Reading Readiness Has To Do With The Body

active kids build reading readiness,

Strapped in. (CC 2.0 Micah Sittig)

Today’s kids sit more than ever. Babies spend hours confined in car seats and carriers rather than crawling, toddling, or being carried. As they get older their days are often heavily scheduled between educational activities and organized events. Children have 25 percent less time for free play than they did a generation ago, and that’s before factoring in distractions like TV or video games.

Left to their own devices, children move. They hold hands and whirl in a circle till they fall down laughing. They beg to take part in interesting tasks with adults. They want to face challenges and try again after making mistakes. They climb, dig, and run. When they’re tired they like to be rocked or snuggled. Stifling these full body needs actually impairs their ability to learn.

Sensory experience and fun. (CC by 2.0 Micah Sittig)

We know that our little ones walk and talk on their own timetables. No rewards or punishments are necessary to “teach” them. Yet children are expected to read, write and spell starting at five and six years old as if they develop the same way at the same time. In fact, academics are pushed on preschoolers with the assumption this will make them better students. This approach is not only unnecessary. It may be contributing to problems such as learning disorders, attention deficits, and long term stress.

Literacy isn’t easy. It requires children to decode shapes into sounds and words, to remember these words correctly in written and spoken form, and to understand their meaning. Allowing reading to develop naturally or teaching it later tends to create eager, lifelong readers. In contrast, teaching children to read early, between four and seven years, is often stressful. Why?

why pushing school-like lessons hinders learning,

Children pushed to read young (not those who naturally pick it up) tend to rely on right brain processes because that area matures more quickly. These early readers are likely to guess at unknown words using clues such as appearance, context, beginning and ending letters. Their main tactic is memorizing sight words. These are valuable methods but not a balanced approach to reading. Such children may quickly tire after reading short passages or read smoothly but have difficulty deriving meaning from what they read. The procedure they use to decode words can make the content hard to comprehend. These reading problems can persist.

However children benefit when they learn to read naturally or are taught later. That’s because, as the left brain matures and the pathway between both hemispheres develops, it becomes easier for them to sound out words, to visualize meanings, and mentally tinker with abstractions. They memorize short sight words but sound out longer words, an approach that is less taxing. As they incorporate more words into their reading vocabulary they more easily picture and understand what they are reading.

developing eager readers,

Developing eager readers (CC by 2.0 Daniel Pink

In order for children to read, write and spell they must be developmentally ready. Some are ready at the age of four or five, some not for many years later. This readiness includes complex neurological pathways and kinesthetic awareness. Such readiness isn’t created by workbooks or computer programs. It’s the result of brain maturation as well as rich experiences found in bodily sensation and movement.

These experiences happen as children play and work. This includes expansive movements such as climbing, jumping, digging, swimming, playing hopscotch and catch, riding bikes, sweeping, running. It also includes fine movements such as chopping vegetables, drawing, building, using scissors, and playing in sand. And it includes the essential growth that comes from snuggling, listening to stories, singing, trying new tastes, playing rhyming and clapping games, enjoying make believe. Children are drawn to such experiences. Without them, they won’t have a strong foundation for learning.

how to boost reading readiness,

Play is related to reading readiness. (CC by 2.0 stevendepolo)

These activities stimulate the child’s brain to develop new neural pathways. Such activities also build confidence, smooth sensory processing, and create a bank of direct experience that helps the child visualize abstract concepts. Well-intended adults may think a good use of a rainy afternoon is a long car ride to an educational exhibit. A young child is likely to derive more developmental value (and fun) from stomping in puddles and digging in mud followed by play time in the tub.

There are many other factors contributing to reading readiness. Perhaps most important is a supportive family life where play, reading, and conversation are an enjoyable part of each day. But it helps to remember that young children want to participate in the purposeful work of making meals, fixing what’s broken, and planting the garden. They also need free time without the built-in entertainment of specialized toys, television, or video games. Their development is cued to movement. These bodily experiences prepare children for the magic found when shapes become words, words become stories, and they become readers.

raising eager readers,

Reading enthusiasm isn’t magic. (CC by 2.0 John-Morgan)

