Why do people care when other people's children learn to read or write? - Mothering Forums

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#1 of 23 Old 01-25-2007, 12:40 AM - Thread Starter
 
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Seriously. Every child is different and every child learns on a different curve and at a different rate.

Believe it or not some children actually have the desire to read and write at a young age, just as other children have the desire to put puzzles together, build with blocks or play dress up.

People don't make bold assumptions about whether or not children are being pressured or "hothoused"..or use this smilie while lamenting on how little unstructured free-play a child must have when they begin crawling, walking, talking or eating with a spoon at an earlier age.

What is it about children reading or writing at a young age that makes people feel the need to defend why they are glad their own children of the same age are not?

Just curious as I see this topic raised quite often in threads on this board and the reaction for the most part is universally negative.
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#2 of 23 Old 01-25-2007, 01:09 AM
 
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There's been an interesting thread going on that started about teaching babies to read. I think you'll find that people here don't say children should be prevented from learning to read if that's what they want. The issue you'll see brought up around here is about trying to push it on them - because there are generally things that are more appropriate for the average child at those early ages. But everyone agrees over and over again that every child is different and learns different things at different rates - this has not been disputed here to my knowledge - although there are some broad generalizations that do apply to some extent to various ages. I've never seen anyone here seeming to defend the fact that her child did not read early; but someone will occasionally mention being glad, for whatever reason, that hers did not.

On this page you'll find a number of articles that discuss why the reaction may seem negative at time - but again, it's not about anyone feeling there's something wrong with children learning early if they want to. Lillian
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#3 of 23 Old 01-25-2007, 01:12 AM
 
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I don't think in and of itself early reading/writing is inherently bad or wrong anymore than early walking or talking is. I think there is more of a danger in turning something that is at the beginning child initiated into something that becomes more a reflection of the parents wants/needs then the childs.

I know there are many parents who can do this balancing act without difficulty but I also know that there are many parents (and I count myself among them) who have a hard time with it sometimes and have to remind themselves that it is not about them (meaning the parents)...

Steph

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#4 of 23 Old 01-25-2007, 01:12 AM
 
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I think the problem most people have is that so often (not always) children are pushed into doing and learning things that are developmentally inappropriate, for the sake of, "getting ahead" or "getting their child off to a good start."

You're right, some children do learn skills earlier than others, without coersion. I believe it's the pushing and coersion that concern most posters.

Do I take pity on children who naturally learn to read at very young ages? No.

I do feel bad for the kids who are pushed and drilled to learn skills before they are ready. It's similar to the way I feel about kids who are enrolled in every conceivable extra-curricular activity, and aren't allowed much time to just play and be a kid. I think it's a shame when children, because of the actions of their parents, are forced to grow up too fast and aren't allowed time to just be a kid.

New signature, same old me: Ann- mama of 2 boys and 2 girls, partnered to a fabulous man.
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#5 of 23 Old 01-25-2007, 01:13 AM
 
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Originally Posted by WalkingByFaith View Post
Seriously. Every child is different and every child learns on a different curve and at a different rate.

Believe it or not some children actually have the desire to read and write at a young age, just as other children have the desire to put puzzles together, build with blocks or play dress up.

People don't make bold assumptions about whether or not children are being pressured or "hothoused"..or use this smilie while lamenting on how little unstructured free-play a child must have when they begin crawling, walking, talking or eating with a spoon at an earlier age.

What is it about children reading or writing at a young age that makes people feel the need to defend why they are glad their own children of the same age are not?

Just curious as I see this topic raised quite often in threads on this board and the reaction for the most part is universally negative.
Thank you, thank you, thank you for this post. I didn't realize until I read it that I have really been feeling the need to defend my own child's natural abilities and desires. My kid's a very early reader. She's also REALLY into imaginative play. She's also into adding and subtracting, and she loves to do science experiments with real lab equipment. She also spends a lot of time in unstructured, brilliant, fun and witty imaginiative play.

I understand the posters who just want to make sure that kids are being hothoused. But really, some kids do learn "academic" type stuff early and eagerly. There's nothing wrong with encrouaging their interests, academic or otherwise.
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#6 of 23 Old 01-25-2007, 01:15 AM
 
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Originally Posted by tuffykenwell View Post
I think there is more of a danger in turning something that is at the beginning child initiated into something that becomes more a reflection of the parents wants/needs then the childs.
Steph
Just a note...
This kind of thing can be done with arts and crafts, music, etc. just as much as it can be done with reading.
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#7 of 23 Old 01-25-2007, 01:25 AM
 
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Originally Posted by Lillian J View Post
I've never seen anyone here seeming to defend the fact that her child did not read early; but someone will occasionally mention being glad, for whatever reason, that hers did not.

