It is always inspiring to meet people who are guided by their passion, especially when that passion is helping others. Rebecca Eisenberg who goes by “Becca,” a speech language pathologist, author, instructor, parent, and Armonk resident epitomizes that sentiment. A proponent of children’s literature, Eisenberg recently self-published a children’s book entitled My Second Year of Kindergarten aimed at providing parents and teachers with a resource on the topic of repeating kindergarten. The inspiration for the book? Her own experience.
They say necessity is the mother of invention and Eisenberg can attest to that. When she and her husband made the difficult decision to have their son repeat kindergarten, she searched for a children’s book to help explain the transition to her son; disappointed to have found no such publication, Eisenberg decided to write her own. “As a speech pathologist and mother, I have always looked for children’s literature to help explain difficult transitions or complex issues, and when I was looking for a book about repeating a grade, there was no book at all! I decided I was going to write my own. I tend to create my own work when I can’t find it. I read the draft to my son, and he loved it. The more I thought about it, the more I was devoted to putting it out there,” says Eisenberg.
Inspiring a Growth Mindset
For over two years Eisenberg worked hard to create a book with which all children and parents could identify. My Second Year of Kindergarten is about a boy named Peter, named for a student she worked with who defied all odds and learned to spell, write, and communicate beyond expectations, who is repeating kindergarten. The book follows Peter’s progress from “last year” to “this year,” highlighting the skills Peter gains from repeating the grade. With this book, and the reading guide for educators and parents she created to accompany it, Eisenberg hopes to inspire a growth mindset for children by changing the default attitude from “I can’t do it,” to “I’m learning how to do it.”
Eisenberg draws from her own personal experience to offer advice to parents who are considering having their child repeat kindergarten. Tips such as, “Be honest! Explain the reasons why you have made the decision to have your child repeat kindergarten,” and “Connect with other parents whose children already repeated kindergarten” are compiled in the back of her book. Although Eisenberg had what she described as an “ideal experience” with repeating kindergarten (due to a supportive school and family), Eisenberg knows that some people still treat the topic as something shameful and not to be discussed. Through her book, she hopes to change that. By starting meaningful and honest conversations through literature, she is well on her way.
Although Eisenberg believes that repeating kindergarten does indeed have benefits, she does not advocate it for every child. “If a child is repeating kindergarten, there is a reason for it; either social or academic delays,” explains Eisenberg. “When parents and their ‘team’(their school and other individuals involved in the decision) make the decision to repeat kindergarten, it is about making the best decision for the child.” Eisenberg stressed that she did not write the book to promote the idea of repeating kindergarten for all children, but rather to provide a resource for the families who decide that their child will benefit from it. Some benefits she cites of repeating the grade include social closeness with peers and more time to understand information, which can increase a child’s confidence and happiness at school.
Web Resources for Parents, Children and Educators
As a web savvy author, she also created a website www.mysecondyearofkindergarten.com to serve as a resource. With downloadable worksheets for children and podcasts it offers valuable information so that children repeating a grade can view it as an empowering and positive experience. In addition to the website for the book, she writes an impressive blog called www.gravitybread.com that forms the foundation for all of her work and emphasizes learning during mealtimes. Since 2012, she has updated her blog with language tips, special needs resources, book and app reviews, her interpretations of research articles, and other information with the goal of sharing her passion of connecting with children through storytelling with other parents.
Hearing her talk about her book, her blog, and the other resources she has created with such pride, Eisenberg’s profound commitment to others shines through.
“I have always been passionate about helping other people, for work and in my life. Ever since I was little I have felt the desire to help people with different abilities and needs. It is just a part of who I am.” She truly embodies what it means to put your heart into your work.
Deciding whether or not to repeat kindergarten can be a very hard decision for families. Dawn Lorenz, a kindergarten teacher at World Cup Nursery School in Chappaqua for 24 years, notes that children entering kindergarten should have the following skills:
- The ability to listen attentively
- Follow multi-step directions
- Stay on task for increasing periods of time
- Work cooperatively
- Resolve conflicts socially
- Function independently (put on shoes, use bathroom independently, etc.)
- Transition between tasks or locations
- Follow classroom rules
- Ask for help when needed
Lorenz warns parents against having their child repeat kindergarten so they can gain an advantage in academics or sports. “There needs to be a clear reason to repeat the grade. It isn’t about being the oldest, fastest, best, or smartest, it is about that individual child and how they will feel during that kindergarten year. Childhood is a journey, not a race; the social-emotional skills are a foundation for academics, now and in the future, so we should not rush our kids to attain skills. We need to respect that five-year-old year and how important it is to a child’s life and development,” she explains.
Potential Reasons to Repeat Kindergarten
- Social or emotional immaturity
- A slower developmental timeline
- Any reason that leads you to suspect that your child may need just a bit of extra time
Lorenz says that she has never had parents who came back to her regretting their decision to have their child repeat kindergarten, but there are many parents who wish they did make that decision because their child just was not ready yet. “We have to make the decision based on our individual children after taking into consideration advice from the “experts” in our lives (whether that be teachers, school districts, preschool directors, etc.).”
“There should not be any embarrassment or stigma at all if you are making the decision for the appropriate reasons for your individual child. You want to set the stage for the rest of their career in education–you want them to be happy and love learning!” sums up Lorenz.