About Laura Grace Weldon

Laura Grace Weldon is a writer and editor, perhaps due to an English professor's scathing denunciation of her writing as "curious verbiage." She's the author of "Free Range Learning," a handbook of natural learning and "Tending," a poetry collection. (lauragraceweldon.com) She's working on her next book, "Subversive Cooking" (subversivecooking.com). She lives on Bit of Earth Farm where she is a barely useful farm wench. Although she has deadlines to meet she often wanders from the computer to preach hope, snort with laughter, cook subversively, talk to chickens and cows, discuss life’s deeper meaning with her surprisingly tolerant offspring, sing to bees, hide in books, walk dogs, concoct tinctures, watch foreign films, and make messy art.
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44 Responses to Reading Readiness Has To Do With The Body

  1. Kendra Hendren says:

    So true. I have two children. The older one was pushed to read, and it is evident to this day that we should not have done that. He’s nearly 16 and he still has an aversion to reading, though his desire for information is overriding that dislike somewhat, thank goodness. To this day he experiences anxiety if he’s in a situation where he is expected to read aloud.

    My younger child was not pushed toward reading in any way – AT ALL – EVER. We played games, and I read out loud to her and played audiobooks in the car. She is 13 and she loves reading, and she is happy to read aloud with no problem.

    I wish I had stumbled on this information 12 years ago. :-)

  2. Reblogged this on homeschoolingmiddleeast and commented:
    Another great post from Laura Weldon. As a mother of a 4 year old I MUST avoid the temptation to try and ‘prove’ not only that homeschooling ‘works’ but that a more relaxed, ‘unschooling’ approach works by even mildly pushing her to read/write. I MUST, yes, take advantage of any interest but really, really be careful. I pushed my son to read faster than he wanted to (in order for him to be accepted into a different school) and although this worked technically it did NOTHING to encourage a love of reading and this is especially fragile with boys. I wish, wish I had done things differently.

  3. Kansas Montessorian says:

    I have to say I completely disagree with holding your child back from experiencing reading and writing till after 7. My I have years and years of experience in a relaxed fun learning Montessori classroom where children are GIVEN the OPPORUNITY to learn on their own and they CHOOSE to learn. They CHOOSE to read and write. All by their kindergarten year!!! Why hold children back from learning so much when their minds are soaking everything in. If given the right environment, prepared and guided through it in a manner that fosters independance then they learn to LOVE to LEARN! I challenge you to observe in a MONTESSORI classroom and see how happy, independant the children are and how they want to learn, want to read and want to write and can do it very well!!!

    • I’m not saying at all that anyone should hold a child back from reading and writing. I’m emphasizing the vital importance of body-based development. I hope I pointed out in the post that children who do not naturally learn to read, which is fostered by learning opportunities and choice as you so amply point out, are different than children pushed to read. Two of my four children read quite easily by the time they were four and a half. Two did not read with ease until they were older despite the same opportunities. All four are fast readers, enthusiastic readers, and cannot understand why their peers aren’t drawn to reading.

      • I agree my grandson was reading well before he entered kidnergarten because he wanted to. His five year old sister is not as interested in learning the words as making up her own words to describe the pictures and what she thinks is happening. My grandson turned 5 a week after school started and my granddaughter who will be starting kidnergarten in a week was five the end of July so ages are similar. They are just different children. If we push her to learn the “right” words do we wind up discouraging her creative ability at this time? They have both been encouraged to read.

    • Elena C says:

      Agree – Montessori method is far superior to any other one allowing children free movement throughout the classroom and utilizing children’s natural sensitive periods for learning. Reading is introduced and picked up much faster at a younger absorbent (sponge-like) mind phase. By the time children reach 6 and 7, that sensitive period fades away and the ‘natural’ interest of learning to read may pass. Phonetic reading method is a must – it creates fun – reading and writing become exciting for kids when they make up own words – once again by moving the actual letters in a ‘moving alphabet’. And all that happening without ‘force’ or ‘cohersion’ or pressure ‘to learn’.

      • These adamant Montessori-is-best replies surprise me with their rigid allegiance to the idea that only their way is best. Research does NOT indicate that a “natural interest of learning to read may pass” if a child hasn’t learned to read by 6 or 7. My post is full of links with more information. I try to present information in a way that accepts each child as an individual who grows into his or her abilities within the context of a family and community, not a peg to be fit into any one educational philosophy. Claims that one method is “superior” and that children will not flourish if early timetables aren’t met is simply pressure.

