This idea is incredibly important when it comes to reading. Students who grow into lifelong learners with a love of reading need to be allowed the time and space to read as much as possible when they are young. It is very unusual to find a preschool or kindergarten child who doesn't love books. They love it when we read to them, engage them in choral responses to books, and talk about stories. They are just naturally drawn to it. However, if they fail to master the basic decoding skills in first or second grade, reading becomes laborious and tedious. They start hating it and usually don't catch up if they don't master the basic skills by grade 3. Advanced students have the opposite problem. If they are forced to work on basic skills for too long, they become bored and will disengage from all reading activities.
Every classroom in the early years should include explicit instruction in phonemic awareness and phonics (decoding skills). Although many people will tell you that the English language is challenging, it is still quite simple. There are a finite number of letters and sounds. There are very predictable patterns, with a few teachable exceptions. Once a child has mastered these, she should not be forced to continue instruction in decoding. Unfortunately, many classrooms either fail to explicitly teach basic decoding skills, teach them in a non-systematic way, or continue teaching them as part of a "basal" series long after they have been mastered. What is needed is a completely individualized system that will provide explicit instruction over a period of time. This instruction will have an end point. A good example of such a system is Reading Horizons. Once this instruction is completed, the child will be free to engage in a host of other literacy experiences that are critical to future learning and to develop a love of reading.
Instructional time is truly a precious commodity. We get 180 days of school each year. There are usually about 10-15 days when instruction is interrupted by testing, assemblies, bad weather, or other unusual events. Instructional time for literacy is generally 90 minutes (1.5 hours) per day. That means that we can only count on about 247.5 hours per year. If you were to calculate that according to a standard 40 hour work week, it would only equate to a little over 6 weeks. Think about your work like. How much can be accomplished in 6 weeks? In order to ensure success, we must manage instructional time in such a way that it is never wasted for any child.