hahaha, ok. I should say, I don't know if its a correct belief or not, that kids don't need to be taught reading. Its interesting to hear the opinions of others. I have absolutely no data or evidence to back it up and to be fair I have also known unschooled teenagers who literally do not know their alphabets, who reached 18 completely unable to read or spell. Dunno if this is a problem or not really.
This is just the assumption that I had when my kids were little, and this was based not just on extensive reading-Holt, alison mckee, etc-but also on having known several homeschooled and unschooled kids while growing up (round here, unschooling is really not such a big deal, we don't really have many highly structured homeschoolers at all and back when I was growing up I think even more British homeschoolers were unschoolers/autonomous than now).
What I meant by "teach themself" was really being in charge of learning to read. Learning to read without anyone else sitting down and saying "you need to learn to read". For some kids, this might mean asking parents to research and buy a reading program. Others might learn to read off the back of cornflakes packets or by asking what the odd word meant, like my middle child.
I do still believe most children-most people even-can and will, at some point, take charge and decide to learn to read, and be sucessful in doing so. I've seen it with my older daughter, and I'm seeing it begin with my younger daughter. I've seen it with any number of my kids friends. I also believe that there is a normal range of learning to read which spans something like 3 to 10, but also that reading outside those years is even then not a huge concern. Bascially, reading, once you are fluent, is not something that you get much better at, and so IMO there isn't much advantage in reading at 4 over reading at 13. A lot of reading ability is actually maturity, growing familiarity with language, etc, and these aren't skills you gain by doing a lot of reading. IMHO. Reading is a composite of skills, which is why, IMO, it is SO incredibly common to see late reading kids catch and and surpass their peers who have been reading for ages-late readers have been working on other skills that ultimately serve them as well or better as readers than simply perfecting phonic knowledge.
However, I also believe that some children do struggle disproportionately with learning to read, and can be helped by systematic intervention. Based on my experience with my son, I think that these children can also sometimes benefit from having an adult step in and take the lead, because by the time they'd tried and failed to teach themselves, all the while often watching other kids learn quite easily, they really can have lost confidence in their ability to learn to read. My feeling with my son was that the best route out of a really vicious cycle was to teach him, as swiftly and effectively as possible. Of course it would have been even better if either he had taught himself (he would then have had the confidence and knowlege that he could teach himself), or if it stopped being such an issue for him, but neither were happening any time soon. I should point out that he has never been to school, he has never ever been told that he is a failure, or MUST learn to read by a specific time. We only stepped in after it became an issue for him, in response to the face that it was an issue for him. His difficulties were also unsual and marked enough by this time that we could be pretty sure that the problem was not that he wasn't ready to read. He was ready, but there were blocks in his way.
I think there is a specific issue with kids who have certain reading difficulties. Because of the nature of these difficulties, for some kids it can be much harder for them to pick words out of their environement. It can be harder to remember words, or sequences. I think if kids are struggling in this way, it is possible that they will need systematic teaching at some point. For my son this was making sure he had strong phonics knowledge, because he needs to be able to compensate for other problems he has when reading.
I also think that the psychological effect of having struggled is really great in some kids, including those who have never been to school, like my son-some kids are perfectionists, and this is a big deal for them. Its easy for a child like this to give up and write themselves off as not a reader, when actually all they might need is a bit (lot) of encouragement and time set aside every day to do the work, whether they feel like it or not . If my son really didn't want to do it, of course I would explore why, I never forced him to learn, but I found it so important to make sure that he knew I'd set aside time for this, I saw it as important enough to schedule in every single day.
What I do not think is that, because a small percentage of kids do have difficulties with reading, all kids should be systematically taught at an early age. TBH, when a child has reading problems, and yet wants to read, this is a pretty obvious situation to an attentive parent. There should be no need to teach every child lest a few go unnoticed.
ETA: I don't think there is anything wrong with teaching a child who has asked to be taught, so long as we remain attentive and stop if we are "overteaching". There are a couple of reasons why I, personally, would rather a child took control of the process of learning to read, even aside from the moral questions of whether people get to decide what they are taught. First, they are going to do it most effectively themselves. Its such an individual thing, building on such diverse skills, that I think its much better if it comes from the person learning. Second, more importantly, I'm in favour generally of giving kids as many positive experiences of taking control of their own learning as possible. If there is one thing I want my kids to be able to do, its to know how to learn.
Edited by Fillyjonk - 10/7/11 at 1:17pm