October 19, 2008

QUESTION: I've read that it is possible to teach four-year-old children to read. Should I be working on this with my child?

ANSWER: If a youngster is particularly sharp and if he or she can learn to read without feeling undue adult pressure, it would be advantageous to teach this skill. But that's a much bigger "if" than most people realize. There are some parents who find it difficult to work with their children without showing frustration over immaturity and disinterest.

Furthermore, new skills should be taught at the age when they are most needed. Why invest unnecessary effort trying to teach a child to read when he has not yet learned to cross the street, tie his shoes, count to ten or answer the telephone? If seems foolish to get panicky over preschool reading.

The best policy is to provide your children with many interesting books and materials, read to them every day, and answer their questions. You can then introduce them to phonics and watch the lights go on. It's fun if you don't push too hard.

Dr. Dobson is founder and chairman of the board of the nonprofit organization Focus on the Family, Colorado Springs, CO 80995(www.family.org). Questions and answers are excerpted from "Solid Answers" and "Bringing Up Boys," both published by Tyndale House.

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