Smart boy Young students can think in both creative and critical ways, yet I continue to find myself in discussions with well intentioned educators who still hold the belief that "the basics must come before big ideas". 

If we can think about the "act of reading" in the same light as the "act of driving", we can see that both require a combination of skill and strategy.  We don't do less when we are driving in a parking lot than we do if we were to drive in downtown New York City.  We are just traveling on a different road. 

Likewise, readers navigating the pages of a five page picture book do no less than readers finding their way to meaning in a thousand page novel.

We should not be asking  our young readers  to "do less"  when they are willing, able, and completely capable of doing this:

Dear Angela:

I wanted to share with you a Big Idea conversation we had in kindergarten today when I read Swimmy, bu Leo Lionni. (This is our 2nd day of school.) My students said that that the message the author was teaching us was to : Be together, work together, play together, be a team together, and help each other succeed."

This is going to become our mission statement for the year!

Students absolutely need to understand the letters, sounds, and words as they are learning to read, but let's not underestimate their amazing ability to bring powerful and personal meanings to those words. When we ask and expect them to think deeply about the Big Ideas AND the skills, they begin to develop the competence ad confidence they need to handle themselves behind the wheel when the roads get harder and more complex. And along they way we ensure they enjoy the ride!

Related: