Thursday, June 26, 2014

Schools and pushing reading... and so on

Seeing as it's school feedback time, I remembered something I wanted to talk about last year but I never bothered to blog about it.

However, I knew Mandy and I bantered just a little back and forth so I looked for that email and found it.


So here's the thing.

My kids love reading and writing.

They've known their alphabets since they were 2 (all Nanny V; nothing to do with us!) and spot things when we're out and about.

I asked the one teacher (Grade R teacher - that's Kindergarten, I think?) when kids learn to read and she said grade 1.

At ALL schools?


If we "push" them to read or strongly encourage too much, they're just going to be bored in Grade 1 because that's the first time they read.

All schools do this - even the private schools.


Our South African kids go to Grade R in the the year they turn 6, and to Grade 1 in the year they turn 7. That feels late for me.

I didn't know how to feel since we've never pushed our kids with anything (except manners - I have to admit!) academic or sports, etc. (I have other rants about this but let's stick to the topic)

So I asked an ex boss who has SUPER clever kids (like seriously!) if his kids were reading before Grade 1 and what they did.

He said they've always let the kids progress at their own rate and they just told them to be respectful in class and not disturb/ be those awful know-it-all kids but then at home, they would provide books, etc. at a level that challenged them so they could enjoy their free time.

So that was interesting.

That's South Africa.

I can't imagine where the kids get their love of books from :)

In the UK (please if I have any UK readers, feel free to correct me), the kids start school at 4 (babies!!) and my one friend who teaches there, said it's amazing that kids just do the stuff. They can do these things at such a young age. Like reading!!!

Then again, she told me that UK kids' gross motor development is behind that of our kids. So interesting. Another ex-client (now friend) of mine who lived there with his family for about 8 years before moving back home said the same thing. Apparently our outdoor lifestyle works to our kids' favour for this skill set.

Anyway, the point is this - what do you make of this reading thing?

Are you/ Did you push your kids to read earlier than necessary? What are your thoughts on all this "being bored in grade 1" business?

PS Next up we're going to talk about "holding kids back". Also, sorry for all the " " - I'm clearly in a rant-y sort of mood.


  1. I see no rants to go with the ""s? ;-)

    I'm letting N progress at her own speed up to the point where she needs to keep up with the class. I want school and reading to be a fun experience for her so no pressure at this has to feel like playing or it's not happening. Lucky for me I guess she's perfectly on par with her class mates...and exceptionally good at certain things like memorising rhymes (definitely my kid, I could memorise entire books word for word at her age). Because she was born so late in December she's actually almost a year younger than some of her peers and if she showed any signs of falling behind I would have considered holding her back a year to even the playing field, but she doesn' onwards and upwards.

  2. Rants???

    We let them be - we always encouraged books and "reading". In our grade 0 classes they encourage letters and common words ("sigwoorde" ) in Afrikaans - words are stuck onto everything - stoel, tafel , etc. (In A's days they did not do that) As you may know C started spontaneously reading about in the middle of grade 0. A only started in grade 1 but developed quickly - she taught herself the read second language somewhere in grade 1 while that is only taught in grade 2 - we had her reading age tested early this year and both first and second language is more than 2 years above age (second - 3 years above age).

    In conclusion - I think the moment they start, they progress very fast if they have the background and if the school environment is set correctly they may start on their own earlier on . And if they dont start early it does not mean they will not be great readers.

    Our grade 1 head every year in her "Reading" meeting with the parents state - "To grown great enthusiastic readers do the following: 1. Read to them every day, even when they are teenagers. 2. Let them read to you once they learn to read. 3. Let them see you read and enjoy a book - this is the way to encourage reading as a culture in your home."

