Are Kids Reading Too Early?

December 23, 2009 by Geoff Nixon

Study Suggests 5 May Be Too Early.

A study of 400 pupils in New Zealand found no evidence of an advantage in teaching reading from the age of five. By the age of eleven, children who start to read at seven years of age end up reading as well as children that start at five.

The study, reported in the NZ Dominion Post, was published by Dr Suggate at the University of Otago in New Zealand.  He said “This study emphasizes the importance of early language and learning, while de-emphasising the importance of early reading.”

We are not at all surprised by these findings.   In the early years it should be all about learning and cognitive foundations.  Parents should be patient with early childhood reading, playing the long game favoring a long term positive connection to reading over keep up with artificial milestones.

Reading requires sound language processing skills.  For an older child, with a better grasp of language structure and vocabulary, reading is going to come a much easier, with a lot less student angst and a lot more likelihood that the student will actually learn to enjoy reading.

Programs like Fast ForWord essentially do this –it elevates language processing, setting up for a much less difficult path to reading competence.

Of course, the one reason not to  wait, is for the sake of the ones who have auditory processing difficulties or other impeding issues that are going to make reading hard.  For these children, waiting a couple of years won’t help that much as their basic processing issue will still be there.  For these children, the sooner they try to start reading the sooner they will be identified and can be helped.

Still, for most kids this is an interesting finding and if it is integrated into our education system we may end up with a new generation of enthusiastic readers who are not turned off reading during the often traumatic learning to read stage.  Wouldn’t that be nice.