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SALT LAKE CITY -- It seems like children are starting their education at a younger and younger age. Educators in Utah say more parents are turning to special classes to prepare their children for kindergarten.
Some courses help prepare the child before their first birthday. But when does preparation cross the line to where it adds too much pressure to the child?
You don't need to wait for your child to be born to read to him or her. Utah Parents as Teachers director Meg Buonforte-Miles says, "We start talking about the importance of reading to your child in utero. You can read the paper. You can read baseball scores."
She says anywhere from 40 to 70 percent of children in Utah are not ready for kindergarten when they first arrive, depending on the year. Many don't recognize their name in print, and some don't even know what their last name is. Other children don't know basic things like shapes or colors.
Buonforte-Miles says you can't expect kids to remember those concepts just from their time watching Sesame Street. "If they have no reason to know why they need to know these things, then it's just like watching cartoons to them. It goes in one ear and out the other," she says.
Plus, she says some kids are not familiar enough with what a classroom structure is.
"If the only way they've ever been with children is at a birthday party, then they relate in that way. You come into a room of kids and you scream and yell for as long as the adults let you, then you go home," she says.
Some parents get the wrong idea about what kindergarten preparation is. Yes, it does involve learning letters and numbers, but it's not just forcing these principles into a child's brain. Buonforte-Miles says some products that are designed to help them learn certain skills at a very early age may be doing more harm than good. Forcing children to learn too much too soon can cause them unnecessary pressure.
"Somewhere between four years old and seven years old the average child learns to read. We don't need to be pressuring a child to read before they're three or four or even five," she says.
Buonforte-Miles says she has seen studies showing too much stimulation can actually slow brain development. Still, she doesn't want to say children can have no learning structure in the home and be ready for kindergarten.
Not every parent who looks into kindergarten preparation feels their child needs to take formal classes. The center offers take-home lessons for parents so they can make their home an appropriate place to start the learning process.