Kinder surprise for parents

Reporter: Laticia Gibson

A group of gifted kindergarten kids are being taught to read, count and distinguish colours at an accelerated rate. Lucas Lord is just two years old, but is mastering the alphabet, yet he and his classmates could not read a single word just three months ago. Parents Marissa and Nick Lord said their son Lucas can now read about 30 words.

His learning is driven by a program his childcare centre implemented last September. "He's a lot less frustrated because he can communicate what he wants," Marissa said. His teacher, Theresa Lonard, has been a childcare worker for 12 years and admitted she had reservations before introducing the Your Baby Can Read program.

Theresa said the children quickly lost their shyness when their communication skills developed. "They have all come out of their shell so much more," she said "I thought the children would have to be gifted and talented for such a young age to pick it up so quickly," she said. The children have 10-minute lessons five times a day and repeat words on a computer screen, matched with a picture.

NSW Child Care Association education co-ordinator Lynn Connolly has implemented the programme across all nine of her Clovel Day centres. She hoped schools across the nation would join her scheme and said parents were just as enthusiastic about the progress.

"When they get to school they can see their (children's) confidence building, their self-esteem going up," she said. Research shows that the first two years of a child's life are the most crucial for establishing IQ. But child psychologist Kimberly O'Brien said the programme has inherent risks and warned that over-ambitious parents could taint their child's learning experience. "It's really important to listen to the child's needs and listen to what they say rather than trying to drum them with information they may not be receptive to," she said.

"Children are born with personalities so it's important to follow those interests early."You are only a child once, so if a child's really passionate about outdoor play then I think it's important to develop the physical motor skills rather than insisting they stay inside and learn a list of words." Lynn Connelly said the schools were also focused on children's physical development.

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