I hate it when children are labelled “Late Readers”, by whose timeline are they late?

Main stream schools have always dictated by what age a child should have reached the reading milestone, but they are always changing the goal posts depending on what latest study is trending in government.


Our daughter did not learn to read until just before her twelfth birthday. It took a lot of trust and there were days I had my doubts. The first year we started home educating, we followed a Steiner Waldorf curriculum as our daughter had been in a Steiner and I was a former Steiner teacher. We also did phonics workbooks and flashcards, but I noticed our daughter was losing interest in learning to read so I dropped it. I did not tell anyone I had made this decision, I did not want the flack I knew we would get.  We just let her play.


A few months before her twelfth birthday, our daughter had a friend for a sleep over. The friend brought with her the book, “The Worst Witch” by Jill Murphy. When, I went to say goodnight I found both girls lying on the bed with noses in book. The visiting friend was reading to our daughter.


The next day, our daughter asked if we could visit the library to find the whole “Worst Witch” series. She left with arms piled high with books. She then spent the next few weeks in her room just reading and when she came out, she could read! She had found a reason to want to read and with determination, taught herself. This is not to say, I do not believe us creating a rich environment full of stories and words did not have any effect, but I have my doubts about the early phonics. Workbooks and Flash cards feel dry and dead. Silly fridge magnets, daft poetry and Ronald Dahl audio books feel alive.


Our son is now eight years old and is showing no signs of “getting” reading. He has done Reading Eggs for about a year, because his dad thought he might enjoy it and wants him to be able to read. Our son did enjoy it, but now he is bored and as far as I can tell, it has not helped his reading. So, he has stopped.

Our son and daughter are not “Late Readers”, they are just themselves.


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18 thoughts on “How Late is a Late Reader?

  1. My eldest is 10 tomorrow, still not a completely fluent reader. Reading Eggs didn’t really help, he could do the exercises but it didn’t translate to books. My 8yo is fluent and fast, taught herself. My 6yo is enjoying playing reading games, I have no idea what she can read! Thanks for sharing where your kids are at. I’m good with where we are, but it’s hard with family and outside classes sometimes!

  2. This was an encouragement to me.
    My son has just turned 11 and is far from fluent with his reading. We gave up on various phonics courses long ago . This year we spent sometime on a workbook, because he asked to try it out, then I found a reader on Bigfoot , a subject he has been researching. Now we are slowly reading it together and he has declared ” I think I can read.” He will soon gain fluency and confidence and then I will look back wonder why I was ever concerned .

    1. Thanks for commenting Kathryn and sharing your story. Trusting in our children’s own learning process seems to be the key. Always good to hear other parents journeys.

  3. Subject close to my heart.

    All 3 of my children are exclusively home educated

    My now 11 year old read at 4. All the Harry Potter’s by 6! Reads a fiction book most days and always has a book nearby

    My 9 in a few weeks son is still not reading and I find it terrible! He too has tried Reading Eggs and other reading schemes which we have variously given up on and now they are way too young for him.

    I’m pretty sure he’s not dyslexic as he recognises plenty of words in Minecraft and the WiiU! and I get that not everyone devours fiction but he has firmly labelled himself now as a non reader and finds it hard to maintain online friends as people get fed up doing all the reading for him.

    We read to him everyday for an hour and have a house full of books.

    I constantly read stories of “late readers” and Peter Gray articles to comfort myself and maybe when he does read I’ll forget all this but for the many moments in past year I haven’t enjoyed having a late reader. He’s big for his age too and in social situations like being given a menu in a restaurant doesn’t feel happy and it reflects poorly on me as a home educator.

    My 6 year old I think would be reading more in a different situation.

    One of my children was 2 before they walked and 8 before they rode a bike so I’m happy to wait. The distinction with reading later is that it feels you are missing out whilst waiting for it to happen.

    1. Thank you for your comment Katie. I totally understand where you are coming from. It did knock our daughter’s confidence sometimes, like when she tried Girl Guides we had to inform them that she wasn’t reading yet. She often felt embarrassed because her peers could already read. Now, we have the same thing happening with our son. But, I’ve come to peace with it (mostly), as frankly what else is there to do! As you said, they aren’t interested in the reading packages and then later, it all becomes to babyish for them. But, maybe knowing they are not the only ones helps them and us.

