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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?

MrsJamin Tue 20-Nov-12 14:27:59

Why have you resurrected a thread that is 9 years old?!

learnandsay Tue 20-Nov-12 14:22:05

My daughter is a summer born child and I remember thinking that she would be one of the children our headmaster warned us about who couldn't deal with the long school day. We kept being told that school was so much different from nursery, (although the nursery days are actually longer.) I've been doing reading, writing and 'rithmetic with my little one since she was very small indeed and I think it must have helped her because she adores school and is rarely tired. I think the days that she's most tired on are the ones in which she has had PE and I don't believe there's much that I can do about that.

beetroot Sat 07-Jun-03 22:10:49

Message withdrawn

judetheobscure Sat 07-Jun-03 21:53:19

I agree with those of you who have said that too much of the curriculum is devoted to "academic" subjects and not enough to creative / play things (well, as a music teacher I would say that wouldn't I?). However, I do think that reading is a wonderful way of broadening horizons and stimulating the imagination. If your child wants to read then why deny him/her?

Regarding the ds I mentioned earlier in the thread, when he started school (age 4 1/2) he knew his letters and he had a vague idea of how to make two and three letter words. That was enough for him at the time, yet 1 year later he has this 8.10 reading age. It just shows how quickly they can learn once they get the hang of it or enthused by reading.

Also wanted to make the point that one of the main reasons why nurseries teach letters and read so much to the children is to make up for the lack of pre-reading skills that some children have if they don't have access to books at home.

forest Sat 07-Jun-03 20:52:40

I've been doing some Steiner training to start a mother/toddler group and we have gone over the philosophy. Being pregnant it has gone a bit in one ear and out the other.... but I do rememeber the reasoning behind why they introduce reading at 7. They very much believe that early introduction of reading hinders creativity in later life. To the Steiner philosophy, creativity within a child is one of the most important things to build self esteem. Also they structure their day with the main lesson/academic work in the morning and then the afternoon is for hand work - painting, gardening, cooking etc. As they feel this follows the childs natural rythyms.
I find I can relate to this a bit as I was a very early reader and although I can be artistic I do find I struggle with creativity!
However, I loved reading as a child and not sure what I will do with dd (13 months). She does like sitting looking at a book in her quieter moments!!

monkey Sat 07-Jun-03 19:49:49

Steppemum, I'm in Switzerland and here they don't start school till 7, and even then it's mornings only, and I don't think they do reading or writing till age 8. The school system is very well respected, as are teachers (who incidentally are paid significantly higher than in the UK), and average class size in an average primary 15.

I think if we were in the UK my son would be starting school in September and I think, well for him anyway, it's so early. In August he takes his first steps onto the educational ladder - playgroup for 2x2hours per week! Next year he'll upgrade to kindergarten (which lasts 2 years) which I think is 4 or 5 mornings a week, and only then will he begin school for 5 mornings a week. It does make life very difficult for women who do want to get a job, and I think this is a big reason why many families only have 1 child, max 2 and live with or opposite the grandparents. Still, I think it's great for the kids.

Lara2 Sat 07-Jun-03 13:56:16

Brilliantly put steppemum!!!!

steppemum Tue 27-May-03 07:18:21

Well, when I read the title of this thread I was all set to launch in, but you have all said it so much more eloquently than I could! I am a teacher, and even amongst my teaching friends I see a big difference. There are the "Oh look she' only three and knows all her letters and numbers" through to the "She didn't know a single letter before she started school, we spent all the time playing" I really think that the most important thing is to be lead by YOUR child. If your child is really in to climbing trees, then that is he/she needs to do. If they are book mad, then read. We really push early reading in this country, with nursery schools now doing letters etc. WHY??????? When I was training, we saw the statistics for Europe. In the UK we start school the earliest. One country (I forget which one) doesn't teach reading until age 8. By age 10, all the children have caught up.
I used to teach in the East End of London, and we saw kids who really had no pre-reading skils. That means they had never seen a book, never heard stories read to them. They had no idea that the black marks on the page told a story, or that the book has a beginning and an end. They were totally at sea when it came to reading, because they didn't understand the concept of stories, writing and books. Those are the children that the government gets worried about, and then imposes early reading on the rest.
Oh dear turned into a bit of a rant, just to repeat the important bit, follow your child, if they need to play, let them play, if they are ready for letters, have fun with them. You will probably find that your child is really tired in the first few months of school, and may not have any enthusiasm for reading at home anyway.

PS, it's probably not a good idea to teach writing letters unless a teacher has shown you how to teach letter formation.

Jimjams Mon 26-May-03 11:12:16

northernlass don't get too worried- I think reading seems to breed a certain amount of cometitiveness not seen since toddlers start walking (not saying that of anyone here- just at the shcool gates).

At the end of the day it is just decoding- nothing more. My son (4) has been reading odd bits and pieces since he was 2 but he can't talk so it really shows how useless it is the great scheme of things!