        • Kansas Montessorian says:

          Thank you as you have given me a challange to find the reasearch I have read in the past and always have it at hand. I do respect your opinion and do not wish to drag this out, but only to have a good conversation of a very important issue. I may not comeback to this one post after doing my research as it may take months or years to get accomplished in this busy house hold but thanks you agian for giving me the challenge. As it is like devending a faith; I often do not have the right sciptures to defend when the time comes up.

          • liz says:

            It is like defending a faith; the same does not hold true for all. And insisting tends to turn me off; the same is true for all those who insist from a place of supposed expertise: they turn me off.

          • GQ says:

            Kansas Montessorian – You so turn me off with your faith and scripture about your superior Montessori method. I care even less about the “challenge” or the result of it. I know very little about Montessory, I may still want to read more about it if I come accross, other than that I have no motivation.
            As I just demonstrate to you, when pushed, people repel. You try pushisng your faith down people’s throat, they reject. Kids are no different.
            Laura, thanks for the informative article. I have a 7 and a 5. Each has her own learning style. I just read to them a lot. By 6, some thing just clicked and my older one started reading on her own. So happy for her.

        • I used a Montessori-style approach in my home. My daughter started reading at age 3; my son did not make the leap until he was nearly 8. Within a year, he was reading beyond “grade level”, so while I love Montessori, I do agree that the observed sensitive periods are not exactly the same for each child. He had no interest in any of the typical Montessori early reading and writing activities; now (age 11), he reads hours every day. And he didn’t end up learning to read through the same phonics activities I had done with my daughter: he learned to read by following along while I read to him. He worked out the phonics on his own, something he much preferred doing over me showing him!

      • sarah says:

        I am always bewildered when people say “must” when it comes to educating children. For example, learning to read phonetically – my child absolutely could not do it. Phonetics made no sense to her whatsoever, it certainly was not fun, and the brief approach we made towards it was very distasteful to her. And yet, she taught herself to read by age 3, and at 4 was reading novels.

        (Ironically, and with apologies to Laura, she was not much into jumping around or moving. Very focussed child!)

        Seems to me that any time you say something is a must, you aren’t really giving a child freedom to learn, you are setting them up in a secret kind of cohersion. That is actually why I steered clear of Montessori methods myself.

        • Totally agree on the “must” thing Sarah.

          None of my four kids were the frenetic moving types either. When they were very small they liked to crouch to watch insects, kneel to play Legos, stand on a stool to help at the kitchen counter, snuggle while listening to books read aloud, sit on the swing while I pushed, use a tiny broom to wipe up crumbs, paint pictures, play in the tub. I tried to make sure they had some large motor activities each day too, often a walk or climbing at the park. And two out of four were very early readers. These more subtle movements are just as necessary to build proprioceptive awareness, which is essential for reading and math success. There’s some wonderful information about this in the book “The Well Balanced Child: Movement and Early Learning” by Sally Goddard Blythe.

  4. Sparklee says:

    Thank you for another great post! Moving is SO important for reading and other learning as well. When my daughter was learning her multiplication facts I noticed that she would pace around the room, and if I quizzed her, she would jump up and down when she answered. When she took a quiz at school, well, that was quite different! Sitting at a desk, she couldn’t recall them as well. I’m sharing this post on Facebook–it’s so important!

    • I see myself in your daughter. My mother used to call me a “wiggle wump” and “fidgeter.” Even while sitting still I’m told that I’ve got a foot twirling or a knee rocking. I think many of us need movement to help us think.

  5. Kansas Montessorian says:

    …If you don’t give them the opportunities to learn, If you don’t show them first then you limit them to only what they see, hear and can understand. I know we learn from nature and the natural environment but wow what we would be missing out if that is all we were exposed to. Where would the world be today if it was not for intellect. How would our doctors know what they know. We learn from others. Therefor, teachers and talented moms are important in the most impressionable days of a child’s life giving them lots of opportunities to learn. and in my opnion a MOntessori classroom gives the most opprotunites a child could ever have in the most natural way possible thus creating the smartest happiest children on the planet:)

    • I’m not sure what impression you’re taking away from this post. I don’t deride intellect. I’m not advocating turning a child out to learn from nature without learning from others. I am espousing a more natural form of learning, one that has worked throughout nearly all of human history. Children learn as they play, as they watch and imitate a variety of inspiring role models, as they explore and discover to find answers, as they ask questions and their search for greater meaning is facilitated, as they flourish in strong loving relationships, as they are told stories and tell their own stories, well, I could go on but you get the idea. This can happen in the home, in the community, and yes, in the most ideal classrooms.

