One of the most-read posts here at Strocel.com is My 5-Year-Old Can’t Read, which I wrote more than four years ago about my daughter, Hannah. I wrote it after watching a four-year-old actually read words, when my daughter didn’t even recognize all the letters of the alphabet. At the time I concluded that there was no rush, and that she would learn to read in good time. She did. During the second half of grade one, right around her seventh birthday, Hannah experienced a reading explosion. Today, she reads well, and she spends hours poring over the Dork Diaries series.
Every child is different, though. Anyone can tell you that, but parents of two or more children have very personal experience with this truth. What works well with one child utterly fails with another. What one child masters with ease another child struggles with. It has a way of evening out, though, as each child has their own aptitudes and weak spots, as well as their own interests and experiences.
My son Jacob is now five and a half, and just finishing kindergarten. At the beginning of this school year, he was the same age his big sister was when I wrote about how she couldn’t read. At that time, he recognized all of the letters of the alphabet, and knew many of the sounds the letters make. Over his time in kindergarten, Jacob’s reading has really taken off. He now reads words on signs and gets through simple books with ease. He also writes his own messages on cards, and while he’s still working on his spelling, I can usually understand what he wrote.
“I love you Mom because you have the best hugs, From Jacob”
It’s an amazing thing, to watch a child learn to read. A whole new world opens to them. So much information is contained in written form, and once you can decode that information you’re in the know. You understand what’s happening in new ways. It’s not all good, as anyone who’s answered awkward questions from a child scanning tabloid headlines in a grocery store line-up can tell you. On the whole, though, it’s overwhelmingly positive to watch a child’s horizons be expanded.
Hannah may not have been an early reader, but she has many gifts. She’s something of a born performer, who can sing in front of a group of people without breaking a sweat. She’s an artist, who was drawing better at six-and-a-half than I can as an adult. Jacob has different gifts, and one of them seems to be learning to read. It’s coming easily to him, and he’s so proud. I love to see him smile as he figures out what something says. I’m also grateful to his teacher for the support he received in kindergarten this year.
Does every child need to read at the age of four or five or even six to live a full and happy life? My experience with my daughter says no. But my experience with my son says that some kids will read at four or five or six, and that’s good, too. The key, in my mind, is letting them develop at their own pace, and trusting that they will figure it out in good time. Because usually, they do.