Inequality can affect child's reading ability

By reducing it to a problem of parenting, it leads one to the false conclusion that these parents are generally incompetent or negligent.
By reducing it to a problem of parenting, it leads one to the false conclusion that these parents are generally incompetent or negligent. PHOTO: ST FILE

Ms Lenny Rahman attributes a child's inability to read to parental negligence, and argues that if parents find the time to read with their child, this issue would be resolved (Who should teach kids to read: Teachers or parents?; Jan 28).

However, this assertion becomes problematic as it fails to consider the economic and social capitals that are available to children who can read.

Low-income families, for instance, lack the capacity to invest in additional pre-school programmes that emphasise basic skills such as reading.

It is well known that Singapore's tuition industry is worth more than $1 billion a year, with parents enrolling their children in after-school enrichment programmes to "get ahead" (Tuition industry worth over $1b a year; Dec 25, 2016).

Such a landscape would inevitably mean that some students are better readers.

Additionally, low-income parents do not have the benefit of spending time with their child every week to read as Mrs Marietta Koh suggested (Parents just have to get kids hooked on reading; Jan 30).

Their base concern would be trying to make ends meet for the month. Hence, they would have longer work hours and would be exhausted.

According additional time and money to invest in a child's education is a privilege that low-income Singaporean parents do not enjoy.

By reducing it to a problem of parenting, it leads one to the false conclusion that these parents are generally incompetent or negligent.

This ignores the systemic familial inequalities which exist in our society that produce students of different skill and intelligence levels.

Hence, before rushing to the conclusion of "bad parent", we should seek to develop a better understanding of the environment that these children reside in.

Thaqif Ismail

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on February 02, 2019, with the headline 'Inequality can affect child's reading ability'. Print Edition | Subscribe