Earlier I wrote the Introduction about the issue at hand in our Children’s Ministry about what to do with our Kindergarten age children as they transition between learning styles. I said that I thought there were 3 milestone questions to consider. Read about #1, “What does Kindergarten look like?”
#2 When do Children start Reading?
This is a huge thing to give thought towards. The ability of a kid to read varies from kid to kid, obviously; but at what grade can you start to rely on kids reading things on screens, following instructions that they read themselves, etc…? Usually it isn’t until 2nd grade that I can count on kids being able to read things in front of the others. This isn’t a hard-fast rule, but more or less and observation over the years. Let me be clear, that being able to read doesn’t make someone more eligible for learning God’s Word. It only makes the teaching different. Small group activities take on a different flavor, and repeat-after-me activities are more important with non-readers. But knowing this truth, will allow your small group leaders to teach more accurately and will help alleviate frustration with small group leaders trying to get kids to do things they intellectually aren’t prepared for.
What does this mean for me? It means that I have to program differently for kids that aren’t yet reading. And that may mean that I tweak our content for kids up through 2nd grade in their small group activities. I’ve heard people say that Kindergartners aren’t ready for Elementary environments because they can’t read, however my experience has shown me that the non-reading window is so broad that I can’t narrow it down to just one grade or one classroom. I have to be sensitive to this throughout the ages of 5-8.
For you it means getting to know your kids. Talk to your small group leaders, and see what they have to say about this topic. Ask them how many of their kids can read instructions, how many of their kids can read at all! Every city and every church will have a different struggle in this area. In more inner city areas, you’ll see that this age range of non-reading is much broader (I know, been there and done that!) In more suburban areas, you’ll find that the range is more narrow; but you still need to be sensitive to those kids that struggle.
What is your experience in this arena? I’d love to hear how your situation may be different.