Teaching to read before starting school.

(44 Posts)
arizona Sat 24-May-03 19:16:09

I have a 4 yr old due to start school this September. He seems fairly bright and knows all his letter sounds, loves books and "pretends" to read. We had a parents meeting at school the other evening where the reception class teacher talked about the reading scheme they use and how the children will bring home one book per week. I'm just not sure if that will be enough for ds. If I teach him to read will I be setting him up for a year of boredom and frustration when the school reading books aren't stretching him enough? Or will he benefit from the advantage of a headstart? I think he would learn very quickly if i taught him. What does anyone think?

tamum Sat 24-May-03 19:32:48

Terribly hard to judge, as so much depends on the teacher. When my ds was in his first year at school they were grouped very early, within the first couple of weeks, and each group went at its own pace; I doubt if he had more than two books a week, but they just moved straight on to harder level books. On the other hand if you get a more inflexible teacher then I guess you might have problems. If he's that ready for reading and there is no flexibility then he's going to get bored sooner or later anyway, so I wouldn't have thought it would do him any harm to learn with you. Hope he enjoys it anyway; my dd starts then too!

codswallop Sat 24-May-03 19:34:25

I never did and mine was very keen, I would think its easier for the teacher to do it their own way. I would use Jolly Phonics books (from ELC) to teach him the sounds boys love them and are really useful

kmg1 Sat 24-May-03 19:34:32

Children definitely benefit hugely from a headstart in literacy. Schools are used to coping with children at different levels. Children are up to a year older/younger in reception, so will be at different stages. Ds2 was 4 last week, and is reading pretty fluently already. When he starts school they will simply start him at a higher level of the reading scheme. Ds1 is nearly 6, and very bright, but is never bored at school - he just does the work to a different level, and takes in more than other children.

Go for it, and let us know how you get on.

janh Sat 24-May-03 19:36:09

I think you should let him lead the way and if he seems desperate to learn to read, ask the class teacher's advice on the best way to do it. Otherwise leave it until September. (None of my kids could read when they started school but they all went off the top of the "reading age" test by 9/10.)

How is he with the practical things - getting undressed and dressed, wiping bottom, fastening shoes etc? Just settling into school and getting used to the routines can take quite a while - the academic stuff is actually less important to begin with in Reception.

LIZS Sat 24-May-03 20:07:35

Take it really slowly and focus on the fundamental things first - can he recognise and write his name (lower case for writing but recognise it in different ways), signs such as for toilets, in/out etc and start by reinforcing the letter sounds/numbers, especially with games. If you can use the same approach/scheme as the school it would probably be best.

But as JanH has said, practical things like being able to dress/ undress for PE, opening lunch box and drink on his own, being able to open his bag, sit still for a story, waiting to take turns, asking for the toilet, whilst they seem simple in themselves, are important too as it can all contribute to a child's confidence when they start school. In fact the teacher will probably thank you more for this than him being able to read.

Whilst one book a week seems little don't underestimate how taxing your ds may find starting school, even part time, so it is far better to start this way. Hopefully he will demonstrate his enthusiasm and make really quick progress.

Good luck

judetheobscure Sat 24-May-03 20:47:21

Interested that you say one book a week. Our school will change their reading book every day if they have finished it. I think it's quite important that when they do start learning to read they do a small amount (5 mins) every day. Obviously they will be doing reading at school every day but the 5 mins with mum or dad is hugely important. Doesn't have to be a "reading scheme" book though. There are many other things you could share with your ds.

Lindy Sat 24-May-03 21:02:35

My gut feeling is that if he's interested, let him learn - we hear so much about boys (in particular) not being interested in reading that surely it's a bonus if they are - my DS is only 2 but at his playgroup he is encouraged to bring home a different book every time (3 days a week!) -obviously, it's not proper 'reading' but it is getting used to books, words etc. If your DS is actively interested and you try & slow him down/discourage him, I would imagine that could lead to even worse problems later on.