But see, this bugs me. I would never think to say that I am glad my kid does not do x, y, or z early. That implies that there's something wrong with taking an interest in something "early."

I am VERY happy my oldest began to read at age 2. I am happy because she has accomplished something that she wanted to accomplish, and she continues to diligently work and pursue what she wants. I have helped her along the way (we went through 100 EZ lesssons at one point), but it was never pushed, and it was at her request.

And...she also amazes me by noticing things I don't, seeing details in the pictures, etc. I don't think she is deficient in any way due to begin able to read early.

Some have implied that reading early is somehow a bad thing, and that it results in a lack of other important things. It isn't, and it doesn't.
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#8 of 23 Old 01-25-2007, 01:25 AM
 
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Originally Posted by WalkingByFaith View Post
Seriously. Every child is different and every child learns on a different curve and at a different rate.

Believe it or not some children actually have the desire to read and write at a young age, just as other children have the desire to put puzzles together, build with blocks or play dress up.

People don't make bold assumptions about whether or not children are being pressured or "hothoused"..or use this smilie while lamenting on how little unstructured free-play a child must have when they begin crawling, walking, talking or eating with a spoon at an earlier age.

What is it about children reading or writing at a young age that makes people feel the need to defend why they are glad their own children of the same age are not?

Just curious as I see this topic raised quite often in threads on this board and the reaction for the most part is universally negative.
Ok. I am on both sides of the fence in a way here, because my kids have done some things very very early while simultaneously doing other things on time or late. I genuinely appreciate what it's like to have a child do something unusually early and to be unfairly judged by people who think I've pushed that or that my kids don't get free play. I don't think anyone here is really judging people who have precocious children. I'll tell you what I see here a lot, IMHO. Maybe my perception doesn't reflect reality. I see tons of posts in this forum either asking how to teach a toddler how to read/write or expressing anxiety that a toddler doesn't do these things. I see lots of, "He knows the ABCs. How do I turn that into reading?" And in my very humble and personal opinion, the majority of the posts in this forum are about 2 and 3 year olds. I don't care what people do or how old their kids are or whose kid is doing what. I'm just observing that there appears to be many people who are trying to figure out how to cultivate something in a very, very young child that is not there on its own. Just my two cents.
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#9 of 23 Old 01-25-2007, 01:30 AM
 
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Just a note...
This kind of thing can be done with arts and crafts, music, etc. just as much as it can be done with reading.
Yes it can but I think that culturally we put more "value" in early academics then we do in precocity in the arts. Due to that I think there is a danger even when your child has shown early interest/aptitude in academic pursuits in moving from child led to parent pushed.

I have done it so I know how easy it is to do. I'm not saying that all parents of early readers/writers are pushing...but that if you have a child who shows interest/aptitude you have to be careful or you can suck the joy right out of something which should be a joyful thing KWIM??

When I started making my son's reading and spelling about my abilities as a mom I took the ownership and pride for his accomplishments out of his hands. It took me weeks of "right thinking" to begin to rectify the damage done with a few frustrated comments because he wasn't wanting to "perform" for me anymore YK?? He is just now back to the point where he is sometimes wanting to pursue reading/writing again and I am being very very careful to let him take the lead because I have discovered to my dismay that for me it was very easy to push him farther not for his benefit but for my own ego

Steph

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#10 of 23 Old 01-25-2007, 01:40 AM
 
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I am the mom to two spontaneous 3-year-old readers, and while I don't care when other people's children learn to read or write, I find that it can bother me how they learn.

Early this week I read on another message board a post from a mom whose almost-2-year-old has pretty much learned to recognize the upper-case letters and the mom isn't quite sure what comes next. "We're working on letter sounds. She has about 9 or 10 of the more common ones, and I introduce one or two new ones each week. But she seems bored by this, and so she's not retaining them as well as I'd hoped. I'm not sure if it would be too much to move on to work with word families. Or maybe we should do lower case letters first?"

And last week, a post from a homeschooling mom of an almost 5yo boy who is having trouble motivating him to practice his reading. He's almost at a 2nd-grade level, but lately he's claiming that he can't read things that she knows he can read. What can she do to encourage him to do the necessary practice so that his fluency improves?

