I Don’t Care If My Children Read

Yes, you heard correctly. I do not care if my children read or not.

Confronted?

We often claim that we are detached from expectations, from loyalty to outcomes. We often claim that we are comfortable with our children’s choices or at least comfortable being uncomfortable with them because we appreciate that they are theirs to make. But are we?

Most people venturing into unschooling grow to be unconcerned with when their child learns to read but it is (generally speaking) definitely a when, not an if. So how does it make you feel to sit with the sentence: I do not care if my children read.

How does your body react? What begins racing through your mind? Well, hold that thought while I explain.

I honestly do not care if my child reads because…

A person does not need to read to have a fulfilling and worthwhile existence.

People might claim that reading is essential but it actually is not. A human must breathe, they must pump blood, they must have access to hydration and nutrients to remain alive and conscious; reading however is completely optional. It is actually quite an ableist stance to suggest the worth of a person’s existence is tied into their ability to do anything.

Reading can bring a person more conventional access to certain things in life but there are always other options should that not be available. Right now, our daughters cannot read all that they encounter so we read to them or listen to audiobooks or we create lists with symbols and diagrams so that they can access certain information they need often without waiting for our availability. We find ways to meet the needs that suit the current circumstances and ability. That is something that could continue indefinitely, that is sort of how we approach life full stop.

A child does not need a parent to care about their reading status to be invested in it themselves.

There are a lot of reasons a person could come to be interested in reading; for functional purposes or for pleasure. And those are the reasons I would want my child to read, not because I claimed it important and necessary. External force is not required for somebody to find value in reading or to nurture their ability to read. When I have mentioned in the past my lack of investment in my child’s reading ability, somebody will always jump to the fact that they are therefore doomed to be illiterate but the two are not in anyway connected.

We are schooled to believe a child is incapable of making decisions and taking action with regards to their learning but is this not one of the first premises we seek to reject when we explore the concept of deschooling because there is no basis for this conclusion. Let’s remember that I did not say I would prevent reading or discourage reading, I’m not hiding the written word. I’m just honouring my child’s right to interact with it in the way that they desire. I am here to support their choices and assist as they indicate but towards what aim is entirely up to them. In the end, learning is for the purpose of the learner and if they find value in reading then they will pursue that and if they don’t then why should they use their limited time doing so?

 

How the child feels about their choices is more important than the choices they make.

If your child grew to live a content existence working a job that they complete without the need to read and going home to enjoy entertainment without the need to read and they connected with others without the need to read… why would you care that they could not read? They don’t.

And if your child came to you at 15 or at 20 or at 30 or at any point in their life, discontent with the fact that they could not read, what are the options available then? There is no expiry on learning. It is something one can pursue the moment it makes sense whether that is today or tomorrow or in many years from now.

Oh but it is easiest to learn when young; well so we are told. But what’s also generally true of most people today is that the younger you are, the less time you’ve spent being schooled… so perhaps it is easiest to learn, the less time you’ve lost being told when and what and how and made to feel inadequate when those do not align with your own desire or ability.

“Granny,” I said, finally. “If you go to school and you can’t read when you’re seven you are going to be stigmatized and humiliated and made incredibly anxious in a way that is going to interfere with your ability to learn in the future. That’s not going to happen to Isabel.” — Carol Black, A Thousand Rivers

When a child learns to read is one expectation. That it is a “when” not an “if” is another.

I care about my child, not what they do.

Still feeling confronted? Still care if your child ever reads?

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4 Comments

  1. Great piece, thank you. I have been slowly gravitating to this position too. Neither of my sons wants to read. One has ASD, the other dyslexia – both ways of being in the world that are stigmatised because of limited ideas about what communication is. Why privilege reading and writing over drawing, dancing, building and singing, all expressive things they like to do. Voice recognition software, text reading technologies, collaborating with a reader/writer like me where they want is working for us.

  2. This is really interesting, thank you. I am a little concerned by the fact that as you write it, you help your daughter who can’t read (by symbols etc …) … At this point, it is not a problem but when being an adult, they may not have always an helper with them ! Even if they have a job without the need to read, (but what about the employment contract for instance ?), they won’t have autonomy if they want to go alone in a place they don’t know for instance …
    But I find your reflexions about the autonomy of children very interesting and sometimes challenging, thank you for that !

  3. I spent years focused on my older two children’s reading ability. Private evaluation, finding a diagnosis, special programs to teach them, and thousands of dollars later they still read quite poorly. What if I had unschooled them and let them enjoy what they loved ?
    I now homeschool almost unschool my younger two… I took a break from
    form, or the race of grade level skills imposed on my darling daughter. I teach my youngest his foundation on my own, with no ones else’s input into where he should be. I wish I have the courage to do what was in my gut long ago. Yet, I’m learning and evolving to rise our family together as forever learners confident in ourselves as good, no matter what our reading, writing or spelling ability is.

    Public school reading isntuction is so monopolized by publishers making a buck on the backs of kids. I’m taking the reigns. Thank you for all you write, your the boost I need to trust myself more and more.

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