Different Approaches to Reading in NYC Firm Schools

by NYC Firm Schools on February 15, 2011

For NYC private school parents and applicants: Reading at Some Firm Schools Is Delayed by Sarah Maslin Nir of the NY Times.

Ms. Nir looks at the diversity of approaches for reading instruction at different NYC Firm Schools. Among the Firm Schools mentioned and methods compared are: Calhoun School, Ethical Culture School, Allen-Stevenson, Friends Seminary, Speyer Legacy School, Browning School, Garden House, and Montessori programs. Among the parents quoted are: Sharon Roth (Speyer Legacy School), Melanie Griffith (Calhoun School ), and Dr. Jane Ruman (preschool not identified).

Here are some excerpts about each school’s approach:

Calhoun School:

Steve Nelson, the head of school, said a week rarely went by without a parent expressing fears about the pace. “Those who get anxious think that education is like a race and you’ve got to get running fast, and if you don’t you’re going to fall behind and then you’re going to lose the race,” he said. “That’s not the right way to look at education.”


tasks like decoding, or putting letter sounds together to figure out how to pronounce words, start in first grade — even for students already able to read, said David R. Trower, the headmaster. In kindergarten, the children do what educators call pre-reading or reading-readiness activities: listening to books read aloud, name-writing or making up stories.

Ethical Culture:

“We provide lots of informal instruction in pre-kindergarten and kindergarten and teach a variety of strategies for becoming fluent readers,” Ginger Curwen, a school spokeswoman, said in an e-mail. “In first grade, our approach to reading becomes more formalized.”

Friends Seminary:

Not all schools stave off formal reading instruction in kindergarten. “That stops the growth and could make education potentially a stultifying experience,” said Bo Lauder, the head of Friends Seminary in Lower Manhattan.

Trinity School:

reading instruction begins in kindergarten and is differentiated according to each child’s skill.

Browning School:

many of the early childhood programs are getting much more academic,” and as a result, “our curriculum has probably increased in its pace as well.”

As NYC private school kindergarten applicant families contemplate enrollment decisions this week, we encourage families to remember to consider the overall fit between the family/child and the school. While there are many ways in which NYC Firm Schools are similar, there are many ways in which they are different. Approach to reading instruction is one of those many ways. While it may seem daunting to figure out “the right approach,” it is important to remember there are pros and cons to each school’s method.

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