Did you know that learning to read early on actually doesn’t have a significant impact on a child’s later educational ability? New research being done on the age children learn to read keeps showing that delaying formal education until closer to age 7 (that’s second grade in the US!) actually improves students’ reading comprehension, and their attitude toward reading.
I imagine all parents would agree they would rather have a child that loves to read for a lifetime rather than an early reader who dislikes books, if we could only choose one or the other. Obviously it’s not a binary matter, and there are many kids who learn to read early that love books, but what we’re learning is we don’t need to push our kids to learn to read in Kindergarten, and especially not in preschool.
Our journey to casually learning to read
As a young, single mom, I felt a lot of pressure in making sure Kira didn’t become a statistic: a kid born to young parents that perpetually underperforms because of life circumstances. I worked any time I could to ensure she was intellectually at the top of her class, and she was an eager student, except for reading. She did learn to read CVC words before she started Kindergarten, but looking back, I put too much pressure on her to achieve this goal.
With Aamina, I still believed that earlier education was better. I signed her up for a preschool for various reasons that formally introduced letters and their sounds, both arabic and english. When we started preschool at home, I continued with the reading trajectory.
Now with Amatullah at the same age as Aamina when she was learning all her letters, I do introduce letters by their sound (rather than their letter name), but it’s very casual and low pressure. If she doesn’t know her letters until she starts Kindergarten, I won’t fret. Heck, when we were kids, there were no lessons on how to read in Kindergarten at all!
What I’ve realized
It dawned on me one day: Teaching letter names, then letter sounds, then reading, are all huge milestones and giant steps from one to the next!
Learning letter names isn’t that hard. I mean, kids have been learning names of objects via pictures their whole life. Airplanes, trucks, animals, and the like. But then, we change it up and tell them that object also has another sound. Okay, sure, animals have a name and a sound, so that isn’t a huge jump, but it does require more memorization.
But next, we combine two or more objects, and that suddenly makes something totally different. So, if I were to put a toaster, refrigerator, and microwave next to each other, and suddenly call it a couch, it would be confusing, right?
Before kids are acutely aware of the function of letters and words, it’s not much different than just renaming objects when you put them together, and understanding the function of letters and words takes time. It’s much easier to learn to read when they have figured some of this preliminary stuff out on their own.
Plus, it’s so much easier to teach kids how to read when they are eager to learn! When Aamina is asking to learn to read, we can spend an hour on it rather than trudging through 15 minutes of a lesson she isn’t interested in.
How we learn to read
- Surround ourselves with good literature and read aloud every day! Read story books, classical literature (abridged for younger readers, or not), religious books, poetry, fiction and non-fiction. Just keep reading!
- Point out common useful words like exit, enter, open, close, one way, stop, Target, and the like.
- Even though it might drive me crazy, I read requested books over and over and over and over. The kids start to memorize words from sight.
- Keep phonics lessons and other materials at hand so I have a systematic way to teach her how to read.
- Copywork has taught her how to slow down enough to analyze words, how they are spelled, and therefore what different letter combinations sound like.
It’s taken me a while to come to a more relaxed view of academics in the homeschool, but as I’ve let go of expectations more and more, I’ve seen my kids thrive in their education and grasp for information on their own.