Stop Teaching Your Preschooler How to Read

Michelle Woo12/08/17 4:00pm

Photo via Shutterstock
Photo via Shutterstock

My daughter is onto me. As I read bedtime stories to her, sometimes I’ll stop, point to a word, and in my most convincing voice, and say, “Hmm, I don’t know this one. C-A-P? Can you help me?”

The almost-five-year-old, not falling for this nonsense at all, will then say to me, “Mom, just read it.” And I’ll keep reading. Like a chump.

I am fully confident she will learn to read when she learns to read, but as a parent, I sometimes wonder if I should be trying to speed up the process. I’ve followed the advice of friends and purchased BOB Books for beginning readers, and I often prompt her to sound words out. I can tell that she almost gets it, but I can also tell that I’m not much help. So when Daniel T. Willingham, a professor of psychology at the University of Virginia and the author of Raising Kids Who Read, told me that parents don’t need to worry about teaching young kids the mechanics of reading—and in fact, he warns against doing so—I felt free.

Parents, it turns out, are pretty crummy reading instructors, especially when they break out the flash cards, handwriting worksheets, rewards charts and other traditional tools we all know and hate. “You don’t know what you’re doing,” Willingham says of parents in general. “If your child encounters real difficulty, there’s a good chance the child will go to school and think, ‘Reading? Oh, that’s that thing Mom and Dad bug me about, and it’s hard for me to figure out, and I don’t like it much.’ Then the teacher has to try and overcome that first negative experience your child has had.”

When parents get stuck on teaching kids how to read, they’re missing their more critical duty, the one that will help put kids on a path to lifelong reading success: teaching kids to love to read. Here’s what to do instead.

Read Them Lots of High-Information Texts

Willingham recently wrote the New York Times op-ed “How to Get Your Mind to Read,” and it’s fascinating. In raising readers, it appears that we’re doing it wrong. Parents and teachers tend to think about the learning process in separate blocks. When kids are very young—around 4, 5 or 6—we teach them how to “decode” words. It isn’t until the fourth or fifth grade that we move onto comprehension. That’s too late, Willingham says. “Decoding and comprehension are not the same thing,” he tells me. “There are times when you can read content out loud but not understand what you’re reading.” In the later elementary school grades, as texts become much more complex, comprehension becomes much more difficult. And therefore, children struggle.

Instead, we should think about our children as whole readers from the beginning. In his NYT piece, Willingham writes that “comprehension is intimately intertwined with knowledge.” He suggests that parents should leave the teaching up to teachers, and simply read with kids. Read often. Read everywhere. Read for fun. Read fiction. Read nonfiction. Explore different topics. Traditionally, the texts in early elementary grades “have been light in content,” Willingham writes. (“Mac sat on a mat,”etc.) Kids can soak in more complicated information and plots when you read to them than when they read texts themselves, so it’s important to keep at it, following their natural curiosity.

Instead, we should think about our children as whole readers from the beginning. In his NYT piece, Willingham writes that “comprehension is intimately intertwined with knowledge.” He suggests that parents should leave the teaching up to teachers, and simply read with kids. Read often. Read everywhere. Read for fun. Read fiction. Read nonfiction. Explore different topics. Traditionally, the texts in early elementary grades “have been light in content,” Willingham writes. (“Mac sat on a mat,”etc.) Kids can soak in more complicated information and plots when you read to them than when they read texts themselves, so it’s important to keep at it, following their natural curiosity.

Article from: www.offspring.lifehacker.com

Close Menu
×
×

Cart