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What do you think about 'teaching' toddlers to read?

post #1 of 35
Thread Starter 
My son just turned 3 (not really a toddler, but I have not yet figured out what to 'call' kids this age)... I have intentionally not taught him anything about reading. He knew most of his letters of the alphabet at 16 or 17 months...at that time I made a conscious decision that if he picked up reading on his own, that was fine, but I was not going to teach him how to read until he was at least 4 or 5. At that time, everyone was telling me that he would be reading at 2 or 3 and seemed so excited about it. I couldn't see the benefit in him reading that young. He is already quite a bookworm and will spend lots of time listening to stories. I actually have to encourage him to get outside and play because if he always chose what he was going to do, he would do nothing except look at books. (To put this in perspective, we still read an average of 40 - 50 books a day...I'm certainly not depriving him of book time, but after 30 or 45 minutes of reading I try to encourage him to do something else for awhile)

I am a bookworm as well, but actually think that I may have been better off socially when growing up if I hadn't always had books as an escape. As an adult I have developed more emotional intelligence and have lots of friends, but it was difficult when I was younger.

I am curious if people see a benefit to actively teaching kids to read at a young age (I am specifically speaking of kids who would be enjoy it and have an aptitude for it) as opposed to helping them develop some other skills at this age and letting them learn to read for themselves when they are 4 or 5.

As a note, I was never taught to read. My parents found out that I knew how to read when I was 3 because I was sitting on my dad's lap and started reading the newpaper to him.
post #2 of 35
I never actively set out to teach my kids to learn to read. Only one of them learned at age 4 or 5. Three of them learned at 3, one at 4.5, though only one was really truly fluent with proper novels (eg. Narnia) before age 5. Many children, and even some quite gifted ones, do not learn until after age 5. There's a huge range. Personally I think your instinct to allow your ds to pace and direct his own literacy learning is dead on.

Miranda
post #3 of 35
Quote:
Originally Posted by lld View Post

I am curious if people see a benefit to actively teaching kids to read at a young age (I am specifically speaking of kids who would be enjoy it and have an aptitude for it) as opposed to helping them develop some other skills at this age and letting them learn to read for themselves when they are 4 or 5.
.

This sums it up for me. A child that young that has an aptitude/interest/drive to learn will mostly learn to read on their own.

Keep reading to you DC, answer his questions, talk about the books, point out interesting words----keep it fun simple and child led. At 2,3,4, or 5 if the child wants to learn to read they often figure it out with little more than exposure to text and the general discussions that occur, they will learn through playing with words and sounds. Formal lessons are not needed.

I have twin DDs. Both new alphabet & sounds by 18 months. Some sight words by age 2.5 (names, stores, dog, cat, z00- stuff they were interested in!!) DD1 could read basic primers at just past age 3 and reads fluently now at 4.5 at a late 2nd grade level. She knows most phonetic rules by figuring them out and common word patterns. DD2 read basic primers at 3.5 and now at 4.5 reads at a 1st grade level. She is a sight reader and has memorized most words she knows.

Both self-taught. Both bright- but they went about it differently and I let them. If I had tried a 'formal' method somehow one of them would have been taught against their natural inclination to learn (by phonetics or sight). Most early reader lessons are phonetically based. My sight reader would have gotten frustrated and may have developed an aversion or negative attitude toward reading if I had tried to push phonics on her more quickly. Plus they were both 'ready' to read at different times.

So we simply read together, talked about words, played with language when they expressed interest (rhymes, songs, etc). I provided books and answers to questions they had- but subjects and topics were child led.


There is much joy in the discovery of learning at this age (ages 2-6)- if they truly want to learn many children will piece things together through asking adults questions to guide them, reading on their own, and exploration. That actually goes for any subject (math, reading, science, art, etc)


But that is just my 2 cents.
post #4 of 35
What I think about teaching a toddler (or a preschooler) to read depends a lot on one's definition of "teaching." But if "teaching" is defined as an adult deciding that a child should learn something and taking steps to make that happen, I strongly disapprove. If it is defined as rigidly following a formal learn-to-read program, I strongly disapprove. If it is defined as reading to your child, answering your child's questions, and/or not preventing your child from using games and toys that involve the alphabet, I wholeheartedly do approve.

