How will the kids learn to read if they don’t go to school? This is a question often asked by potential home educators.
Bearing in mind the fact that there are kids who have gone to school and not learned to read, and adults out in the working world who also can’t read like Jay Blades, the presenter of the programme ‘The Repair Shop’, I’d like tell you that school is not the only route to learning to read. And sometimes even hampers it by the approaches and strategies they attach to it, particularly if you’re dyslexic, a condition which affects the way you process information like the written word.
I watched the programme by Jay Blades; ‘Learning to Read at 51’. It was brave and insightful. Yet he’s not the only one who has been blighted by school approaches to learning to read and the lack of empathy for an individual who needs a something a bit different. It was great that he brought that to the public eye.
The education system has over complicated the process of learning to read with their use of strategies and schemes and over intense focus on acquiring certain levels at certain ages and not allowing time for those who need longer. Even worse is the fact that children who learn differently and not at the expected generic rate are made out to be failures.
Added into this recipe for disaster is the way in which the literacy curriculum inhibits the associated use of language by the complicated dissection of it into named parts like ‘frontal adverbials’ and ‘split infinitives’, and invent academic exercises to practise use of them, as if this helps kids to use it more competently. It doesn’t really.
I’d like to tell you a little known fact: none of these approaches are in fact strictly necessary. Or will guarantee a child learns to read or communicate effectively through the written word, which is after all the point of it. But parents have been frightened into thinking that their children won’t learn to read, or be able to successfully use language throughout their adult life, without such approaches.
Children can – and do – learn to read without any of these formal approaches. There are enough home educated adults now who are living proof.
Although most home schooling parents do guide and facilitate their children towards reading, there are children who have learnt by themselves without any formal intervention at all apart from encouragement and exposure to reading and text. And there is plenty of opportunity to do this surrounded as we are by signs, packets, media, texting, gaming, all of which are valuable opportunities to experience reading. It’s not confined to books!
Another very important influence on them acquiring the skill is the sight of you reading. Children want to do what you do, want to access and enjoy books like you do, want to read your tablet, texts and messages, and love being read to – which has a direct effect upon their reading skills. It’s all part of their desire to read, important for motivation. If they’re motivated – and not put off by dull strategies that kill the joy of using language – they’ll read.
It doesn’t have to be attached to age either, despite what schools would say. Each child is different and will come to it at a different time and maybe in a different way. Even those with specific challenges like Dyslexia, like Jay, have been able to read in different time frames.
A marvellous book which illustrates how this happens, and how we should perhaps change our minds about the teaching of reading is ‘Rethinking Learning to Read’ by Harriet Pattison, an educationalist and home educator herself. (Blog here about it). If anything is going to give you the courage to believe you could teach your child to read it’s this book – worth a read.
What’s most important is that parents should believe in their ability to facilitate their child’s progress with reading, and trust the fact that with encouragement and faith, they can make it happen.
After all, I have known adults who’ve been through the school system and come out unable to read. But I haven’t known a home educated child who hasn’t managed it in the end.
And maybe if Jay had been afforded more patient and sympathetic approaches during his education, he would have been able to read before the age of 51, as he clearly has the ability to overcome the challenges he faces.
However long it takes, and unless your reader has very severe or specific difficulties, home schooling gives you the time you need to develop a reader – you just need to provide the encouragement and patience!