Q:

When my son was almost finished with kindergarten, his teacher sent home a folded book of white paper. She put a note on it that said: "Have Frank write a story and illustrate it." Frank hardly knew his whole alphabet at the time.

I went to the school and found that Frank and two other children in his class didn't read and write yet. Frank spent years trying to catch up. If parents are not going to send their children to preschool, they had better teach their children to read and write at home. Otherwise, a wonderfully smart child like my son will go to school and think he's a "DUMMY," as my son called himself.

Contributing to Frank's problem was a first-time kindergarten teacher who wasn't sure what to do with the children in her class who didn't read or write, so she just gave them playtime. Frank went to a special first grade where the teacher was wonderful and worked very hard to catch Frank up, but that stigma of being in the "special first grade" stayed with him. Please inform parents that many children in kindergarten can read and write. -- Mad at the School

A:

It is too bad that Frank had such bad experiences so early on in school. It is always difficult for a child to play catch-up at any level. To avoid this, parents need to be in close touch with their children's teachers. Better communication would have let you know about Frank's difficulties and his teacher's inexperience in working with children who are nonreaders. Finding all this information out at the end of the year was really too late for Frank.

We don't want parents to think that their children need to know how to read and write before they enter kindergarten. While a child will occasionally enter a kindergarten where everyone has these skills, this is quite rare. Nevertheless, kindergartens are all over the place in the teaching of academics. Some do teach children how to read, while others devote most of the children's time to preparing the children to tackle reading in first grade. Parents really need to know from the start of the year what will be expected of their children in kindergarten.