In today’s tumultuous parenting times, you never know what topic is going to end up being controversial. I mean, could teaching a toddler to read be a hot topic? What about pride in NOT teaching your kid to read?
As Rhiana Maidenberg writes for The Huffington Post, “My four-year-old daughter is illiterate. She can only sight read her own name, has not memorized short board books, and can barely write five letters of the alphabet. I am more than fine with all of this. In fact, I am proud.”
Maidenberg goes on to explain she’s proud of the fact her daughter’s can’t read because “infants and toddlers have much more valuable things to be doing with their time: finger painting, running in circles, jumping on couches, pot-and-pan beating, and annoying their siblings.” She and her husband send their daughters to a “play-based” preschool, where the alphabet isn’t introduced until the pre-k program.
Still, as much as she touts this parenting choice, Maidenberg admits to questioning her approach to reading:
Unfortunately, living in this supermommy environment, where all children are untapped tiny geniuses, I cannot visit the playground without overhearing a mother brag about how her three-year-old spends hours reading to herself and her younger brother. And, as an overly self-critical mother, whose mommy guilt only swells with each BabyCenter milestone email, I am constantly second-guessing these choices.
I get it. I not only respect her parenting choice, but I totally get it. I too, hate those Your Baby Can Read infomercials. Kids need to be kids for a whole lot longer than their parents are allowing. You smell a “but” coming don’t you?
You’re right. BUT…
Reading changed my life. It shaped who I am and allowed me to escape the staunch Mormon environment of my youth. I can remember loving to read in Kindergarten and I don’t know that I’d have enjoyed it so much if my mom hadn’t introduced me to letters pretty early on in life. Many studies say the more you read to your kid the more likely they’ll learn to read. Sure reading to your kid doesn’t have to involve them learning to read, but learning the alphabet can be fun. You don’t have to be a nutty tiger parent to make a game out of letters and the minute your kid tires of the game, move on. A little bit of letter learning a day is fun! And the easier reading comes for your kid, the more likely they’ll pick up a book and go to town. So, while I agree with Maidenberg’s sentiment that kids need to be kids for as long as possible, I am proud for the opposite reason. Proud that my nearly 3-year-old daughter can sing the alphabet and identify damn near every letter in it and loves to “read” her books.
I hope it foreshadows a lifelong love of reading.
What are your thoughts? Do you teach your toddler letters or will you wait until he or she begins Kindergarten? Why?
More on childhood literacy: Why reading ahead of your grade level isn’t necessarily a good thing