Now, if you ask these moms, I'm sure they'd say that their kids want to learn to read and that the early work on reading skills has been led by their children's interests. They'd never in a million years think they were guilty of pushing their kids. But from my perspective, there's child-led and then there's child-led, and they're not using my brand. If the children seem bored and unmotivated and are not spontaneously pushing forward, then I want to jump up and down and say "let it go! don't push!" Because I really think that putting more emphasis on the attainment of early literacy skills than the child is spontaneously doing him or herself is fraught with risk.

But dozens of other parents write responses, sharing their similar experiences and the creative ways they got their kids over the hump. Sticker rewards, or introducing their child to Starfall or LeapPad or Garfield comic books, playing games, writing notes, or whatever. Great ideas ... but if this is what parents are having to do to keep their 2- or 5-year-old kids climbing the learning curve to literacy, is such early reading really child-led?

I don't see nearly as much of this sort of thing in the posts here at MDC, which is refreshing. But it is pervasive out there in the mainstream world, IME.

Miranda

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#11 of 23 Old 01-25-2007, 01:44 AM
 
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Yes it can but I think that culturally we put more "value" in early academics then we do in precocity in the arts.

Steph
Yes, I agree that this is unfortunately true.
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#12 of 23 Old 01-25-2007, 01:48 AM
 
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Now, if you ask these moms, I'm sure they'd say that their kids want to learn to read and that the early work on reading skills has been led by their children's interests.
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If the children seem bored and unmotivated and are not spontaneously pushing forward, then I want to jump up and down and say "let it go! don't push!" Because I really think that putting more emphasis on the attainment of early literacy skills than the child is spontaneously doing him or herself is fraught with risk.
Absolutely! It is surprisingly easy to walk this path and I was shocked at how long it took me to realize what was happening!

Steph

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#13 of 23 Old 01-25-2007, 01:59 AM
 
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Sort of off topic, but I think that thoughts in print on these electronic screens are all too easily interpreted with the wrong tone of voice or attitude - especially when we have no real life faces or voices to attach to the text. I try to think of these conversations the way I would if I were sitting around a table with a group of friends or acquaintances - people are often just trying to have a thoughtful give and take discussion, and end up offending someone in ways they never intended. If we were face to face in the moment, it would be a lot easier come to heart to heart, head to head, understandings of what everyone really means, and a whole heckuva' lot less offense would result. I've personally seen the nicest people upset over online misunderstanings that absolutely would not have happened if they'd each known one another the way I knew each of them. For whatever it's worth...

- Lillian
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#14 of 23 Old 01-25-2007, 02:01 AM
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Originally Posted by WalkingByFaith View Post
What is it about children reading or writing at a young age that makes people feel the need to defend why they are glad their own children of the same age are not?

Just curious as I see this topic raised quite often in threads on this board and the reaction for the most part is universally negative.
Fear, jealousy, feeling that they're inadequate as parents. I think that's basically it, mostly the last thing. I find it absurd, really, because I don't believe a parent is reseponsible for their child's inherent academic precocity any more than I'm "responsible" for my child's eye color.
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#15 of 23 Old 01-25-2007, 02:35 AM
 
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Rather than jealousy or insecurity, I think, from being acquainted with so many of the people in question, that it's a lot more likely that someone would say they're glad their children aren't reading or writing at an early age because they actually feel that way and are sometimes awkwardly trying to express that they just don't think those are things parents should push . Because, as Miranda expressed, there's quite a flood of people these days who do think those are things that need to be pushed. I even had a dad call me way before the baby's birth to find out what they need to know about how to homeschool, because they thought they'd probably be too busy at first to do all the research. Things are really getting crazy. And lots of children are being unfairly pressured, both at preschool and at home - which is not to say that there aren't other children who are perfectly eager to learn those things. Schools are even starting to give young children Ritalin to get them to behave like 1st graders instead of the preschoolers or kindergareteners that they are. It's a serious problem. Here's A Call to Action on the Education of Young Children, from the Alliance for Childhood - endorsed by over 175 professional educators and resarchers. You can scroll through the names and their positions at the bottom of it.
- Lillian
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#16 of 23 Old 01-25-2007, 03:40 AM
 
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I am new to this forum but this thread caught my eye. Mostly because I am on the other end of the spectrum.
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I've never seen anyone here seeming to defend the fact that her child did not read early; but someone will occasionally mention being glad, for whatever reason, that hers did not.
I have actually had to defend the fact that my daughter did not read early. Not only early, but she began reading fairly late (at eight years old). I don't know how many times I had to defend MY choices for my daughter's education. I don't instantly think that a parent is pushing their child just because they can read early, but I do instantly get judged by most people when they hear that my eight year old daughter can't read.

