What is the best age to teach children to read?

So what is best?

There is much debate about what age children should be when they are taught to read. International comparative testing shows that some Scandinavian countries lead the world in their children’s ability to read and comprehend what they are reading, by the time first testing takes place. This international testing takes place first when children are 9. Interestingly, Scandinavian countries do not teach their children to read until they are seven, and by age nine they lead the world.

Other countries, such as the UK and Australia will start formal instruction when children are four or five. So what is best?Well, the answer is really that literacy learning begins when children are born, and they learn to speak and understand spoken language. Then what happens before they enter formal schooling, regardless of whether this is at age 4 or 7 or somewhere in between, is what sets them up for becoming literate. Adults should read wonderful, fun, beautifully illustrated books to children as often as they can and for as long as the child wants, supporting concentration development. The enjoyment children gain from having books read with them, will be a great motivator for them to learn to read themselves. In actuality, each country will decide at what age children have to attend school, and it then that formal instruction on reading will begin. Some children show signs of starting to learn to read before school, and it is fine for adults to support them in this. For the vast majority, though, it is better to leave the actual “teaching of reading” to when they go to school. Let children just enjoy stories; let them play imaginary games; encourage them to climb trees; consciously use a wide vocabulary with children and have in-depth conversations with them about what they are interested in. I would advise against insisting that children learn to read before they go to school.

Comments 3

  1. Michelle Caporale
    November 29, 2016

    The advise to let your children play with the books their way is ‘gold’. They will have enough time at school to be guided by adults, let then be free!

  2. James
    December 4, 2016

    Hey Margie,

    Great idea and I totally agree with you! All what you said here are fantastic and true and cannot agree more from my experience working with children.

  3. James
    December 4, 2016

    Hey Margie,

    I like your book and it’s great!
    I like your research such as ‘Scandinavian countries do not teach their children to read until they are seven, and by age nine they lead the world.’
    It’s totally true and wonderful and it can change people’s concept about Early childhood education. I think you have done a wonderful work from my experience working with children for many years.
    I hope your book becomes the best seller of the year 2017!
    Thank you,
    Kind regards,


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