Why play matters more than ABCs and 123s

There is no evidence that learning to read younger has any advantage, in fact, creative play uses much more of the brain than teacher-led learning.

Teaching children to read from five is not likely to make that child any more successful at reading than a child who learns to read from seven.

Otago University researcher Dr Sebastian Suggate conducted national and international studies that backed up the conclusion that there is no difference between the reading ability of early and late readers by the time those children reach their last year at primary school.

Dr Suggate said the research emphasises the importance of early language and learning, while putting less emphasises the importance of early reading.

He concluded that there was no solid evidence showing long-term gains for children who are taught to read in an early childhood education setting.

Neuroscience Educator Nathan Wallis agrees, saying there is no benefit from trying to teach a three-year-old skills a seven-year-old should learn.

“You do not get better outcomes by practicing to be seven when you’re three,” he says.

“Australia and New Zealand are raising a generation of children with no resilience. Resilience comes from creativity and we’re obsessed with getting them ready for school,” Nathan says.

The widely held view in New Zealand that children should learn to read from five, now looks contestable.

Those who are late learning to read are still learning through play, language and interactions
with adults, so their long-term learning is not disadvantaged.

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