  3. We are not there yet, but I remember having thhis conversation with my siser. She was told to stop teaching her son because he would be bored in Grade 1. Coming from the second child perspective and having been born after June so I had to wait a year to get into grade 1 I can say: I was reading and writing and doing all those things long before the other kids in my class because I had an older sister who I learned from without anyone pushing me and being a few months older meant I was more geared toward the learning. I do not think it is a bad thing to encourage the reading or anything for that matter as long you do not cross the line into pushing. I was put into a special class once a week so I would not get “bored” because I was advanced. I hated that class because it made me different. Knowing more than the other kids engendered a feeling of confidence in me. I may be a miss-know-it all, but I think it has its positives. You grow to think nothing is too difficult and you can achieve the things you want because you know things.
    My child is not yet three but their school (like all schools) are teaching counting and letters and colours and all those things I think they should learn anyway. If all the kids from similar backgrounds, it would stand to reason they will all appear “advanced”

  4. Nope I never pushed but then I have a reader and a non-reader. I think Cam has read more books than you this year and he reads way above his age now. We just feed the reader :) I think you may be over thinking?

  5. Ha. Rant away!
    I think that many schools start reading from 4 in South Africa – of course this depends on which school you send your kid to. At Montessori they start at 4 whereas at Waldorf they start reading when they are close to grade 2 BUT they approach it somewhat differently. At Joel’s current school (and a number of others regular "non-private" schools) they start the letters in the 4-5yr group already and then they repeat these in Grade R. Some kids will read and it’s encouraged and nurtured. Others are not yet able to (or rather, they are not ready) to make the connection and they too will be nurtured. I think that there’s no wrong or right. Some kids will read early and others will take a bit longer and read much later. But. They WILL read and that’s all that matters.

    I’m all for following the pace of the child and encouraging while NOT forcing the issue. I honestly can’t see any harm in having a kid read early – I was reading Grade 3 level in preschool already. No encouragement from my parents – I just picked it up. When they saw that I was reading they nurtured it and I kept going. Also, a proper teacher (i.e. one that is not lazy) will recognise if a kid needs a bit more and then manage for that. There are ALWAYS going to be kids who need more than the curriculum makes provision for so this business of them being bored just sounds absolutely ridiculous to me.

  6. Yes, I am pretty sure your R is our K, and here K starts at 5. That where we will be in the fall. I've never pushed, but I've worked with them where they've shown interest. Call it child-led if you will. They know their letters, numbers, and are beginner readers entering K.

    What worries me here is that there are children of all abilities being thrown in together. So the ladies friend M is 6 months older then my ladies, so she is one of the oldest children in the grade, and is pretty much reading starting K. Yet there are other kids in M's preschool class who are also starting K who still have trouble with letters and numbers. I worry that they all won't find a common ground and from the beginning there will be those left behind and those who are bored out of the gourds waiting for everyone else to catch up. I'm very on edge about starting school, but I'm trying to let go and see where this road takes us.

    Most people I know with older kids have informed me they come out of K as beginning readers, so aside from some more socialization, I'm not sure what my ladies will get out of the next year. I'm also not sure if I should continue "working" with them and potentially advancing them this next year. I surely don't want to meet their teacher and come off as some whack-job mother who is trying to raise cancer-curing rocket scientists! I'm currently watching once of my ladies suck food from a pouch at the moment so maybe I'm over thinking this all...

  7. You know my stance, but yeh, I agree with the comments above! If your child wants to read, why wouldn't you encourage it? Julia said to me a while back, its like anything else.. if your kid shows an aptitude for swimming, we put them in swimming classes, we encourage them to GO FOR IT, we applaud their ability and "push" them to excel. In the same way, my kid has shown a keen interest in reading, loves his words and letters and I have encouraged that with flash cards, readers, etc. I "push' him in the sense that I make all the resources available to him, but I do not force him in any way, some weeks we won't even look at his letters, and other weeks all he wants to do is learn more words, and read for me! I do wonder about the pace of the class next year when he goes to grade R officially, but if he happens to be more advanced with his reading, I'll feed that at home with more difficult books, etc. I don't believe you can be bored with reading, no ways.. there are too many books, too many things to learn about, too many worlds to explore through books! For that hour of English in class, he'll have to suck it up and catch up with his own lovely stories during his lunch break (if he is bored!!)

  8. Wow, that sounds like what teachers told my mom's mom in the US back in the 1950s! My son learned to read in preschool (which is private and optional), though many kids here learn in kindergarten and first grade (which are public). It's usually taught starting in preschool but they don't worry unless kids don't pick it up by age 7 or so.

  9. I believe in letting each child progress at their own pace. I also believe that children are being pushed too much these days.


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