For most parents, teaching kids how to read is a ‘top of the list’ milestone.
But for one mum, American comedian and writer Crystal Lowery, teaching her five-year-old to read is not a priority. In fact, she’s not planning to teach him to read any time soon.
“Don’t get me wrong, we read him books all the time,” she posted to Facebook last week. “We’ve imagined ourselves in Willy Wonka’s Chocolate Factory, and we’re 170 pages into Harry Potter’s Chamber of Secrets. We’re teaching him to enjoy stories, to get lost in characters.”
“But we’re not teaching him how to read. Not just yet. He’s too busy learning other things. He’s learning how to be a good sport – how to wait his turn in Candy Land and not gloat when he makes it to the King’s Ice Cream Castle before his sister does.”
Lowery, who goes by the blogger name Creepy Ginger Kid, says her son is learning how to build, to exercise, and developing human interaction skills.
“He’s learning how to be creative. How to draw his own picture books full of monsters, and how to construct an imaginary spaceship with Amazon boxes,” she wrote. “He’s learning about ecosystems. He looks at bugs, flowers, and thunderstorms. He sees how fauna and flora inhabit the world together interdependently.”
“He’s learning how to apologise. To overcome his own hurt feelings and to empathise with other kids when there’s been a confrontation. He’s learning how to forgive. To understand that everyone makes mistakes, and that he can love other people despite their foibles.”
By postponing teaching him how to read, Lowery said he will start school with different abilities to other children. The ability to “try new things without getting frustrated”; to “make friends, even though friendship can be a messy business”; and to “listen to others and follow instructions”.
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Unsurprisingly the response has been divided and swift.
“Why choose to exclude one aspect of education when a youngster’s mind is capable of assimilating so much more?,” one man commented on her post.
“He’s going to get a rude awakening when he shows up on the first day of kindergarten and can’t read anything,” another added. “Kindergarten has requirements now, and he’s going to be behind the other kids, and that will probably give him problems.”
Lowery responded to those who disagreed with her with a follow-up Facebook post saying: “I wrote the post to remind parents that there are many other things young children are learning besides phonics.”
And, that although she and her husband initially did try to teach phonics to their son when he was 18-months old, they changed their approach soon after.
“When I was honest with myself, I realised I had been forcing phonics on my 18-month-old so that I could brag. We changed our approach to teaching him literacy out of concern for him, not out of laziness.
“The irony is not lost on me that many people who have criticised me have not understood my actual point. It seems they could use a few lessons in reading comprehension,” she said.
Where do you stand? Should children learn reading at their own pace, or should we nudge them along?