I believe that kids who are ready to learn to read early do. They approach learning to read in very different, and often unorthodox ways. They love to read and are driven to learn. Why any parent would want to step in & interfere with that is beyond me. And why a parent would want to teach a toddler or a preschooler who is not ready is also beyond me.

By way of full disclosure, my kiddo taught herself to read sight words at 2 and read fluently at 3. It's great for her (and saves my voice). But she'd be fine without that skill too. It's not as though she sits & reads all day every day.
post #5 of 35
I got tired of reading ds 30 books a day (and my mom reading him the same amount on top of that) so I am 'teaching' him to read. BUT he asked me to teach him and wants me to!
We dont do it every day, just whenever he asks, and he is picking it up really fast. He has known all of his letters and the sounds for a while, so is learning to put them together.

Once he started though, it was much harder to read out loud to him b/c he wants to know what everything says making it take FOREVER to read one little book. So now I have to read him books for older kids out loud in order for him to relax and just listen!
post #6 of 35
Quote:
Originally Posted by moominmamma View Post
...I think your instinct to allow your ds to pace and direct his own literacy learning is dead on.
I agree w/ this. And FWIW my son was spontaneously pointing out letters and knew many of their sounds before he was 2, ditto on writing his own name at 2 and a few months (I had no idea he could write anything at that point as I'd never spent any time writing with him at all) and I thought he'd be an early reader (lol, like me, I could read at 4 and it was a surprise to everyone b/c nobody had taught me how). But now at almost 5 1/2 he doesn't read fluently (actually its a bit of a mystery to us how much he can read, we are pretty sure he is capable of reading quite a bit but the whole gestalt of it hasn't yet "clicked" for him.) This is fine with me, he's clearly a very smart capable kid and I am confident he'll be reading when *he* is ready.

From what I've seen of his friends and the many kids I've babysat for (2 different ones who were VERY smart but didn't read until close to age 6, and are AVID readers now), the ones who are driven to read early will figure it out w/out much direct instruction. The ones who won't may be quite frustrated by direct instruction, and yes, I believe that focusing on reading before they are developmentally ready for it might take away from the other things they need and want to be doing.

-Emma
post #7 of 35
I'm not against teaching a child who is asking you for lessons. My eldest was "taught" to read. She was 5 and begged me to "teach" her daily. I broke up the rules and took about 2 weeks passing them along to her in the form of 5 minute lessons. She was reading 5th grade level chapter books fluently about a month after first asking me to teach her. Granted, this same kid was spelling and writing words and sentances phonetically at 2 so it wasn't like she hadn't developed any reading skills on her own. All I really did was formalize the structure for her when she was ready to put everything together. The nice thing about waiting for her to make the decision was that she met fluency so rapidly and never really went through that stage of the material she wanted to read being too advanced for her.

My youngest started picking up words himself around his 2nd birthday but he wouldn't be what I considered a fluent reader until 7. Granted, he also had a visual tracking issue that didn't resolve itself until age 7 as well as being mildly dyslexic. Basically, he taught himself to read any word at any level by age 4 but couldn't get through one page of the most simple Dr. Seuss book. Teaching him would have been a major frustration at age 3 and we wouldn't have known why at the time. At 9 he reads many years above grade level in 2languages.

DH and myself both were reading fluently at 3. Both of us were taught. I remember flashcards and the worry of getting words wrong. DH had 3 much older sisters who thought it was fun to play teacher. It didn't hurt us but it also wasn't a choice we made for our own children. Statistically, only about 50 percent of gifted children read before kindergarten so it's important not to see early reading as the definitive mark of a gifted child.
post #8 of 35
I have a hunch (more knowledgeable posters please correct me) that you can drill toddlers and pre-schoolers (which is what I'd call a child three and above) in letter recognition and possibly in sounding out, but you cannot actually make a child read books unless the child is developmentally ready. (I am not even sure about sounding out being teachable as I noticed that when DS first asked how to write words as a two-year old he simply didn't get it and now he does. Still doesn't get how to sound out words to read as opposed to writing them at 3.5.)
And I think that there is a tiny number of 2- and 3-year olds who are developmentally ready (though I am sure a sizable proportion of their moms hang out in this forum).

