Monday, January 26, 2015

Allowing it to happen

Recently I read an article on how teaching reading in kindergarten can actually be detrimental. My immediate reaction as an early childhood teacher, mother and homeschooler was 'DUH!' But I was somewhat surprised at the reactions by some of my friends when I posted that article. Some were very aggressive in their stance that teaching reading to young children is a life skill and totally necessary.

I do agree that reading is a life skill. What I disagree on is the necessity of a 5 or 6 year old to have that life skill. ONLY in schools do we see this. If you think about your day to day life and try to take school out of the equation, WHY would a 5 or 6 year old (7 or 8 year old for that matter) need to be able to read? THINK about it. They don't need to read their toys, they don't need to read their food labels, they don't need to read road or store signs (although they probably can), they don't need to read to socialize, they don't need to read in karate, gymnastics or baseball. So other than school, there is NO REASON to force a young child to read.

Sure there are many 4 year olds that want to learn to read and are ready. THAT is fine. I was one of them. My oldest daughter was one of them. BUT just because they exist, does not mean that all kids that age should be reading. If a young child starts doing it on their own, it demonstrates readiness. If you have a 6 year old who fights you tooth and nail, they're not ready.

If we look at child development, the muscles in your eyes that are needed for tracking (a necessary skill for reading) are not always fully refined by age 5. Add onto that the amount of time young kids (even babies) are spending on screens! This actually weakens the eye muscles and coordination needed for reading. Plus the amount of time needed to sit and focus in order to read. All of this adds up to a disaster!

My youngest didn't really start reading until last year and she was 7 at the time. So, my oldest was reading Harry Potter at 7 and my youngest was reading Dick and Jane books. Yes, as a former reading teacher and mother, I was stressed by the "late" reading. But I quickly figured out that as homeschoolers, forcing her to read was totally unnecessary. GUESS WHAT? Last year when she saw all of her friends reading and we watched movies with subtitles that she wanted to read, SHE STARTED READING. Yes just like that. No I did not teach her. And she didn't pick up Dick and Jane books, she picked up Junie B and The Magic Treehouse. Right on level with her school peers.

This is true with many other 'school skills.' Did you know that it is developmentally APPROPRIATE for a child to NOT have a hand dominance at age 5? If a child hasn't established hand dominance, how do you expect her to write? But they do in school. Little bodies (all bodies really) are meant to move. Sitting for hours at a time is harmful to health, has been linked to depression and obesity, and poor core strength and balance. You wonder why ADHD is on the rise? It's not. Schools demand things that are developmentally inappropriate and this results in fidgeting, acting out, and inattention.

Honestly, if you are reading this and your child is in school and struggling with reading, I wish I had an answer for you. School makes it absolutely necessary to read at a young age. If you can homeschool, do it. If you do homeschool, do not force reading on your child please! Offer them a literature rich environment. Read to them, make books available to them with no expectations, create books yourselves, go to the library often, read environmental print (street and store signs). They will learn how to read, I promise! And just like potty training, walking and talking, they will do it pretty much on their own in their own time.

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