29 Aug

The Reader

I was reading through the latest issue of Gurgle magazine when I happened upon an advertorial for a company that offers a system of DVDs, flashcards and books for parents to use in teaching their babies how to read from 12 months old. The copy suggests that parents fall into one of two categories: those who allow their children to be taught to read by the school system and those who give their baby a head start by taking the bull by the horns and doing it themselves. Of course, the way it’s worded makes you want to be in the latter group, a bull-horn-grabbing parent with the mostest.

Being a sucker for invigorating copy, I was immediately interested in finding out more. More! MORE!! I’ve always been a keen reader and hope that Baby will enjoy the written word as much as I do.

So yes! Let’s teach her to read early, I thought. However, I wanted to look into it first. The price tag on the system is £145 and, in the first few months of parenting, I’ve found myself on a number of occasions spending money recklessly on things she doesn’t even like (I have about 600 rattles that she hates).

A quick web search brought up three comprehensive articles by an Australian father, teacher and academic who runs a great blog called Literacy, Families and Learning. You can read the posts here, here and here. After digesting everything he says, I won’t be investing £145 in the system. Not only because he argues against it, but also because in the cold light of day, it just doesn’t make sense to do it.

As he suggests, I’d rather spend oodles of time reading to her myself and playing with her, so that she can learn the way that humans were meant to rather than trying to force my own ideas of early achievement on her. If she showed a particular aptitude for something then, yes, I’d encourage it, but surely 12 months old is too early for that?

When did parents start getting so obsessive about their child being ahead of the rest? It’s not like she won’t learn to read at some point. As a new parent, I could literally feel the seductive pull of the vision of Baby reading by the age of 2 and wowing everyone she met. But a dose of common sense via Australia, a quick cold shower and some vigorous slapping (of myself) have snapped me out of the fantasy. I think that, for now, I’ll just let Baby be Baby. She’s only 3 months old, after all.

Anyway, if you’ll excuse me, I have to go. I need to start searching for her Mandarin-speaking nanny.

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