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Rethinking Learning to Read:

The Challenge from Children Educated at Home

by Harriet Pattison £11.99 (inc UK pp) 212 pp

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Learning to read is considered to be a crucial step in any child’s education, and literacy is a central concern, not just for educators and parents but for politicians and wider society as well. Rethinking Learning to Read offers a unique contribution to the subject by investigating in depth, for the first time, how home educated children learn to read.

Based on an international sample of 311 families with a total of 400 children this book explores, the experiences of those who learn to read away from the mainstream school agenda. The results constitute a unique resource and insight into how children learn to read when not constrained by school methods.

A wide range of views and pedagogical attitudes are presented and considered from philosophical, psychological and practical points of view. The result is a provocative discussion of literacy built around the words of home educating parents as they describe their children’s experiences and deliberate themselves on how we understand learning to read. 

In so doing many normative assumptions are challenged including the necessity for age related achievement targets, the pursuit of a universal “best method” approach to reading instruction, a “building block” progressive approach, and the contention that children need to be professionally and actively taught to read. 

Through the analysis of parents’ experiences and reflections the authors begin work on the construction of alternative representations of what happens when a child learns to read.   

This book also has wider implications in understanding how learning takes place in the home, the relationship between teaching and learning and gives real insight to the phenomena that is home education.


Rethinking Learning to Read opens up new conversations about learning to read, inviting us to think about reading in different ways and challenging some of the normative assumptions we may have come to hold about reading and learning more generally. It has been fascinating to read the rich and diverse range of accounts of home educating children learning to read presented in the book along with the author’s philosophical reflections on the implications of these experiences.'

Emma Marie Forde, Rethinking Parenting Blogg Full review (PDF)

'The overriding impression left by this book is of how many ways there are to learn to read, how quickly it can happen once a child needs and wants to learn and how the age at which a child learns is of little or no consequence.'

by Hazel Clawley, CPE trustee, home educator and Adult Education Tutor (full review pdf).

"Pattison questions the fundamental nature of ‘teaching’ reading, providing a clear and accessible overview of the concept, acquisition and participation in learning. It is noted that within the system the acquisition of reading has become a ‘method’, a formulaic approach ‘one size fits all approach’ that sees a child failure to read as: the failure being with the child and not the method."

By Fé Mukwamba-Sendall, EO trustee, home educator and lecturer in Social work. (Full review PDF).

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