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Reception class - is this normal practice

(23 Posts)
Southwestwhippet Tue 15-Sep-09 10:30:39

I have to confess I didn't go to primary school as I was HE so my experiences are very limited. I also had a mum who particularly enjoyed teaching her children to read so this was something we all did as toddlers. not bragging or anything, it makes little difference to children IMO when they learn to read but just saying this was my experience.

My friend's DD who is a lovely chatty bright girl has been in reception class all last year and starts year 1 this term. My friend does lots of stuff with her DD but isn't very interested in teaching her to read so has left that particular area to the school. Absolutely fine IMO.

But at the end of a year of school, her DD does not know how to read at all, can only write her own name and does not even know the alphabet. The school say that her DD is not interested in doing anything that is "difficult" ATM - she likes to achieve things and be successful so they are allowing her to draw etc and do other activities rather than focusing on the reading.

I can kinda see this but on the other hand, the little girl adores stories, is very imaginative and spends a lots of time making her own picture book stories to share with her mum. So it seems to me that this little girl would actually really enjoy reading if she had been taught to do it. I say this because my brother, although he was taught to read at about 3 as my mum enjoyed teaching him, was not remotely interested in the idea until about age 6 and much prefered more physical activites like bike riding so I can see that for a lot of children reading doesn't have much relavance at early school age.

I was surprised that the school hadn't taught my friend's DD at least her alphabet - I don't know what is expected of learning in reception but to me this seems to be a very odd thing to miss out on - especially as the little girl would seem to get so much out of reading.

Obviously I don't know first hand as am pregnant with no1 and didn't got to school that age myself but is this normal in schools? Not being controversial here, just interested to hear other views.

MamaG Tue 15-Sep-09 10:36:34

I wouldn't worry about it. My DD was the same at the end of reception and now, age 10, has a reading age of 15years 9 months! She galloped ahead once she got it.

My DS is in year 1 and can recognise all the letters but is still on "No floppy!" type books. I aren't worried as I know he'll whizz on with it once he gets it.

saadia Tue 15-Sep-09 10:37:15

They do teach the alphabet/phonics in dss' school in Reeption, but there is a huge variation. At then end of Reception some children were reading pretty much everything while others were still getting to grips with blending cvc words. But they would have had a lot of exposure to phonics I would think.

TigerFeet Tue 15-Sep-09 10:37:24

Your friend's dd sounds very much like mine. She has just started y1, can write her name and "cat" independently and that's it. She can't read but can decipher short words that are spelled phonetically. She doesn't know her alphabet.

It doesn't bother me in the slightest. She isn't stupid by any means, she knows a lot of facts, she hoovers up information really enthusiastically and is always asking questions and trying to make sense of the world. She's just not ready to read and write yet. Not all children progress at the same rate and I refuse to let it bother me unless she still can't read at age 7 or so.

I don't think her school are failing her at all, she loves going to school and they are happy to let her proceed at her own pace. I'd far rather this was the case than the school pushing her to do things she isn't ready to do.

I do find her lack of enthusiasm for reading difficult to understand as I could read before I started school and by age 6 was reading "What Katy Did" under the covers by torchlight. I think that my dd would get a lot out of being able to read for herself too, but the worst thing I could do would be to push her and turn it into a battleground.

In short, imho your friend's dd's school are getting it right.

littleducks Tue 15-Sep-09 10:38:59

I would be surprised to

but presumerably she has sat there on the carpet or wherever with the other children through the phonics sessions etc but hasnt learnt them herself yet?

campergirls Tue 15-Sep-09 10:56:53

It sounds to me as if the school is taking a child-led approach that ought to be very congenial to someone who is positive about HE.

Your friend's dd sounds a lot like mine at that age - loved stories, could make up complex ones, was very articulate etc. But she had no interest at all in achieving formal literacy for herself.

The school didn't push it, and she cracked reading very quickly when she was nearly 7; at just over 8 she is a very confident, fluid, and voracious reader - currently she has both Anne of Green Gables and a Harry Potter on the go.

That said, sadly it isn't 'normal' in schools because too many of them are driven by tests, the national curriculum etc, rather than trusting the child like this.

