Pondering Reading

Yesterday ElvenTiger tried out for her first play, “The Grinch.” Along with three of her friends who tried out with her, she got a part as a Who villager. This means she’ll be part of the “Whoville Chorus.” Since she’s even more interested in singing than acting, it’s perfect for her.

I think I was more nervous than she was about the audition. She practiced a Christmas carol, as instructed – she sang “Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer” in a jazzy campy sort of style that she said the director liked. I was worried about her being handed part of a script to read. She still reads slowly, and I thought she might have trouble acting while reading something she hadn’t seen before.

It turned out to be a non-issue. She and I practiced the page of dialogue while she was waiting her turn, and since most of it was in rhyme, she internalized it quickly (this kid has a musical soul). I didn’t go in to see the audition, but she said she was easily able to perform her part, using a combination of reading and remembering what we’d already rehearsed. Very cool.

So today, I ran across this article and, as an avid reader myself, I agreed with much of it. The only part I took issue with was forcing kids to read on a schedule not their own. I do understand why that’s important for a school system, which needs to standardize things for large groups of kids. But I personally prefer it when kids learn things according to their own schedule, based on their interests (thus unschooling, which works so well for us). Actually, we do and have done many of the things on the list in the article, but on the kids’ own timetable.

As usually happens (I love synchronicity), another article popped up, this time on Facebook, where an online unschooling friend mentioned it. I love the way the two articles complement each other (from my perspective), even though they come from very different philosophies of education.

Then I started actively looking for essays on late readers and unschooling, and formulating the idea for this blog post. My two favorites are one by well-known author Sandra Dodd, and one from a website I’d never seen before. As a bookworm with a house full of books who has been reading to her kids since before they were born, I find the topic fascinating. And it’s also quite interesting to me to observe how Dryst learned to read quite easily and fluently, and ElvenTiger, raised in the same household, is taking her time and developing her own ways of learning to read. Some would say, and I started to write, that she “struggles with” reading, but I don’t think that’s the case. She finds it challenging, but like many things in life, it’s worth taking the time to practice, and ultimately master.


Pondering Reading — 5 Comments

  1. The reasons that public schools teach reading at the Kindergarten and 1st grade levels is because that’s when the average child is ready on a neurological and psychological level to learn that information. Some children are a little earlier (like me) and others are a little later (like two of my siblings). It’s the same with all subjects–they’re taught at the developmental stage of readiness after hundreds of years of research on how children learn and develop. When we let those windows of readiness pass, it becomes much, much harder for a child to learn a particular skill. We, as adults, have a much harder time learning a new language or skill than a small child would, because our brains are no longer in that state of readiness. I totally agree that children should not be forced beyond their current capabilities, but not gently pushing a child who is afraid of trying something new and failing allows that window to pass making it far more difficult to learn later.

  2. That’s certainly one way to look at it, and a fairly prevalent one in our culture. I’m not sure about the “hundreds of years” of research, though, since institutional schooling on a large scale has only been around since the 1900s. I’m glad there are so many varieties of choice and experience these days! If I’d been aware of homeschooling as a child, I would have LOVED it! And like you I was an early fluent reader, before I ever set foot in a school…

  3. A lot of the data that modern psychologists and educators built upon for deciding when it’s best to teach different things was from ancient Greek, Roman, and Egyptian teachings when philosophers were advocating for formalized education of children.

  4. I think there might be something in the birth order – i.e. children who are born first tend to read faster.

    Anecdotally, my older sister was always more successful academically than my younger sister and me. We weren’t homeschoolers, but teaching reading was handled differently when I was young.

    And with my own children, Big Little Sister was reading by the time she was six – fluently and independently. Her two younger sisters are still working on it – the oldest of whom is ten.

    It would be interesting to do an informal poll of unschoolers with more than one child to see how their reading ability progressed.

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