Crystal is not teaching her son to read yet for an important reason - his 'reading readiness' has not been established yet...
Crystal Lowery is just like any other mums. She loves her family, drifts off to Facebook while cooking, and has a fun pretend-playing with her children. However, she is doing something different than what other mums who have 5-year-old sons are doing. She is not rushing into teaching her kids to read.
And she posted a beautiful post on Facebook on 19 August. It beautifully explains why she is not rushing into it. However, the cruel world that the internet is, she received a lot of unexpected criticism.
Crystal’s 5-year-old son is about to start his pre-school. And that is why she decided to share this wonderful post.
Her son loves books. But, instead of urging him to read, they read to him. They spend hours imagining how it would be in the fantasy world of books. He enjoys the stories and gets lost in the characters. That said, they ARE teaching him important stuff. In her own words,
He’s learning how to be a good sport – how to wait his turn in Candy Land and not gloat when he makes it to the King’s Ice Cream Castle before his sister does. He’s learning how to build. From blocks, to sticks, to Legos, he feels the weight of the different materials in his little sausage fingers, and examines the physical integrity of the various structures he has made.
He’s learning how to exercise. He chases the dog, plays tag, climbs on playground equipment, dances (well), and practices karate (poorly). He’s going to need his body for a long time, so he builds his muscles through activity instead of sitting at a desk all day.
He’s learning how to take care of his things. Through trial and error (oh, so much error!) he has seen what happens when he leaves a book out in the rain, or a lump of Play Doh on the table overnight. He’s learning that you can’t rough house with an 8lb Pekingese.
He’s learning how to be creative. How to draw his own picture books full of monsters, and how to construct an imaginary spaceship with Amazon boxes. He’s learning about ecosystems. He looks at bugs, flowers, and thunderstorms. He sees how fauna and flora inhabit the world together interdependently.
He’s learning that the key to happiness is to focus on his blessings rather than complaining about what he doesn’t have. He’s learning how to apologize. To overcome his own hurt feelings and to empathize with other kids when there’s been a confrontation. He’s learning how to forgive. To understand that everyone makes mistakes, and that he can love other people despite their foibles.
He’s learning important lessons every day. But he’s not learning how to read.
And though he may not show up to his first day of Kindergarten with “advanced reading skills”, he will come to the classroom with so much more. The ability to try new things without getting frustrated; the ability make friends, even though friendship can be a messy business; the ability to listen to others and follow instructions. He is learning the ability to problem-solve; the ability to concentrate on a task.
But, people don’t read as well…
Her story got picked up by ABC News, Parents.com, Yahoo, The Huffington Post, The Daily Mirror, MSN, The Independent, The Today Show, just to name a few. But not everybody presented it as it is. And, people did not go beyond the ‘shocking’ headline and decided to judge her then and there.
She was judged mildly and harshly. She received questions like, “Are you a dumb unemployed woman who just pops out babies?” and comments like, “Why do people like you even breed? You should be sterilised.” To be fair, she also received questions from curious parents, one of them being, “is it not possible to teach him to read and do all these things simultaneously”? And she has a good answer for that.
I reached out to Crystal and let me tell you, she is an amazingly talented and a witty person. However, I cannot highlight it enough how good a mum she is! I asked her the last question – is it not possible to do it all? And she had a very compelling answer for it.
According to her, in early childhood literacy pedagogy, there is a theory called “reading readiness” that explains children must be ready to learn to read before we push phonics on them or they often become discouraged and grow a lifelong disdain for reading. Reading readiness is linked to the corpus callosum–the great nerve network connecting the left and right hemispheres of the brain–which is fully developed at around age seven.
They did try teaching him to read when he was quite young.
“However, my husband and I decided to change our approach after reading data that suggests early phonics lessons are not the best way to teach literacy, and in fact could set children back. My husband and I value education (we have six degrees between us including two Masters’ and a PhD), so we pore through research on parenting–our favorite being a 14-hour lecture series from The Teaching Company in which Prof Peter Vishton collates thousands of hours worth of scientific data about everything from language acquisition to literacy.”
And she has the courage to say it aloud what all of us know already.
When I was honest with myself, I realized I had been forcing phonics on my 18-month-old so that I could brag.
Isn’t it true?
Crystal’s message to the Asian parents
When asked if she has any message for the concerned mums and readers of sg.theasianparent.com, she says,
“My advice to moms would be to really research what appropriate developmental milestones are for kids. For reading, studies show kids start to really understand phonics when their corpus callosum (the great bundle of nerves that transmits sensory information between the two hemispheres of the brain) is fully developed. This happens at around age seven.”
So, mums, I understand that being kiasu is dictated by peer pressure. However, there is evidence that suggests that letting your child enjoy his childhood has more advantages than starting to read early and giving us parents bragging rights.
As a parent, I feel that her children are lucky to have her as a mum. What do you think, mums?