor Furlong, The Faculty (haven't seen I don't know)

1.  Sheba Hart, Notes on a Scandal (also haven't seen)

Any missing off the list that you can think of?

Thursday, January 12, 2012

Hobbits Make me Happy

I am getting so excited for the new movie, "The Hobbit."  The trailer is below and gives me chills.  It is one of the first fantasy books I ever read and is better than the preceding Lord of the Rings book, in my opinion.  
At this website are 6 original sketches from Tolkien for the book The Hobbit when it was first published.

Which got me thinking...
To help spread the excitement...check out these hobbit houses.  I want a circle door.  It would be perfect in a fort.  Cool, right?

This is also a great blog to check out on the subject.

Tuesday, January 10, 2012

Suzanne Collins Info

With the upcoming release of Hunger Games, I thought I'd share a little about the author of the popular series.  

Since 1991, Suzanne Collins has been busy writing for children’s television. She has worked on the staffs of several Nickelodeon shows, including the Emmy-nominated hit Clarissa Explains it All and The Mystery Files of Shelby Woo. For preschool viewers, she penned multiple stories for the Emmy-nominated Little Bear and Oswald. She also co-wrote the critically acclaimed Rankin/​Bass Christmas special, Santa, Baby! Most recently she was the Head Writer for Scholastic Entertainment’s Clifford’s Puppy Days.

While working on a Kids WB show called Generation O! she met children’s author James Proimos, who talked her into giving children’s books a try.

Thinking one day about Alice in Wonderland, she was struck by how pastoral the setting must seem to kids who, like her own, lived in urban surroundings. In New York City, you’re much more likely to fall down a manhole than a rabbit hole and, if you do, you’re not going to find a tea party. What you might find...? Well, that’s the story of Gregor the Overlander, the first book in her five-part fantasy/​war series,The Underland Chronicles.

She currently lives in Connecticut with her family and a pair of feral kittens they adopted from their backyard. (retreived from:

Collins, a 48-year-old mother of two, spent much of her adult life writing for children’s television, dreaming up plot lines for shows like “Wow! Wow! Wubbzy!” a Nick Jr. cartoon aimed at preschoolers. 

But in the “Hunger Games” trilogy, she revealed an outsize imagination for suffering and brutality. The books juxtapose the futuristic fantasy of a gleaming, high-tech capital and early-industrial life in the 12 half-starved districts it controls. In a ritual known as the Reaping, two adolescents from each of these oppressed districts are selected at random to participate in the Hunger Games, an annual televised match in which children battle one another and mutated beasts to the death, like Roman gladiators in a glitzy reality-TV contest. The trilogy’s heroine, Katniss, 16 years old when the series begins, has the tough-girl angst of an S.E. Hinton teenager and is too focused on survival to spend much time on familiar Y.A. preoccupations like cliques and crushes. On the very first page, she stares at the family’s pet cat, recalling, matter-of-factly, her aborted attempt to “drown him in a bucket.” By the last book, she is leading a revolution.


In “The Hunger Games,” it is clear early on that the death of Katniss’s father has forced her into the uncomfortable role of family provider. The lifelong repercussions of Collins’s father’s service in Vietnam also provided her with a perspective that fuels a key plot twist of “Mockingjay,” which follows one character’s struggle to recover from tortured memories of violence. (In his case, the memories are false, created by an enemy who plants them in his mind.) Collins said her father came back from Vietnam enduring “nightmares, and that lasted his whole life.” As a child, she awoke, at times, to the sound of him crying out during those painful dreams.
Five years after her father’s return, the Air Force moved the family to Brussels, where he seized every opportunity to educate his children about the region’s violent past. No monument or battlefield went unnoticed. “And this was Europe, which is one gigantic battlefield,” Collins said. A family trip to a castle, which she imagined would be “fairy-tale magical,” turned into a lesson on fortresses. “My dad’s holding me back from the tour to show me where they poured the boiling oil, where the arrow slits are. And then you’re just like, wait a minute!” She laughed. “This isn’t what I had in mind.” She threw her arms in the air, sighing loudly, channeling her 13-year-old self. “I should have knooooown better,” she groaned.
A field of poppies outside the family’s home near Brussels struck Collins as an image straight out of “The Wizard of Oz” — until her father recited “In Flanders Fields,” a World War I poem told from the perspective of a soldier buried in a field of poppies. (Fans of “The Hunger Games” might wonder if the Mockingjay, a mutated songbird that becomes the symbol of revolution, originated with the bird that figures prominently in this poem: “The larks, still bravely singing, fly/Scarce heard amid the guns below.”) In the Scholastic conference room, Collins recited the verse, slowly and gravely, as her father no doubt once did, then paused for dramatic effect. “Boom!” she said. “O.K., so this moment becomes transformative, because now I’m looking out onto that field and wondering if it was a graveyard.” Grim as her father’s spontaneous tutorials were, she never resented them. “He was very interesting, fortunately. My God, it would have been hell if he wasn’t.”
The project she is exploring most actively right now is a children’s book based on the year he was serving overseas. Her most autobiographical work to date, it will use her family members’ names; illustrations will be based on family photographs from that era. “I specifically want to do this book, one as a sort of memory piece kind of honoring that year for my family, and two, because I know so many children are experiencing it right now — having deployed parents,” Collins said. “And it’s a way I would like to try and communicate my own experience to them.”

Saturday, January 7, 2012

The Comment Challenge

At a new blogging challenge has been issued to add five comments to kid lit blogs every day for 21 days.  I've just begun and am excited to try it.  Check out that site for a list of blogs to visit.

Friday, January 6, 2012

Military Literature

One of my stories is based on military life. Are you aware how limited the current selection out there is for that demographic?  Sad, really.  Here is one book I found with little "story" but similar audience.  Now if I can only find a publisher.

Wednesday, January 4, 2012


Go to this link for an interview with the new National Ambassador for Young People's Literature...Walter Dean Myers at

Sunday, January 1, 2012

New Calendar System

Have you heard of the proposed new calendar named the Hanke-Henry Permanent Calendar, according to Richard Henry, an astrophysicist and researcher at Johns Hopkins?  It sounds so logical to me!  I'm all for changing with the times!

The trouble with designing a nice, regular calendar is that each Earth year is 365.2422 days long, leaving extra snippets of time that don't fit nicely into a cycle of 24-hour days. If this time isn't somehow accounted for, the calendar "drifts" relative to the seasons, and the next thing you know, Christmas Day is coming after the spring thaw.
"The Gregorian calendar deals with this by adding an extra day (Leap Day) to February about every four years, correcting for the seasonal drift.  
"It's really incredible that in the Middle Ages, they were able to invent a new calendar that was so accurate," Henry told LiveScience. What bothers him about the Gregorian calendar, though, is the frustrating tendency for days of the week to jump around. Because 365 is not a multiple of seven, 7-day weeks don't fit evenly into the Gregorian calendar. That means that each year, dates shift over one day of the week (two during leap years).
Under the Hanke-Henry Permanent Calendar (named after Henry and Steve Hanke, a Johns Hopkins economist who also advocates calendar overhaul), every date falls on the same day of the week — forever.
"Everybody has to redo their calendars," Henry said....

The calendar follows a pattern of two 30-day months followed by one 31-day month. That means the old rhyme, "30 days hath September, April, June and November," would need to be revised to "31 days hath September, June, March and December."
To account for extra time, Hanke and Henry drop leap years and instead create a "leap week" at the end of December every five or six years. This extra week, dubbed "Xtr," would adjust for seasonal drift while keeping the 7-day cycle on track."