  6. Kansas Montessorian says:

    Yes, but this statement you made…”Yet children are expected to read, write and spell starting at five and six years old as if they develop the same way at the same time. In fact, academics are pushed on preschoolers with the assumption this will make them better students. This approach is not only unnecessary. It may be contributing to problems such as learning disorders, attention deficits, and long term stress.”…gives me pause to worry. THey are expected to read because with the right learning environment and guiding them through such an environment they can learn on their own between 3 and 5 to read and write. Why not give them that opportunity. And no if not pushed they will not get attention deficits, learning disorders or long term stress. Look at the statistics, Given the opportunity and a PREPARED ENVIRONMENT and a TRAINED teacher to guide them they will love to learn:)

    • If you click on the link in the paragraph you find upsetting it goes directly to an article I wrote earlier. I’ll add the links in the text for your convenience:

      Recent studies with four-year-olds showed, “Direct instruction really can limit young children’s learning.” It also limits a child’s creativity, problem solving, and openness to ideas beyond the situation at hand. This is true when the instruction comes from parents as well as teachers.

      As Wendy S. Grolnick explains in The Psychology of Parental Control, research shows that rewards, praise, and evaluative comments actually undermine motivation and stifle learning in preschoolers as well as school-aged children. Again, true when it comes from parents as well as teachers.

      http://www.slate.com/articles/double_x/doublex/2011/03/why_preschool_shouldnt_be_like_school.html#A

      http://blogs.babycenter.com/mom_stories/early-instruction-makes-kids-dumb/

    • Vanessa says:

      I am baffled at your repeated attempts on this thread to put kids in a box. YOu say “THey are expected to read because with the right learning environment and guiding them through such an environment they can learn on their own between 3 and 5 to read and write” . I have a 6 year old who is at the beginning stages of reading. He can already write, but he’s not completely ready to read, and I can guarantee that if forced, he would not want to learn to read. Right now, he has motivation to learn the skills slowly (and he is). But he is also a very active boy who can’t sit still, and I find that movement and play to be just as valuable (if not more) to him right now than trying to “expect” him to be reading.

      I also have a 4 year old who taught himself his letters at age 2, but he is still not ready to read yet. I swear he is the boy that will just come to us one day and start reading. But, I encourage them each individually in their own progression.

      We read lots together and we play lots together. We count items and money together. We add and subtract. We sing rhymes and play games. Why must we be so focused on just learning to read at this young age? It just seems so odd that we are so preoccupied as a country at making EVERY child learn to read by age 5. We are creating a lot of children who don’t enjoy reading by that model.

  7. Rachel says:

    Thank you for this post. I am homeschooling my 2 children and my 7 year old son LOVES being read to and is only mildly interested in his own reading and writing at this point. I wonder if early reading is pushed in school so that students are at similar levels and thus, easier to teach?
    The longer I’m on this homeschooling journey, the more courage I gain to let my children’s natural talents and inclinations unfold in their own time.

    • I think reading is pushed in school because it’s an easily tested benchmark. It’s also the simplest way to transmit information, although young children (and most of us throughout life) learn more deeply when we do so actively, hands-on, directly from people who show us, and by the process of discovery.

      Unfortunately early reading is imposed in school because it’s the means by which nearly every other subject is taught. Textbooks, worksheets, and online instruction largely rely on the written word. So a child who may not be ready to read until he’s 7 or 8 or older gets farther and farther behind, is disadvantaged in every subject, and believes he “hates” to learn.

      In the homeschooling/unschooling environment, or in a Democratic school environment, this isn’t a problem. The child can continue to learn about all subjects in wider more direct ways, perhaps gaining an advantage over the child in the classroom whose education is much more passive. One of the links I shared in this post was to a piece by Dr. Peter Gray titled, Children Teach Themselves to Read. http://www.psychologytoday.com/blog/freedom-learn/201002/children-teach-themselves-read Entirely heartening!

