Language is caught – not taught

Category: Bookbug

Marc Lambert, Scottish Book Trust CEO, recently wrote an opinion piece about why the teaching of reading and writing should be deferred a few years. Marc reminds us that “teaching someone to read does not make them a reader”.  In fact, attempting to teach reading and writing before children are ready can put them off all together.


So if we shouldn’t start teaching reading until children are about 6 years old, why bother with early book gifting?


The answer is simple – before we can learn to read, we need to develop a range of skills and abilities. Most importantly we need to develop a love of books and reading. We need to engage with stories and connect with them. We need to see reading and writing as not just something we need to do to, but something we want to do. We need a glimpse into all the exciting places a book can take us. Once we’ve realised the potential of the written word, there’s no going back.


Reading to babies and young children is an important first step in developing this passion and curiosity. When we read aloud to children, they’re catching important language elements – words, sounds, and patterns. It will help develop the skills they will need when they learn to read. Studies show time and time again that children who are read to from birth will learn to read and write with less difficulty than their peers.


I’m reminded of the cheesy, but important, phrase - “language is caught – not taught”. A love of books and reading is caught and it starts when we love what we’re reading.  And if a child catches a love of books and reading then the reading will fall into place – when the time is right.