What it really means when a child hits milestones ahead of her peers.
As a preschooler, Chad deVries* used to sit on the couch at home in Maitland, Ont., poring over picture books, telling the stories to himself. His mom, Caitlin, simply assumed he’d memorized the words. Then she noticed Chad “reading” a book she didn’t think she’d ever read to him before. Curious and a bit excited, she and her husband decided to test the elder of their two children by handing him a book they were sure he’d never seen. He read it easily.
So they tried another book — with the same result. Before long, Chad’s ability became a topic of fascination for friends and relatives. “We have a video of him reading Dr. Seuss at a family birthday party,” deVries says. Chad was 3½ at the time.
DeVries soon found herself fending off accusations that they had somehow pushed Chad into early reading. But she says Chad’s achievement had nothing to do with any special effort on the part of his parents. “I was looking after a baby at the time,” deVries says. “I assure you I didn’t have time to be drilling him on letters or phonics.”
Few kids are as naturally precocious as Chad and most parents don’t expect their kids to read at three. But lots of us kind of like it when our children are, well, at least a little ahead. And certain people have put considerable effort into making it happen, devising toys, videos, classes and other learning schemes to get more kids to read, talk, swim, identify colours or do just about anything faster and sooner. But if certain children naturally develop skills early, does that mean most kids should be encouraged to do likewise?