      Wishing you joy on your homeschooling journey.

  8. lucypith says:

    Reblogged this on Z is for Zener and commented:
    Reblogging this excellent post about reading from Laura Grace Weldon. I haven’t followed up on the links yet, but I am looking forward to doing so.

  9. Laura, I appreciate this post so much as well as your thoughtful comments. My five year old daughter is reading and takes so much joy in it. A couple of times in the past year I tried to be more directive, I guess with the idea of “accelerating” her learning, and she dug her heels in very quickly. This was a good signal to me to back off, which I did, and the joy returned rapidly, and her advancement in reading is obvious. I’m letting go, more and more, of the need to prove to anyone that she is learning or “on track.” What track?! Do I want her on a track, or do I want her to love learning? A track, or a unique path that is her own?

    I admire Montessori principles. I find it strange to hear a Montessori teacher espousing a one-size-fits-all approach (i.e., you must read on this schedule and in this way) when so much of what I’ve admired about Montessori has to do with allowing children freedom to explore, with lots of interesting materials and topics and areas to become engaged in– really recognizing the uniqueness of each child. At least that’s been my impression of Montessori. Maybe I’m wrong. I think I will need to take a closer look, because what I’ve read here in the comments disturbs me. Anyone who claims that their method is the “best” way, that their method alone leads to the “smartest happiest children on the planet”, and insists on the primacy of a “TRAINED teacher” raises big red flags in my book. However, the Montessori teacher raised one issue that I think is a tenet of Waldorf education: deliberately delaying reading until age 7. This feels as wrong to me as deliberately pushing reading before the child is ready. I can’t imagine for a second telling my daughter, “No, I won’t allow you to read, even though you’re showing me how eager you are and how much you love it.” I haven’t studied these methods (Montessori, Waldorf) in detail, so I don’t know for sure how their principles are taught and interpreted and practiced, but this is the impression I’m left with.

    Meanwhile I’m just happy to be an eclectic homeschooling parent, forging our own way that serves us best, neither holding back nor pushing forward.

    • Parents like you who are sensitive to a child’s cues, like your daughter’s resistance when you tried to be more directive about her reading, GET IT! I think children show us how they learn and grow best through their delight but also through their stubbornness and resistance.

      My admiration of Montessori and Waldorf methods isn’t diminished by the comments of a teacher or two. Both methods were groundbreaking for the time and have much to recommend them now. It’s my understanding that delaying reading in Waldorf schools (or Waldorf oriented homeschooling) doesn’t mean putting the brakes on when a child easily acquires reading earlier, it simply means delaying more formal instruction. This allows children who already are picking out words and sentences to go right ahead but doesn’t stigmatize those who aren’t ready.

  10. What a wonderful article, I love to see people putting focus on the CHILDREN when it comes to education and letting them lead the way instead of chasing the latest fad (Pubic schools are as guilty of this probably even more so than homeschoolers). Most of the students I’ve taught are apathetic toward reading and some are outright hostile. I give them a 300-400 article to read and many act as if it is torture (these are high school students). I always have loved to read and even if it was something I didn’t enjoy I can quickly extract the relevant information so I always had a difficult time understanding how kids could come to find reading so abhorrent and comprehend so little of what they just read.

    I always get a sick feeling in my stomach when I see those “YOUR BABY CAN READ!” commercials where babies that can’t even talk are recognizing written words. All memorization, like with monkeys, but if you read the studies the monkeys always plateau at a certain number of words which is the limit of memorization ability. It’s hard to blame parents for wanting to give there children an advantage but that just never seemed natural to me. Thanks again for the good read.

    • It’s so sad to hear of kids who hate to read. I wonder if it isn’t just the form of instruction but also years of being assigned to read what they have no interest in, then being tested and graded on it. Imagine any one joy in life, then re-imagine it if it were fed to you via assignments followed by testing and grading. The joy would be wrung out.

