Sunday, 12 September 2010

There is an article in the UK Telegraph

which states that research suggests that teaching the children the alphabet, nursery rhymes or a musical instrument may have "no impact". You can read it here. I would like to read the actual research.
Time spent doing these things at home is, presumably, time spent with a parent and positive time at that. These things should be enjoyable. They should assist in the development of the child-parent relationship. Of course if you are trying to teach little Johnny or little Mary to read at a very early age in order to boast about their skills that is unlikely to be a good thing but reciting nursery rhymes should be part of childhood. It is part of our culture and our heritage. Knowing about these things helps us make sense of our world.
Oh yes, you can learn these things at day-care, at nursery school, at kindergarten and pre-school and wherever else working parents leave their children but you will not learn them in quite the same way. It will not be one-on-one. It will not be your time with your parent or accompanied by your bedtime routine or some other ritual. Learning to sing "Three blind mice" in a crowd of other children is not the same. There it becomes just another song you sing. You probably will not even notice the words, let alone wonder about carving knives and tails and other things.
The stories you hear will not be the same. There will probably just be one story, followed by a suitable "educational" activity. It might be quite good fun but it will not much up to two or three bedtime stories and a favourite story repeated for nights on end. There are no comforting rituals in the crowd if you are very small. The world revolves around you. You want to be the centre of attention. You want to be comforted when things go wrong and you want to be safely on a parent's knee when the wolf is blowing the house down or someone is going to get into trouble for eating someone else's porridge or the witch is going to put you in the oven.
Or maybe they do not even read those sort of stories in other-than-parent-or-grandparent care? Do they now read about the new child who has two mothers or two fathers or came here on a boat or who has a missing parent? Is this what is really bothering the researchers? Is it because children are not being confronted by "social issues" and "political correctness"?
If teaching the alphabet and nursery rhymes has "no impact" then why should these things have an impact? Why do we insist that children "should not be wasting time" but "actively engaged in learning" at all times?
I would rather have an individual child look up and tell me, "Say it again!" Have we forgotten that playing is also a form of work?


Rachel Fenton said...

The problem with research is that in order for your research to be taken seriously you have to show that you have read and understood and are arguing for or against existing research. What this boils down to is the agreeing or disagreeing. Agreeing with waht has already been said is not going to get you noticed nor is it likely to secure research funding. Short of doing some original research - again unlikely to secure funding - you have to disagree.

Too many thinkers and not enough doers.

catdownunder said...

Ah, don't get me started on that...but this sort of 'research' does more harm than good. "Oh it doesn't matter if I don't read to little Johnny because it doesn't make any difference." And that is, of course, not what is being advocated at all. Sigh.

Rachel Fenton said...

Do you not think that nursery rhymes, like fairy tales, are just a way of programming children to fit into socially acceptable roles, Cat?

I'm antagonising here and not really giving my own opinions, but I'm trying to see both sides of the argument.

I don't recall either of my parents ever reading to me but my grandmother sang rhymes and infrequently my father would make up stories - we had a household of nonsense speakers! We had very few books.

I think all children should be read and sang to and encouraged in their reading - I have done so with my daughter and she is nuts about books. But so am I and only my grandma thought books a worthy passtime. I have to agree that there is no proof that having rhymes sung to you will make any difference to you. Love is the crucial thing. But research like this is pointless anyhow. All anyone needs is a loving silly grandma.

catdownunder said...

No,would have to say that these things also help children make sense of the world around them. They are part of our cultural heritage. They get referred to in the media, at school, in literature, by other speakers and so on. If you do not know about these things you miss out. At the other end of the age group my father needs to be told things sometimes like "it's a pop group" or "that's a site on the internet" or "that doesn't mean x in this context but y". It's part of our language and language (in many forms) is what connects us to the world.
But, hang in there - you have taught your daughter to love reading - what a gift!

Donna Hosie said...

The article is specifically talking about infant children, and as this is based in the UK, then they mean children aged four and below.

As a parent, I agree with the research. My daughter knew her alphabet at aged two; she could read by three and a half. Did that help her or give her an advantage? I don't believe it did. I have a son who didn't speak until he was three. He didn't know his alphabet until he was five. He has developed into the most naturally gifted of all my children.

I sang nursery rhymes to all of my children until I was blue in the face. Do you think any of them can remember that? No they cannot.

A loving, interested parent will read to their child regardless of research. There are good parents/bad parents/totally indifferent parents. Research is irrelevant. Those parents who read this research and then decide not to bother, are the ones who would not bother in the first place.

Anonymous said...

But your children went to school knowing those things existed - and that is an advantage in itself. To come to all that new at age 4-5 would be a disadvantage. As for parents teetering on the edge of will I or won't I this might be enough to tip them to won't and it gives child minding places greater excuse not to give children traditional material based on our culture.
If we were talking other indigenous culture here everyone would be up in arms and saying it must be preserved and that children must be given access to it. It should not be about whether it gives children an advantage at school but whether it gives them access. Bob C-S

Anonymous said...

Wow I am so angry right now with that article. I can see both sides of the argument but as a stay at home mum I feel like theyre just saying i'm wasting mine and my childs time.

For goodness sake they are children let them play learn and grow without being scruitinized.

I also run a tots group once a week and singing nursery rhymes and telling stories repeatedly actually has proved to help my 40 children on the books many skills.

They all begin to remember the stories and as Ive watched them grow it has helped their imaginations from remembering one story and song they can unleash new stories and songs! How can anyone say it doesnt?!?!

I guess it all depends on the child and the parent as to how much potential they want to develop etc. I can and will do my best and hope for the best for my son but I want him to have fun and have good social skills as well academic.

Take care
Kate Collings
xx - always welcoming new followers, guests and comments xx

Weaving a Tale or Two said...

How do they define "no impact"? As in equivalent to doing nothing with that child? As you point out in your post, that's a load of nonsense. Any time spent developing and bonding with your children has an impact.

Nicole MacDonald said...

meh to their research - ignore the data and do it anyway :)

catdownunder said...

Umm Donna - do they know their nursery rhymes?
Yes, I think the question is "how do you define 'no impact'?" You may not learn to read any earlier or achieve any more in school but I do think you may achieve other, intangible but positive things - and that they may matter more to the sort of human being you become.