Reading is Fundamental?

My kids already love books at three and two years old. Papa and I are big readers, so it’s only natural that we would read to our kids and have lots of books around. We go to the library regularly and have many of our own kids’ books too. I taught myself to read at age 4.

Now, Waldorf early childhood method proponents discourage reading before age 7 or so, because in the first 7 years the child has more of a “picture consciousness.” Children in the early years work from the will, meaning through movement, and through imitation. Their life forces are working to form their physical bodies. Once the child hits 7 or 8, their life forces are free to help them develop more intellectual and memory functions (though they aren’t really working with pure intellect yet).

So, I’ve been pondering lately whether we are doing the Huntlings a disservice in reading with them so much. It’s true, Papa and I tend to be pretty sedentary, temperamentally speaking. Toddlers however are not sedentary beings and need to play, especially outdoors. Our kids are already fairly verbal and intellectual, so I am wary of over-stimulating that aspect so that they are out of balance.

I came across this item in the latest Utne magazine:

…Sky Hiatt makes a case against literacy, saying that the written word “corrodes time spent exploring the real world” and that raising children on books closes, not opens their minds, causing them to develop “patterns of thought honed into chapters dominated by idea fragments.”
Species Traitor: An Insurrectionary Anarcho Primitivist Journal

Well. I have a friend back in California who is homeschooling her kids partly so that they will experience things before they read about them. I’m not sure how she will work atomic theory into her curriculum, but I respect her thinking. I’ve looked at birding books with the Huntlings, but we get a much bigger kick out of seeing Robin Redbreast on the lawn or hearing a cardinal peeping at us from the tree by our front door.

There have been times when I consciously tried not to read. When SillyBilly was born he spent several weeks in the hospital, so we made the trip back and forth at least once a day on the highway. One day I decided I didn’t want my brain filled with advertising, so I looked everywhere but at the numerous billboards and highway signs. It was incredibly hard to do. I think my brain is wired to look at words if they are available. One year for Lent (a convenient time to do this kind of thing even though we’re not Catholic) I gave up reading for pleasure. That was even harder in a way, because I read for relaxation and at the time I had a fairly stressful office job. It was an ingrained habit I struggled to overcome.

So, are we condemning our kids to a life of compulsive reading? Or are we opening up a wonderfully rich world of knowledge and pleasure? Is it all in the timing as the Waldorf folks say?


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