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There are a lot of arguments warning parents against teaching children to read too early. They say it can cause a number of problems, such as increased frustration and dyslexia. On top of it, experts have weighed in and said that the children aren’t really reading. According to them, what’s happening is that children are learning to associate a certain squiggly line to a word, which is not really reading.
Is it really worth it then to put in the effort to teach your baby to read? My opinion for the last decade or more is “yes” and that has not changed. If anything, I have am more convinced than ever that this is the best decision you can make for your child. So let’s address a few of the arguments.
Isn’t it too Much Pressure for a Young Child?
A common argument against teaching young children to read is that parents are pressuring children to read before they are ready to learn. The belief is that this can lead to increased frustration in the child.
Doman guidelines to all parents participating in early learning programs includes the following advice:
- Be joyous at all times – keep it fun. Keep your voice bright and cheerful.
- Teach only when you and your child are happy.
- Stop before your child wants to stop – always keep your child wanting more.
- Do not test your child. Do not make your child repeat after you.
- Remember the fail-safe law: if you aren’t having a wonderful time and your child isn’t having a wonderful time – stop. You are doing something wrong.
In the videos of children early reading, they often appear happy and eager:
I honestly fail to see where the pressure, stress and frustration is. I have yet to witness an unhappy toddler who does not enjoy learning to read. On the flip side, I have seen plenty of children learning to read at an older age who struggle and do not find it fun at all. These are the children who feel the pressure and stress when their peers are reading fluently and they are not succeeding.
While it is true that plenty of children eventually learn to read at a later age and go on to enjoy reading, I don’t see the point in leaving it to chance. Teaching your baby to read is the easiest thing in the world and if you have the option to do so then why not?
Are They Really Reading?
According to the experts, young children aren’t really learning how to read. They believe that all the children are doing is associating a word with a squiggle. They can’t really read because they’ve only memorised the word.
Wiley Blevins, an author and educational consultant who has written about 15 books on methods for teaching early reading, says the earliest he has ever seen a child learn to read is 4 years old. He defines reading as analyzing words letter by letter and sound by sound and putting them together into a word. He says very early “reading” is more likely babies seeing words as pictures. They see a squiggly line on the page or TV screen and associate it with a specific word, which is a very primitive form of reading, Blevins says.
“It’s not what we in the academic community would say is reading because it’s not transferable. It relies on what you’ve memorized,” Blevins says. “It could be a smudge on the page reminds them that it’s the word ‘cat.’Washington Post
It is true that the nature of teaching children to read through the whole word method is through memorisation. However, this is too simplistic a view of it because something special happens when they learn to recognise enough words. They figure out the rules of reading for themselves and it enables to them to decode new words they have never seen.
If you’ve seen the videos above, I’m sure you will agree that there is no uncertainty about whether the children are reading.
The Real Advantage of Reading Early
This is an argument I feel is particularly relevant in this digital age. Many children have access to devices with captivating games that can be more enjoyable to them than reading. Even if it isn’t the smart devices or the TV, older children have developed many interests that compete for their attention over reading. It is a lot harder to encourage them to learn to read when there are so many other things that are more “fun”.
Children who learn to read early also end up smarter because reading increases their verbal intelligence. Studies show that better readers have higher general intelligence. They also show that children who read more do better in maths, vocabulary and spelling.
The bottom line: if there was only one thing I could one thing with my baby, I would teach him to read.