I have taught many children to read, and it is such an exciting thing to see the understanding of how to read really click in a child’s brain. I even get a little thrill of excitement when I see complete strangers sharing on social media videos of their children beginning to “get it.” This post is not about how to teach reading though. I have plenty of thoughts and ideas to share on that, but not today. This post is a little bit of the conversation I had with my husband the other day about ‘when’ a child should begin learning to read.
Now remember that this is a homeschool blog, so I’m talking mainly from the point of view of a homeschooler. In the homeschool world there are various schools of thought on when children should begin lessons, and what those lessons look like or consist of. There are academically heavier ideals, and there are more wild and free types. There are those that think formal lessons shouldn’t begin until at least age six, and then there are those that have full curriculums for their three year olds. And of course you’ve got those whose opinions fall somewhere in between these. I am one of the latter I suppose. I don’t think a small child should be expected to sit and do formal lessons that are workbook heavy or such. I also cannot say that I think a child shouldn’t begin learning how to read or do other more academically challenging things until the age of six. What I do believe is that a child should be read to A LOT, and given the opportunity to learn whatever is up next for them to learn. I don’t view learning in grades or levels, or even ages. There are paths followed to learn things, and a child should learn whatever is next on their path. Learning is sequential. In order to be successful, a child must learn things, be it reading or math etc., in the right order. The age of a child doesn’t matter. The ability of a child is what matters. Every child is different and you just can’t think that what is best for one child is best for every child. Each child should be considered individually when it comes to something like learning to read, and given opportunities to show where they are on their own path to being a reader.
Look at this picture of my son. He just turned six and a half and is devouring chapter books left and right. He has a notebook in which he likes to keep track of his completed books. In the month of January he read twenty books to himself. He will walk into a room to do something but end up distracted because he saw a book. This happens multiple times a day. He also loves to read all the Minecraft books he can get his hands on, most of those books are informative and not stories. I’ll also walk in a room to find him on the couch reading through one of the many beautiful science books we have sprinkled throughout the house. A few weeks ago I started allowing him to read in bed for a little bit, and you’d have thought I told him we were going to Disneyland or something. I look at my son and I think, what if I hadn’t given him the opportunity to learn to read until he turned six? He loves to read, and had I not given him the opportunity to learn when I did, then he wouldn’t be able to do this thing that he loves so much right now.
Kids learn to read at all different ages. Some kids get it at three, while it doesn’t click for other kids until they are older than ten. The age of a child is not so much my point though. My point is that kids should be exposed to learning to read at a young age so that if they are a child is ready at a younger age then they’ll get that gift early, and if they’re not ready then it’s also fine because there doesn’t need to be any pressure put on them to actually learn. It’s just there as an option if they are ready and able. And from how I see it, this is how just about all education should be approached. I don’t think little kids should be kept from doing seat work because some actual love to do it, but there is also no need for them to HAVE to do the seat work. Most littles don’t enjoy it, but I know some that do, and how sad to not give them the chance to do educational things that they’ll enjoy. I cannot agree with the idea of keeping a child from doing something just because a method, or the age listed on a box says they aren’t ready yet. Look at your child as an individual and judge for yourself what your child is ready for.
Ultimately what we want for our children is a good relationship with books. I have yet to come across a parent that doesn’t want their child to be a reader. We all know that the more a child reads that better they are likely to do in life in general. And those of us parents who are readers ourselves, we want our children to know the wonder and love that we have for books. Regardless of when your child masters reading, let the stories happen. Read to your kids of all ages. It’s one of the greatest gifts you’ll give both them and yourself.