Should you wait until he/she is the first grade or in kindergarten? Maybe it’s better to start when he’s in preschool? Is it a good idea to begin even sooner? Here are some of the questions out there and, as always, the opinions are quite various and it’s up to you to decide in the end what is better for your kid.
Some controversy on the matter
No matter how special and smart you think your little one is, the main idea is that there’s actually a limit to how young you should go and you shouldn’t start if your kid is an infant or a toddler. This idea has its opponents though, such as Janet Doman that is fighting for the idea of beginning the process of learning to read in babyhood. She is convinced that parents need to train their babies and hold up cards with words written in large letters, as they’re also pronouncing the words. Her father, Glenn Doman self-published the book on how you should teach you baby to read.
For obvious reasons, this idea is weird for the professional researchers (that is to be indulgent) and there is no basis in mainstream science that sustains Doman’s ideas. But this doesn’t mean that she doesn’t have her fans amongst the parents and childcare providers, though.
As a matter of fact, a set of videos created by a Californian company has literally became the main reason for a complaint filed with the Federal Trade Commission. The complaint sustains that the videos are sold in order to fool the parents into believing that reading in infancy is going to give their little ones a better start in reading.
Beyond a doubt, a strong foundation of language means so much for later reading and this is why story time and read-aloud are essential for kids, helping them to decode and comprehend better printed test. Using flashcards in front of a baby- a common idea on Doman’s suggestions and the videos mentioned above-is no way near useful or stimulating to a baby as actually communicating with him through real continuous conversations about everything surrounding him. Even if your baby is in the babbling stage, he’s learning a bunch about language by simply connecting with adults responding to their sounds.
What do the specialists have to say?
first thing first, the specialists are talking about the lack of evaluation on how efficient the programs like “Your Baby Can Read”. Most of the researchers out there are convinced that babies aren’t really reading, but they are rather responding the shapes in a stimulus-response way.
Many developmental psychologists are asking parents to start using the power of conversation instead of drilling them on vocabulary words.
All of these discussions raised another question on how maybe kindergarten is too early to expect a kid to start decoding, which is the process of relating sounds to letter, forming words. As in the other method (the one using cards), the process involved is memorization of the shapes and contours of whole words.
What happens around the world?
Children in Finland aren’t introduced to formal reading learning until age 7. Let’s not forget though that Finland also gives free childcare and kindergarten to all Finnish children and 97% of them go to kindergarten. Their specialist is convinced that it’s the early childhood curriculum that counts when it comes to the pre-literacy skills anyway.
Many early literacy experts within the United States are stating though that children should be exposed to some sort of building blocks of reading around age 4 or 5. At this age, kids should be familiar to the letters of the alphabet and their sounds so they should be able to use their memories later on when asked to begin reading words.
This discussion isn’t new at all and some argued that the approach is a bit too narrow. Some experts have always underplayed the importance of play and conversation in language development- which is essential in learning how to read later on.
What counts in the early stages though?
Parents and educators should be aware of how important some early experiences are for the later successful reading, including even exposure to letters and awareness of phoneme in the early childhood (pre-kindergarten and kindergarten that is).
Unfortunately, there aren’t many serious studies that highlight the most advantageous age for beginning the formal instruction. Which is why the age may vary so much.
But this doesn’t exclude the reality of all the researches that show the importance of a balance view and of helping kids to communicate using spoken and written language, while also giving them some help on identifying letter and the use of print.
It’s fundamental for your kid and yourself as a parent to read books to and have nice, full conversations with your baby/toddler. But this doesn’t mean you should start a repetitive training at the early ages. After all, cards don’t mean that much anyway.
Some info on the development of reading learning
Even though you may not see it, there are some milestones for specific ages that tell you a lot about how your kid is going to learn how to read later in the future.
- Your toddler should be able to link frequent words with their meanings
- He should imitate some sounds and rhythms that you’re using when you speak
- He has to identify books by their covers
- He should be able to pretend that he’s reading and that includes holding a book right
- He should make some scribbles that resemble writing
- Your kid may want to try read and write
- He likes a lot listening to stories
- He may identify common signs and labels
- Some may even write some letters
- He may use descriptive language
- He should retell simple stories
- He’s able to link letters to sounds
- He may even write popular words and phrases
- He develops reading strategies
- He may read and tell stories
- He should read/write on his own
- He may read aloud
- Some improve their sight word knowledge
- Some may even use punctuation
Keep in mind that these aren’t’ mandatory, but only give you an idea about what some kids may be able to do at some point. A kid that learns very early to read doesn’t necessarily becomes a strong reader and the other way around. You should be concern if your kid is older though and still has difficulties into learning how to read.
When should you start worrying?
Delayed reading may indicate dyslexia or other learning disabilities that relate to language difficulties.
A kid in school has to raise to some other standards, though. Even there is no such thing as biologically right age to read, a student that doesn’t read according to the school’s timetable may easily fall behind. It’s only a matter of time until he gets stressed out. If the gap between a slow reader and his peers isn’t recognized from the beginning, it may get worse in time and lead to more complex problems.
It’s therefore important not to panic, but to pay attention to your kid’s reading performances. If you feel like your kid is fighting with reading or doesn’t get the help he/she needs, first thing to do is to talk to his teacher and to develop together as a team method for helping your kid. You may very well ask for help from another member of the school’s team and the special education teacher or the speech language pathologist are the ones to go to.
Try to make all your efforts as a team’s efforts as you need a plan for literacy and many kids respond better if they get additional support from school. Don’t hesitate to talk to the pediatrician, the educational psychologist and always count on the support of the speech-language pathologist when developing a plan for your child.
Keep in mind that it’s essential not to push it and you don’t want this turn into a power struggle. It’s fundamental to know how your kid is feeling about reading, which is why reading should always be about fun. Just to give you more hope, it’s funny that many kids that are slow on reading actually become lifelong book lovers later in their lives.
If your kid is in grade three and still has difficulties into reading, you shouldn’t wait any longer. Talk to his teacher and see if he has other problems and have a talk about the solutions. After all, there may be an underlying condition at the base of it all.