When we left Belgium, the Princess was 5. At that time, in my office in Brussels, there was a very annoying intern. His mother came to visit. She was a primary school teacher. I told her that we were moving back to Ireland and she asked about the Princess’s reading ability. I confessed that she couldn’t read. The intern’s mother was shocked and pointed out that the intern had been able to read well before starting school. She commented that the Princess would be miles behind and would never catch up. I was concerned, of course I was. I spent hours with herself, trying to teach her how to read which was torture for both of us and a completely wasted effort.
Back in Dublin, she started in senior infants [the second year of Irish schooling] and had a lovely teacher who assured me that she would be fine and was utterly unfazed by the Princess’s inability to read. At the start of the year the Princess could neither speak Irish nor read, by the end of the year, she could do both. A triumph for the virtues of the Irish education system. The fact remains that she was nearly 6 when she learnt to read which is on the late side of the spectrum. But she loves to read. Recently I asked her, “What are you reading?” and she replied “I’m re-reading Little Women as a palate cleanser between Wuthering Heights and Pride and Prejudice.” Never catch up indeed, hah! I might add that she is reading aloud Georgette Heyer’s Arabella for my mother whose eyesight is not good. Hah again!
What was the advice, you ask? Don’t worry, when your child starts to read, it is, in my experience, no indication at all of future reading habits. So there.
Reading by 5, seriously? That cannot be right.
I taught myself to read aged around 3. We were living in New York and my mother was worried my older sister (aged 5) would be behind when we went back to England because formal schooling didn’t start till 6 so she was teaching her the basics and I just picked it up (with a little help from Sesame Street). My mum was horrified, as she predicted I’d be terribly bored at school (which I was). We then ganged up on my little sister and taught her to read at around the same age.
That is very strange. Children in Belgium do not learn to read and write before they start primary school in the calendar year when they turn 6. Very sad lady to scare parents like this.
But Belgium is still in her in her attachment to the palate-cleanser. What does she read for a pousse-café?
Can’t think who the annoying intern was – please give me some clues!
Wasn’t Virginia Woolf famously a late starter (as a reader or speaker, or possibly both)? There are probably loads of other illustrious examples.
Oana, I think you are absolutely right and, even if it were true, a deeply unhelpful thing to say. When we got to Ireland, the teachers here were not at all concerned and in consequence neither was I. I can’t tell you when the boys started reading as I just wasn’t worried.
Disgruntled, it’s children like you scared the wits out of me!
Peggy, I know and I think that’s a very sensible approach because when they are ready, they learn so quickly and for most of them it’s relatively effortless rather than torturing them at 4. There are, of course, children who are ready to read earlier, off with them, but I don’t think it makes any difference in the long run.
Well, yes, Praxis and I swear she said that. Pousse-café was Jane Eyre which she found “a bit preachy”. I really hope she doesn’t grow up to be like Virginia Woolf though. Re annoying intern, I will give you Newcastle.