Rethinking Learning to Read

Find it at the educational heretics press

Find it at the educational heretics press

I’ve been so excited by this book by Harriet Pattison. She was a guest on my blog a little while ago and since then I’ve been able to delve into her research laid out in the book.

What’s most exciting about it is that by researching how home educated children learn she challenges many of our long held assumptions about children’s learning in general, not just about their reading. And argues against formal instruction, citing examples of home educating families who actually found it detrimental to their child’s learning.

The book explores different approaches throughout, giving examples of practicing home educating families and how their children learned to read. That in itself makes for fascinating reading.

However, the over riding message I’ve come away with is that there are many routes to reading success and these are rarely based in formal, graded instruction, but rather in the provision of an encouraging and conducive climate, through strong relationships both between the learner and the people facilitating that learning, and between the learner and their own reading.

It also emphasizes the importance of recognising the individual. Each individual has their own idiosyncratic relationships with their own reading and this should be acknowledged and allowed, along with the relationships they have with learning in general. Just because everyone learns differently, does not mean either success or failure – just different!

In fact, it is the very diversity of experiences and individuals which demonstrated that, contrary to what we tend to think, children do not necessarily need a schematic, structured approach to learning to read. To learning anything in fact!

Ironically in a book about reading, this research also upholds an idea which many home educating families already have discovered, that learning itself does not need to depend on the written word – there are so many other ways to learn.

There are far more elements to it than I’ve space for here. So do have a read of it. But I’ve been so excited by an academic book which actually contradicts much of what we thought was academically necessary for both learning to read and learning in general.

And that this research into home educating families approaches shows that education happens equally effectively without schools and without teaching in some instances.

I always said that homeschoolers were providing the proof that other approaches to education works just as well, along with challenging whether much of what children are subjected to in schools is necessary at all!

Exciting stuff!

You can buy a copy from the Educational Heretics Press and on


9 thoughts on “Rethinking Learning to Read

  1. Pingback: There’s no magic strategy to ‘teach’ your child to read | Ross Mountney's Notebook

  2. It is so refreshing and encouraging to read this. We home educate in France and I spent yesterday afternoon being humiliated and patronized by school inspecters during our yearly inspection. We took our children out of school out of concern for their wellbeing and education. We want to raise open minded, happy children, it’s so sad that there is no support or comprehension from the supposed experts. Thank you Ross, your blog and books are so valuable to us on the front line!

    • Thank you too, Laura, for telling me that. It’s so good to know that this work is of help. It’s going to take such a long time for other ways of thinking to permeate down through the narrow mind of ‘expertism’! Keep on believing – home educators are proving that other approaches to educating really do work! All best x

  3. So good to see a book out about this. I followed my instincts on this and my youngest son taught himself to read somehow. He had lots of being read to and lots of motivation to read because of all the words in the world around him and he did the rest! It took alot of holding of my own anxieties but it was worth it!

  4. I taught my kids the traditional way: by reading with them. It’s definitely important to remember each person is an individual though; not all kids will learn the same way, or be ready to read at the same age. x

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