When is the right age for a child to be taught to read? I strongly believe that children learn something when they are ready, and not before, and that pushing before they are ready won’t help them be more ready. My children have all independently taught themselves to read from the ages of 6 – 8, though some have taken to reading much more enthusiastically than others.
Being that I love reading, you might expect me to be very disappointed that all of my kids don’t show equal excitement over reading. But that’s not the case. I expect all of my kids to love books, but I don’t expect them to love reading. The visual learner clearly has a strong advantage when it comes to reading, and the child of mine who learned at the latest age was my auditory learner. Even after she learned to read, she would periodically tell me that she hated reading, it was ‘boring’. But she loved listening to me read out loud or to book on cd. I recognized that her comprehension level was far higher than her reading ability, so the books she could read were so much below her interest that they really were boring. So I waited for her reading level to catch up with her interest level, knowing that when she found something that she felt was worth reading, she would be motivated to read.
Well, that’s what happened. Several months ago, I checked out a library book called Seven From Heaven, a book for adults about the McCaughey septuplets. Every time she had a chance, I found her reading this book. But she still insisted that most books were boring. This week, though, things have shifted. I checked out a fiction kids novel, about 200 pages long, and my child (now 11) who claims she doesn’t like reading and isn’t good at, finished it within two days. This morning, she was halfway through another book by the same author, and had a pile of several other books on her lap while she read, that she planned to read next, and was very excited about them all. I jokingly asked her, “Aren’t you the one who hates to read because it’s boring?!”
My kinesthetic learner enjoys non fiction books about areas that interest him, like sports history and investing, and has often spent hours at a time engrossed in a book. Even when the vocabulary is so unfamiliar that he has to work hard to figure out the concepts (like the time he was reading about different technical ways to finance the purchase of real estate), he isn’t discouraged. At the same time, he has trouble with the assigned fiction reading in high school and usually can’t tell you what he read after he finishes the assignment. Does that make him a bad reader? Of course not – people usually don’t easily spend time on an activity that has no intrinsic value or interest to them.
Why am I sharing this with you? Because it’s too easy as parents to get caught up in our child’s accomplishments, or lack of accomplishments, and forget that every child has his own internal timeline that will determine what he does and when he does it. By recognizing that kids are different, and accepting that they progress in various areas at different times, we can save ourselves and our children alot of heartache.