Ready to read?

In today’s mail, there was a flyer advertising reading skills programs for children and speed reading programs for adults. Programs meet for one hour weekly, for 5 weeks.

At a glance, these “fun summer programs” seem like a nice enrichment program for readers who might need a skills-boost.

Considering that the classes are offered by a reputable local university, I actually thought about recommending the program to a friend who was looking for a tutor for her 2nd grader, to supplement his school- year assistance in reading.

Then I got to the program description for “4-Year-Olds and Entering Kindergarteners.” Full stop.

In two seconds flat, I went from “seems like a nice program” to “OMG everything is awful.” All kidding aside, this (see image below) is not okay.First of all, 5 hours over 5 weeks and “your child will learn to read”?? No. Your preschooler will not learn to read in 5 hours, nor should he be expected to.

That’s truly the heart of the problem for me. For preschoolers, the only age-appropriate outcome listed here is “will be excited about books and reading.” To suggest that that a 4-year-old will (or should) “learn to read simple words and short sentences” in a weekly summer class puts undue pressure on children and on their parents, too.

With few exceptions, children are not developmentally ready to learn to read at age 4. Period.

Without exception, preschoolers need more time to play (inside and outdoors) and more time to connect with nature. Without exception, preschoolers benefit from reading and being read to. They decidedly do not need a weekly summer class that implies they should be reading at age 4.

Disclaimer: there are certainly a few preschoolers who do demonstrate both an early interest in and an aptitude for reading. My daughter, now a high school sophomore, entered kindergarten reading fluently at a 4th grade level. Her nose was buried in a book for the next 10 years and it serves her well, even now.

That said, I assure you that she did not learn to read because of a 5-week summer program or because anyone expected her to do so. There were no flash cards, there were no workbooks, and there was no pressure. She learned to read because she had been read to every single day of her life, because her home was filled with books, because she associated books with smiles, warmth, and affection, and most importantly, because she was ready.

Parents, please let your four-year- old simply be four. Play outside and read stories everyday, taking a few minutes to talk about the letters and words you see. Let your little one see you read. Go to libraries and bookstores and parks. Sing songs, tell jokes, and tell silly stories. Play some more and then read some more. That’s enough, when you’re four.

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