  11. Carolyn says:

    Hello Laura,
    I was introduced to your book by a friend of mine who homeschools and wants to do more unschooling with her children. Anyway, I love the unschooling idea, I really do. Here is my plight, my youngest son is 10, almost 11, and he is special needs. He was born early so has some learning issues. He is struggling to read. I have pushed him because I have state requirements to meet and am leary to take his portfolio to be assessed to a teacher with no “reading” in it. He is MISERABLE. He yawns when he reads, struggles, and has even cried. It is heart breaking. This article has given me the courage to just read to him and let him relax and enjoy his life. I hate seeing him miserable, and feel so mean when I say it’s reading time. He would be happiest if reading tiem meant I read to him and point to the words as I go. I am going to do this Mon,. and I am excited to see his little face light up when I do it with him. He will be full of joy. Thanks for this article. And as for the Montesorri approach that there is a window for all kids to be taught, my two special needs children debunk that, what about them. My youngest, was born at 1lbs. 8 oz., that has it effects. He is not ready to read at 10 even, let alone when he was younger and in public school and they tried to push him. He can read ok, but he is MISERABLE. Was it worth it – NO, would I do it again,- NO. My sadness is, I thought I was doing it right, to teach him to read, but I will not push him any longer, starting Mon. he will be so happily surprised!

    • Please don’t take anything I say as gospel regarding the education of a special needs child. I do know that occupational therapy, which has a great deal to do with helping brain and body development to mature, can be a very important adjunct to any educational approach for children with special needs. Your health insurance and/or your school district may cover most of all of the costs once an assessment is done, even if your child is not enrolled in school. This therapy tends to proceed in the form of games, as well as large and small motor play. It’s entirely worth checking out.

      If you didn’t click on the link in the post, take a look at the article by Dr. Peter Gray, who studied the natural development of reading in homeschooling children. http://www.psychologytoday.com/blog/freedom-learn/201002/children-teach-themselves-read I’d encourage you to contact him if you have questions based on his article, particularly that children do teach themselves to read.

      Another point. In my state, portfolio assessors only check to see that a child is working up to his or her ability level. Not grade level. You may want to check more specifically what your state requires.

      That said, take a look at chapter 14 of my book. It has lots of suggestions for encouraging while not pushing reading. Here are a few ideas:

      ~Transcribe stories or ideas your child tells you, or offer to write a description on a picture he has drawn. Read it back any time he asks. Seeing his words in written form is an important testament to the joy of reading.

      ~Send postcards home when you’re out on a day trip, even if simply on a field trip across town. Help him write or write his own sentences for him, describing something of interest you’ve seen or done. Then pop it in the mail. A day or two later it will appear in the mailbox. Kids love to get mail, even if from themselves, and it will encourage him to give reading a try. You can make postcard sending a family tradition, one that helps him remember the fun you have together.

      ~Print out family photos or cut out funny magazine pictures, then help him write humorous captions or create dialogue bubbles.

      ~Write your own rebus stories or notes (rebus means to replace some words with pictures). You may want to write him a short note every day, making about a quarter of the words little pictures. He may surprise you by writing back.

      ~Encourage him to listen to recorded chapter books. Don’t replace your read aloud time together, but do let him spend time listening to other books while he plays with Legos or draws. You’ll find a good selection at your public library.

      Just a cheery aside. My kids are teens and young adults. I knew plenty of their peers in school had difficulty reading. Being in school didn’t solve it, although it did turn out kids who hate to read. I also watched their homeschooled peers who were late readers. Plenty of their parents despaired, but every one of those kids not only learned to read (some as late as 12) but they are now enthusiastic readers. They’re also wonderfully successful as high achieving college students and/or working young adults.

      • Carolyn says:

        Laura, I am sorry I if I implied teaching my child to read is done and I’ll just read with him only. I reread my comment and it sure did sound that way. When I read this article it really hit home because my son is struggling in reading and I have really pushed him. So I was a bit overwhelmed when I read an article that goes along with my thought that not all children will read at the same age and not all will be ready to at the same time. His stuggles have been very hard and I just got ahead of myself commenting. I have doen extensive reasearch and spent hours looking for the best way to teach my special needs child, he has already surprised the Dr.’s with what he is able to do, when originally they said he would not be able to read because of the nature of his disorder. So he is exceeding expectations. I say this to ease any concerns you may have that I am going to just stop all reading instruction based on this article. I chuckle when I think how my previous comment sounded. So sorry about that. SO I am not going to forgo all reading instruction this article just gave me a little more courage to do it the way my son learns best and not the exact method PS uses, that is all I really meant. And today has been a huge success, he has been very relieved.

