Friday, August 13, 2010

Is reading THAT important?

You probably think I am going to say yes, but I'm not.


Yes, it is important. Yes, it is the foundation for learning. Yes, it is a magnificent tool. BUT, I am increasingly discouraged and saddened when parents think it is the ONLY thing. They think that reading trumps physical activity, trumps chores, trumps interpersonal relationships; they think that it is the measure of successful homeschooling and parenting.

And, on some level I totally understand. I mean, it is easy to quantify so it makes us feel good about ourselves if our 7 year old is reading at a 5th grade level, and makes us feel bad about ourselves if our 10 year old is reading at a 2nd grade level. It is easy to measure-- so we measure our kids against the "norm." We can't easily quantify and measure helping or relational skills so that I can 't say that my 7 year old is interacting relationally at a 5th grade level or that my 10 year old is doing chores at a 2nd grade level. The most we can say is they "are mature or immature for their age."

But, honestly, I talk to parents all the time who think their four year old should be in first grade because they can read at that level. Or, I have had people tell me their two year old is reading and thus should be in a kindergarten [or higher] grade level.
I want to scream...

  • Can they jump on one foot?
  • Can they tie their shoes?
  • Can they fold towels?
  • Are they kind to others?
  • Can they throw a ball?
  • Can they use inside voices in the house?
  • Do they whine?
  • Do they mind you?
People are so much more than reading. Children are so much more than reading. I know kids who could read at 2 or 3 and their parents encouraged it a lot--to the exclusion of many good activities. After all, their child could read so they had it made. Years later I seen that many of these kids have very little interpersonal skills or are extremely lacking in coordination. Now they may have been that way even if they hadn't spent their toddlerhood reading, but I am not so sure.

I have also seen preschoolers who are physically active who are not encouraged to learn to read. They are not prohibited from learning letters and sounds if they want to, but even if they are, the parents encourage lots of outdoor play and they do a lot of working along side Mommy and Daddy. These children seem better adjusted when they get older.

Yes, they learn to read somewhere between K and 2nd grade, but they seem to be more active, more interactive with others, more helpful and imaginative. They are not caught reading a book when everyone else is eating ice cream and playing tag. I am not saying that is always bad, but is reading everything? Is it more important than relationships? And, they usually are at the same level in reading [according to numerous studies] by the time they are in 3rd grade as the early readers.

As for 3 year olds that can read at first grade level. They are still 3 years old. They still need lots of play and exercise to complement their reading time. They need fresh air and sunshine. They need to help parents with chores and to learn to share with other children and to mind.

There are LOTS of lessons they need to learn before they are ready for first grade curriculum.

I know that many of you might not agree, but even if you don't, if your child is an early reader, please remember what age they are and don't rush them into mature material just because they can read. Please help them develop in areas they don't excel at so they can become well-rounded individuals.

Reading is not everything.

Take care,

Another post you might be interested in. Three Things Preschoolers Need.

For more of my Pre-School thoughts and suggestions:


  1. Okay, I was going to be one of those "gaspers", but you saved me! I agree with you completely! Reading is very important - it's how our children can communicate with others through the barriers of space and time - but a preschooler needs to be a preschooler. Thanks for your thoughts!

  2. I was a very... very late reader. I'm glad it's not everything because if it was I wouldn't have made it very far in life [smile].

    Reading is great--and literature is one of the best ways to learn [smile]--but it's not the end-all and be-all of education.