When it Comes to Learning How to Read – Earlier is Better

The benefits of early literacy are many (more reasons here). Here’s why:

In a study from the University of Leicester, they found that early word recognition is key to lifelong reading skills.
Science Daily

This is because:

  • A child’s early reading experience is critical to the development of his lifelong reading skills.
  • The age at which a child learns words is key to how he will read later in life.

According to Dr Tessa Webb in the School of Psychology at the University of Leicester: “Children read differently from adults, but as they grow older, they develop the same reading patterns. When adults read words they learned when they were younger, they recognise them faster and more accurately than those they learned later in life.”

What about the children in Finland who only start formal schooling at the age of 7?

I’m sure most parents would have heard by now that Finnish students were one of the best performers in reading in a global comparison. This argument has often been brought up to cite an example of why early literacy isn’t important. Unfortunately, this argument is flawed. Here’s why:

  • Finnish language advantage – the Finnish language is much easier to learn compared to other languages due to its logical structure (which other languages lack).
  • Many Finnish students are able to read by the time they start school – before entering first grade, 43% of Finnish children in a study were classified as emergent readers and 30% as precocious readers.
  • Although school age readers in Finland catch up with preschool readers very quickly, it was found that in the longer term, “early readers were likely to be more fluent readers in the second grade than those who learned to read at school”; that “phonemic awareness is more likely to predict reading fluency in later reading”; and that “phonological awareness at the preschool age predicted fourth graders’ reading fluency”.

So even in Finland, we see the trend that early readers maintain their advantage over later school-age readers. The short of the long is: earlier is still better when it comes to learning how to read, and the good news is that teaching a younger child to read is actually much easier than teaching an older child to read so the advantage of starting early is all-round – parents, children and teachers all benefit.

Published by Shen-Li

SHEN-LI LEE is the author of “Brainchild: Secrets to Unlocking Your Child’s Potential”. She is also the founder of Figur8.net (a website on parenting, education, child development) and RightBrainChild.com (a website on Right Brain Education, cognitive development, and maximising potentials). In her spare time, she blogs on Forty, Fit & Fed, and Back to Basics.

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