Nancy Carlsson-Paige was able to view the Success Academy video of a teacher teaching reading to a small group of very young children, probably five- or six-year-olds. It is called “Circle Time Reading.” Gary Rubinstein posted the video a few days ago, before it was taken down by Success Academy. I saw the video before it was removed. The teacher speaks in a very loud voice and constantly interrupts the reading to correct children’s posture or their failure to “track” her with their eyes. Maybe it will be reposted. If it is, I will let you know.

Carlsson-Paige, an expert on early childhood education, wrote the following critique of the video:

Review of the Success Academy Video: Teacher Reading to Young Children

This is a very poor example of a literacy experience for young children. Caps for Sale is a classic story loved by young chldren. This teacher interrupts the story constantly to reinforce a behaviorist method of classroom management. She repeats how the children should sit; she praises, corrects, and warns them. The children are distracted from the flow of the story and their own ability to make meaning of it.

Meaning is the driving force in learning to read. Sometimes a skilled teacher will interrupt a story once or twice in order to make sure children understand it, but never to distract children from the story. This teacher’s interruptions take children out of the story, preventing them from experiencing a deep interest in it and the great joy that can be found in reading good literature. The kinds of interruptions the teacher makes also distance her emotionally from the children. For young kids, learning and relationships are intertwined; they thrive and learn best when their relationships with teachers are based in trust and caring. There is no evidence in the video of a caring connection between this teacher and the children.

This teacher seems to lack knowledge about how children learn, how they make meaning of print and learn to read. Her apparent goal is behavioral control and compliance. Her lesson is teacher-centered and has little to do with what concepts might be building in the minds of the children.

Reading books to children is one important component of an early literacy program. The repetition in the story helps build a foundation for reading. The flow of language contributes to the capacity to predict print. But this teacher undermines the potential value of this as a literacy experience by constantly interrupting the story, focusing children on irrelevant behaviors such as folding their hands, and preventing them from getting the full benefit of a read-out-loud story experience.

Nancy Carlsson-Paige
Professor Emerita, Early Childhood Education
Lesley University
Defending the Early Years (