Thursday, September 1, 2011

Learning to read

I decided to repost my contribution to a thread on a local homeschool board.  It is an issue important to many young or new homeschooling families:

As .... alluded to, there is a school of thought (supported both by research and anecdotal reports) that reading is primarily a developmental task and that many a diagnosis of "dyslexia" is actually when we attempt to push the brain to go beyond its capabilities at any given time.  Imagine diagnosing all of our 9 month olds who weren't pulling up and cruising with paraparesis.

Day 48 - Some books
 Phil and Pam on Flickr
On the personal side I have had children reading at 4, 12, and 8.  Child number 3 was reading before child number 2 - I've known this to happen in other families.  The child who read at 12 is not one of those who picked it up and was at grade level in 3 months like many, it continues to be a difficult task for him.  However.... he is willing to do it, he looks forward to the day when it becomes easier and novel reading is enjoyable, he is "well read" thanks to audio books, and his self-esteem and image of himself as a learner has zero relation to has natural ability is this one particular skill.  He is also functional and was actually functional prior to the point that I would have described him as "reading".  Frankly given the benefits we have incurred by allowing the natural progression, even if reading is never a relaxing past time for him I am fine with that.  As a special education teacher I saw the lives of far too many children sacrificed on the alter of an externally imposed reading time line.

A couple of links.... this is a site of stories of learning to read in various ways at various ages (Think of it as _How Weaning Happens_)  I will say that Sandra Dodd rubs me totally the wrong way, but don't let that deter you from the useful stuff she has on her site.  These are a couple of academic researchers who have decided to focus on unschooling families  There is also some good stuff in the work of Raymond and Dorothy Moore (_Better Late than Early_, etc).

In the end it has helped me to think of it a bit like potty learning.  I can spend months or years in a miserable battle with a kid that just isn't ready or I can watch their developmental timeline and avoid the headaches and potential long-term (and life-long) fall-out of a less than positive experience.

ps - this is absolutely not to dismiss observations of different learning styles. Just like with potty learning, weaning, crawling, etc there are different motivations and strategies that work better for all of us.

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