Pushy Parents Put Children Off Reading

Category: Parents
Tagged: parents, reading

Parents are constantly encouraged to read to their children. Practitioners (including myself) work hard to motivate parents to read aloud to babies and children. It’s important to pass on messages of early reading and also important to mention how beneficial it can be to continue reading to children – even after they’ve learned to read themselves. The message is strong, convincing and certainly one that many organisations work hard to promote.

The message that hits home with families is that successful children read. Children who read successfully do better in school and have improved chances of successful employment and enriched lives. No matter how you say it, the message is clear: read to your baby, read to your child, read to... well, read to anyone.

Julia Donaldson, celebrated children’s author and newly appointed children’s laureate, states that pushy parents can put their child off of reading. If parents are pushing children to read then reading becomes a chore and a frustrating experience. It takes something which should be fun, magical and exciting and shows it in a negative light – not exactly the message we want to be giving children.

Learning to read is a very complex process. Reading was invented by humans only a few thousand years ago. We created writing systems as a method of communication which naturally led to the brain developing to decode the symbols into meaningful sounds – and voila – reading. The brain evolved to read. (You can read more on this in Proust and the Squid: The Story and Science of the Reading Brain by Maryanne Wolf)

Children learn to read at different times. Finnish school children don’t begin formal learning, including learning how to read, until they’re at least 7 years old. Many read before then, but reading is not taught – it’s caught.

The message Julia Donaldson gives is right – if parents are pushing their children to read it can, and likely will, put them off reading altogether. Parent’s need to show children that reading is enjoyable. Children need to see their parents reading—and enjoying it.

There is a book out there for every child. Parents and practitioners need to find something that every child wants to read. And the big idea is that the earlier we start reading with children and the sooner books are introduced as a regular part of a child’s life the more they will want to learn to read. Quite often these are the children that learn to read before their peers.

Language is caught—not taught. Reading early and often will help children to catch the reading the bug. And then parents won’t be pushing children to read, but children will be pushing parents to read more with them.  

You can read the article from Julia Donaldson here! Do let us know what you think.