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Why You Don't Need Commercial Reading Programs to Raise a Reader

You have no doubt seen it on the TV commercials - proud parents looking smugly on as their four year old recites passage after passage that he has learnt parrot-fashion through a commercial reading program. This is then followed by the parents giving a testimonial about how little Johnny has leapt ahead in class as a result of their 'investment', despite the fact that he clearly had no understanding of what he had just read.

Don't get me wrong, reading programs can be extremely beneficial to some struggling readers. They just shouldn't be seen as the be-all and end-all, especially if the end goal is promoting enthusiasm for reading in your child. A criticism that is often levelled at commercial literacy products is that they tend to be rather dry. Children are almost without exception able to learn best when they are fully immersed in an activity and, most importantly of all, enjoying it. So it should come as no surprise when we hear that more often than not it is the book-reading element of the program that the child enjoys most and derives the most benefit from.

It goes without saying that the teaching of basic phonics is vitally important in critical literacy grounding. Reading comprehension worksheets have their place in the elementary school classroom. Noone can deny this. What I am saying, however, is that they are unlikely to inspire a lifelong passion for reading and learning in young children, who more often than not will learn to associate reading with 'work' rather than 'pleasure', and start to treat it as a chore.

The fact is, most basic literacy skills can be picked up through simply reading and being read to. The challenge is to engender a real love of reading in your child, as this will provide the best platform for literacy development. Even doing simple things like asking your child questions as you go through her favourite storybook will help. Investing time in good quality literature is another great move, and you can not only rest safe in the knowledge that the language and vocabulary that your child is picking up is of a high calibre, you can also be instrumental in building a love of classic literature.

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