Tony learned to read when he was three. Sasha is five and a half and spelling a bit but not that interested in spelling and reading by himself yet. He listens to books on CDs and sits through bedtime readings of thick chapter books like Prince Caspian or Alice in Wonderland. Tony wanted to learn to read and his reading skills have always been above the norm. He is wired that way. Sasha occasionally says that it’d be nice to know how to read but then again he’s so busy drawing and putting together pulley systems with one of his favorite toys – a long piece of string – that he does not see the urgency. I could not agree more.
Yet the school believes otherwise. Children his age who are not eager readers/spellers are prodded, albeit gently, to get up to speed. Sasha is such a kid. His world is a rich one that pulsates with so much enthusiasm yet he’s not where he should be apparently. He’s not like the rest of them. Not that Tony was either. He was on the opposite side of it, he was supposed to slow down to fit in. I’m tempted to say he did not and I hope he won’t. Just like I hope Sasha will learn to read when he’ll see the point and he will. Pushing him would defeat the purpose of what real learning is about.
So the question is “why”? That’s the elegant soft spoken side of my frustration with this issue. There may be good intentions behind the gentle prodding but the danger of it is that it may make children feel inadequate or even worse, less smart. At Sasha’s age I think playing and listening to stories, whether on CDs or read to him by an adult or his older brother, is the right thing to do. I fail to understand the need to make each child fit into a mold. They each have their own interests and curiosities and they still have the guts to affirm them without the fear of being judged. They explore and poke the world around in a way that makes sense to them. They want to learn and they seek knowledge. Isn’t that what we’re after ultimately? Or should be? Why not let them be and encourage them in their curiosity rather than make them self-conscious of what they are not yet capable to do not because they are incapable but because they don’t see the point yet.