Judging from the plethora of books in the market on “How to teach your baby/child to read” and hundreds of similarly titled books, we can safely deduce that parents and educators view the ability to read (and starting as early as possible!) to be highly and profoundly important.
And hence, when the child is still unable to do so at a late age of 7, 8 our 9, parents would invariably hit the panic button and wonder if there was anything “wrong” with the child. Well, first check the following before you hit that button:
1. Has your child been consistently exposed to read-aloud sessions at home?
2. Have you set up a library at your home where books are easily accessed by your child?
3. Does your child see you reading on a regular basis? (not inclusive of newspaper or advertisement leaflets!)
4. Do you have enjoyable sessions together with books at home – talking about stories, pictures and making crafts together?
If you have done all of the above, and your child still hasn’t caught up on reading, DO NOT PANIC! Consider the following:
1. “Children mature at different ages, and some learn to read much sooner than others….Indeed, quite a few children learn to read before or after they enter school without receiving any training in decoding or other skills. They learn it at home, more or less independently from what they are taught in class, being children who have acquired a love of reading as they were being read to.” (Bruno Bettelheim & Karen Zelan, “On Learning To Read”)
2. “Children may actively resist learning to read out of some anxiety connected with it, or because they experience it as utterly boring (which it is, when we fail to involve ourselves personally in what reading can offer us). Such children see reading as alien to their true interests; it is an imposed task that provides neither enjoyment nor other valuable rewards, an activity which, while potentially useful in the future, demands too much for what it can offer at the time.”
3. John Holt (How Children Learn): “It will probably help many children get started in reading if their parents read aloud to them. However, this isn’t some kind of magic pill, and if the reading isn’t.fun for both parent and child, it will do more harm than good.”
A father approached us recently to discuss an issue that has been confronting his family. His 9-year-old had yet to master reading. On listening to him talk about the issue, I began to understand why. His older child was an early reader and had grown to be a voracious reader. This created a lot of pressure on the younger child, and it didn’t help matters that she was constantly being asked why she hadn’ t learned to read. Gradually the family was getting worried that there was something seriously wrong with this child. And the child can feel all this tension around her that she may be hesitant to even try. Poor child. All she needed was time to figure it out on her own. Instead she is put under this unspoken pressure!
So, do take it easy.
Trust your child that he or she will figure it out.
Make read aloud sessions enjoyable.
And time will do the rest!