The "Marginally Ready" Child

September 08, 2016

Just after Labor Day I did some purging of books and papers (not easy for me).  I know that common wisdom is to throw out old books, particularly in your field, because, “How relevant can that old stuff be and it’s all on the internet anyway,” says everyone.

Well, I look for inspiration from various places and found it in a book that had reprints of articles from about 40 years ago.

One of the articles that caught my eye was written by the late  Jeannette Jansky, Ph.D.,  a major figure in the field of learning/reading disabilities.  The article was called, “The Marginally Ready Child.”

“Marginally ready.”

I rarely hear people refer to kids as marginally ready. What a great way to describe so many kids.

As Dr. Jansky stated:

“All of us have become more aware of the sub-group of 5-year-olds who are clearly, dramatically unready for school and our tools for identifying them early have become more refined.  I would like to focus on a somewhat different subgroup of 5-year olds – those in the gray area, the ‘marginally ready’ children.  I would especially like to consider critically the point of view which proposes that these children be moved ahead because doing so will stimulate them, challenge them, stretch them.  I would suggest, on the contrary, that while moving ahead may challenge them and stretch them, it may very well to extinguish their enthusiasm for learning.”

 Bingo!!!   Right on the money.  So clear. Going against the tide back in the day.

Unfortunately that tide is still going in the same direction.

She went on to say,

I can’t prove it of course, but I think the marginally ready child slips past us all too often:  He ‘sort of’ learns to read, gradually slides down and becomes the middle schooler  I have referred to.”   (Note, she had discussed previously in the article  discouraged and failing middle schoolers who were marginally ready as five year olds.)”

She concluded,

“When we see the older child who is in trouble, along with his discouraging and complex array of problems, we wish somehow for a pill to be invented that would cure him instantly.  And by the way, that is what the children wish to, and the parents, and the teachers – that something would make it all go away as quickly as possible.  Unfortunately this wish gives rise to a number of highly publicized but simplistic treatment approaches which have little hope for success because they are too narrowly directed.  Careful research has shown that the best approaches are those that aim most directly at mastery of the performance self.  This is basically a pedagogic  responsibility.”

Keep in mind that the article was written some 42 years ago.

Takeaway Point:

Don’t be so quick to throw away the old books on your shelf.

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