Notes from An Alien

~ Explorations In Reading, Writing, and Publishing ~

Forcing Kids To Learn To Read . . .


Is it possible a child could be hampered in their cognitive development by urging them, too early, to read?

In the previous post, Were You Forced To Learn Reading Too Early? (which includes links to scientific resources), this was quoted:

“Some [children] are ready at the age of four or five, some not for many more years.”

Even though that post was published last September, I recently had a comment that said:

“’No Child Left Behind’ introduced in the US has exacerbated the issue. Scandinavian children don’t read until 8 or 9, and Waldorf Education pushes age-appropriate reading into grade 2 and 3. The last thing you want to do is kill a child’s passion for reading by force feeding them books and then testing them too early. This is setting them up for failure.”

That statement was made by the parent of two children living in a small mountain town in British Columbia, Canada.

They have a website devoted to early childhood development thoughts and research and recently posted the article, Education System Pushes Kids to Read Too Early, which says:

“As kindergarten has taken on the task of reading, more kids are found who need to repeat kindergarten or a ‘transitional’ first grade classroom. As kids progress through grade school, learning disabilities increase, particularly visual-processing types. The language center in the left hemisphere of the brain won’t form for most kids until they are between seven and nine, and later for boys than girls. When kids are taught to read before this, certain problems arise, particularly in spelling and reading comprehension.”

If you have very young children, have close friends who do, or are intellectually curious, do go read the whole article.

If this sounds like the isolated issue of a few people, check out a Google search for “reading too early”.

Were you forced to read too early?

Are you aware of the extreme variability in when particular children are ready to read?

Do you feel this is an important issue?
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6 responses to “Forcing Kids To Learn To Read . . .

  1. Catana February 1, 2012 at 4:29 pm

    I was reading before I started school, but I learned because I wanted to read. After raising two children, grading hundreds of high school and junior college compositions, and learning about brain development and other relevant matters, I’ve come to the conclusion that, for most people, reading isn’t natural. And for many, it’s never comfortable or something they can do for pleasure. Some children learn on their own; some struggle for years with the basics and never become good readers. It’s only with the dominance of compulsory education that reading became something that had to be learned early and well. Talk about literacy and literacy statistics seldom bother to distinguish between those who read for pleasure and those for whom reading is a necessary tool for survival in the modern world. The first group is literate. The second is functionally or semi-literate. The web has highlighted the predominance of functional literacy, but it’s usually credited to bad teaching or, in the case of self-published writing, to failure to do the necessary editing. I doubt that more than a small proportion of humans have ever spent much of their time reading for pleasure, and that doesn’t seem to have changed lately.

    Like

    • Alexander M Zoltai February 1, 2012 at 5:00 pm

      Catana,

      Thank you for your penetrative comments.

      From my understanding of what you’ve said, it’s possible that more attention to individual readiness and less forced learning could eventually increase the proportion of adults who read for pleasure??

      Like

  2. Selina Greene February 2, 2012 at 12:31 pm

    hi Alex,
    I think as you know, our little girl (27 mo) is reading already and has been for around a year now. We noticed when she was days old that she was far more alert than most newborns and we started reading to her from birth. She showed a natural curiosity for words and we supplemented that with reading dvds from around 5 months old. As soon as she could crawl she would crawl to the DVD to switch on the DVD. She would go get the flashcards and put them in our laps and force us to do them with her. She has very much led the process and we have never forced a reading session. We couldn’t stop her now if we wanted to. She is now on the gifted track at pre-school and is a very happy little girl.
    In contrast to the views expressed in the article, I personally believe that we as a society teach our children far too late to read. Between birth and 6 years old, the brain is growing at its fastest rate at any point and more neural connections are being made than at any point in life. I don’t know if you’re familiar with the notion of ‘brain plasticity’ – the ability of the brain to change itself in response to the experiences it receives. A toddler’s brain is so plastic that its ability to adapt and absorb information is unparalleled. The counter-view would be that if one delays reading beyond this time of great brain plasticity, one is missing the natural window for easily acquiring new skills. Our daughter’s ability to learn words and remember them and decode words she’s not familiar with is incredible. I’ve seen studies that show that early readers start ahead and stay ahead of the reading curve through life.
    All that said, forcing a child to do anything is not going to work. If a child is not interested or not ready to deal with something, there will be fall out. Our little girl is simply not ready for the potty, for example. If I were to ‘force’ her to be ready, that could only result in upset, trauma and ongoing difficulty with toileting issues. So for now, we leave it.
    I could write reams on this subject of early v late reading, so apologies for the rushed response. Ironically, my toddler is attacking me with a book right now, so I have to go!

    Like

    • Alexander M Zoltai February 2, 2012 at 4:25 pm

      Selina,

      So good to see you commenting here :-)

      While I may not have to mention this, many of my posts in this blog are not to take a stand on issues but to induce thought and consideration—this is why I say on the About Page, “I feel the real value of this blog is in conversations in the comments…”

      I appreciate the detail you gave our readers about your particular situation, even though you call it “rushed” :-)

      To me, the salient point is that you were sensitive to your daughter’s receptivities and potentialities and gave her what she was “asking for”…

      Like

  3. Selina Greene February 2, 2012 at 8:35 pm

    Smiles at Alex

    Just a quick further response… I wonder if it’s not so much that ‘early reading’ is the problem, but how they teach reading these days? The whole business of teaching children to read has become very politicised in the world of education. The two opposing camps are ‘whole word’ and ‘see and say’ learning versus ‘phonics’. The former two methods were used mostly in the 60-s-70s and since the 80s, phonics is more or less viewed as the only way to teach reading.
    Whole systems of phonetic learning have been devised (known as ‘synthetic’ phonics). The more I look at phonics, the more I wonder whether we lose children at the first stages to the boredom of sound repetition and artificial ways of breaking down words… I wonder if the increase in poor spelling is a result of phonics as much as the red wavy line in MS word…
    Just a few thoughts!

    Like

    • Alexander M Zoltai February 2, 2012 at 10:19 pm

      Dear Selina,

      Thanks for your further response and differentiation of methods of learning reading.

      If you were to follow a link in this post to a previous post, you’d find the article that initially sparked my desire to present this topic on the blog: Reading Readiness Has To Do With The Body.

      I’d treasure your comments on that article :-)

      Like

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