Wednesday, December 2, 2015


What Everybody Ought to Know About Teaching Your Kid to Read

Every parent wants their children to learn how to read.  Most of us want our kiddos to read early, while they're still in preschool.  Personally, I've only been a parent for nine years now, but I have worked with a lot of parents (and a lot of kids), and there is one thing about starting to read that I want everyone to know.

It is such a simple concept, and yet it gets ignored over and over.  I've even been guilty of trying to skirt my way around it!  It comes up constantly with parents of preschool and kindergarten aged children because reading is such a big issue.  We all agree that reading leads to success in school and life, and we all want our kiddos to succeed.

There is just one thing that everyone needs to remember.

And everyone includes parents, teachers, and even children.

What everybody ought to know about teaching children to read is simply this:  children develop the ability to read at their own pace.

Click HERE to Tweet: Children develop the ability to read at their own pace.

And sometimes their pace is not as early as we want.

But we still need to respect their pace.

You wouldn't expect a 7-year old to step into a high school trig class or a 6-month old to speak in complete sentences, but reading is such a "basic" skill that we often push children who aren't ready into a subject that they would enjoy much more in a few months. But, oh, how those months can feel like centuries when you're the parent waiting!

Perhaps it helps to know that waiting to teach your child to read doesn't hurt them.

Researchers have actually compared children who learned to read when they were five and when they were seven (two different groups) and found that by the time they were eleven years, they could all read just as well.  One study even found that the children who learned to read later had better reading comprehension than the children who learned to read at a younger age!

I knew one 7-year who explained to me that she had to go to summer school because she was "behind in reading."  Seven years old!  A seven-year old should not feel like she is "behind" in anything.  Seven year olds should be excited to learn, play, dance, and dream!  I asked her if she liked reading.  She said, "No." And that is the great tragedy.  It will be much harder to convince our children to read (and learn anything) if they are "burnt out" before they even turn eight.

This topic has been close to my heart as I've had a child who showed very little interest in reading for most of his life.  He was surrounded by letters, books, and phonics, but he cared very little.  I assumed he would probably start to read when he was around six, but it was so hard for me to not start earlier.  Then, out of no where, one day he said to me, "I want to learn to read."  He was five and a half.  The next week we had our first reading "lesson."  And guess what?  He was on fire.  It made sense to him and is now just a matter of learning all the letter sounds and rules.  But trying to teach him letter sounds a few months earlier would have been a disaster.

What made the difference in motivation?  I doubt I'll ever know.  But I have learned this:

Babies are ready to roll over and sit up at their own pace.
Toddlers are ready to ride bikes at their own pace.
 And children are ready to read at their own pace.

Letting children learn to read when they're ready allows them to develop confidently at the pace best for them.

Pushing them to read when they are not ready also deprives them of the pleasure of learning things that they are ready for at that moment.

And what can you do with your 4-year old who doesn't want to read?  I have a whole post coming up on that topic!  But in the with your kiddos!  And don't stress out if they don't want to read!

You may also enjoy How Young Children Learn or this series about Child-led Education.

Happy Educating, Carla

I may share at any of these parties!

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Gale said...

My son wasn't ready to read at 5 and that's a lot of the reason he's homeschooled now. He's eight now and we are still undoing the damage that one year of "too early" instruction did to his self confidence and perception of reading.

Hindsight is 20/20.

Carla at Preschool Powol Packets said...

I'm so sorry you guys had to deal with that Gale! I hope things are working out better for you now. Happy holidays!