LackaDAISYcal Tue 15-Sep-09 11:09:39

I agree that the school taking a child led approach is a good thing. My DS's school is not child led at all and have been pushing reading and writing since reception, with a weekly spelling test and reading at home at least three times a week. It made our evenings into a battleground and didn't help DS to get it any quicker really. Last year, in year 2 when he was six, it all finally clicked and he went from struggling to keep up to bounding up a reading band a week and now reads anything he can get his hands on.

He is my first DC and I pushed him as much as the school wanted me to; I'll certainly be more relaxed about the younger two when they get to school in a few years time.

Builde Tue 15-Sep-09 14:38:39

An old family friend always used to say that you should be worried if you are not reading by 7. Before then, anything goes!

As an adult I am an avid reader (several books a week) but apparently I struggled to learn when I started at 5 and was slow in picking it up.

Meanwhile, my dd who is just over 5 (in year 1) can almost read anything. And with her, it's not a practice thing...she ups her reading ability just by existing! e.g. she has 'clicked'; she's 'got-it'.! My husband claims that he could read at 3. Unfortunately, his parents aren't around anymore so this can't be verified.

So, I would say that in the first few years it's probably best not to push but to wait for it to 'click'. Read bed-time stories every evening but don't push reading books too much. Also, ask the teacher if you are worried.

bidibidi Tue 15-Sep-09 14:43:03

It would worry me if the little girl in OP didn't even know the phonic sounds for any letters. Is that what you mean, OP? And a child this age 'should' have the basic concept of sounding out, how they are supposed to do it, even if they still struggle with it.

OTOH, knowing the 'alphabet' as adults say the letters, in order, does nothing to help a child to read (does it??).

smee Tue 15-Sep-09 16:22:51

The school may have a deliberate policy of not pushing too much in reception. Our primary has and it seems to work quite well. Year one is much more guided reading, phonics, etc. Reception is all about play - not that they don't learn anything, in fact they learn loads. Hooray for that I say.. grin

Southwestwhippet Wed 16-Sep-09 10:56:41

\thank you for all the replies, I can see from them that this is fairly normal practice.

I would take issue with the poster who said a 'child led' approach should be congenial to someone positive about HE. My HE education was not particularly autonous, we had a more formal structure which worked for us. Although autonomous learning is currently very popular within HE, it isn't the only way and it is not wise to make assumptions.

I would like to briefly clarify my point though. I am in complete agreement that it doesn't matter when a child learns to read and makes no difference to them in the long run.

However, this little girl would seem (to me, in my ignorance I aknowledge) to be a child who would really love to be able to read. It isn't that she has not interest in reading, she love reading with her mum and follows the stories they read avidly. She also loves comic books and other picture stories.

The school's reason for not teaching her to read is not that she isn't interested, just that she doesn't want to go through the learning process. \she will try but if it isn't easy right away, she will get frustrated and give up. To me this is a slightly different issue to one of a child 'not being interested' or 'not being engaged' with reading.

My other question (and this one is slightly HE biased) the child had made it clear that she is not realy ready to 'learn' ie she doesn't like to be challenged, work at something or to find things difficult. \so what is the point of her going to school? Couldn't she do just as well staying at home for a year and drawing, dressing up and playing with friends there? To me the purpose of school is to provide academic education. If the child doesn't want to learn and the school follows a policy of not pushing them, why is she there?

Now I am not saying the school should force children to learn, but why insist they go to school at 4 or 5 if the children themselves say they aren't ready for learning.

Just a thought, again, not looking to be confrontational here, just musing as I don't understand school very well.

Southwestwhippet Wed 16-Sep-09 11:01:31

Just wanted to add, that being pregnant with my first, school is one of the things I am really worrying about. I had a horrid time in secondary school when I went there and I'm really anxious to give my LO all the chances in the world to avoid what happened to me.

So my questions aren't meant to be critical, confrontational or judgemental. I am just really trying to explore all the options available for when my baby goes to school (I know it is a long way off but having been HE at primary age and bullied very badly at secondary, it is something I am fretting over!)

thanks everyone

ForestFloor Wed 16-Sep-09 11:06:19

SWW - can I just take issue with your view that it doesn't matter when a child learns to read and makes no difference in the long run.

Being able to read gives a child access to a whole world of creativity and information. If reading is an early habit, then it is easier to sustain when the likes of a play station come into their world. If a child can't read but gets a DS/Wii, then it is much harder to get them to sit with a book for pleasure when they are used to instant gratification from a game.