  12. Frannie says:

    Just a small comment regarding Montessori and Waldorf- I am not trained in either but I admire qualities in both – I think there are sensitive periods that occur (at least I’ve noticed with both my children – 4 and 15 mo respectively); however, I think the underlying message in both philosophies as well as the author (if I may so boldly assert) is ‘to follow the child’ – a very important aspect of M & W is freedom with responsibility (rthythm, routine, order) – and so it seems if we (as moms, educators, etc) are saying something should happen by such and such time it takes away freedom – give a prepared environment, give opportunity, give playtime, give yourself, give love – but don’t be fearful or anxious if things don’t go as you expected – ‘follow the child’

  13. Gen says:

    Thank you for your article! A very good reminder in a world where children are increasingly discouraged from movement and creative play, and pushed by school and entertainment toward being more sedentary and following only what others say should be learned and played, rather than what fascinates the child.

    My brother is a good example of learning to read at a different pace, and the actual advantage that ended up being to him in the end. He is profoundly dyslexic, and at the age of 9 was still barely reading 3 letter words (he just couldn’t seem to remember any phonics, no matter how many times or different ways they were presented.) Because he couldn’t read to himself, he was always listening to audio books, usually far above the typical reading level of kids his age. So he had a huge spoken vocabulary and had “read” widely, including many classic books I doubt I will ever end up reading. Finally, with several reading intervention programs, he learned to read at the age of 10 or 11. Now, at the age of 15, he devours 500 page books and thoroughly enjoys reading. Meanwhile he still benefits from the knowledge and vocabulary that he gained while “delayed” b/c of dyslexia. Thankfully he was homeschooled, and my parents had the patience and trust to allow him to learn to read when he was ready, while at the same time never ceasing to offer him opportunities to learn in other ways.

  14. Gen says:

    Having been an assistant in Montessori classrooms for several years, I think I understand what the Montessori teacher from KS was trying to say – when given an environment that is rich in pre-reading activities and incremental steps toward reading, many children can learn to read with ease at a young age, without any feeling of being forced or pressured. Does this work for everyone? No – my older sister went through the same Montessori schools that I did as a child, and I was reading by 3, while she struggled for a good while with it, and didn’t really read with enjoyment till she was a teenager at least. But you are offering the child an environment that will encourage many pre-reading and writing activities (developing large and fine motor skills), pique their interest in reading, and provide them with tools to learn to read when they are ready.

    That being said, I do have to say that I have often wondered if it was really that good for me to learn to read at such a young age. I spend countless hours throughout my childhood and teen years lost in books (to the detriment of staying active and other things I could have been doing with that time), and I’m not convinced that that was the best way for me to spend ALL of that time. Doing a good bit of reading can definitely be beneficial, but I’m not sure but that I was a bit of a binge reader – my drug of choice. ;) And I discovered when I was 20, when my dad read The Fellowship of the Ring aloud to my family over Christmas break, that I had developed the habit of reading so quickly that I skimmed over most of the descriptions of scenes and character – I was missing a ton of what I read. If I hadn’t read so early, my parents would probably have kept reading to me (as they did for my other siblings who read later), and I would have learned more about HOW to read well and absorb the beautiful details, not just the plot.

    So I guess I would say that early reading isn’t an absolute good, nor is later reading necessarily a huge handicap, if kids are given the opportunity to learn in other ways, and not made to feel stupid. But there are many good tools out there that can help children to learn to read with ease when they are ready to do so, which is where I think Montessori is very strong. (A personal favorite for homeschoolers is the Primary Arts of Language program from IEW.) But, as the author pointed out, movement and cognitive development through play and being a part of the real life of the family are vitally essential.

    And now I am going to stop talking! :} But thank you again, Laura, for your interesting post!

    • Kansas Montessorian says:

      Very eloquently put Gen:). I’m bet your reading spead and understanding is part personality. Somewhat like one piano student to another. One may take to playing slow and methodically as the the piece requires, but the next may choose to fly through every piece.

  15. Pingback: Reading Horizons Winner and Reading Readiness | FIMBY

  16. Rachel J. says:

    Wow. Can’t thank you enough for this piece. Do you have any suggestions for a book or CD that could help us learn some clapping songs/rhymes? I read that link and am intrigued, but can’t seem to find anything that would teach us both the rhythm and the words/clapping directions

    • I suspect your local library has a selection of books and CDs, maybe even videos. Or try YouTube. Also, sites and materials for early childhood educators tend to have all sorts of great resources like these.

