Children read when they are ready

reading 1

I read to our daughters till they were eleven. I sat up at night, read books, tantalized them with stories. There was always that nagging feeling, that school-like gremlin of mine that would tap me on the shoulder and say ‘Ha, they are a little old for you to be reading to them don’t you think?’ I would push it away. Like the fear witch this gremlin knows me well…

Witch and house

So I would carry on, I LOVED reading to our girls. There were even those that said ‘Don’t you think you may be hindering their reading?’ I said ‘No’

But it was a hard thing for me to accept, I thought maybe I was hindering their reading and slowing them down. Me, who had learnt to read at the age of five, so my family say. I am not sure I believe that, I remember feeling very frustrated and tense. I don’t think I was ready to learn at such a young age.

So it is a year down the line from when I was reading to the girls. There was a moment when we stopped consciously helping one of our daughters read, she was struggling as her twin sister was zooming ahead of her. As we realized the more we tried to help the more it was a ‘thing’. Then that deeper part of me knew that we were making a ‘thing’ out of it and it was the worst thing we could do.

So we stopped, we stepped back and then she did it herself. She learnt to read. She now will not get her nose out of a book. She reads big fat ones, the books follow her around like friends. She did it and the best bit is she got there by herself.


They learn because they want to and I think that that is how it happens.

They learn to read through reading things like…

sign posts

letters from friends

e mails

cookery books

messaging their friends on Skype or on my phone

instructions in computer games such as Minecraft, or other games where you NEED to read to move up a level

packaging in shops


Mindsnacks‘ for learning Italian which is a phone app ful of words games, there they learn to read in two languages and thinking nothing of it as they are playing!

the list is endless really…


The other day my daughter sat down with a six year old friend and read to her fluently in Italian (we live in Italy by the way.) I was kind of amazed as I never taught her to read Italian she just got there and figured it out, perhaps through ‘Mindsnacks.’ I think I have just said that the ‘ce’ makes a ‘che’ sounds and that the ”g’ in taglio’ is silent but I have very loosley passed on what I know about how to read Italian. We never sat down and went through learning how to read Italian.

When you think about it there are words everywhere and as they are exposed to them they soak them up. For sure our input has been there for when they spell something out, we say what the word is and we also read as parents. There are a lot of books in the house. So yes we are there to support their reading but we stopped sitting down and trying to teach them a long time ago as it seems to me that the learning just goes in, naturally. which is contrary to everything I was ever taught about learning at school and is a lot about what Peter Gray talks about here.

But as a conditioned adult, who had reading forced upon me at school at a young age, I still have that inner gremlin nagging at me sometimes. So I am now going to chat to him about our son who is nine, who says he will only read when he can read.


‘Does that make sense to you gremlin?’


gremlin line

‘Of course not but you can go back and snooze in that worried, conditioned part of my brain and leave me alone because I know that he will be absolutely fine. He IS reading right now, in fact, as I write this. You cannot move forward so easily in Minecraft if you cannot read! He, my friend will be a fluent reader when he is ready’


  • Brilliant post Lehla. Have Pinned to my Pinterest “Unschooling” board. So, many parents worry about their child reading. It’s crazy how each child is expected to “get it” at the same age otherwise they are thought of as having something wrong with them.

    • I know, it is tricky I think though if you are in the system to let this freedom happen, well actually it is impossible. So I feel lucky to be able to let the kids learn to read in a free way. I wonder how many kids would actually learn much much later than they do if they were not made to read…Ah thanks for pinning it, I will have a look!

  • suejreed says:

    funny – my twin girls read early and now as 16 yr old will read anything (even Shakespeare) with no fear. My boy is 10 and Minecraft has taught him to read but he will not read books for fun yet. he seems to think they will be hard. I still read to him when I can! I love it too x x

    • Hi Sue,

      That is great and wonderful that your 16 year old will read Shakespeare! Yes the time goes so quickly the moments of reading to my kids will soon be over, so I also enjoy reading to my son and he won’t read books for fun yet. For him it isn’t fun as it is still clunky but he is getting there and I know that a watershed moment is on the horizon. x

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