I remember watching a program on PBS about teaching children to read. One statement that stuck out was “teaching reading IS rocket science…” Good thing I didn’t have a mouth full of liquids at the time. I thought it was a joke when I first heard the statement, but they were serious. A web search for “teaching reading is rocket science” brought up the article which I assume the PBS show was quoting. My reaction to the statement was “Only if you try to teach 30 children before they are developmentally ready!” For the average child learning how to read isn’t difficult; we make it difficult by expecting results so early.
Two of my children taught themselves to read. Any teaching on my part was purely accidental yet 100% effective. It wasn’t rocket science but my methods would be just as difficult to transpose to a classroom setting. I spent one on one time with each child for several hours a day. When my son was an only child I would read a stack of books to him during the day and another stack at night to try to get him to fall asleep.
Reading was an important part of our world. He lived 24/7 in a home that placed a high emphasis on reading and he spent much of his time sitting in front of a book or having a book read to him. We also wrote books together. He would say the words and I would write them down. I would fold the pages in half, punch holes in the paper, and secure the pages with ribbon or I would fold the pages down the middle and staple the folded area to create a spine. Our "readers" were written by the child. We created these books whenever we could and he could read these little books because he was the author.
Our refrigerator was decorated in refrigerator magnets shaped like the letters of the alphabet. We had alphabet puzzles, alphabet building blocks, alphabet shaped water toys, and many “ABC books.” Each day as we read side by side on a comfy couch I would point out a letter of the alphabet and then I would challenge my son to find the letter as I read to him. The only plan I followed was mother’s intuition. We did this almost every day until he learned how to recognize all of the letters. Eventually, I would challenge him find three letter words or common words. This family reading time eased him into becoming a reader. I didn’t teach him to read on purpose, it was purely accidental and natural. I followed a curriculum of love and a scope and sequence driven by mommy's intuition.
My daughter also taught herself to read but maybe because my time was divided between her and her brother she learned at a much later age. She and I didn't read 10 books a day. Still, I had confidence that she would eventually learn to read so I didn't force her to become a reader at an early age. At some point, using educational toys, she figured out how to read. She might be considered a late reader but she reads just fine now and she learned with little or no instruction.
I have one child who was an early reader and one child who was a late reader but both taught themselves how to read. I think the secret to their success might have been that they weren't taught how to read. They were allowed to learn when they were ready to learn – late or early. They lived reading and were read to often. Learning to read might be a lifestyle instead of some expensive miracle program.
There’s a point to all of this. Either children are smarter than rocket scientists or we are trivializing something that should be simple and natural. Are we trying to teach many children how to read too early thus making something as simple as child’s play seem as difficult as rocket science? Waiting until the child is developmentally and physiologically ready to learn would make teaching reading as easy as pie!
I know if I were teaching in a classroom I would be forced to observe the conclusions of the article that I mentioned and to understand why some people think that TEACHING reading is like rocket science. A child who is surrounded by love, books, and plenty of time and patience will find learning to read is as easy pie most of the time.
You want a nation of proficient readers? Then you want everyone to be the same and that's not reality. Read to your children daily, model the importance of reading by reading, and don’t expect all children to read so early. Let them learn when they are ready. I think children are better learners than we are teachers, anyway.
Here is the article "Teaching Reading IS Rocket Science." You have to give some of these people credit. They are masters at making something very easy and natural look like a very daunting task. Glad I didn't read this article ten years ago when I started homeschooling. They make a pretty strong case with their big words! As a homeschool mom I felt like the message of this article was "Don't even try it. It's too hard for you! Leave it to the 'educated' 'qualified' 'experts.'" Fact: Many homeschooled children are learning to read without these "experts" and some times before mom gets a chance to try to teach! I wish our public school teachers had to freedom to allow more time when it comes to learning how to read....