This school year, my six year old is working hard on her reading skills. She grabs books all day long and points things out to me. She probably could have been reading by now, but she didn’t want to. She preferred to curl up in my lap (or her sister’s or brother’s) and close her eyes to “imagine the story as the words pour out over her.”

She’s has a beautiful imagination and is very free-spirited and creative.

Why I Don't Push My Kids to Read Early

But she’s also visual-spatial and has been able to do complicated puzzles since she was very small. She’d figure out how to fit groceries into the back of the van so the bread wouldn’t get squashed and everything would fit. But then she’d bring me a book and cuddle up and close her eyes.

I’m a big believer in waiting until kids are developmentally ready to acquire skills before trying to teach them to do things like read and write. I don’t encourage parents to push their kids… They’ll get it eventually… I promise.

And, waiting until they’re ready, in my experience, causes far fewer problems than pushing them too soon. When we push our kids to learn when they’re not ready, we do damage. We set them up for failure. We can hurt their self-esteem.

Why I Don't Push My Kids to Read Early

 

We can make them hate learning.

Now, some of you may be confused. After all, I write about gifted children, don’t I? Shouldn’t I be encouraging parents to push their bright kids? Parents of gifted children are often accused of hot housing their children – or pushing them further and faster than they should academically. The thing is, while I do write about gifted kids we need to remember that they develop asynchronously, and not all of them will be early readers. And that’s okay.

Our goal as educators of our children (and this applies whether we homeschool or not; whether they’re gifted or not), should be to meet them where they are and move them forward every single day. We all should strive to learn something new each day – being a lifelong learner has such a positive impact on our lives.

So, if I don’t push my children to read early, what do I do instead?

I create opportunities for them to explore, play, and learn at the same time.

I make sure that the toys we buy serve multiple purposes, and I give them time to play with them.

Why I Don't Push My Kids to Read Early

 

I read aloud. A lot.

I strew books and other literacy-rich materials around, hoping that they’ll discover new passions.

I encourage them to watch great educational shows and documentaries.

I use great tools from brands I trust.

Most of all, though, I follow my kids and their leads. While my six year old is just learning to read, my eight year old has been reading for almost as long as I can remember – and I didn’t teach her. She just loved books from infancy, and devoured stories that were read to her, and absorbed words from her environment until one day when she was teeny tiny, she just read to me.

The fact of the matter is that we don’t really need to push our children. We need to give them lots of open-ended opportunities to learn, and then follow where they take us.

What do you think? Should parents push their kids to read early on? What are some ways you encourage your kids and make your home a learning-rich environment?

 

Why I Don't Push My Kids to Read Early

Colleen Kessler

Colleen is an explorer, tinkerer, educator, writer, creator, and a passionate advocate for the needs of gifted and twice-exceptional children. She has a B.S. in elementary education, a M.Ed. in gifted studies, is a sought-after national speaker and educational consultant, and is the founder of the popular blog and podcast Raising Lifelong Learners, as well as Raising Poppies, a community of support for parents of gifted children. She lives in northeast Ohio with her four bright and quirky kiddos, patient husband, and ever-changing collection of small reptiles, mammals, and insects.

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