Early reading

[Is] it really justified that we cater to the views of a materialistic culture with its demands concerning what [a young child] should know? The real point is that it may not be beneficial at all for such a child to learn to read too early. By doing so, something is being blocked for life. If children learn to read too early, they are led prematurely into absractions. if reading were taught a little later, countless potential sclerotics could lead happier lives.”-Rudolf Steiner, The Child’s Changing Consciousness as the Basis of Pedagogical Practice, lecture 4

At the library the other day, I was reading a book to the kids while Papa looked for books for himself. A woman walked up to us and said how much she loved that particular book. She said she was a teacher, and she asked me how old my kids were. When I said 2 and 4, she told me that she taught her child to read at age 2, that I could easily teach my kids now.

This conversation was a shock to me. I taught myself to read at 4. At that time, that was considered early. Now, are people expecting me to teach Napoleona to read?

When I watch her play, she is so far from the world of abstractions. She just wants to splash in the brook, dig in the mud, and climb on rocks. She will sit still for picture books and stories, but more often than not gets up and starts playing before we finish.

SillyBilly is the same. He begs me to play outside. They both love to help me clean the house, work in the garden, take the recycling and compost out, etc.

Steiner states in the same lecture: “We must not lose sight of the fact that up to the second dentition the child lives by imitation.” I can see that clearly myself in how SillyBilly is starting to “write.” He will make tiny little marks in paper, especially on his drawings where I usually would write his name and the date. Napoleona will copy anything SillyBilly does, especially something we just told him not to do!

Both SillyBilly and Napoleona are very verbal for their ages. If they teach themselves to read as I did, then I won’t mind. But I am not going to push them into reading. In Waldorf school they will start the process when it is developmentally appropriate, generally after the first tooth is lost (the “second dentition”), a sign that the next developmental stage has started.

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2 Comments

Filed under Parenting, waldorf education

2 responses to “Early reading

  1. domesticallyblissed

    I just came across this old post of yours – its excellent! I wrote something of a diatribe on this the other day so its particularly speaking to me. I wish I’d had that Steiner quote as its such an eloquent expression of his thoughts on this. I feel so sad that our society is so impatient about developing the academic side of children, and so careless about their emotional, physical and spiritual sides. The other day (sorry if this is a long comment) I was talking to a mum with a rather overweight 3 year old who was proudly teaching her to read, while feeding her fizzy drink and potatoe chips by the bucketload. It just doens’t make sense to me … but then I’m sure I don’t make sense to people like that!

  2. DB: Don’t worry about long comments, I like them!

    It’s funny to read this now; my kids both sit for loooong fairy tales, and SillyBilly desperately wants to read (he’s 5 1/2 now) and can write and recognize some capital letters. We’re not going to push or even encourage it really, but it’s so clearly coming from his personality and temperament that I don’t want to squash it either.

    You hit the nail on the head–our culture is too materialistic to see that the intellect is not the only thing that needs to be nurtured in children.

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