I strongly believe in teaching children to read young, and our experience with Lucy so far has been confirmed that belief. We largely used the methods my mother used, because I knew they had worked for me and my sisters.
As soon as Lucy could talk reasonably well (I think a little short of her second birthday), we started using look and say flash cards. We made it fun: it was a game not a chore.
A lot of schools prefer to use phonics. Our experience was that phonics at school did not help much: partly because Lucy was well ahead of what they were being taught in school. The other reason parents should not use phonics lies in the reason schools use it: it is easier for children who are slower to read It also slows down faster children so the teachers have a more uniform class that is easier to teach. Very few children will be slow to read, if:
- they are taught one to one,
- it is fun, and,
- they have an atmosphere that encourages reading.
The first is easy for parents, if impossible for most schools. Making it fun means making a game of it, and not trying to push them to do it when they do not want to. Children enjoy learning, so this should not be a problem either.
The last is the most difficult. The best thing to do is to buy and read books yourself. If children see their parents reading, they will want to read themselves. That is why Nisha (now 18 months old) has been fascinated by books since she was a few months old. She wants to know why her sister and parents spend so much time staring at these objects.
The other thing we did, which for most people would be a sacrifice they would not be prepared to make, is to invest in a No TV. It means that we read more, and do more constructive things in general — and by “we” I mean the whole family, adults and children.
The end result as been a success. The only time I thought it might not work out was when Lucy started reading snippets of books and lacked the concentration to read whole books. Now, she is a few months short of seven she is somewhat ahead of my reading at the same age. She is just finishing Susan Cooper’s The Dark is Rising series. Like me, she loves the Narnia books. Like other children of her generation she loves Harry Potter.
Now, many people will question the benefits of teaching children to read so young. My next post will address that. [Edit: no done here.]