I think instant judgment can go both ways. I know that each child begins to read and develop at their own pace (I have been on both sides of the issue). I just take each of my children as a separate, unique individuals; that the only way I can.

Any misspellings or grammatical errors in the above statement are intentional;
they are placed there for the amusement of those who like to point them out.
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#17 of 23 Old 01-25-2007, 10:10 AM
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[COLOR="Indigo"]Rather than jealousy or insecurity, I think, from being acquainted with so many of the people in question, that it's a lot more likely that someone would say they're glad their children aren't reading or writing at an early age because they actually feel that way
I'm sure that's true for the people you know, and what I said wasn't supposed to be an all-encompassing answer (How could it have been? ), but I genuinely do believe that for some people, it really is jealousy or insecurity and what some people do to channel that jealousy/insecurity is turn it outward: "Oh, I'm concerned that you're pushing," or more directly, "Well, *I* am a better mother than you are because *I* don't push MY kids." Obviously this isn't true of everyone, but I've seen it too often.

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and are sometimes awkwardly trying to express that they just don't think those are things parents should push . Because, as Miranda expressed, there's quite a flood of people these days who do think those are things that need to be pushed. I even had a dad call me way before the baby's birth to find out what they need to know about how to homeschool, because they thought they'd probably be too busy at first to do all the research.
You dealt with this conversation, not I, but from the data you are giving me, this doesn't necessarily qualify (for me) as pushing -- after all, he could have been wanting to homeschool because, like many unschoolers, he feels school pushes academics on kids before they'e ready.
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#18 of 23 Old 01-25-2007, 10:13 AM
 
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Sort of off topic, but I think that thoughts in print on these electronic screens are all too easily interpreted with the wrong tone of voice or attitude - especially when we have no real life faces or voices to attach to the text. I try to think of these conversations the way I would if I were sitting around a table with a group of friends or acquaintances - people are often just trying to have a thoughtful give and take discussion, and end up offending someone in ways they never intended. If we were face to face in the moment, it would be a lot easier come to heart to heart, head to head, understandings of what everyone really means, and a whole heckuva' lot less offense would result. I've personally seen the nicest people upset over online misunderstanings that absolutely would not have happened if they'd each known one another the way I knew each of them. For whatever it's worth...

- Lillian
Yes, good point. Thanks for bringing that up.
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#19 of 23 Old 01-25-2007, 10:15 AM
 
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but I genuinely do believe that for some people, it really is jealousy or insecurity and what some people do to channel that jealousy/insecurity is turn it outward: "Oh, I'm concerned that you're pushing," or more directly, "Well, *I* am a better mother than you are because *I* don't push MY kids." Obviously this isn't true of everyone, but I've seen it too often.
Yes, me too.
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#20 of 23 Old 01-25-2007, 10:28 AM
 
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I have actually had to defend the fact that my daughter did not read early. Not only early, but she began reading fairly late (at eight years old). I don't know how many times I had to defend MY choices for my daughter's education. I don't instantly think that a parent is pushing their child just because they can read early, but I do instantly get judged by most people when they hear that my eight year old daughter can't read.
Yes.

While MDC is an odd little place where you will see lots of people cautioning against early academics, the reality is that the judgement most often falls on the parents whose kids are not reading at early ages.

Never, IRL, do I see parents hiding the fact that their children learned to read early. They are seen as having very smart children and as being better parents because of it. There is a very strong societal bias in favor of precocious academics. They are proud of it!!

It is the parents of the late readers who are talking in hushed tones about their worries, about their kids being labeled as slow readers as early as age five, about their concerns that they did not provide enough academic support in the preschool years.

Even here, it is much easier to say, "Oh don't worry about it, they will read when they are ready," if you child was reading at age 4 or 5. While I completely agree that the 2-3 year teaching my toddler to read threads are misguided, I really sympathize with the parents of six and seven year olds who are not reading. These parents are stuck in a society that is telling them there is something wrong or late or delayed about their child, and they are trying to understand how to support their children and all their unique and special talents. And, I offer absolutely no apology for supporting these parents, for reassuring them that there is nothing wrong with their kids, that there are real benefits to later reading, and, yes, that their children may be better at other things than kids who read early (and frankly, I don't understand why it is insulting to parents of early readers to say that other children might be better at other things, that late readers might develop other parts of their brains in different ways and that those skills are valuable too. I mean really, does the precocious 3 year old reader really have to be the best in everything??????)

