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Q: My six-year-old boy is in kindergarten. He is the oldest in class because his birthday is on October 1. I just had a parent teacher conference and she suggested keeping him in kindergarten another year. He doesn't recognize all of the letters yet. I think it would hurt his self-confidence to stay another year. Do you have any comments on this? Also, do you know of any teaching tool I can use to help him at home? Thanks.
A: We believe that it would be a mistake for your son to be held back in kindergarten. Retention is not going to solve any serious learning problems he may have. It will just hide them for another year.
Schedule another conference with his teacher immediately. Find out what skills the kindergarten children were supposed to master in the class and how many of them your son has mastered. He may have a processing problem that the classroom teacher cannot identify. Make it clear that you do not want your son retained and put in writing that you want him tested for a learning disability. Do this before the end of the school year so a plan to help him is in place for next year. Also, it will give you ideas of how you can help him this summer.
In your search for a solution to your child's learning problems, be sure to have his vision and hearing checked and schedule an appointment with his doctor. This will enable you to get a medical opinion about why your son is having difficulty with certain learning skills.
Your son has several months to pick up the skills he needs for first grade, and you can help him this summer. Pick up ABC song tapes and alphabet books at the library and enjoy them together.
Begin to work with him on letter recognition. Work with one letter for several days. On those days, try and do activities that start with that letter -- even eating food that starts with the special letter. Then do fun activities together that will teach him the letter such as tracing the letter in sand and making cookie, pancake, and clay letters. Have him find the letter on cans and signs and in books. Be creative in finding different ways for him to see, write, say, and review each letter. Remember, learning should be fun at this age and involve a lot of hands-on activities. You will find many good ideas in our Activities Center.
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Peggy Gisler and Marge Eberts are experienced teachers who have more than 60 educational publications to their credit. They began writing books together in 1979. Careers for Bookworms was a Book-of-the-Month Club paperback selection, and Pancakes, Crackers, and Pizza received recognition from the Children's Reading Roundtable. Gisler and Eberts taught in classrooms from kindergarten through graduate school. Both have been supervisors at the Butler University Reading Center.