The Pros (And Surprising Cons) Of Your Kid Learning To Read

by Mike Julianelle

Since September, my first-grader’s reading skills have exploded.

He went from being nervous about reading in front of the class to pointing out every word he sees and verifying that he’s reading it correctly. It’s been amazing to watch the growth in just a few months, and while I was never worried about him being behind in some imaginary race to another developmental milestone, it’s definitely gratifying.

I’m excited for the growth to continue, and for him to start reading independently, and to be able to introduce him to some of the books I loved when I was a little dude.

Of course, as is the case with every new skill your children acquire, there are some drawbacks.

These are the pros and cons of your kid learning to read:

Pro: Quiet Time!

My 6-year-old has gotten to the point where he’ll occasionally sit silently and read. This is a miracle on par with water into wine. I cannot stress enough how amazing it is for my son to 1) sit by himself and 2) do it quietly.

Con: Spelling

I’m proud my son can read, but it’s also complicating my life. For one thing, with reading comes spelling, and with spelling comes the obsolescence of one of early parenting’s most essential tactics. When your kid is still a mush-brained toddler, it’s easy as pie to discuss maybe taking the kid to the M-O-V-I-E-S later, or to float the idea of taking the kid to the P-A-R-K. But once they can put letters together, and questions like “What’s ‘sex’?” start echoing through the room after a particularly risky spell-session, the jig is up. Time to start texting each other even though you’re in the same room!

Pro: Books Are Great

Reading opens up a whole new world for kids, and I can’t wait for my son to start finding the ones he loves, whether it’s Hogwarts, Narnia, Xanth, Stephen King’s haunted Maine, or Anne Rice’s immortal New Orleans (maybe those last two should wait ’til junior high?). I’ve already begun sharing some of my favorite movies with my son. I can’t wait to share my favorite books too.

Con: Great, More Stuff!

The amount of crap I have to remember to stuff back into my son’s backpack at the end of the night, or scramble around frantically searching for in the morning, is already insane. Water bottles, assignment folders, gloves, some stupid toy he can’t possibly ride the bus without, the list is endless. And now we can add books he has to return to class or to the library to it. Ugh.

Pro: He Can Read!

Not only is reading a fundamental skill crucial to nearly every aspect of your life, it’s a total blast too! It’s thrilling to watch one of your kids reach that checkpoint; it’s going to change his life immeasurably, in ways both so tiny he’ll take them for granted and so enormous it will be hard to remember how he ever existed without the ability. Plus it’s fun! I can’t wait for him to experience all of the benefits.

Con: He Can Read Everything

Including the channel guide and the titles on Netflix. No more blissfully scrolling by TV listings that show Ninjago and Rescue Bots, not without my little pipsqueak literally squeaking about how he wants to watch those. No more breezing past terrible kids movies that show up on Netflix. Now he spots them all, and wants to read what they’re about, and wants to force us to waste a precious movie night on some insipid trash about a snail competing in the Indy 500.

Like so many of the abilities I was once desperate for my kid to acquire — walking, talking, etc. — I quickly discovered that reading is a double-edged sword. Walking is a big milestone, and one every parent can’t wait for, but along with walking comes running, and with running comes running away, and running around in the store, and running toward the busy road. Talking is another big one, and finally being able to have a conversation with your kids is amazing, but talking also means never not talking, and it means talking loudly, and it means talking back. Fun!

Reading is the same way. It’s essential and a big hurdle for your kid to clear on his way to independence, but along with the good there are some clear drawbacks. Thankfully, that newfound “quiet time” makes it all worth it.