All of the above telling you yes, I am one of those who teaches as in he asks, I explain. I will also gently correct letters or numbers he has written by telling him that writing right to left is very unconventional in western countries, though very usual in the middle east, and will make grandpas's name hard to read for him ("I'll just read it to him then!"), or that there is an easier way to write an H than making 5 individual strokes and so on...I also do occasionally "check" whether he understands sounding out print yet (not so far), or ask for some words I think he may have down as sight words (a few), just to sort of document for myself where he is at. It would not occur to me to do lessons though,and weeks may go by in which he does not ask for writing new words.

I encourage interests as they present themselves, as it were, no priorities. I think they are all fun - well most, I do refer him to his father, the physics teacher, for his interest in drawing nuclear plants and electrical circuits and stuff, there are limits to what I will involve myself with).

Stuff that I am actually on top on in the line of teaching would be life skills - wiping your bottom, dressing and undressing, social skills.
post #9 of 35
you know only in this country (i mean the US) would we even ask a question like this.

this is a sore point with me. this is the reason why i think the education in this country suffers.

if anything i went out of my way to make sure i DID NOT encourage this at all. if dd was going to pick it up on her own then that was her thing. i didnt buy her any, ANY alphabet toys ever. and she was in a total play based ps/dc.

however she knew her alphabets by 18 months. she was a bookworm and we spent a lot of time reading.

she didnt really read till she was in K. she is a whole language reader and when she was younger she refused to read from books. she made it harder because she tried reading cereal boxes, shampoo bottles, etc.

yet her reading didnt take off till she was in first grade. not sure exactly what happened. she went from dr seuss to eragon in one month and since then she is about 4 grade levels ahead.

now as a kid if she had asked me she wanted to learn how to read or showed interest openly i would have happily done it. but that was something i absolutely refused to focus on when she was little.

and it has paid off. she goes to a tough 3rd grade class. she is a second grader in a split classroom. her teacher told me all his kids have cried, multiple times, but dd hasnt. ever. not even once. instead she negotiates with the teacher over work. for instance she got 25 pages of hw over spring break. now hw is between her teacher and her. i dont get involved. anyways she worked out a deal where she took a week and a half longer to turn it in.

HOWEVER...

i can understand some parents for whom doing that is important. for instance they had a hard time in k or first keeping up with their class and all the shame and punishment they were put under. or at least just the extra work. so i can see them trying to make their children learn how to read before K just so their kids dont go through the heartache they went through.
post #10 of 35
I was kind of waffling on this b/c DD was attempting to sound out blends like th (three) and getting confused. So I was like what do I do? I didn't want to teach her, but I didn't want her to get frustrated.

Then I realized that while she is reading and picking up new words, she's not actually interested in reading kwim? She's just picking it up here and there.

So for now, I just read to her and we go over words she's interested in. If she starts wanting to independently read then I will facilitate that (and I do imagine that desire will manifest soon), but so long as she's not looking to read books to herself yet, I'm just going to be very hands off.

We play with letters and she makes up 'words' etc... and I'm leaving it at that.

V
post #11 of 35
Teaching a child who's not developmentally ready to read is a lot of wasted effort, IMO. Much better to explore the world and foster creativity.

Teaching a child who asks to learn is another thing. But even if they ask to learn, they may not be developmentally ready. Dd first asked me to teach her to read at age 3. She had known her letters and their sounds for a while. But she couldn't break up words into sounds and she couldn't rhyme yet, so I knew she wasn't developmentally ready. I got a few of the Bob books and we worked through about half of them before she lost interest. The next year, she spent memorizing books and 'pretending' to read. She asked me again to teach her to read at age 4. Again, we got some early readers and worked through a few of them before she lost interest.

