Friday, 13 January 2012

Thoughts on Reading: Concluded

So having mulled it all over for a few days, I've come to the conclusion that there is an insane amount of pressure on parents to get their child reading successfully.  And my previous post didn't help at all with that!  Sorry.  I now feel terribly sympathetic towards parents of children who are behind their peers in reading, because I suspect it's easy to feel guilty or blamed.

Lana's comment about needing her daughter to be at least as good as her rung true with me.  I feel that if I was reading at three, then my son should be as well, and that's a silly way to look at it.  Since my original post, I have dutifully researched late reading.  Here are a couple of interesting pages:

Why the Waldorf Method Waits

The Unschooler's Account of How Children Learn to Read

With regard to the second link, any readers should bear in mind that the writer was relying on people emailing him with their accounts, and people are always happier to contribute their success stories than their failures.  Also, from the little I know of unschooling, it's bucking against the traditional school model and formal education rather than avoiding education altogether.  I suspect many parents of unschooled children are, intentionally or not, employing elements of other self-directed learning methods.

Regardless, late reading isn't for me.  We'll see if either of my children change my mind on that score.

My actual conclusion is that motivation is probably the most important factor.  My son loves books, so I should stop worrying about him and start worrying about my eleven month old daughter...  I kid.  Actually, she's already beginning her pre-reading skills, since every time I pull out a book, she hauls it off me and practises opening and closing it.  I usually have to let her do this for a few minutes before we can get on to the story part....

Because I wanted to be reading independently at the age of three, sight-reading was absolutely the right choice for me.  My son is perfectly happy for me to read books to him; his current fascination is with letters (or 'sounds' as we call them), so I'm trying to come up with various alphabet activities to capitalise on that.  I'm not actively testing him, but he's got most of the lower case alphabet down now and a good portion of the upper case (b, p, d and q are of course all over the place).

We discovered over Christmas that he can sight-read his name, because he loved finding it in every Christmas card we received.  Sitting down with the flashcards isn't really my style, so I'm not going to push that.  If he starts asking me to point out words for him, that might be different, but we'll see what happens.

Mostly, what I'm going to do is keep track of his skills.  It seems that the problem with any method of reading is that literacy is about more than just reading.  You can't just get your child reading The Very Hungry Caterpillar and say: "Job's a good'un!"  Spelling, grammar, comprehension and articulation require a lot more than recognising words on a page.   A sustained effort from both child and educator is required on the various language skills, and that's why you need a lot of enthusiasm to start with.

To that end, even if he teaches himself to sight-read, I'm going to continue doing phonic activities with him, encouraging him to listen to the sounds of words.  I suspect that, like myself, my son is a visual learner, but I'd rather he didn't end up with my dearth of listening skills!


  1. Another great post!

    Thought I'd share another source of info from a Waldorf trained doctor who approaches reading and writing from a developmental perspective(left/right brain perspective--which fascinates me as I have a child with Down syndrome but also know the importance of large motor movement and brain development, and how it relates to reading readiness, yada, yada):

    by Susan R. Johnson MD, FAAP

    Happy reading!

  2. My son is 3 and he can sight read a few words. His name was the first one. Then as he has become frustrated at not being able to read, I am letting his read the word "I" in all the books we're reading. He doesn't know all his letters yet, so we're going to work on those. Basically, it's introducing the letter and items around the house that start with that sound or have the sound strongly in it. Like with the letter A, we're going out ant hunting and eating apples and such. When we work on the letter B, we'll be making our own butter and going out to hunt butterflies, etc. This way as we read through books, he can recognize the letters and the sounds that they make. I want him to feel accomplished. I hate that he feels so despondent because he doesn't understand it.


    1. Sounds like a good idea--one tip, don't feel you have to proceed alphabetically! 'M' for 'Mommy' is a good one to introduce early and any other letters that are significant to him.

      It's been interesting watching my son proceed... he's now capable of sounding out words, and is starting to practise writing his letters, but he still can't read. Fortunately, he doesn't seem bothered by his lack of ability at all, so I'm sort of tiptoeing... trying to find the right balance between encouragement and pressure!

      I think I should try a few games of spotting the sounds in books though. He doesn't really pay much attention to the text at all when we read.