Since becoming involved in the world of children’s books as an author, the more I see what a wonderful world it is. No wonder everybody I know in this particular field is so passionate about what they do.

Two such people, Tania McCartney and Megan Blandford. They run a blog site called KIDS BOOK REVIEW. A month or so ago, they asked me to be a regular commentator on their site – I have the freedom to write articles about books, kids and learning, and literacy.

As an ex-early childhood teacher, an ex-adult literacy teacher and someone passionate about books for children and young adults, I jumped at the chance.

Here is my most recent article about the MIRACLE OF LEARNING TO READ. It will appear on the Kids Book Review site today. Please check out the other excellent things on this site when you get the chance….

There is nothing quite like reading a story to a group of children and their delighted giggles as they ‘get’ it. Or a child so immersed in a book she is caught inside an imaginary world, fighting dragons or bullies alongside a fictional character. Or the delight on a child’s face when he reads and understands his first book all by himself?

How did you learn to read? Did it happen without even you being aware? Or was it a daily struggle to decipher clumps of alphabet letters on the page whilst relying on picture clues?

This is the way it has been for young children ever since learning to read became a required skill.

Image from the Oswego Public Library, Oregon.

That it happens at all is a miracle when you understand how much this skill relies on the intricate balances involved – the wiring of the brain and its electrical connections, and the whole body’s physical growth and development, i.e. a child’s maturity.

Then add into the equation how that individual child learns best. It could be through visual and/or aural discrimination – i.e. noticing differences and similarities between letters; or it could be through a tactile sense of letter shapes only remembered through the fingertips.

Just to confuse the issue – factor in visual/aural memory. Is a child able to remember the shapes and sounds of letters? Does the child understand that a particular shape has a particular sound? Now confuse it all by combining that shape with another shape to change its sound.

Okay, now bring in one of the hardest things of all … a child’s own awareness of what they can and can’t do. Yes, good old self-esteem! If you can’t do something that someone else the same age (or even younger) can do, how would you feel if you were 5, 6 or 7?

See the problem here? What happens when an already work-overloaded teacher tries to teach 25+ children to read, all the same way at the same time? Twenty-five little bodies whose physical, intellectual, social-emotional skills are each developing at their own rate and in his/her own way. And this isn’t even factoring in that boys in these early years are at least six months developmentally behind girls. They physically cannot sit still for long! Yes, I’m making a statement here!

These are the reasons I think of ‘learning to read’ as a miracle. For the majority of children, it happens. For others, it takes a little longer before the ‘penny drops’. For some children it requires more individual and skilled help from a professional – someone who (hopefully) finds out first how that child learns best, and then guides the process, step-by-step.

As parents, we can encourage our children to enjoy the process of learning to read. The little take-home readers are fine for confidence building and repetition, and libraries are full of brilliant, enjoyable picture books for young children. Read stories to your kids! Practice your reading-aloud voice so you don’t ‘kill the words’. Let them see you reading for enjoyment too. Turn off the TV occasionally and have a ‘LOVING BOOKS TIME’ – where everyone shares what they’re reading.

These are some of the things we can do to encourage the miracle of learning to read.


The KIDS BOOK REVIEW site: this article will appear on this excellent site for teachers, parents and anyone interested in children’s books and children’s learning. 12th November 2010.

Want to know more about why many people are passionate about the world of Early Childhood?

5 thoughts on “LIFE’S LITTLE MIRACLE…Learning to Read

  1. We just love having you on Kids Book Review, Sheryl – you have brought a whole other angle to the site – our readers are very lucky! Tania and Megan xx


  2. Thanks, Alison. It is interesting to think about how we each learned to read. And how it can so easily not happen too. I remember being in Yr1 in a tiny, north-Qld school and there was a chart on the wall with A for Apple, B for Bat etc. and the letter was entwined with the drawing of an apple and bat (the bat was a ‘stick and ball’ Io)

    I think I was fortunate to learn to read quickly and without stress. Not so for others in my school year (going by the stats back in the 50s).


  3. Very thought provoking post, Sheryl. It made me wonder how I learned to read. Being the youngest, I think it was a bit by osmosis and always plenty of books lying around the house. And probably sheer coompetitiveness. If the siblings could all read then I needed to too.

    I wish all parents could read this post to understand it’s not the teacher’s fault their child isn’t reading automatically, but everyone’s learning is at a different pace.



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