…BUT IS THERE A MAGIC AGE FOR LEARNING TO READ?
Let me say at the outset, as I wrote in my last blog, that it’s never too late to learn to read if you have Down syndrome! Never. With older nonreaders, we’re even more careful to use targeted high-interest materials just as we do with young learners, but the learning process and potential remains the same.
That said, let’s take it a step further:
Is there a “magic window”, the best age for learning to read?
Yes! There is what I call a “Magic Window” of time when learning to read will be the easiest, when the brain is the most receptive and ready to learn. In my experience, this “window” is between ages 4 to 7.
Before that, from around eighteen months to 3 years, is also important prep time for that Window. We can use it to teach a love of books (read aloud time), letter sounds, and even more if the child is ready for more.
Why Do You Call these years a Magic Window?
Because during those formative years, the brain is still uber-active as it is especially in the first 3 years; it loves creating new connections and does that rapidly. Synapses are popping between neurons, and in general, all learning potential rocks. The visual pathway is immature but responsive to the maturing process, which comes with frequent (daily) exposure to learning to read. Repetition, repetition, repetition.
5 Minutes twice a day
In my workshops, I give my “reading prescription” for teaching, which is this: 5 minutes twice a day. If you’ve read my book “Whole Child Reading,” you know what I’m talking about.
At one of my workshops recently, a mom approached me at break time. “I’ve been using your program for years, first with my older son, and now with my second son. But we got super busy and dropped down to once a day with him instead of twice a day like you teach. We were astonished at the difference, and quickly jumped back to twice a day. When we did, his progress got back on track.”
What’s happening in the classroom?
So what happens if your child is in that Magic Window of time, but in a school system that can’t meet those literacy needs? While you’re advocating for a more knowledgeable school situation, you can take on the job yourself. Remember, 5 minutes 2x day. You can do this! (Read the book.)
In the meantime, go into your child’s classroom and observe what’s happening with reading. Others may have low reading expectations for your child, but you don’t! You know your child can be a good reader, and you’re going to make sure that happens.
Nonverbal + Convincing the school staff
Nonverbal tip for parents who are “after-schooling” their child with a reading program that works: when the child begins to succeed, you’ll need to let the school staff know this. Expectations will skyrocket.
Do you tell them, “My child can read!”? No. (They may not believe you.)
Do you ask your child to read for the teacher? No. (Seriously? You want our kids to perform on demand in the classroom? LOL)
What works with 100% success is this: video your child reading at home in one of his/her very best sessions. Send that in, either by text/email/burn it on a DVD disc. Make sure the teacher makes time to view it. The rest will be history. If a picture is worth 1,000 words, a video is worth…yep. You get it.
Your ideal window of time
…is right now. Regardless of the age of your learner, NOW is the absolute best time to start.
Go for it!