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How young is too young for teaching a child to read?

Let's Go Learn, I have heard about a reading program that would teach a three year old how to read within three weeks. While I am unfamiliar with the program (and can't recall the name), is it really a goal to have a three year old read? I had always felt children should read when they were ready to learn. What is your opinion? While my two year old has a passion for books (he even sleeps with them at night!) he seems to be more then just a year from reading! And that commercial makes me think I need to change my strategy on his reading goals. Thanks.

Hello, Thanks for your email. "Is 3 years old too young to read?" Well, I think that there can be a huge difference between three-year-old kids, and a huge difference between a child who just turned 3 and who just turned 4. Even though teaching kids to read is my life's passion, I would not personally teach my three year old how to read, I just don't see the reason to do so. The way I look at it, reading is made up of three distinct areas 1) The ability to sound out words 2) The ability to memorize whole words that cannot be sounded out and 3) the ability to use contextual and syntactical clues to read sentences and words correctly. And on top of all that, comprehending what you read as you read it. That is a big job for a three year old. Some people would argue with me, I just got an email from a parent of a 19 month of who says her son loves books so she thinks he might be ready to learn how to read. She referred me to something called "infant learning" that claims that they teach babies to read. After investigating their program, I realize that they just show words like "clap" on videos over and over with people clapping in the background. Eventually, if a baby watches the video enough, a baby will begin to clap when they see the word on the screen. They recommend watching the videos every day. I am not sure I see the value in that. On the other side of the coin, I recently got some other emails about something called "Delayed Reading." This is where you don't teach your child to read until the age of 7. I myself have never been a great fan of super early reading instruction; I just don't see the urgency to get kids to read ASAP. I usually think about what a wonderful and wise speech pathologist that I used to work with said to me: "A child who is ready to learn to read will show an interest in sounds. Don't ask the child to say the sound or to repeat after you. Say some sounds yourself and when the child is ready, he or she will start repeating after you." That really stuck with me over the years. So, yes I agree with your ideal of waiting until the child is ready. I wouldn't fret unless your child gets to be a mid 6 year old and still avoids tasks that involve learning to read. I think you are already on the right track.

Tags: early reading, emergent literacy, teaching a young child to read

  1. runnin_chic
    Reply 05/12/11

    I’ve also heard a Sp Path say that reading too young forces children to use one side of the brain and they need to use both together for comprehension and higher strategies with reading.  If they learn by using only one side, they are setting themselves up for possible failure in the the future.

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