The child care consulting side of our business has always been plagued by a phenomenon that we have semi-jokingly referred to as “any monkey can do it”. There seems to be a widespread opinion that anyone can set up and run a child care program, especially if that person happens to be a parent. I can’t tell you how many proposals we have presented, just to be shot down by the corporate decision-maker who explains that employee so-and-so is a mom, so she will be in charge of setting up and managing their child care program. Of course, that employee has no early childhood education nor any experience in working with children other than her own, but that does not present a barrier to her employer.
I recently read an article that explained that this phenomenon also occurs in reading instruction (although they call it the Illusion of Explanatory Depth). Recent research by Louisa Moats indicates that many teachers have a perception of their ability to teach reading that exceeds their skills in the area. My big take-away from this article is that we all need to be careful to develop expertise in our primary area, but also recognize those areas in which we are not experts and to recognize those who are. I can run a program and manage staff, but there is no way you would want me working in an infant room…or any other classroom at this point of my career.
For those who are tasked with teaching reading but not given the necessary support, the areas identified by Moats as being the most critical are:
- phonics—sound/letter correspondence
- phonemic awareness—identifying individual sounds within words
- which letters team up to make common sounds and, therefore, which words are regular and which are irregular
- identifying spelling units—blends, digraphs, vowel teams, silent letters
- syllable division and spelling patterns
- basic parts of speech
Knowing how to read does not make one a reading teacher any more than being a mother makes one a child care program director. However, if you are stuck in a role of teaching reading, developing skills in those six basic areas will help considerably.