My older dd, who will turn 6 in October, is learning to read and write now. The reason I'm so excited is that the unschooling idea of letting go of pressure or feeling the need to teach them to write/read is working so nicely.
About a year ago she expressed frustration with me when I asked her to just read the words, she knew the alphabet, but couldn't access reading words. I have totally let go. My kids LOVE WordWorld on PBS, and this bubbly show gave her the impetus to get over her fear of reading words.
This morning she woke me up after copying "Wallace and Gromit BBC Video" on a piece of paper, excited to read it to me. So fun She is learning this because she wants to, is ready for it, and has no pressure.
My son just turned 6 and seems to be graping some of the reading and writing concepts as well. Seeing that really helps me to feel better about our choices.
Something cool I read about on a blog was a mom who throws her children a little party when they learn to read and buys them a book of their choice. I thought that sounded so fun!
<>< Mama to DS, DD, and a new baby girl 4/1!
Created an instant family (7/89 and 5/91) in 1997. Made a baby boy 12/05 adopted a baby girl 8/08. Ask me about tandem adoptive nursing. Now living as gluten, dairy, cane sugar, and tomato free vegetarians. Homeschooling and loving it.
On the other hand, I assign a great deal of importance to kids being independent, and remember fondly teaching myself to read as a kid. In a sense, I've robbed my son of that joy and feeling of accomplishment, though he can get it in other ways and though he certainly has had a big hand in learning to read too. In addition, I think that a lot of early readers just read stuff for fun (witness Harry Potter), not advanced physics textbooks or something.
I guess that a correct answer to the specific question of whether it's best to wait for a kid to read on their own or to teach them depends in part on unanswerable questions (how to stack the feeling of achievement and self-realization gained, against any learning/achievement advantage conferred by earlier reading?). It also depends, I guess, in part on knowledge of how many kids would read abnormally late, to the point of serious disadvantage, if left to their own devices.
In any event I don't think six is too late to learn to read; I'm just musing. I am thrilled for you and your daughter. I hope that her sense of accomplishment and excitement carry her far, as they very well may.