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School doesn't like early readers

(10 Posts)
KMG Thu 07-Mar-02 18:14:08

My son is reading fluently already - he's 4.5, but doesn't start school til September. A friend lent him some Oxford Reading Tree books, and the last one ended on a cliffhanger, and my son wanted to read the conclusion. So we asked the nursery teacher (who is head of early years at school) if we could borrow a book from school. She was VERY negative about him reading, treating me like I was an irresponsible parent for allowing him to learn to read, (he practically taught himself! and is also way ahead in every other area - numeracy, writing, spelling, music, science ..., it's not like he's being hothoused in one particular thing, he's just quite bright.)

I realise that early readers can cause headaches for teachers, but I thought this was a bit excessive. Surely if he were in a reception system, he would have access to ORT books, and would be encouraged to read, ... and the teachers would be getting the credit?! I could read before I went to school, and though it made life tough at times, it put me at an enormous advantage, that had an effect right through the primary school system, and beyond.

He's actually moving schools in September, but we haven't told them yet. I suspect then they will be very positive about his reading, because they'll be happy to pass on a child with a very high baseline assessment, but not to have one! Or am I too cynical?

EmmaM Fri 08-Mar-02 09:07:38

Hi KMG. I was very interested to read your message as I had posted on another board as to whether I should encourage my 3 year old's reading in view of whether it would be an advantage or disadvantage when he started school.

I was surprised and saddened by the attitude of your son's teacher. What are you supposed to do? Suppress your child's keenness to learn simply because it makes the teacher's job harder?

Perhaps its a good thing your son is going to a different school where hopefully their attitudes towards early readers will be much more positive.

It seems you can't win - I remember reading somewhere recently that education starts at home and parents should be encouraged to help their children learn, but then you get criticism like this from your son's school.

Good luck - I hope your son's new school will be better.

bin Fri 08-Mar-02 13:46:02

KMG, I have had very similar reaction to you and was so surprised as all the time it's "parents as teachers" "learning through play, play with them they learn so much" "get them interested in books books books" from such an early age. Our child walked "early" crawled for a few weeks and ran from 7 months - now feel that I should have tied his legs together and burnt his books!

Azzie Fri 08-Mar-02 19:21:28

I don't see how you can stop a child who wants to read from doing so.


A friend of mine learnt to read fluently before she started school. She then found school incredibly boring when she started, and now attributes her later negative attitude to school in general to this early boredom. She feels this so strongly that she has actively avoided teaching her children to read before starting school.

winnie Fri 08-Mar-02 22:00:50

KMG, I don't think you are being cynical at all. I have never understood this bizarre attitude to 'early' readers. When my daughter started school at three years of age (in South Wales)she could read a little. Her class teacher actually took me aside and told me that the head teacher did not encourage reading in children of this age and therefore whilst the teacher would help my daughter to read I was asked not to make it common knowledge!! When this teacher left 18 months or so later I found my daughters reading noticably stood still for a while!!

pob Sat 09-Mar-02 04:46:56

KMG, is the school your child is moving to following a 'reading scheme' too? If so, how is it used? A school's reluctance to give out 'scheme' books is likely to be related to the fact that your child will have to do comprehension workbooks etc related to these stories throughout their time in the school - if your child read them three years previously, this is where boredom could set in. The ORT, despite being funny and enjoyable for children, is a scheme, designed to help children with their reading and comprehension skills. Basically, if your son can already read, he has no need for it now, but could benefit from the related comprehension work later - at an appropriate level. To the school, asking for ORT books is equivalent to asking for maths scheme books for your child to do at home - not half as exciting for your child as the maths they will do cooking with you, etc. But your son's school should be able to explain this to you, without making you feel bad or 'guilty' for having a child who can read already.
Does the new school have a reading scheme too? Ask them how they use it - do they have other books your child can choose to read and frequent access to a library alongside the scheme? If you can find a school which doesn't follow a scheme, maybe this would be better - they have more flexibility in how they approach the development of language skills....and perhaps more imagination too.
In the meantime, has your son been introduced to Eric Carle, Jez Alborough, Alan Alberg (sp?), Shirley Hughes, John Burningham (sp?), Maurice Sendak, etc....I'm sure he'd love them just as much (hopefully more!) than the ORT!

JoeR Sat 09-Mar-02 14:16:36


Yes, it's a difficult thing to stopa keen child reading - my four year old (going to school in September) is starting to teach herself, reading ahead in the simpler books.Our school here does not discourage it - but we are aware of what reading material they will be using and are steering her to other books, so that the school material will be fresh for her. POB's suggestion is excellent - there are so many good books out there - get stuck in !!

Art Sat 09-Mar-02 19:02:28

I cant understand the school's attitude at all. If a child arrived in my class already reading I would be pleased that he had come from a home with lots of books and parents that took the time to read with him. Dont feel guilty about encouraging him.

If you got left with a cliff hanger, what about making a scrapbook of your own magic key adventures writing a story for your son about what he thinks might have happened next.

robinw Sun 10-Mar-02 15:12:02

message withdrawn

Buster Sun 10-Mar-02 22:17:40

KMG, we have a ds in the American system where the approach to reading is that they don't formally teach it til 6 (year 2 in the UK system). However because it is an International school there are kids coming in who can read already at the earlier years (some of whom have been in the UK system). The idea is that the early years teachers support those kids with materials from other grade levels. That kind of differentiation then continues as they go up the school so they don't hit the problems pob points out. (This is also what happened to me at a tiny 2 class UK primary school as a pre school reader. Once I finished the reading programme they just let me read what I wanted to from the library. Maybe it was easier because the teacher had ages 4 to 7 in one class room?)

As well as paranoid Brits like me who are secretly panicking that their kids are behind their UK equivalents, the school also has to deal with the Dutch, Swedes etc who think its too pushy to be teaching reading at 6! At least because they get such a range of kids and parental expectation they are not judgemental.

We didn't have to deal with this "early reader" issue for ds as he has been happy to go at their pace tho he did learn to read in 6 weeks at age 6 and 4 months which was an amazing experience and suited him as he is the kind of kid who likes to try things once he really knows he can do it. Our dd who is going to the American School next year can already read quite well having been at a montessori so we will get to see if this differentiated system really does work in practice. It does depend on having a flexible and well resourced reading programme.

Can you talk in advance to the new school about how they deal with "differentiated learning" in the early years.......there is an enormous age spread as to when children are ready to read. My cousin who is a schools inspector thinks that many primary schools are ill equipped to cope with the brightest kids, and that the "special needs" regime in theory should apply (tho i understand in practice does not apply) to those whose needs are special because they are bright and therefore not getting what they need as much as those who need extra help to learn. Anyone willing to take on a test case?

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