Cons? Can there be negatives to children learning to read at a very young age? Only one, but it’s big; enjoyment! Teachers, educators, and parents should never lose sight of the pleasure of reading for pleasure. If children’s learning processes are advanced enough to start reading at age 4 or 5, that is wonderful and should be encouraged. If they need a little more time to understand the decoding process of converting letters and symbols into meaningful words, then 6 or 7 may be the norm for them. Generally, by age 7, children should read with understanding.
Where educators and parents can make mistakes is in reading material. With pride, a parent may exclaim that their 5-year-old is reading a Harry Potter book, but is he really getting it or just uttering memorized words? Reading is not only a decoding process, but a learning process of a cognitive nature; communicate words into meaningful information to process. Then, and only then, can a child begin to enjoy books.
Many people believe that reading begins prenatally by listening to the sounds of the uterus; That’s a moot topic, but most will agree that they begin to gain skills when they are read to when they are very young and when they see flashcards in preschool. By kindergarten or age 5, it is the norm today to begin organized reading education, a full grade earlier than in the 1940s and 1950s. Children will excel at different rates and only through practice and the development of growth, they will really hone their reading skills.
Literacy is the ability to use symbols and letters cognitively to create words that they understand. They will then analyze what they have read or create their own words for others to read. Reading is the most important skill you must have to do well in all other classes at school. Most young children “pretend” to read about a year before they are ready. Most children also love being read to, following the pages, and looking at pictures. It is important to have smart questions and a good understanding of page layout (left to right and top to bottom).
Guidance is needed regarding the selection of reading material for young readers. Parents should not be so absorbed in “showing” their children’s ability to read big words, but rather be proud of the fact that they enjoy reading for creative expression. It will bode well for them throughout their lives.