As I wrote in previous articles, it is always positive to teach your child how to read before the first grade, despite what most teachers will tell you.
With the start of the school year, I receive a number of mails from moms who are sad and disappointed when they hear nursery school teachers say that they should not teach their children how to read. The reason is always the same: he will not learn how to read before first grade, so they should wait, even if their child is ready and willing!
It is really before the age of 6 that your child will go through the sensitive period towards reading, period during which his brain will be absorbing easily with the result of very durable acquisitions.
Despite the recent studies which show that the percentage of children who do not know how to read at the end of primary school is constantly growing, the programs of the French Educational System continue to state the fact that children should not be taught how to read before the first grade even if it is recognized that the child goes through the sensitive period towards reading around the age of 4, and sometimes even before that. At that early age, the child learns how to read with great ease. He has more time to assimilate it – two supplementary years. He can do it with pleasure and without stress.
This is why I think that children would have a better level of reading if they learned how to read in nursery school. This is what I have noticed in my school where children learn how to read two languages simultaneously (French and English) and with great ease at the youngest age (sometimes when they are only three!).
Furthermore, in traditional schools, the teacher presents the letters during collective lessons, when children are all together, with the same rhythm and the same method of memorization. The teacher is not interested in the fact that all intelligences are different, all children are different, some have a more auditory sense, some more visual, some need to touch to memorize correctly. Likewise the slower child or the dyslexic child is asked to follow at the same speed, rapidly drifting to failure.
The teaching of reading should be done on an individual basis. It is an essential part of the child’s learning process and will influencehis entire scholastic future. Furthermore, this teaching process arouses the development of a number of the child’s functions: his different types of memories, his eyesight, his touch, his hearing, his concentration: all functions that can be so different from one child to the next.
The child who does not read well – or does not understand properly what he is reading – will never be able to study correctly. If this learning process started in nursery school, it would enable each child to go at his own rhythm and individually. Teachers would be able to use new syllabic methods that give greater results such as the “Alpha method”.
Since the French Ministry of Education has decided otherwise, why blame parents if they decide to answer a normal child’s thirst for learning how to read? Do we forbid parents to teach their child how to swim if they are not swimming teachers? Do we forbid parents to teach children to ride a bike if it is not the right age? Do we forbid them to teach their child how to play an instrument if the child wants to?
So I maintain: “Teach your children how to read very early on if you feel like it!”
Teach them but respect a few important recommendations.
Indeed, this year yet again, I encountered problems with young children whose parents wanted to do well, when teaching them how to read.
The most important thing is to teach the sound of the letter and not its name in the alphabet.
Let me explain: “c”, for example. If you teach your child that it is a “see”, when he encounters this letter in the syllable “ca”, he will systematically read it “sa” or “seea” and will not be able to read it correctly. Same thing with the letter “g”.
Same thing with the letter “b”. Tell him that it is “bo” and not “bee”. He might be tempted to write “blieve” instead of “believe”.
Also avoid the “global” method of reading where the child learns the whole word without decomposing it, because he will soon be stopped in his progression, especially when encountering words that he does not know, that he will not be able to guess and therefore will be unable to read.
The child who has this habit of guessing will find it hard to use another method because the guessing will soon become a reflex.
Another difficult letter to teach is the “e” which has different sounds in the words “believe”, “orange”, “to be”…
If you want to help your child, play a lot of games with the sounds that compose the words as I explained in a previous article.
Have your child recognize script letters, or even cursive letters (because your child’s environment is full of examples of cursive letters) and not capital letters.
If you want to help your child, write down letters on small flash cards and ask him to compose phonetic words with these letters so that he understands the system behind reading. Start with simple three letter words like “car”, “set”, and ask him insisting on the sounds “what do you hear in car”?
If your child gets tired of composing words with the alphabet that you have created on small flash cards, you can vary the method: ask him to give you the oral sounds, or to tell you the corresponding letter, have him write down the letter on an erasable board, or with magnets… He can also draw the letter in sand or rice… Always tell him about the sounds that he hears in words and make sure it is always a game. If the child is young, do not spend too much time (5 to 10 minutes each time). The most important is that is it done on regular basis and always with pleasure.
The moment when the child manages to read and to understand what he reads is quite moving. I hope that you can experience that moment with your child!
Even with the years’ experience, it is always a unique and special moment for me.