Tag Archive | learning to read

Children are made readers…

Well, I think it’s generally good news on the easing of Lockdown. I was terrified the politicians would go crazy for popularity, open everything up too quickly and we’d be back to square one with rising infections in a month!

It’s still hard to imagine that normality of meeting friends without standing back from them, giving spontaneous hugs and kisses, going to pubs and cafes, libraries, museums and other such venues for inspiration and stimulation.

I don’t miss shopping – it’s not what I’d normally choose to do as a pastime, but there is one aside to that; I miss bookshops. I’ve never had the cash to randomly buy books, but I love to look at them and after much deliberation would invest on occasion.

The kids used to love going into bookshops too. And could spend hours in libraries, staggering out with the maximum they could borrow in one go.

The aesthetic of books will forever appeal to me, despite the advantage of digital versions and all you can access online.

I remember being in one bookshop a few years ago when I came across a sign in the children’s department, with the most exquisite sentiment. It read:

Children are made readers on the laps of their parents.

What a thought!  

I know it was a promotional statement but it is in part true. All those hours reading to your child has enormous benefits towards them building reading skills for themselves, they see/hear you reading, they hear intonation and expression, pauses and clauses, meaning and understanding of the fact these symbols on a page turn into stories. They begin to recognise word shapes and want to decipher them for themselves.

We can’t do it enough; we should read to them as much as we can, whatever age, however old they are. As long as they want us to. Such a loving thing to do. Such an important thing to do – give our time and attention to our children and develop a love of books and reading at the same time. Such a simple thing, which has such complex benefits.

It’s easy to be feel daunted by the hype and mystery surrounding learning to read, for parents to believe they’re not capable of helping their child to learn to read. That children need reading schemes and flash cards and complicated phonic strategies culminating in tests common in schools, or their children won’t learn to read properly.

That’s not true.

Children can and do learn to read completely informally as this brilliant book by Harriet Pattison explains; ‘Rethinking Learning to Read’ (see a blog about it here). In it the author actually argues against formal instruction – well worth a read.

Parents are totally able to ignite their children’s delight and curiosity about reading and it’s simple enough to encourage it to continue, building the necessary skills along the way. You don’t need teaching skills necessarily. You just need to give the time and attention to enjoying books and print and signs, in fact anything reading related, together.

(Here’s a little story about our child’s difficulty with reading during our Home Ed years – and what happened)

So keep the thought in mind; children are made readers on the laps of their parents – not necessarily in schools. And roll on the day we can get back in bookshops and libraries!

Meanwhile the book above is available here as well as Amazon.

Deformalising learning to read

It’s so exciting to find researchers who acknowledge that home educators’ approaches make a valuable contribution to ideas about education. Harriet Pattison is one such person.

She describes herself as an erstwhile home educator still puzzling over the meanings of education, childhood and learning.  She continues to fly the flag for the alternative as a lecturer in Early Childhood at Liverpool Hope University.

Harriet on a day off from work and writing!

Harriet on a day off from work and writing!

But all the while she’s been researching the way in which home educated children learn to read and from those examples considers how all educators could do with rethinking, and perhaps deformalising, their approach to it.

She told me how her research for her new book ‘Rethinking Learning to Read’ came about:

Education is supposedly about opening up children’s minds.  I think those of us who home educate might say actually it is about opening up adult’s minds.   Certainly home educating made a great start on opening up mine.  It’s amazing watching children; just watching them – not watching them learn or watching them develop but just watching them live.  Therein for me has lain an on-going puzzle.  The living is crowded in with an adult agenda and what was just being becomes doing and doing becomes learning.  But learning is what the adult sees because that’s what we are looking for; what the child does is be.  The puzzle reached its crescendo over learning to read.  How can children just live their way into reading?

Stories about children who ‘just started to read’ always fascinated me.  I wasn’t prepared to find it going on in my own house though.  I wasn’t prepared for the different ways in which it manifested itself.  The more I saw and the more I thought about it, the less I seemed to understand what it was all about.  When I couldn’t get out of the dead end of my own thinking, I started asking everyone else.  All home educators it seems have a tale about reading and I was lucky enough to share some really mind-blowing ones; ones that really rattle the cage of educational convention and demand some heavy re-thinking.

311 families with 400 children contributed to the research, answered my questions and shared their  stories and insights.  What emerged was a kaleidoscope of experiences, shimmers of similarity that turned away from each other, reflected but unsettled each other.  Beautiful, certainly but also unknown and, maybe even for that dangerous.  This was a rough ground of real life; tangled and complicated and wild – not something over which a neat frame of ready to hand theory could be tidily laid.  The stories, the wilderness, the puzzles demand that reading be re-thought because, somehow, our children have lived their way into a new territory of meaning.

‘Re-thinking learning to read’ is my foray into that wilderness.  I take with me a back pack of questions from the old world – all the things we worry about, the educational cares but also a strong desire to take nothing for granted, to begin again,  to rethink.

I’m reading the book at the moment and shall do a longer post about it soon.

Harriet is also co-author of the book ‘How children Learn at Home’ with Alan Thomas which researched the way in which children who are home educated learn through their experiences outside school.