If the question of the '60s was why Johnny can’t read, the question of the '80s may be whether Johnny should be reading. Many child-development specialists now question whether it is a good idea to teach reading, writing and other academic subjects to preschoolers.
Today’s parents who were of kindergarten age in the 1950s are often startled by the academic emphasis they find in the nursery schools and kindergartens their children attend. They remember their kindergartens as “playschools” full of blocks and toys. Today, almost any kindergarten—public or private—introduces beginning reading and writing skills to 5-year-olds.
That does not mean that all schools are alike. In one kindergarten, children may be learning to write on computers. In another they may be bowed over worksheets that test their knowledge of phonics. In yet others the emphasis may be much more low-key and much less strictly academic, with pupils' forming letters from Play-doh or learning words from labels attached to windows, books and other objects around the classroom.