Monday, July 18, 2016

Is Your Child Ready to Learn How to Read?

It's never too soon to start reading to your children. It might, however, be too soon to teach your children HOW to read. There are several reading-readiness signs to watch for, and I'll share them below. But first I'd like to share the thought that learning to read sooner is not always better

Finland's children begin formal reading instruction at age seven, and even then are only in school for half days. (2:6) Although they have this "late" start, a whopping two years behind American children, they have the highest reading scores in the world! (2:170) As American schools cut out recess & play times to allow for more test prep (even in Kindergarten!), Finland children are given 15 minutes of recess for every 45 minutes of class. They have no national curriculum, but instead choose to heavily emphasize reading to children.

Here's a quote from 30 year school teacher John Taylor Gatto on the the importance (or lack thereof) of what age your child learns to read: "David learns to read at age four; Rachel at age nine: In normal development, when both are thirteen, you can't tell which one learned first -- the five-year spread means nothing at all. But in school, I label Rachel "learning disabled" and slow David down a bit, too. For a paycheck, I teach David to depend on me to tell him when to go and stop. He won't outgrow that dependency. I identify Rachel as discounted merchandise, "special education" fodder. She'll be locked in her place forever. In thirty years of teaching kids, rich and poor, I almost never met a "learning disabled child; hardly ever met a "gifted and talented" one either. Like all school categories, these are sacred myths created by human imagination."1:84 Oh and in case you're wondering, Finland doesn't bother with gifted programs.

So, let your kids be kids! Encourage them to explore, dig in the dirt, observe nature, and play! And always set plenty of time each day to read aloud to them. They'll associate reading with pleasure, and the time will come when they pick up an interest of wanting to read for themselves. When this happens, seize your opportunity and strike while the fire is hot!

Hopefully you're reading aloud to your child every day, just for the fun of it. If your child picks up reading naturally, that's great! If not, don't worry about rushing it. Children who are formerly taught to read by their parents from a very young age can tend to struggle later on, often times not until second grade or later. Researchers aren't saying that reading early is bad! They just recommend to let the early reader to "arrive at the skill naturally, on his own, without a structured time each day when the mother or father sits down with him and teaches him letters, sounds, and syllables."(2:30) 

So when IS the right time to start formal reading lessons? The simple answer is when your child shows an interest. Naturally, older children may take their time while younger siblings may be anxious to learn because their big brothers and sisters are doing it. As long as they've learned to equate reading with pleasure, you won't have to coax them to get to this point. Here are a few other readiness signs you can look for... 

Is Your Child Ready For Reading Lessons? 

  • Does she love it when you read books to her? If not, read this post
  • Is he motivated? Does he want to learn to read? If not, you need this book
  • Has she had her vision tested? Your child may have a vision problem you don't know about, that can affect her ability and willingness to read. It's estimated that 5-10% of preschoolers and 25-40% of school age children have vision problems... and the earlier they are diagnosed, the better! 
  • Does he understand that letters have sounds and make up words? Does he understand that you read from left to right, top to bottom, front to back of the book? This is print awareness. So is recognizing that words are everywhere- on signs, on your cereal box, etc. 
  • Are your child's brain and eye development in sync? Some indicators include the ability to skip properly, ride a bike without training wheels, walk up stairs properly, and crossing the mid plane of the body (like drawing a rainbow from left to right without stopping). 
  • Can he rhyme? Can he clap syllables? 

Ready? Set? Go!  

If your child is ready, great! You're more than qualified to teach him yourself! You don't even need a pricey curriculum. I share my favorite resources for teaching reading on my site; none of them are pricy and some are even free! Check them out here
: Teaching Children How to Read

If your child isn't quite ready, believe it or not, you're already teaching him! The best pre-reading learning comes from these sources: 
  • Real life learning... exploring the world around you & building vocabularies. Get some ideas HERE and HERE.  
  • Read-Aloud time... the child should be read aloud to every... single... day. Every day! Be sure to read my Read Aloud page if you haven't already. Also, every parent should read The Read-Aloud Handbook by Jim Trelease.  
  • Physical play... Don't underestimate the importance of active exercise and play! Reading readiness has to do with the body

Is Your Home Reader-Friendly? 

In closing, I'll share Jim Trelease's three suggestions (the three B's) to make your home more reading friendly: 
  1. Books (Have lots of print available in your home!)
  2. Book Baskets (Place the print in a few locations throughout the house so it's handy to read in the living room, bedroom, play room, even the dining room table!)
  3. Bed Lamps (Have a set "lights-on" reading time before bed each night).(2:90) 

*** Go back to my Reading Resources page! ***

Works Cited:
2 Jim Trelease, The Read-Aloud Handbook: Sixth EditionOh, and in case you're wondering, Finland doesn't bother with gifted programs.

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