Reading before school entryThis is Lily. She started kindergarten at a local primary school in 2013. Lily could read before she started school because she had learnt to read with the I Can Read System. She is in a class of around 20 children. Lily’s reading is so proficient that she is currently reading Grade 3 books.  That’s three reading years ahead of her chronological age.

It is a testimony to the I Can Read System that children like Lily can learn to read before school entry, have the confidence to tackle text and the school library books. Children like Lily choose books to read that are not simply picture books. They are able to access words and sentences in books.  This gives them that extra dimension: they don’t just understand or interpret through pictures but by finding meaning in the text which accompanies the pictures. It’s a rich experience, and children like Lily are very fortunate.

The I Can Read System is concerned about world literacy. In Australia, the statistics are alarming and many children finish primary school without being confident readers.  Imagine what the statistics are in third world countries, as well as countries where English is a second language. Imagine the children whose parents cannot afford extra help if they are struggling with reading.

And, as you know – because you’re reading this – English is the global language, and if you (our reader) were unable to read, you would be severely disadvantaged.  Obviously, literacy is paramount in creating educated children and educated adults. Many parents believe that when their children start school, the teacher will teach them to read. And many children do learn to read at school. However, an alarming number do not learn to read at school, or become weak readers with little confidence, resulting in little interest in – and even fear of – reading.

We have all heard, countless times, how important parents are in respect to children’s education. Many proponents of parent involvement promote the opinion that if you read to your child from an early age, make books a part of the child’s life, allow the child to associate that reading with exclusive and enjoyable time with the parent, then that child will develop an interest in reading and a keenness to learn to do it himself or herself.

All true. However, just because a parent can read, doesn’t mean that parent knows how to teach someone else to read. Reading is NOT a naturally acquired skill, like speaking. Reading must be taught. If you put a child on a desert island with a pile of books and a picture of the alphabet, that child will never work it out alone. Someone has to teach the child to read.  And this is where well-meaning parents may falter. They may point to words and expect the child to remember them. They may ask the child to “sound out” words. They may ask the child to learn the names of all the letters of the alphabet and then apply that knowledge to decoding text.

Some of these strategies may work in the short term with short words. Words like “cat” and “dog” are decodable and memorable and appear often enough in text to become “memory words”. However, does the child who can read (recognise/remember) “cat” and “dog” have the ability to read a word he or she has never seen? A word such as “dup” for instance, or “eft”?

The advantages of early literacy acquisition are obvious with Lily. She learnt to read before she started school. At school, her teacher gave special writing activities. While other children were still learning their sounds, Lily was writing little books about animals. At library time Lily chose books that were accessible to her ability, selecting books which were at Grade 3 level. Lily is interested in the world, not just the world of imagination but also the real world. She likes to look at newspapers. She likes to try to interpret unfamiliar words. She uses words in her writing like “complicated”. She’s enthusiastic and loves school.

Compare Lily with the child who doesn’t know how to read, the child for whom words are a mystery, the child who hasn’t read the rich picture books in the school library, but has made up his or her story simply through gazing at the pictures, the child who “knows” (yes, they always know) that he or she is not as “smart” as the others who are reading at a higher level, the child who begins to do anything to avoid reading and begins to have a low opinion of himself or herself.

Sometimes the teacher has time to provide extra help for these children. According to research, 40% of the children in that teacher’s class may struggle with reading.  They will find it a chore and they may finish Kindergarten, Year 1 and even Year 2 and beyond without the ability to read fluently and with enjoyment. They will miss out on the joy that books can provide.

Children of 3 or 4 years frequently ask their parents if they can learn to read. Young children who have experienced books want to conquer the written word. From the age of 3 or 4, they can commence phonological activities and an awareness of the sounds of their language.  Many parents tell us that their child expressed a wish to learn to read and that is why they brought them to an I Can Read Centre. Research clearly shows that from the age of 3 or 4, the brain is ready to understand that spoken words have little sounds and that those little sounds can be represented by letters.

It sounds simple. But it’s not! In the beginning, with words like “cat” and “dog” the sounds are represented by letters and those simple words can be decoded. But what about words like “cow”, “goat” or “horse”.  Still one syllable words, but unfortunately not so simple now, because such words do not contain one-sound-one-letter graphemes.

Reading needs to be taught by experts in the field. The I Can Read System has been created by such experts: psychologists who have done the research over twenty years as well as the field work. In fact, the I Can Read System is so successful that it has never had a failure. I Can Read is easy to teach (for teachers who are trained in the system) and easy to learn.

Never underestimate the importance of reading before school entry! And never underestimate your child!  He or she can start the reading journey from age 3. It’s a fact in the research and it’s a fact at I Can Read Centres! Remember that all centres offer free assessments with no obligation, by trained teachers. Find out how your child can fulfil his or her wish to learn to read or to improve his or her existing reading skills.