  17. Katie G. says:

    Laura, I really appreciate your post and the few others that I’ve just begun to read. I’m a homeschooler and my oldest, a girl, was 7 in April. I’m very familiar with the concepts of which you wrote. My children have a rich learning environment at home. We read, sing, talk a lot, dance, climb trees, explore, etc., etc.. My 7 year old is extremely imaginative and creative and loves good stories. BUT, she does not love to read. I haven’t pushed. We learned phonics gradually. Last year at 6 was the first year that we began anything “academic.” She can read. I think she’s probably pretty average for her age. But she dreads practicing reading because “it’s hard” and “no fun.” So here is my plea for your wisdom…I so want to respect her developmental timetable and not push too soon. But I do not want to encourage an attitude that we only do things that come easily and we don’t work hard at practice. I want to begin nurturing self-discipline and a good work-ethic. Practicing something new is often not easy or fun. How do you know if a child’s just not ready, or, if they are a little lazy??

    • I’ve been where you are Katie, and can practically feel the love embedded in your concern. We want SO much to do the right thing by our children don’t we?

      Reading has always been like magic to me. In fact I can remember being a preschooler watching older kids come home from school every day, wondering if I would actually be able to absorb whatever secret would turn me into a reader. That’s why, when my kids were at the pre-reading/early reading stages it was terribly important to me to keep reading from being a chore. I wanted them to be passionately engaged readers. I had no problem imposing other chores on them, real work that helped our family, and I am more sure than ever that this is an important way to build self-discipline as well as other vital character traits. (See how kids benefit from taking on household responsibility here http://lauragraceweldon.com/2012/07/25/how-kids-benefit-from-chores/) You can insure that your daughter learns the value of completing tasks that aren’t easy and instilling a good work ethic this way. It will translate to other areas of her life.

      It sounds like you see that your daughter is progressing in reading. And since reading is so cued to other, corresponding maturation levels, it’s not valuable to push it as it might be to with other practice-based learning like doing lay-ups in basketball, for example, or playing the piano. At her age reading needs to be about delight. In my opinion, it’s valuable to erase all coercion from your reading time together. Clearly she’s resisting. Children are rarely able to identify why they resist—her eyes may easily become tired, she may feel pressured to perform above her ability level, there can be dozens of reasons which will ease up over time as long as she doesn’t feel as if she has to keep resisting. Read together for fun. Keep easy books around for her to pick up on her own. Occasionally read far enough in one of these easy books to get her engaged and excuse yourself for something quick (bathroom break?) and come right back. Don’t ask her, but she may have spent some time reading ahead on her own. As you read the same lines she read silently, you are reinforcing her reading skills. Talk about the stories and/or facts from a book later, as if they have sparked ideas or musings for YOU. Here are some suggestions from my book that I gave in an earlier comment:

      ~Transcribe stories or ideas your child tells you, or offer to write a description on a picture she has drawn. Read it back any time she asks. Seeing her words in written form is an important testament to the joy of reading.

      ~Send postcards home when you’re out on a day trip, even if simply on a field trip across town. Help her write or write her own sentences for her, describing something of interest you’ve seen or done. Then pop it in the mail. A day or two later it will appear in the mailbox. Kids love to get mail, even if from themselves, and it will encourage her to give read it. You can make postcard sending a family tradition, one that helps her remember the fun you have together.

      ~Print out family photos or cut out funny magazine pictures, then help her write humorous captions or create dialogue bubbles. She’ll read them over and over.

      ~Write your own rebus stories or notes (rebus means to replace some words with pictures). You may want to write her a short note every day, making about a quarter of the words little pictures. She may surprise you by writing back.

      ~Let her listen to longer chapter books on CD.

      ~ Make sure she sees you and other adults in her life reading often, for pleasure and information.

      Wishing you well Katie.

  18. Veronicacarseat says:

    I did not read all the comments, so I’m not sure if anyone has already asked or said something. BUT the very first picture of the cute little girl in the car seat NEEDS to be addressed. Her straps need to tightened up and where is the chest clip? This is NOT safe way for her to ride in the car.

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