Learning to read whether at age 5 or 7 does not make children better readers than the older group, an expert claims.
Sebastian Suggate did the study for his doctorate in psychology at Otago University.
He conducted one international and two New Zealand studies, as part of the programme.
After comparing children from Rudolf Steiner schools, who start learning to read from age seven, and children in state-run schools, who started at five, he found that the later learners easily caught up till the time they were 11 or out of primary school.
"One theory for the finding that an earlier beginning does not lead to a later advantage is that the most important early factors for later reading achievement, for most children, are language and learning experiences that are gained without formal reading instruction," the NZ Herald quoted him as saying.
He added: "Because later starters at reading are still learning through play, language, and interactions with adults, their long-term learning is not disadvantaged. Instead, these activities prepare the soil well for later development of reading."
He concluded: "This research emphasises to me the importance of early language and learning, while de-emphasising the importance of early reading."