Reading gives access to knowledge that stimulates further learning, gives confidence, skills.

I know you can't force a child to learn if they aren't ready, but I do think reading should be encouraged in a child, and that a child should not be allowed to 'discover' reading for themselves in their own time.

Rant over!

BalloonSlayer Wed 16-Sep-09 11:08:55

When my DD was 3 or 4, DH used to write the words "the" and "and" on a piece of paper.

He'd remind DD what they each were, then read her a story, but fall silent whenever he got to "the" or "and," so that DD could "read" those words for him.

I think it really helped encourage her to read because she knew a couple of words and felt a success from the start. That sort of thing might encourage your friend's DD.

campergirls Wed 16-Sep-09 11:20:12

Sorry for wrong assumption re HE - all the HEers I know are very much guided by their children. I do know that that isn't always the case. I'd have to disagree with you that 'child-led' is synonymous with 'autonomous', though.

Just to say again: I think my dd was just like your friend's dd, and it seems to me that the teachers you are fretting about are being just as perceptive and smart as my dd's were in allowing this little girl to find her way to reading when she is ready. I don't see that she is at any disadvantage from not learning to read yet, sounds like she is having a great time!

re the playing with friends instead of being in school - yes of course - if you have an environment that facilitates that - i.e. an HE community around you. If not, then a rising 5 child who doesn't go to school may find themselves a bit short of other children to play with. I agree that that may well be regrettable, but `tis how `tis.

IMO and IME, formal education is a relatively small part of the purpose of school. I wouldn't deny that in part it exists simply to prepare children to enter the workforce in particular ways. But looking at it from the point of view of *my children*, I'd say that for them the main purposes of going to their (state, not in a posh area) primary school are to get: a wide range of social opportunities with other children and adults, across an extensive age range and from a variety of social backgrounds; learning experiences that challenge, build on, extend, and complement those we offer them as a family; opportunities to find out what their strengths and weaknesses are, and to work on them; experience in negotiating with others over shared tasks; the chance to be surprised by new experiences; a social space separate from their family, where they can try out and learn about different ways of being in the world; a chance to be part of a warm and positive community.

That all sounds like something from an education policy document - so maybe I could sum it up by saying that for my kids, the purposes of school are fun, friends and learning. We are lucky of course that they go to a lovely school and thrive there - I know that school doesn't work for everyone. And I also know that for lots of people, HE can be a good way of getting all the above.

Southwestwhippet Wed 16-Sep-09 12:07:32

campergirls - no worries, you are right that autonomous and child lead are not the same, my fault for typing a bit quick and not thinking smile

thanks for your post,it has given me some food for thought. My DP and I have had some arguements about school as I am very afraid of it and have a lot of doubts. it is really good for me to read about your positive experience and definately lots to think about.

To be honest, I'm not fretting about my friend's DD or her teachers... my friend isnt worried so why should I be smile I was just wondering why I should be talking into sending my child to school against my instincts (which is how I feel sometimes with my DP) for them not to achieve anything. \but the points you have raised do demonstrate a value to school outside of the academics which is worth consideration.

forestfloor I can see where you are coming from. Of course it matters when a child learns to read, i think my stand more accurately would be that some children learn to read at 2 or 3, some do not pick it up until 5 or 6 but this is not an overall reflection on their long term academic ability. I was trying to avoid a zillion angry posts from parents whose children read later and thought I was insinuating that they or their children were 'failures' because of it - which I am most definately not doing!

I have a brother who was reading Encycolopedia Britanica at the age of 3 (obsessed with dinosaurs) and another who never read for pleasure until about 6. Both turned out to be academic high achievers.

campergirls Wed 16-Sep-09 12:24:59

Yes I can see now that you are just using the friend's dd as a kind of stimulus for your own thinking about what education would be right for your child - initially you did come across as a bit judgy but that's obviously not what you intended smile.

I didn't have a great time at school either tbh, and am really happy that it is going better for my kids. Their experience is SO different from mine back in the 70s...