He picks up things like reading, maths symbols (useful- not!), weird shape names etc really easily but he can't dig with a spade, can't build castles and can't use a DIY tool kit- and I know which I would prefer him to be doing! Come to that his 16 month old brother can feed himself a yoghurt- ds1 can't. So really don't think your child is anything other than normal. He's doing what he should be doing! Parents who home educate often find that siblings learn to read at very different ages. I know of families who talk about one child learning at 4, one at 6 and one not until 9. Children become interested at different ages.

northernlass1 Mon 26-May-03 10:49:40


These threads always unnerve me as I know I'm about to read about a number of children younger than ds (nearly 4) who can read well etc, so I tend to avoid them. But thanks, tigermoth, my ds is the same as yours - he knows letters (from pre school) but I don't think he knows many words if any. I thought this was normal for a 3 year old! He just does not want to sit down and 'do' words for long enough - I've taken the view that he's going to be in education for such a long time and that this is his time to have adventures and fun during the day - he spends a lots of time digging in the garden and doing DIY jobs with his tool set - building castles etc. I thiink that if he was more 'academic' at this age then I would be happy to go with it - the thing is all our children are different but as long as they are happy doing whatever at pre school age we should follow their lead.

GeorginaA Mon 26-May-03 08:08:42

Bron, interestingly that's what my mum said about me - that I was hyperactive and demanding!

She said it was such a relief when she could just leave a book by my bed so I'd read in the early hours and leave her to her sleep

Bossanova Sun 25-May-03 22:42:50

I agree that you shouldn't feel forced into teaching a child to read before they are ready, but to take the lead from your child. You can tell when they are interested and you should just encourage a love of books and reading. As a SAHM I have the opportunity to read when my children want to (the housework can wait!) My dd absolutely loved books from a very early age. She was not 'taught' to read but seemed to have a natural understanding. She was reciting books at 2 and reading at 3. By that I mean she was reading words other than the books she knew, ie: from signs/newspapers etc. I don't know how she learnt to read so fluently other than just being read to so much. She is one of the younger ones in her year but that hasn't held her back.

Don't feel pressured to 'teach' but at the same time if your child shows any interest/ability to read don't feel you must wait. The ability to read helps your child in other areas as well. They are more able to find things out from looking in books themselves and more intersted in learning per se.

robinw Sun 25-May-03 22:16:49

message withdrawn

Bron Sun 25-May-03 21:50:17

Message withdrawn at poster's request.

Ghosty Sun 25-May-03 21:05:22

Arizona ... a good post ... totally agree with you. I take it you husband is not a teacher??? I am glad you are chilled about it ...
One of the reasons I was keen to leave teaching for a bit and be a SAHM when I came to NZ is because of the way teaching and learning had become. We had to squeeze so much curriculum stuff into the day that much creativity was forgotten about ... all so that they could reach targets ... where's the fun in that kind of learning??

Ghosty Sun 25-May-03 21:00:36

GeorginaA ... FWIW I do agree with you ... in that 'holding a child back' is not good either. I was merely saying that 'actively' teaching a child to read just because they are about to start school may not be the right thing to do as it won't necessarily set them at an advantage. My son loves letters too. He is 3.5 and he recognised T (for his name) and M for mummy and Z for zoo and lots of other letters. He likes to make letter shapes out of dominoes ... He loves books and alphabet books and we read together all the time. BUT I don't ACTIVELY teach him how to read (although due to my teaching background I know how to and I keep up with the current methods) ... just because I don't see much point. He will learn to read ... and like I said whether he learns now or when he is 5 will make no difference IMO ... he will still learn to be an avid reader like his dad and me as he is always seeing us with our heads buried in books!!! I also agree with what you say about 'learning' and 'fun'.... I used to get stick at school for reading History Text books... I loved them. Still do ... People thought I was bonkers for reading them for fun!!! In terms of your child you need to do what you think is best ... and DON'T listen to people/magazines who knock your parenting .... YOU are your child's parent and only YOU know what is best for him!

arizona Sun 25-May-03 20:52:47

I completely agree about the way creative stuff is being squeezed out of the primary school day. I'm a teacher and the other day I was doing supply in a reception class. We'd done our numeracy and literacy in the morning and after lunch we were timetabled to do some other curriculum subjects. The children were knackered and just wanted to be left alone to play or do some painting or whatever but they couldn't. There's definitely not much time for all the arty crafty things any more.
The year group that I've always enjoyed teaching most has been year 2 (age 6/7)because that seems to be the time when the less able readers or slower starters suddenly click and the reading takes off, and also the summer birthdays seem to catch up round about then.
Back to original question, my instinct has always been to leave the reading until school starts. My dh disagrees and thinks that a headstart will be a great advantage. Lots of wise words from everyone- thankyou. I'm very chilled about it all- the main thing is that I want ds to be happy at school and the academic stuff comes after that.

54321 Sun 25-May-03 19:08:36

Arizona and GeorginaA I think that if a child will lead you in the reading direction if they are interested in them and will ask questions which to others can seem as if you are teaching them but to the child is just part of play - what I meant earlier was there is no need for parents to worry that their child/children are showing no interest as I understand it children all level off to the same level roughly unless very talented or have a particular difficulty and so early reading as part of play is fine but parents shouldn't worry if there child shows no interest in letters or book etc.

LIZS Sun 25-May-03 18:39:05


You might find it useful to look at the Parents Guide on the website. It gives some suggestions regarding pre-reading skills and readiness to read as well as some approaches to it. There are also a few simple games on there (obviously tied into their products!).

I think there is also a govt site which has some curriculum information but cannot remember the site name - perhaps someone else knows which one I am thinking of.


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....)

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...

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 14:27:46

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

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!

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).

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