Ghosty Sat 24-May-03 21:10:41

When I was teaching (admittedly slightly older age group) I used to let the children go at their own pace. They got a new reading book whenever they finished the old one ... no point in holding them back. Having said that, some of the less keen readers would stick to a book for half a term if they could so they would get more encouragement ....
Personally ... please don't shoot me for this ... I don't see much point in actively teaching your child to read before he/she starts school. I read somewhere (can't remember where ... it was a long time ago) that research had found that children of average IQ were all at the same level at 10 regardless of whether they learned to read at 3 or 5. In other countries ... for example Holland ... they don't teach children to read until they are 6.
I went to England when I was 6 and couldn't read anything ... all my peers had been reading for at least 2 years. As I was 'average' and had no learning problems I learned to read really quickly (I remember being taught how to read) and it was less than a year before I could read well for my age .... By the time I was 8 my mum said that I had a higher than average reading age ... and by the time I was 10 no-one could have been able to tell that I couldn't read when I was 6 ...
Just putting another viewpoint into the picture ...
Arizona ... I would talk to your DS' teacher and ask her what she thinks ... you might find that she won't welcome it as you DS might find himself being held back ... OR she might be really grateful ....

pupuce Sat 24-May-03 21:17:01

Ghosty - I saw a TV programme on Swedish school education where they explained that children are not taught to read before they are 7 and at 12 years old they fared better than UK kids in litteracy tests! (This was a BBC programme 4 or 5 years ago).

Generally I find that we all think our kids are more gifted/brigher (including me) than other kids. Why can't we let them be kids and PLAY!
OK let's here the fack

Ghosty Sat 24-May-03 21:22:54

Yep pupuce ... it was definitely a program or article about 5 years ago that I read or saw too ...

Britabroad Sun 25-May-03 06:13:33

Agree SOOO MUCH, Ghosty.
I, as you know was a primary teacher 5 years ago and had a head at the time who pushed the children to read more complex books than they were ready for. So basics were often rushed over and many failed to grab them later.

Dd just started school here in NZ. Have a different philosophy where she brings home as many books as she wants from a box matched to a level that she can very easily read. She thinks its great picking out 4 books that she can read easily and her confidence as a reader is very positive.She is going over key words, over and over again without realising it.

Arizona if you are not happy do some other things related to book, if he is not too tired and you are keen to do more with the reading scheme book;
1) tape him reading book
2) print out text on a few pages of paper and get him to illustrate it
3) Read the book in different voices happy, sad, monster, alien etc

In mean time just read books together and play snap with a few key words. Hope this helps.
Keep him happy with reading. Read anything he is interested in.


Our small child's ability to read has unfortunately become a judge of our parenting skills

oxocube Sun 25-May-03 10:01:06

Ghosty, I agree with your point of view entirely. Nothing else to add really!

tigermoth Sun 25-May-03 10:22:12

really agree with you, janh and ghosty. IMO encouraging your child's love of books and learning is great, it this is where they are at, but tbhnere's no need to push it. My son aged 9 is a good fast reader. He couldn't read much when he started school and indeed even age 6 he wasn't more than average with his reading. It just clicked with him sometime after that.

Arizona, I have the opposite problem to you actually. I have a son who will be 4 in late August. He starts school in January. He will be the youngest in his year group. He has not yet reached the stage where he wants to draw pictures, let alone start reading. He loves being read to, can recognise the letter Z and write the letter T but that's it. Can't write his name, doesn't want to try. His development is fine abiltywise, but really in so many ways he is still so much a baby!

I don't know whether I should sit down with him and get him tracing letters and drawing pictures or leave this until he actually wants to. I know he is not yet ready for this, but I am very conscious he will be with children nearly a year older than him who have naturally reached this stage at home. At the moment I am doing a little with him, but just hoping he will start to show some interest in reading and writing soon. I am not expecting he'll have an easy start in school, even though socially he is ready to go and already knows at least half of his future classmates.

I do think it's important he gets to grips witih the practical stuff - dressing himself etc so I suppose this is our priority for now.

54321 Sun 25-May-03 10:30:34

I didn't see the programme Pupace but I totally agree with you on this one! Children are children for such a short time, life is too short, why can't we as a society just let they children have fun and play while they can? If I had the guts I'd run for parliament on that one guess I wouldn't get many votes when it came to secret balloting though!