Forestfloor - I would say that it is possible to encourage a love of books that will stand a child in good stead, without insisting that they learn to read before they are ready for it. Evidence shows that the most important single factor in promoting reading in children is not teaching them phonics or whatever, but having adults who read in their presence in their daily life - whether reading to them, or just modelling reading by doing it in front of them.

SWW - I am very enthusiastic about HE, although it is not what we do (for all sorts of reasons). But I would say that if you go ahead and HE your child, it would be better done as a positive choice than as a reaction to fear about school that (entirely understandably) has more to do with your own unhappy experiences than the potential realities of school for your child. Maybe you could try and get a feel for what your local primaries are really like - e.g. go along if they have events open to the public. Once you have your baby, you will probably meet other mums who have kids at the local schools and will find out about them like that too.

ForestFloor Wed 16-Sep-09 12:33:16

I agree a love of books is the most important thing smile.
However, actually teaching them, with an expectation that the child will learn is the best approach imo. Letting a child not try because they don't want to is not helping them. Learning to read can be difficult for children, so they need to be helped and encouraged. Not trying to teach them is excluding them from so much.
I know children should still be read to, but independent reading seems to be an activity that fewer children engage in these days, so I am all for encouraging it as early as possible, alongside being read to by others.

Southwestwhippet Wed 16-Sep-09 12:36:13

thanks campergirls that is exactly where I was coming from smile Hugs all round LOL

You are definately right that I need to find out more about school before I reach my decision. The problem my DP and I have when we talk is that he went to school for his entire academic career and was bullied very badly in secondary school, and a little in primary school. However, he is positive about these experiences in terms of believing they made him a stronger person and gave him valuable life skills.

I had a wonderful time in my primary school years being HE but when I did go to school I was also very badly bullied. unlike my DP, I do not feel that this experience gave me any life skills, in fact it has left me with an ongoing self esteem issue and recurent depressive episodes.

So it is a tricky situation as we are both pretty emotive about it! My friend's DD is the only school age child I know closely but I think I need to go and look at school and talk to other parents as well to get a full picture. Thanks for your advice!

cory Wed 16-Sep-09 12:55:32

It is not the case that the school are never planning to make your friend's dd work hard at anything, or that she will not be discovering the wonderful world of letters at any time. Doesn't mean to start at 4 years old.

Ime Reception was very play based, but then the children were gradually brought on to do more work in Yr 1. It's not like you've lost the opportunity forever if you haven't learnt to read by the age of 5. I grew up in Sweden where I was considered exceptionally early because I taught myself to read aged 5. Most of my friends didn't learn until they were 7. But we did know a few other things.

My dcs went to school in the UK, where neither of them learned to read in Reception, but both of them have learnt since; dd at 12 has read both Vanity Fair and Bleak House and pretty well everything by Jane Austen.

But I certainly wouldn't say Reception achieved nothing: they learnt socially, but they also learnt lots of things about the world, they had their horizons expanded.

campergirls Wed 16-Sep-09 12:55:37

I'd also say that I think it's important not to make school/HE decisions in the abstract, but to get to know your child, and to think about what would suit them best. And of course, as well as getting to know your local schools, you'll want to find out what the HE community is like in your area.

smee Wed 16-Sep-09 14:25:34

Southwest, obviously it's impossible to predict, but when your child reaches school you might find yourself feeling a bit differently. I assumed my son would start reading at 4, as that's when I did. But here am I with a 5 year old, who loves books yet isn't anywhere near solo reading. He's bright, sparky, loves his books, but simply hasn't clicked yet. I think it's one of the most intriguing parts of parenthood to watch and see how they learn and pick up on things and you learn masses about yourself in the process too. So when you get to that point you may find your child reads at 3, or not until 7. Might sound extreme, but actually both are quite normal depending on the child and many parents would argue later on that it doesn't matter very much in terms of how they progress. Good luck with the birth then and congratulations!!

Southwestwhippet Wed 16-Sep-09 19:23:32

Thanks everyone, I am definitely "in the abstract" here grin Good point about actually getting to know my baby before I make any decisions! I am really just asking questions and finding stuff out, I'm not looking to come to any resolution at this point.

I don't mind when my baby learns to read... although I have to admit that I have been looking forward to teaching my child(ren) to read since I was about 16!!! It is something I helped my brothers and sisters do and really enjoyed. Still, if my baby isn't interested, I won't be so selfish as to force them smile

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