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Early Reader/Speller

By Inderbir Kaur Sandhu, Ph.D

Q: My three year old son can read books on his own such as Stellaluna, Frog and Toad are Friends and The Little House. He began spelling words when he was two, with magnetic letters and can now spell several hundred words such as elevator, umbrella and sighed. we have never "taught" him how to read or spell, the reading just "happened one day" and spelling has always seemed natural to him.

He can also count to 100 and do simple addition and subtraction. These academic activities take up much of his time while, in comparison, his little sister is outside playing in the sandbox. He loves to spell so much sometimes he runs to the door at five o'clock and asks, "Daddy can we spell some new words!" He seems so different from other children his age that we don't know if kindergarten is appropriate and are now seeking alternatives. Thanks!.

A: Your son is indeed very ahead of his age. It is amazing to see such a high level of interest and motivation in him at such a tender age.

It is hard to tell if kindergarten is appropriate for someone with his abilities. A kindergarten that may not give too much emphasis on spelling and this may kill his interest and perhaps form prejudices in other learning which may be essential. Home schooling can be an alternative but I feel that at such a young age, especially if he enjoys being on his own or only with other family members, he may develop problems in mingling with others later.

What you may want to do is to look around for a reputable kindergarten and speak with the Principal about your son's needs. Teachers with training in early education will be able to understand the differential needs of a child with high ability. You may want to request for a curriculum somewhat tailor-made for your son, perhaps for a fee. However, if you feel that there are no such kindergartens around and that he has no problems with mingling around with other kids, you may want to consider home schooling to strengthen his foundation in reading and other learning before Grade 1. Once in formal schooling, there may be certain programs for children with higher abilities.


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