This is the question we most commonly hear so let”s take a moment to a moment to delve into it.
Most commonly, this question starts to pop up when a child is 3 or 4 years old. The first and most important thing to remember at this age is that at this age a toddler”s brain is developing rapidly. Surprise! Just by being a loving parent you are probably doing all that you need to do to facilitate his learning.
One thing that seems to be forgotten these days with all the pressure on academics children are put under is that there are many skills that a child needs to learn in order to do well in school. Reading is just one of those skills. More important are social skills and a positive attitude towards learning. Marilyn Chapman, director of the Institute for Early Childhood Education and Research at the University of British Columbia says “Learning is emotional as much as it is cognitive, and emotions help memories “stick”. We want children not only to learn, but to feel good about doing it and develop a positive, healthy identity.”
In his book “Outliers” Malcom Gladwell talks about a comparison study between the literacy levels of two groups of children. One set which were in an academic preschool and the other set that were in a play based preschool. It was found that on average the children in the academic preschool learned to read one year earlier than the children in the play based preschool. However, by the age of 7 there was no difference in reading skills, but the children from the play based preschool were much more likely to read for fun.
Here in Vancouver, Canada it is only expected that children should know their alphabet by the end of Grade 1 – this means that your child has until they are 7 years old before the educational system feels that they are ready to move on.
So what does this mean to you? Watch your child, look for clues that indicate that your child is ready to start to learn to read and once you feel that they are ready make sure that it is a fun experience and don’t feel that they are falling behind in any way if they don’t catch on right away.
Clues that your child is ready are likely that your child is asking more and more for you to explain, point out and help them “read” words. Teach him to write his name, if he manages it quite easily then that would be an indication that he”s ready for a bigger challenge.
If your child is not quite ready, don’t worry about it. Keep modelling positive learning behaviour such as reading books to him, giving him picture books to “read” to you and pointing out important / interesting words you see as you move around on a daily basis. One day, pretty soon he will be open and primed for a positive learning experience.