  4. I have a 10 year old that is still struggling to read fluently and he feels embarrassed at times too. However, it obviously isn’t his time yet to “get it”. Our 7 year old just this week came up to me and said he wanted to really start working harder on reading so he could read like his friend. To me that is when they really are going to “get it” anyway. When they want it. We can try all day long, but if their heart isn’t into it, it just isn’t going to happen. Thanks for sharing your story!

    1. Thanks for sharing your own experience Catherine. It helps other parents who may be concerned or feel pressured to get their children reading at a certain age rather than letting them come to it in their own time.

  5. Wow, that’s really interesting! I’ve heard studies that in the US we’re pushing kids to read too early, and it can be detrimental. I’m not sure there’s a “right” age. I’m glad your daughter discovered her love of reading! Thanks for sharing at the Manic Mondays blog hop!

  6. Luminara,
    This is such an encouraging story. It must be hard to trust for so long but it pays off. Yes, don’t label kids but let them be who they are. btw, we tried Reading Eggs for a while. My daughter also found it boring. She learnt to read when she was ready too. One day she asked if she could read a chapter book to me. I didn’t think she had the skills, but somewhere along the line everything fell into place, and she could read! It was an exciting moment!

  7. If I’m honest I’ve grown to be proud of the fact my home ed 8yr old isn’t yet a fluent reader. I just assume it has left room for a wider scope of learning experiences and for her that can only be a good thing.

    1. I agree Clare, I often think the reason our children have such expansive imaginations is due to them having learnt to read later on.

  8. It’s great to read your story. Like you, i realized that letting my daughter play was the only thing to do- though she had wanted to learn to read for years, nothing I tried to help worked, in fact it only made our relationship worse. It was so hard because she was asking for the help, but I could see it wasn’t right. When she was 10, we made a choice to back off completely- on everything- and she was reading before she turned 11. She needed space to discover he reason for reading. She’s 12 now and growing in her reading ability every day. I can’t recommend ‘backing off’ enough!

  9. Oh it soothes my soul to read this…my eldest (8) learnt to read in school (before we de-registered him) he hated it, he was anxious, it was a chore not a joy and as a gal who loves to read it broke my heart a little. We left him alone we did not force him, we read to him and now his reading is amazing (he still doesn’t enjoy getting lost in a novel just yet…) but without pressure he has flourished. My daughter is 7 and does not want to read. We read daily, we tried reading eggs, phonics, games etc… And then we let go. It is still a battle to change my expectations and my perception, to untrain my mind in what society has as acceptable. Since we let go she has decided to read a few words,I feel it has boosted her confidence and eased mine a little. Thank-you for sharing your journey, knowing what others have walked makes it all a bit lighter !!

    1. Thank you Esther for dropping by and sharing your story. I love that this conversation is taking place!

  10. Thank you, Luminara, and thank you, other commenters, for all of this! DS just turned 10, and is reading at what would be considered in a traditional school at a first-grade level. He has what would be labeled ADHD in school (severe; and yes, it DOES exist in some children even if they’ve never been in a school – I am here to tell you about it), and has no interest in reading or writing at this time.

    I know that John Holt said that if left to themselves, many boys wouldn’t learn to read until they were 11-15 yo, and I’ve found other unschooling parents testify of having children who didn’t learn to read until they were 12+ y.o. But it REALLY helped to hear the voices of other unschooling parents here. Thanks again for the encouragement! 🙂

    1. Thank you for your comment Emily. I’ll share this post again on social media as so many great comments have been added.
      Do you by any chance remember which book or essay John Holt mentioned about boys reading between 11-15yrs? I think it would be good for me to reference and give a link if possible.

      1. Oh, I’m sorry, Luminara, I heard someone else state it in a podcast (I think The Unschooling Life [unschoolingsupport.com] episode about reading, but don’t quote me on that!). It’s been a LO-ONG time since I personally have read John Holt.

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