Jimjams Sun 25-May-03 11:40:46

leave him tigermoth. No point pushing. My ds1 starting school in September refused to even hold a pen until a couple of weeks ago. He is scribbling everywhere now and trying to draw circles- that's enough for him now. And he is now mad on drawing- wants to do it all the time. If we had pushed at all we could have put him off for another year. He quite likes letter and taught himself the alphabet at 2, but he doesn't know the letter sounds and to be honest I'm not bothered. He'll pick it up when he's ready. If it was possible we would be sending him to a Steiner schoo anyway and he wouldn't start reading/writing until he was 7.

The school should be able to cope anyway- if your son was in ds1's class he would be streets ahead of him , and ds1's school seem remarkably unfazed by how far behind he is in some areas- they'll just have to adpat things for him. I know that a lot of social things will go into ds1's IEP (things like putting on shoes, pulling up trousers that sort of stuff) and I am pleased as that is so much more important.

Pupuce couldn't agree more- you are a voice of reason No flack from me.

mears Sun 25-May-03 12:40:52

I agree with all those who say leave him. There is more to reading a book than 'reading it'. There are worksheets to go with the books to ensure that children understand the words they are actually reading. It is amazing how they can actually memorise the words and seem to read a book off pat without actually understanding any of it. My mum ( a teacher) told me that the children who are taught to read and write before starting school, are the ones who actually get into difficulty once they start. I had concerns as well, but my children have all learned at different rates and all got there in the end.

Jimjams Sun 25-May-03 13:02:56

good point mears. My ds1 can recite whole books- and has been able to for about 2 years. However he's only started talking in sentences of his own making over the last couple of months, so there's no way he understands the words he's memorised. He has a good memory, but I'm more interested in his social and language skills being helped.

GeorginaA Sun 25-May-03 13:16:36

I think go where your child leads. I was taught very young (think mum started to teach me when I was 2.5 years old) and at that age I was *desperate* to read apparently. I don't think it did me any harm and I spent most of my childhood lost in a book (yes, I got to choose my own reading material - and at the age of 8 I would choose about 25% adult fiction - i.e. everything on my parents' bookshelves!) My mum had a major argument with the librarian once because a child's ticket was only 4 books and I was getting through them in an afternoon and wanting to go back next day. Eventually they gave up and gave me an adult ticket (8 books a visit).

Despite some of the "horror" stories, I didn't struggle at school even though I was ahead. I was lucky in that I had a sympathetic teacher who would let me "skip" readers (which were boring topics anyway - wouldn't bother reading them out of boredom, not from lack of understanding) and let me choose from the school library.

Ds at the age of 2 is already exhibiting similar behaviour traits - if he could choose to, he would have me read to him most of an afternoon. He's constantly pointing at letters (on t-shirts, signs, etc) saying "wassat, mummy!". He loves his pop-up alphabet book and number book. He brought me a recipe book to read to him the other day because he like the look of the pictures! I can see him becoming an avid reader and I can see me teaching him to read early. I've already started to read up on various reading schemes to make sure that if asks me questions I won't tell him anything that'll confuse him later. (After all, I don't want to deliberately set out to make his future teacher's lives difficult!)

In reality I started teaching him to read from a baby. He knows that there's a story in the pages, that you turn over the pages to get to the next part, that the pictures help tell the story too, that there are odd squiggles that mummy scans from left to right to tell the same story over and over again. He recognises the Weetabix symbol and the Number 1 (as that's the number painted on Thomas the Tank Engine). See, already I've been teaching him. Evil Mummy.

I can understand the idea that you shouldn't push your child before they are ready. However, I will *not* be deliberately holding my child back despite his obvious interest. The second he's bored with it, I'll stop completely until he's asking questions again, but I'm not going to avoid his questions just because of some survey says that dire things are going to happen if you teach them to read before the age of 6! And no, my child will *not* miss out on play and childhood because of it. To him reading *is* fun and *is* play. Some of my best memories as a kid is of me half way up a tree reading a book.

