The chances of a child fathoming out an alphabetic code like that of written English without explicit instruction are slender. Let us not mince words; they are virtually zero. The left to right progression of the symbols, silent letters and all the rest of it, can only be mastered by being taught. Nevertheless, quite a few parents claim that their children learn by themselves, with little or no teaching. What motivates people to assert something so unlikely to be true?
We all want to believe, and also to persuade others, that our children are special. Most people's kids learn to read at school when once they have been taught the trick of the thing; just imagine how clever our child might be if he could crack the code without being taught! In every case where it has proved possible to investigate the matter, children who can read have been found to have received instruction in the matter. The idea of a child teaching himself to read is a piece of folk mythology which has had an unfortunate effect upon home educators in this country. In the first instance, it makes many parents feel like flops. Other children are apparently learning the thing without belong drilled with flashcards or trained in phonics; what is wrong with my kid? The obvious solution is to start teaching, while denying that you are doing anything of the sort. That way, you will be able to maintain your status as autonomously educating parent and also demonstrate to everybody else how bright your kid is. The only problem is that this promotes an atmosphere of humbug and cant, with people frantically teaching little Johnny to recognise A for Apple, while keeping the whole enterprise under wraps.
I have never felt inclined to play this game. I should have done really. Just think how impressed my friends and family would be if my daughter had been able to read at the age of two without any effort on my part! Why, she would look like an infant prodigy. I have observed this happening among acquaintances, who spend a fortune on private tutors, resources and so on and then when their child gains a scholarship or passes his 11 Plus, deny that they had anything to do with it and attribute the whole business with becoming modesty to their child being naturally brilliant!