Then at age 5, I realized she could read. I highly doubt that our 12 lessons really taught her. She mostly figured it out on her own. She's very much a top-down, whole word reader (for example, she was reading a sign in the elevator and read the word 'management' with no trouble, but stumbled on 'file'). So this summer we'll work a bit on phonics to help her be able to sound things out. She's already reading at about a 2nd grade level (she's in K), so I'm not doing this to 'teach' her to read so much as I am to shore up a few skills so that she's not so frustrated when she does read.

So, I don't think there's harm in giving a few lessons to a child who asks. But you really do have to follow their lead.
post #12 of 35
Quote:
Originally Posted by lld View Post
I am curious if people see a benefit to actively teaching kids to read at a young age (I am specifically speaking of kids who would be enjoy it and have an aptitude for it) as opposed to helping them develop some other skills at this age and letting them learn to read for themselves when they are 4 or 5.
Bolding mine. I don't think they have to be mutually exclusive activities. I agree with child-led learning and following their interests in whether to assist them with reading. I think that if a 2 or 3 y.o. is interested in learning letters and reading, it's possible to explore this with them, as well as helping them develop all sorts of other skills - social, activities of daily life, athletic, artistic, you name it. A well-balanced life will incorporate all sorts of activities and interests though - at every age. I'm not talking about sitting a child down and drilling the alphabet and phonics flashcards, though. Perhaps I'm not understanding what you mean by "actively teaching".

I also think parental modeling is important. If the parents prefer to spend all their time reading and don't socialize much or participate in arts or sports, it's not surprising that the children follow this example.
post #13 of 35
I find this topic very interesting.
I have always wondered what happens to the "your baby can read" kids as the progress through school. Do they stay ahead, slow down, or get burned out.
To clarify, I am not interested in using the program. I just want to know if the "hype" actually has a payoff for someone other than company who sells it.
post #14 of 35
Quote:
I have always wondered what happens to the "your baby can read" kids as the progress through school. Do they stay ahead, slow down, or get burned out
I can't speak for that particular program but I remember a special I saw once on a school that taught parents how to create genious in their kids. It was basically a constant series of flashcards but I will say, by 4, these kids were pretty incredible. They could quote and read Shakespeare, identify composers, label any sort of jet ever produced in the United States, ect. I don't know that they had any sort of real perspective on what they were learning but it certainly showed me that rote memory is achievable in most kids given enough exposure. They did interview several graduates as teenagers and not a single one retained any of that knowledge they had at 4. At that point, many were smart high achievers though it could be argued that any parent willing to spend 1/2 of every single day on flashcards the first several years of a child's life is going to continue to enrich and put pressure on a kid to succeed. They didn't bring up which ones ended up with the gifted identification though and the school wouldn't remark on it.
post #15 of 35
Children are sponges and will learn what one teaches them. It is really debatable whether that should be reading and Shakespeare at that age. IMO, no it isn't useful. If they are going to be early readers then that will happen naturally.
post #16 of 35
Quote:
Originally Posted by whatsnextmom View Post
I can't speak for that particular program but I remember a special I saw once on a school that taught parents how to create genious in their kids. It was basically a constant series of flashcards but I will say, by 4, these kids were pretty incredible. They could quote and read Shakespeare, identify composers, label any sort of jet ever produced in the United States, ect. I don't know that they had any sort of real perspective on what they were learning but it certainly showed me that rote memory is achievable in most kids given enough exposure. They did interview several graduates as teenagers and not a single one retained any of that knowledge they had at 4. At that point, many were smart high achievers though it could be argued that any parent willing to spend 1/2 of every single day on flashcards the first several years of a child's life is going to continue to enrich and put pressure on a kid to succeed. They didn't bring up which ones ended up with the gifted identification though and the school wouldn't remark on it.
Interesting. I met a lady who did the "Your baby can read" thing on the bus the other day. She was telling me her son knew his alphabet, numbers, colors etc. between 1-2. He was still only 2 so I can't tell you how he ended up. She was telling me to check it out for DD and I just politely tried to change the subject.

Part of our problem is people tend to assume we're interested in stuff like that since we speak multiple languages at home and DD already can do some of that stuff too. It's funny because we are soooooo not like that!
post #17 of 35
Quote:
Children are sponges and will learn what one teaches them. It is really debatable whether that should be reading and Shakespeare at that age. IMO, no it isn't useful. If they are going to be early readers then that will happen naturally
.