It is not the early readers who are up against societal judgement!
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#21 of 23 Old 01-25-2007, 10:41 AM
 
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This is my post from that other conversation Lillian referred to:


You know, before my son started K, I never worried much about it, either. We read together, and we were both fine with that. I was floored with the amount of work that K involved, including reading. And here I thought K was just to get the ball rolling!

In 1st grade they actually had a 1-1 resource teaching work with him during reading time because he was in the bottom "20%" of the class- most of whom were a year or so older than him. He advanced quickly, but after all the letters/calls/etc from the school, then I became paranoid about his reading! I think people are getting obsessed with it because we are lead to believe (through the media, schools, etc) that the only way not to have a totally illiterate child to have them reading Moby Dick by age 3! (This is an exaggeration, but ykwim.)

He did fine when he started 2nd grade, but then all the letters became about his writing! Not detailed enough, not neat enough, not long enough... and just before I became all upset about that and tried to force him into becoming a proficient writer at six, I thought, whoa, you know, maybe he's not ready! Ding ding ding!

Now we homeschool and take things more in stride.

But I would be untruthful if I didn't say I wish my ds had taken to reading like a fish to water. But he didn't, and now that I don't have "experts" calling me all the time telling me that certain doom awaits him if he can't do everything at the level they expect him to, I feel alot better.

Anyway, that kinda went on a little longer than planned, but I just wanted to explain how some of us do get sucked into this "earlier is better" mentality.


However, I never really thought much about other people's children and how soon they read. I have a friend who's first ds took off like a rocket, and her second ds hasn't, and I never really thought about it except that ds1 just liked it more.

For me, I think it's the same mentality (as other people have pointed out) as which child can use the potty first, which child takes solids first, which child talks first, etc... I didn't realized I was entering a race when I gave birth!! I forfeit!

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#22 of 23 Old 01-25-2007, 11:03 AM
 
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But see, this bugs me. I would never think to say that I am glad my kid does not do x, y, or z early. That implies that there's something wrong with taking an interest in something "early."
As I'm reading this and slowly waking up at the computer with my cup of tea, I'm thinking about this comment. I have said things in other threads like, "Well, at least they won't be sounding out profane graffiti." And I feel compelled to say that, especially as the mother of two precocious children, it wasn't that I was saying I was glad that they weren't doing it as much as I was trying to say, "Look on the bright side!". Because there seems to be some anxiety expressed in this forum many times over a child not reading early. If my own kids were early readers and someone posted concern about their 4 year old not reading, I would likely still say, "(Look on the bright side) At least you don't have to worry about them reading profane graffiti". It's not that I'm saying I'm glad they didn't read early (although, in fairness, I have seen people congratulate themselves for having "normal" children). I'm just trying to put a positive light on something that is seen as negative (i.e. not reading early).

This is where I wish we were sitting around the table, like Lillian said, so you could see my friendly face. While I've personally been on the receiving end of, "Wow, you must really work with him!!" (i.e. you're pushing him), I also think that sometimes people are defensive about this and look for things that just weren't implied. I know I have done this before.
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#23 of 23 Old 01-25-2007, 11:17 AM
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Originally Posted by jessicaSAR View Post
Yes.

While MDC is an odd little place where you will see lots of people cautioning against early academics, the reality is that the judgement most often falls on the parents whose kids are not reading at early ages.

Never, IRL, do I see parents hiding the fact that their children learned to read early. They are seen as having very smart children and as being better parents because of it. There is a very strong societal bias in favor of precocious academics. They are proud of it!!
Hold the phone. Really, hold on just one sec. I completely agree...up to a certain point. Up to a certain point, early academics do get the societal nod, I absolutely agree. Baby Einstein? No problem. "Educational" television programs? Check.

Moreover, some degree of academic precocity gets the societal nod also. Enters Kindy knowing his alphabet? Can read "stop," "Walmart" and his own name? Cool. Knows how to count to fifty? Great! Knows how to count to a hundred? Outstanding!

Here's where society parts company with the early readers, though. It's okay to read or do math early as long as you don't read or do math all that well. Enters Kindy having independently read all of the Harry Potter series? Hm. Enters Kindy thinking binary numbers are cool? Pushy parent. Enters Kindy and corrects the teacher on her spelling of one of the board words? Not so good.

It's precisely this issue that many parents of precocious readers are dealing with -- and that doesn't invalidate the equally bad societal disapproval of children who read later than the average, by the way. In short, I believe both early and late readers are up against negative societal judgment, and it stinks.
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