Usually, when I mention to someone that my three year-old can read, people raise their eyebrows skeptically, like I’ve just claimed my toddler sunk a three pointer. The conversation around reading creates an emotional response in people; for some, it’s a point of pride because they’ve been reading chapter books since Kindergarten. For others, it can arouse feelings of frustration and humiliation since reading never came to them easily. My teaching experience brought me children on each side of the spectrum, and all I can say is this:
You’re not better or worse than anyone else because you’re an early reader.
Every parent wants their kid to be a ‘good reader’. If you ask me, that specific term is thrown around a little too easily in elementary schools. Too early, teachers or parents will deem a child as “getting it” or “not getting it”- as if reading readiness is a trait rather than a process. What happens when we label our young child as “behind” because they aren’t ready for Pride and Prejudice in Kindergarten? The kids take notice, and they feel ashamed. Reading becomes an experience connected with negativity, and you can bet that they won’t enjoy it! It can take a lifetime to mend the early wounds of shame and embarrassment.
Before we get caught up in comparing our kids against our imaginary standard, we should remember: it’s a process! Not a race!
My son showed early signs of reading readiness, and I’m proud of the way he has worked hard (well, as hard as three year olds work) to learn to read. But to be clear: I don’t think this puts him on a pedestal above other children. Like walking and talking, reading takes a unique course in every child. There are many steps you can take to encourage your child to read (maybe I’ll discuss some in later posts!), but in the end, they will read when they are ready- not when you are ready.