When it comes to her children’s early education, Crystal Lowery has her own approach.
The comedian and writer shared a photo of herself and her 5-year-old son, John, on Facebook, along with long caption about her thoughts on teaching him to read.
“I’m not teaching my 5-year-old how to read,” she began her post. “Don’t get me wrong, we read him books all the time ... We’re teaching him to enjoy stories, to get lost in characters. But we’re not teaching him how to read. Not just yet. He’s too busy learning other things.”
These other things include how to be a good sport, build things, be physically active, care for his things, be creative and more.
“He’s learning that the key to happiness is to focus on his blessings rather than complaining about what he doesn’t have,” Lowery wrote. “He’s learning how to apologize. To overcome his own hurt feelings and to empathize with other kids when there’s been a confrontation. He’s learning how to forgive. To understand that everyone makes mistakes, and that he can love other people despite their foibles.”
John isn’t set to start kindergarten for another year, and although he may not arrive with “advanced reading skills,” Lowery said her son will bring “so much more” to the classroom.
Listing these skills, the mom wrote, “The ability to try new things without getting frustrated. The ability make friends, even though friendship can be a messy business. The ability to listen to others and follow instructions. The ability to problem-solve.The ability to concentrate on a task.”
Lowery, who also has a 3-year-old daughter, concluded her post with a final message to fellow parents.
“There is so much our children learn that cannot be measured with a standardized test,” she wrote. “And though someday his hours will be filled with phonics, and penmanship, and fractions, we aren’t worried about all that today. Today he has more important things to learn.”
“I was inspired to write this post after a conversation with friends who were disheartened that reading had become a competitive sport for bragging rights among parents,” said the mom. “I wanted to subvert this bragging culture and remind parents about all the other things pre-schoolers are learning aside from phonics.”
Lowery noted that studies have shown the importance of reading to children to develop literacy, rather than “forcing phonics on them.” She also cited a study that suggests a top predictor of children’s literacy and educational achievement is the number of books they have in their home. “We happen to have 826 right now,” the mom said.
The mom told HuffPost she’s received backlash after media outlets shared her post with misleading headlines that suggested she never wants to teach her son to read. “The operative word they left out was ‘yet.’ I said I’m not teaching my child how to read YET,” said the mom.
“So of course, thousands of trolls came out to criticize me without actually having read the post. I got the usual ‘you’re an unfit mother,’ ‘your kid is stupid’ and the run-of-the-mill sexual assault language (because, trolls), which honestly doesn’t bother me because I have learned how to forgive ugly comments,” she explained.
What bothered Lowery, however, was that many people shared negative comments without knowing their family’s full story ― notably, the fact that they did teach John phonics.
She even shared a video of her son practicing letters at 18 months old. “However, my husband and I decided to change our approach after reading data that suggests early phonics lessons are not the best way to teach literacy, and in fact could set children back,” she said.
“My husband and I value education ― we have six degrees between us including two Masters’ and a PhD,” Lowery added, noting that they pour through parenting research and particularly enjoy Professor Peter Vishton’s 14-hour lecture series from The Teaching Company.
“When I was honest with myself, I realized I had been forcing phonics on my 18-month-old so that I could brag. We changed our approach to teaching him literacy out of concern for him, not out of laziness,” the mom explained.
Ultimately, Lowery has found a small dose of humor in her viral experience.
“The irony is not lost on me that many people who have criticized me have not understood my actual point,” she said. “It seems they could use a few lessons in reading comprehension.”