The Downside of Early Reading?
Prejudice and Negativity
I'm sure most people will invariably come across or even know some very miserable and negative individuals. Rather than focusing on the positive side of things, these individuals dwell on the negatives, and they're just not very pleasant to deal with. It's very draining dealing with negative individuals and negativity simply breeds more negativity. With the internet, it's a breeding ground and a faceless outlet (with little to no accountability) for negative people to really revel in and "share" their negativity.
So what's all this have to do with reading? After all, this is a reading based site! I bring this up, because over the many years I have been teaching and helping parents teach their children, I've encountered numerous negative individuals that post rude and cynical comments or emails. The most common asinine comments I receive are:
- "The child doesn't comprehend what he/she is reading."
- "Your child must not do much else or engage in any other activities outside of reading".
See what I mean? Completely asinine, presumptuous, and full of prejudice. These negative individuals are unable to look beyond their presumptions, and will never comprehend the fact that all it takes is about 15 minutes of reading lessons per day consistently, to teach a young child to read early. But try to tell that to them, and they'll have none of it. =) So I just ignore them.
For the much more reasonable general public, and our readers, I'll briefly discuss the above points.
1. "The child doesn't comprehend what he/she is reading."
This is something that I've already written about here. Taking a quote from that:
"If the words read by the child are within this child's vocabulary, then yes, the child will be able to understand what he or she is reading."
I have received countless legitimate questions from parents on whether a young child understands what he/she is reading, and my answer has always been the same as above. But of course, this is a simplistic view of reading comprehension. Having a healthy dose of skepticism is good, but there are individuals that purposely overstep the boundaries of reasonable engagement and lace their skepticism with cynicism, disrespect, and sometimes outright contempt.
The thing is, being able to read INDEPENDENTLY at just 3, 4, or 5 years old is in and of itself a real feat! Can a 5 year old that reads at a 5th grade level comprehend as well as a 5th grader? Of course not! It would not be reasonable to expect a 5 year old child to have the comprehension levels of a 10 or 11 year old child. Instead, compare that same child to other 5 year old children.
Can My Children Understand What They Read?
Without a doubt.
If a child can read fluently, and if the words the child reads are within his/her vocabulary, then this child should be able to understand what he/she is reading. Learning to read early opens up an entirely new world of learning for a young child, and IT IS THROUGH READING that a child (or adult) greatly expands his/her vocabulary, knowledge, and comprehension.
As of this writing, my oldest is in Grade 3 (8.8 years old). Shortly after the start of the school year, her teacher placed her in an accelerated program for language arts (reading, writing). She's not only an avid reader, exceptional speller, but she loves writing her own stories - pages and pages of stories. Because of her advanced reading and spelling skills, her teacher has now referred her to a challenge program for the gifted. It's a program run by the city to engage students in "intense academic, intellectual, and creative challenges". Her teacher sends in the referral form, and then the school makes the selection. Only a handful of gifted and highly able students are accepted. Is she gifted? I can't say, but she is certainly highly capable. Would she be part of this had I not taught her to read by age 3? Who knows... But I certainly think that learning to read early had helped, a lot.
My second child is currently in grade one. He is placed in a grade one/two split class, and when it's reading/spelling time, he is placed in the fully grade two class next door - because he needs extra challenges, but according to him: "it's easy".
Do they sound like children that cannot understand what they are reading?
2. "Your child must not do much else or engage in any other activities outside of reading"
For many of the narrow-minded individuals, becoming a good reader and doing other activities are mutually exclusive events. For them, the only explanation that young children can learn to read early is if they are forced into reading lessons all day long - because otherwise, how can you possibly teach a young child to read so well? Well, I have a newsflash for them, it only takes 10 to 15 minutes per day of consistent reading lessons to teach a child to read!
That's right, just 10 to 15 minutes a day! When you teach a child to read using the proper methods and techniques - a combination of synthetic phonics and phonemic awareness development - all it takes is just 10 to 15 minute each day. There's no such thing as getting a child to read all day long. Try that with a 2 or 3 year old, and see how far you can get! Keeping it short and to the point is how we get it done.
On an average day, my kids probably spend around 20-40 minutes reading outside of school. Is that a lot, a little, or average? Honestly, I don't know. This is their own engagement in reading. We do not force them into it. It's just their choice of activity. It also helps that our oldest loves to read and write her own stories, and it seems to rub off on the younger ones.
Outside of the 20-40 minutes of reading, they do all the normal stuff kids their age do: make a mess; watch cartoons; play with toys; play with friends; bike; draw and doodle; crafts; make some more messes... They have a piano class once a week in a classroom setting (not 1 on 1), and they have a lot of fun in these piano classes with other kids. Physical activity? How about calisthenics and Jiu Jitsu for self defense and physical conditioning.
So yes, my children's world do not revolve around reading! They enjoy reading, and they have fun reading, but it's a minor part of their lives. The point here is that having a good balanced approach to raising children probably works best, and some people just need to pull their heads out of the sand to see and understand that you don't have to (nor should you) spend all day teaching your child to read!
Well, that's about all I have to say in this matter. I realize, it's not quite about how to teach reading, but it is a topic and matter that I have to deal with sometimes, and it's related to reading. I also think it helps to debunk some of the preconceived notions out there about how young children learn to read.