How Can I Teach My 2 Year Old To Read Teaching Your Baby to Read

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Teaching Your Baby to Read

I recently noticed that Physical Therapist Dr. Glenn Dorman celebrated his ninetieth birthday. His book, “How to Teach Your Baby to Read”, co-authored with Janet Dorman more than forty years ago, started a completely new approach to teaching reading to the very young.

It all started when Glenn Dorman was teaching brain-damaged preschoolers to read at Philadelphia’s Institutes for Achieving Human Potential. Dolman claims that a baby will learn the written word as easily as spoken language and may even learn to read before he or she learns to speak. .This is based on the fact that the written word is presented repeatedly and in capital letters. His book presents step-by-step teaching sessions, starting when the child is two years old. There are several daily periods of less than five minutes each. In a sample session the parent touches the baby’s toes, says the word “toes”, holds up a large sign with the word on it. It is important that each session is a “game” that both participants find it “joyful” and it must always end before the baby gets bored.

Dorman’s approach was and continues to be controversial. No one has any problem with parents reading to their babies from birth. However, claims by experts that most reading problems could be eliminated if reading was taught from an earlier age are not really proven. In Finland, the literacy rate is 99.9%, but students do not learn to read until they are seven years old. Four of the top ten countries do not start formal reading instruction until age seven.

Certain physical and mental skills must be developed before a child can learn to read. The child must be able to hear the differences in the background sounds correctly, they must be able to accurately move their eyes across the page. They must be able to sit still and concentrate and of course they must be able to understand what is being read. These are all skills that improve with age.

Educators and child psychologists are generally skeptical of the value of children learning to read at a very early age. They have no doubt that some parents can teach some three- and four-year-olds to read. They feel that the motivation for many parents is that “it represents status”. Some critics even fear that early schooling may be harmful. Dr. Paul J. Kinsella, director of the Developmental Reading Clinic at Lake Forest, believes that a young child’s hearing and vision are so disorganized that parental pressure to read can only confuse children or cause emotional blocks that would permanently impair their reading. . Burton White of the Harvard School of Education even goes so far as to call homeschooling “part of the overemphasis on brain development.”

However, no reliable studies on the long-term effects of parental preschool education exist. It is, however, generally agreed that impatient parents who are stressed should not start early reading programs with their child.

Proponents of the Gentle Revolution propose that little children have within them the ability to learn almost anything while they are little. They believe that what children learn without any conscious effort at the age of two, three or four can be learned only with great effort, or perhaps not learned at all, in later life.

Personally, I do not dispute that very young children can be taught to read. But like so many other ideas today one must ask whether in the long run it increases the chances of producing well-rounded individuals who can endure life. I know a Jamaican surgeon who taught himself to read and was reading the newspaper at the age of two and a half. She was clearly an exceptionally gifted child.

Babies are beautifully pre-programmed to do things at the time that suits them. A baby learns to hold his head up, sit, stand up, crawl, walk when he feels ready. I really wonder if a nine month old should have his brain energy directed at learning to read. Some programs even recommend starting reading at this age.

Starting to teach three or four year olds is a different matter. Some thirty odd years ago I started using Dorman’s book to teach my then three year old son to read. He was clearly intelligent and he loved books and had an extensive library of his own. Despite his interest things did not go well. I was very patient, not pushy, but I was convinced that I was a hopeless teacher. I soon stopped the program because I didn’t want to risk my son feeling like he was an academic failure before he even started attending daycare. This son was a very late reader, just like me, and for the same reason.

In his second year at university my son was diagnosed as severely dyslexic in some areas. This was at a time when dyslexia was not known to many school teachers let alone the general public. Neither I nor my son had special help to deal with our reading problems. My late father, who was a medical doctor, was convinced that I was intelligent and never gave up on me despite my teachers’ attitude towards my abilities. I continue to thank him for this. Both my son and I reached a point where everything suddenly fell into place by itself and we could read without further problems. My son and I despite learning to read late went to university. He is now an excellent high school teacher.

Looking back, I realize that I was not able to practice one of the most important precepts of the Dolman, ie to be “joyful”. It was only as a Dance and Movement Therapist working with children with special needs that I learned to be joyful in my teaching. Being truly joyful completely changes the student-teacher dynamic. The feeling of joy is powerful, infectious, creative, self-empowering and nurturing. In this troubled world we should try to live our whole life with this energy. Joy and wonder can still be found in the midst of disaster and conflict if we know where to look.

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