Trust your instincts. If your child is eager, gently introduce them. Read up yourself on different schemes, take it slowly, test the waters, and if they're still keen to learn more don't stop! You know your child far far better than anyone else does. If you listen to them and listen to your judgement I don't think you can go far wrong.

Jimjams Sun 25-May-03 14:07:40

Georgina- I wouldn't want you to think I thought what you were doing was wrong (having been a anti-early reading here). I just meant for someone like tigermoths son she's probably better leaving him until he's interested rather than feeling like she "should" be teaching him. This government has an obsession with children reading at a ridiculously young age, and not all are ready, or more to the point interested. It has an obsession with getting tiny young children into a formal learning environment as well, and as someone has already pointed out this doesn't automatically result in improved literacy.

My son has also been taught himself to read, and now recognises quite a few words- they've been memorised rather than having been read phonetically. But since he's so majorly delayed in other areas it doesn't mean very much. I would hate him to go to school and for the school to concentrate on reading when he can't even go to the toilet himself (or speak for that matter ). The new foundation curriculum does seem to have improved things- at least it recognises the need for play and for social skills etc to be incorporated into the curriculum.

I don't think early reading does any damage at all, but being pushed into reading before a child is ready could well do. And you know some parents do get very competitive about things like reading (not saying anyone here is - but you've all seen it I'm sure).

GeorginaA Sun 25-May-03 14:25:14

Sorry Jimjams - wasn't aimed at anyone in particular - just in general. As you can tell, reading is something I feel particularly passionate about!!

I do agree that there can be an area of competitiveness which is bad. Pushing a child in *any* learning area is going to give bad feeling towards schooling for that child which is a great shame and lost opportunity

At the same time I have seen (like you, not saying I've seen it here but elsewhere) people ignoring a child's interest because the parent themselves don't feel confident enough to encourage their child, or because they've heard that they'll just confuse them, that teachers will be annoyed with them for teaching the child "wrong", that they'll actually negatively effect their child's future schooling. I think that is a lost opportunity too Surely we want to encourage our children's enthusiasm for learning not stifle it - which both extremes tend to do.

All in all, in the last week I've found myself how much I'm affected by x study printed in y paper about how my parenting is crap in some way or another (even if there are 20 other studies saying completely different things). I let myself be swayed by them too much to the detriment of listening to my own instincts. I'm not saying my instincts are always great, and parenting manuals and studies have their place - but they do seem designed to make you feel bad about yourself rather than giving you the confidence you need!

Hmm, I've veered off topic slightly now, sorry!

GeorginaA Sun 25-May-03 14:27:46

Also, as an interesting side thought - why is "learning" and "play" seen as mutually exclusive? Do they have to be?

Jimjams Sun 25-May-03 14:38:05

True Gerogina- but those surveys are crap and defintiely best ignored. Mind you I'm lucky becuase DS1 is so far from the norm that there isn't a parenting manual or survey that is relevant to him anyway Anyone who makes a comment gets the same response - "you bloody come and do better then!" DS2 does fit the surveys but I reckon increased confidence goes with the second one anyway.

Oh I think play and learning defintely go together- unfortunately I'm not sure the government does (as everything has to have a goal iyswim).

GeorginaA Sun 25-May-03 15:01:37

I do hope increased confidence comes automatically with the second, lol. Feel a bit sorry for all the trailblazer first children

Unfortunately, funding means that all learning in this country seems to need to have a goal - not just in children's learning but in adult learning too. It's a shame, because "learning just for fun" seems to have dropped out of our vocabulary in our country - unless it's for a vocation or a "serious" subject it's seen as second rate But that's a discussion for another day I think...

janh Sun 25-May-03 18:21:11

Whatever the hidden agenda behind it I was glad to hear Charles Clarke say that there should be more non-academic time in school again - music, sport, art etc.

Pre National Curriculum, when my elder 2 were at primary school, there used to be a display at the end of every year of things they'd made - embroidery, fabric collage, working models, that kind of thing, and the school had quite a good orchestra. That has all stopped now. I hope this means there will be time for it again (but am not holding my breath....)

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