Many parents worry about their child learning to read. And mostly think that a schematic and systemised approach to teaching children to read is vital to their reading success. But a new study is suggesting that this is not always the case.

What’s interesting about this research is that it examines the way children come to reading in the home educating climate, rather than a formal classroom one, and its results challenge what we conventionally think about children learning to read, along with our assumptions about learning in general.

The study is outlined in the book ‘Rethinking Learning to Read’ by Harriet Pattison, a lecturer in Early Years at the Liverpool Hope University, and illustrates the way in which a sample of home educating families lead their child towards reading and development of the necessary skills.

It’s clear from the examples cited that these approaches are often diverse, unstructured, informal, and often without recognisable teaching methods, yet are equally as successful in their outcome as school methods.

In most cases the children were not formally guided through a reading scheme but instead were engaged with reading by the provision of an encouraging and literate-rich climate, in close consultation with them, nurturing their enjoyment of story and books and print online and supporting their desire to gain access to the literate world for themselves, in their own way.

The author talks very much about the child developing their own relationship with reading and how families allowed and supported this with as little interference as possible. Many of the interviewed  parents felt that, since we live in a literate culture where the children want to grow up to access that culture for themselves, they would indeed come to reading of their own volition with the right encouragement, support and facilitation. The actual how and when was less important than maintaining pleasurable experiences with the printed word, in whatever format.

It draws fascinating conclusions that are relevant not only to the teaching of reading, but learning itself. It suggests that the accessibility of learning and knowledge in our society now provides unprecedented opportunities for children to have far more agency over their own learning than has previously been available.

This successful approach, which many home educating families use, could perhaps provide a model that could be more widely adopted.

We have always been led to believe that without intervention children will not learn to read – will not learn most things. This book asks us to reconsider those beliefs and shows that this indeed happening right now in families who are learning without school, and reading without formal teaching.

It raises many thought provoking questions and suggests that by providing the right climate, encouragement and facilities, a child’s journey into reading can be accomplished far more simply, and with far less intervention, than we originally thought.



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Joseph is a French and Spanish to English translator, language enthusiast, and blogger.