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Learning to read


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The thread on "what started you reading for pleasure" has started me thinking about how we learn to read, and I'd be interested in people's experiences.


I'm a secondary English teacher, so I have a professional interest in how we learn, but, frankly, little expertise in imparting the skills. I don't have kids, but I love noticing how children of family and friends learn. What fascinates me is how it seems to vary wildly and have little to do with the classroom.

Several kids I know have picked up reading without their parents even realising. One day, they could just do it. I know one who had read Harry Potter before he went to school, but he was a bit of a natural progidy!

Others, from equally supportive homes, have learned to read at school, bit by bit in a way that probably makes their teachers' lives very easy!

My 3yo niece gets a lot of letter work at nursery, and we suspect that she's picking up reading. She can "read" things like a birthday card, where the content is probably very predictable.

Does anyone have any experience or knowledge of what makes us learn? What were you like, or your kids? Does it matter? Does independence in picking up the skill relate to skill or enjoyment as an older reader?

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I suspect skill and enjoyment go hand in hand.


I've certainly no expertise in how people learn, but have noticed that even people who can't read know that the big golden arches outside Macdonalds = M.


I'm told that people's learning skills depend on whether they have visual, auditory or kinesthetic styles.


Great thread MM. Will be interested to read others views with more experience in this field.

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Well, I was just expected to read so I did.


My mother also just expected me to understand the King James Version of the Bible, although she never did make me read it (I still haven't).


My grandmother was in the habit of quoting great lengths of whatever she was moved to quote whilst she did the dishes (mostly Shakespeare), and no children were allowed into the kitchen at that time but I was allowed to sit at the door and listen. I didn't understand the language at the time but the tone of voice gave me a sense of what was being said and when I came to it at school I did know what I was reading.


A friend of mine once said that she could use complicated language when speaking to her then very small children because 'that's how they learnt to speak in the first place' and I think that that has something to do with it.


Other than that, I don't know.

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Hello! Hello! ( :wonder: It's very quiet over here ...)


Maybe I sounded like I was boasting about my clever niece - I wasn't really. I'm just curious about the mechanisms of reading.

I suppose the received wisdom is that you need to be taught - you need the nuts and bolts of phonics etc.

But I wonder. Some kids seem to get there before phonics do, and others struggle despite the approaches.

A primary one teacher once told me that he couldn't stop kids learning to read.


I remember being desperate to read. I think it was more about independence than books. I knew it gave me power.

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I don't recall if I knew how to read before school, but I do remember learning to read when I was in early primary school. Because my parents were (and are, of course) deaf, I had some difficulty in pronouncing sounds because I didn't hear them at home. So I have a vivid memory of getting stuck and with 2 words especially, which is terribly bizarre: detective and perhaps. Maybe it was just one particular reading book that contained both these words and I had especial difficulty with it.


I think I have said before though that my mum was a big reader and I am sure I inherited my reading bug from her. As TV programmes in those days didn't have subtitles (and very slowly got introduced) my parents weren't big TV watchers, so I guess my mum sought entertainment in books.

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I was a latish reader, I think because my parents were so busy emigrating and emigrating and emigrating that they forgot I needed to go to school, let alone read.


But my two younger sons were both reading at about 2 or 3. They sort of taught themselves - though I did make it easy for them. There were always lots of books around, and I always followed the words with my finger while I read to them, and I had things like magnetic letters on the fridge that we would make into words like LUNCH and HAM and things like that.


I'd like to say that in my experience kids learn from what they see around them, but the truth is my oldest son grew up in the same environment and was a late reader and still hates it. I think perhaps - like many things - kids read when they're ready to read.

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Does anyone have any experience or knowledge of what makes us learn? What were you like, or your kids? Does it matter? Does independence in picking up the skill relate to skill or enjoyment as an older reader?


I see so many older kids struggling to read, it definitely gets harder - finding young reading age material for older readers is a tricky business.


From doing tests I'm more of a kinesthetic learner but also a big reader and I read a huge amount at school. I don't remember learning to read at all though and I also don't remember things very well from reading them (or listening to them either), say if I'm learning to use a new computer programme, I have to get stuck in as you can say something to me 10 times and I'll still get muddled up but if I've done it right once it will stick...I wish I could remember how I learned to read because there must be plenty of kinesthetic learners out there learning to read too. Perhaps reading aloud is important. I've seen a presentation about the public library 'bounce and rhyme time' sessions for babies and toddlers, the idea is to bounce your baby up and down in time to the poems and rhymes and that this helps language skills later on, as rhythm, sound and language all roll into one...


Hmm, interesting topic!

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  • 2 weeks later...

I caught the tail end if a piece that seemed to be about learning to read on Woman's Hour this morning.

Some fellow was talking about "school-proofing" children by ensuring they could read before they started school.

He seemed to be saying that ideally children should be reading at two and a half to three years old, and that the idea of children learning at their own pace was synonymous with having low expectations of them, which I just do not accept.


I realise that things are very different in a school situation, but my eldest daughter didn't learn to read until she was eight.

She has always been surrounded by books and read to from babyhood, but just didn't show any particular interest in reading for herself.

At eight, it all clicked into place. She went straight into reading things like Harry Potter and hasn't looked back since.

When she was ten she heard about an online reading age test and asked if she could try it. She was given a reading age of 13 years and 3 months (for what its worth!)

She's twelve now and always has her nose in a book. She loves to read and starting later than average hasn't held her back at all.

Obviously, if she'd been at school there would've been knock-on effects, but in the home environment she's thrived on being allowed to read when she was ready.

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  • 8 months later...

I dont really remember how I learned to read. XD;I was 4 at that time, I think, and I have very faint memories of my childhood overall.

From what my mom told me, I take that she kept teaching me how to read until I could tell the contents of study book from top of my head (she caught me when asked me to read seperate words and I didnt remember which one was it >o> ) so she yelled some at me, bought me a new reading book and in the very same evening, I picked it up and started reading. Of course slowly at first, but I quickly picked the spped up. From that time, I havent had any problems with reading.

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  • 9 years later...

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