(Early reading or book eating?)
A story in The Sun about a class of pre-kindergarten students in Oklahoma who are “already reading,” caught my eye this week, in part because I’m always on the look out for ways in which we are pressuring children to hurry up and master skills.
Turns out, while some of these four-year-olds are finishing beginner books, most are simply memorizing a sentence or two, according to the article.The story is sweet, and filled with quotes praising the administrators and teachers for being supportive and creative and for pushing the students. What it doesn’t do is examine a longstanding debate about the appropriate age to teach reading.
There are plenty of people who do not believe formal learning should start for children until they are seven, including Lilian Katz,, a professor of education at Illinois University
Katz last year addressed an international conference on nursery school at Oxford University in England, and told the U.K. newspaper The Guardian that teaching children to read and write too early can dent their interest in books later on.
In Sweden, children do not star formal instruction until six or seven. I know one thing from my own experience. For the first few years, any book I put in front of my children ended up in the same place — their mouth. I do think the issue how reading is taught, what books are introduced and what the right age to get kids started is a fascinating one, especially at a time when public school children are taking standardized tests earlier — and more often.