Last night, I attended a seminar (for want of a better word) at Flea's school, where the teachers explained how the children are being taught to read.
I was expecting something quite full on – this is a private school and one that has a reputation for "bringing children on" (as they call it). But the evening took me by surprise. The head teacher said we shouldn't feel the kids always need to do their homework (which is lucky for us, considering we are bona fide homework slackers) and that it's more important to spend time looking at books together, sometimes reading to our children and sometimes helping them read to us. But most importantly, just spending time talking and listening.
For me, it was great. But not everyone felt the same. One Dad asked what he should do because his daughter (who's been in school for all of three weeks) came home and could read the word "went" on two pages, but didn't recognise it on the third page. "I tell her that we'll sit there until she's read every word correctly," he said.
The teachers very nicely suggested that he could chill out, and stressed that he shouldn't try and push his daughter's reading, or he might cause a problem where there isn't one. Another Mother complained that her older daughter had kept coming home with simple books, and wasn't being challenged enough. She didn't want the same to happen to her younger child, who's in the reception class. The teachers explained they'll often send kids home with simple books purposely, so the child gains confidence and doesn't see reading as something that always has to be hard work. I'm not sure the parent was convinced.
It's fascinating for me because I've always assumed this kind of pressure came from schools and teachers – but now I wonder if much of the pressure isn't down to the parents themselves. I can understand the impulse to want your children to do well, to reach their potential and feel confident. And I know I love reading, and I can't wait to share that with Flea. But for me the single best thing my child's teacher said last night was: "If they get to the end of reception and can't read, but they love books and they want to come to school every day, we can always come back to the rest."