Most western countries start primary school education at age six. That is the age at which we believe most children can start learning to read. However, some children arrive at primary school already able to read. This does not happen by chance. Invariably, these children's parents have made an effort to teach them.
If these children can learn to read before they even start primary school, why do we wait until six years old before children start learning at school? The answer is that education authorities have to make a practical decision. Younger children need more care and attention. It takes more resources to teach younger children and it costs more money. Most children are ready to start learning to read before age six but a few are not ready. The education authorities choose this age because it is when almost all children are ready to start learning to read. It is an age when children are becoming more independently capable and able to learn in a classroom environment.
The education authorities decide that six years old is a suitable age to start teaching children to read. It is a practical decision and the right one. That does not mean that children can not start learning to read before this age. It just means that if parents want their child to have a head start in literacy skills then it is their responsibility to teach. All children develop at their own pace but generally, it is possible teach children to read or at least lay the foundations before age six.
Teaching youngger children demands a personal touch. It requires patience, imagination, creativity and perseverance. This is a skill that parents need to develop as they work with their child. However, there is no doubt that with time and effort, parents can give their children a head start in literacy development before they start primary school.
Research has shown that children start developing the cognitive visual skills to identify the complex shapes of letters from as early as age two. A few children read their first words by age three and some can read simple sentences by age four. These children are advanced but this is usually due to the effort their parents put in to teaching them. Almost all children can learn the alphabet and to read a few words before age six. It is just a question of how much effort and time parents are willing to spend teaching their child.
A head start in literacy skills is an advantage children can carry into the rest of their lives. It makes their early schooling experience more positive and boosts their self-esteem. Contrastingly, children who start primary school and find they are already bottom of the class can develop negative attitudes to schooling that affect their educational development for years to come. One of the greatest gifts a parent can ever give their child is a sound early base in reading and writing.