A Neglected Duty Of Some Fathers And Mothers
( Originally Published Early 1900's )
BECAUSE a child is not admitted to the public schools until he is six years old is no reason why he should not know how to read before that time. Every child should have learned his letters at his father's or mother's knee by the time he is three years old, and at the age of six should be able to read anything he could understand spoken. Do fathers and mothers nowadays owe no duty to their offspring in the matter of their early training? Can they throw all the responsibility off on the school board? Franklin and Webster did not remember when they could not read, which is true of many of our older people today. It was the rule fifty years ago. Swift was reading the Bible at three, Carlyle, Dickens, Ruskin and Beecher were reading everything at four, Coleridge read the Arabian Nights before he was five, George Eliot read Waverley at six, Brougham was in the high school at seven and Byron had read the Bible through and through before he was eight.
These are but a few instances out of thousands that might be mentioned. In music it is the same ; Handel, Haydn, Mozart, Beethoven, Schubert, Mendelssohn, Liszt, Paderewski, were all busy at the piano between the ages of four and six, before their little fingers could stretch an octave on the keyboard.
Do you say these were born geniuses?
Every normal child is a genius, or at least something of a genius. Ask his mother. How do we know it was not the early start they got and the pleasure of doing something worth while that endowed them with what we call, genius?
It is preposterous to claim that either the body or the brain of a healthy child is hurt by learning to read young. We may be sure he is learning something at that age and not half so good for him. A child is a small embodied cyclone of restless activity. He learns more new things before completing his seventh year than in all the rest of his life together. It is the most eager, inquisitive period of his life.
Admitted to a world of new and wonderful things, the child's curiosity is insatiable, his memory is never again so retentive, and of all the thousand and one things he learns nothing can be so serviceable to him, nothing can give him such a lift on the road he has to travel in after life, as knowing early how to read. For this throws the doors wide open to all knowledge, this it is that marks the immeasurable distance between the cultivated man and the clown. And it is to be borne in mind that a genuine taste for reading can never be acquired so long as reading itself is a labor and a stumbling block—the picking out of words slowly one by one. But knowing how to read with ease anything, after that, geography, arithmetic, everything, comes easy and progress at school is rapid.