I wasn't saying learning Shakespeare at 4 was useful, only that it was impressive. The program that encouraged such hothousing was all about impressive. Why else would you have baby flashcards to teach an infant different breeds of dogs lol! My point was that they didn't retain that ability and didn't seem to give them any longterm benefit.

Personally, we know a a couple 4-year-olds with a love for Shakespeare but they come to in naturally with family in theatre or big into renn faires and such.
post #18 of 35
Quote:
Why else would you have baby flashcards to teach an infant different breeds of dogs lol!
Thanks just sounds crazy to me. LOL
post #19 of 35
Interesting discussion. I have three kids (only one identified as gifted at this time). The first had all of her letters and sounds by around 3-3.5. Just fun stuff that she loved doing. She would bring it to me, or they would do coloring pages in preschool (or crafts). You could point to a letter and ask her what that letter said, and she'd do great. Put three letters together, and nothing. She couldn't put those letter sounds together into a word until mid year 1st grade. I wouldn't say that it really, really clicked until beginning of 2nd grade. Sounding words out? Still not really her thing, even though she's in third grade, and about a 5th grade reading level.

DD2, hung on our every word while we were working with DD1 in first grade. She was in her first year of preschool (just turned 4). While I was nursing DD3 down for a nap one afternoon in the spring, DD2 was begging me to read to her. But, she didn't want to sit still, and wanted to control the entire process. I, instead, asked her if she wanted to play a game instead. She asked me to quiz her on letters and sounds. She pointed to several letters in the book we had out, and started putting them together. I wrote a few simple words out for her and she read them proudly. She insisted on moving on to real books and we got the BOB books out. She went through those like a brush fire. I would say she moved from a kindergarten level (where I put the BOB books) to 2nd grade in about a year. She started kindergarten this year, and in the last 9 months has moved from 2nd to about a 5th grade reading level. I couldn't have made her start reading. But, I wasn't going to hold her back when she was insisting and begging me to help her.

DD3 has shown very sporadic interest. She turned 4 in November, and wanted to read the BOB books then. She easily got through the first few books, but then lost interest. She has had some renewed interest in the last few days, and it seems that she is able to decode these books a lot quicker. We haven't been drilling her or putting any pressure on her. But, she is exposed to a lot of reading in our house, is read to by me, her father, and her two sisters. Her sisters may be quizzing her, for all I know. It's in a playful environment, and I am following her lead. She has certainly never accepted her sisters as authority figures, so I imagine if she didn't want to do whatever they are doing with her, she wouldn't.

I guess a long winded post to say that I think kids learn to read when they are ready. I look at my job as parent is to have a wide variety of books available, to read to them as they are interested, and answer their questions as they come. DD1 was not going to read before she was developmentally ready. Seeing as she went from a preschool level to grade level (1) in the span of about a month shows that when the time was right, it clicked. I am more concerned that they maintain a love of reading, both for pleasure and for information.
post #20 of 35
Eh, we are "teaching" DD to read, but it all started with her asking about letters (someone gave us some bath letters), passionately asking... then her getting frustrated when she couldn't ID certain common words in books quite yet... like a lot have said, she asked questions, we answered, and we were/are always reading to her. DD is a language kind of a kid, always making up songs that actually have good meter and rhymes, faster than I can do sometimes. She's the kid at the park sitting in front of the ABC chart going through the letters or trying to read the safety signs... well, our culture is odd to put the ABCs on climbing structures, but I'd be trying to get her to slide and play and she'd want to sit and do letters. She sees us reading a lot but we definitely tried not to push learning to read (even passively by showing more excitement over her exploring letters than other stuff like dirt... which I do encourage a lot towards, I admit! I'm not afraid of screwing her up with love of nature at least) so who knows, maybe it's genetic, maybe it's her being in my belly while I taught Shakespeare . We just tried to make it following her lead/responding to her needs/getting dragged along when she got obsessed with stuff, just like for everything else. Right now she can read a lot of sight words and sound out lots of words, but she's not reading whole books to herself or anything. She just turned 3.
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