Monday, 7 September 2009

Learning to read

One of the good things about being laid up in bed is the opportunity to listen to the radio, and last week I caught an interesting discussion on the teaching of reading to very young children. The argument in favour of teaching pre-schoolers to read was that they needed to be "school-proofed". This put me in mind of "fire-proofed" and "fool-proofed" - protection against potential dangers.
When presented with the suggestion that Scandanavian countries do not begin to teach reading until the age of six, the interviewee replied that their languages are significantly easier to learn as they have a much more direct link between sound and letter: English is particularly tricky in that one sound can be represented a number of ways and one letter or group of letters represent a number of sounds. No mention was made of the fact that reading is also taught much later in the US educational system.
The opposing member of the debate was in favour of letting children learn at their own pace but the pro-early-reading chap declared that this was the definition of "low expectations". He said that, in his experience, the unhappiest kids are those who can't yet read.
This is not my experience. Although my eldest taught himself to read quite early, my middle son, also going at his own pace, didn't read until a little later than his schooled-counterparts. My daughter is still on the journey. None of them have ever been unhappy because they can't read. The joy of Home Ed is that, at this stage, they do not need to be able to read. If they can't read something, I, or an older sibling, can read it for them. They are not excluded or left behind as, by necessity, they would be in a text-based learning environment with one or two adults teaching 30 children. They are not considered failures, or "backward", because their developmental path has visited other destinations and not yet led through learning to read. They are able to achieve their own, unique, "high expectations" and celebrate those, safe in the knowledge that reading will come in its own good time.


Maire said...
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Maire said...

Try again. Lucky kids, the damage the demand for early reading does in schools cannot be overstated. It is just a shame so many people with influence are too blinkered see the obvious.