This is probably the most persistent myth about the Suzuki method, and I encounter it on a regular basis. I recently was in a practice session with a current student and the mom mentioned that when she was doing research into the Suzuki method someone told her Suzuki kids never learn to read music. "But it looks like we're headed in the direction of reading music," she said. My reply was, all my students, and all of the students of all my colleagues, read music. We just don't start out doing it that way.
Think of it like this: When your child was learning to talk, first he babbled and learned how to make various noises with his mouth. Then he started combining those noises into syllables. Then the syllables became words, which became sentences. Some of my students are still too young to read, but reading comes many years later. Imagine how difficult it would have been if, upon uttering his first word, you put a book in front of your 10 month old and said, "OK, we're going to learn to read now. Once you learn how to read the word, then you can say it." Now, I know there are new baby reading programs, but you get what I'm saying.
Ok, now imagine you already know how to read a book. You've discovered "Sweatin' to the Oldies, Kindle edition". How successful do you think you'll be learning the moves? I think we'd all rather dance alongside Richard Simmons than read about him. Then, once you've mastered all the fancy dance moves on the video, you can read a book about advanced ae
The eyes are very powerful. Once we're looking at something, our other senses tend to take a backseat. Suzuki teachers typically like to set up their students first, make sure they can play well, and only when the student gets to the point where they're not having to consciously think about technique does the teacher introduce reading. If the technique becomes automatic, when the student is reading music there's less chance that the beautiful bow hold they've been working on is going to disappear forever. This process takes a different amount of time for each student. In my own studio, the younger students take longer to read (some of them aren't reading books yet, so that makes sense anyway) and the older ones read faster.
I like to think our goal in every practice session is not to get to the next level, not to progress faster through the repertoire or techniques, and not even gain mastery over what we already know, but to just to keep it fun and interesting. During the practice session I've come up with a system (working for now, probably won't last forever) where for each smile, "OK Mommy!", and task performed with a good attitude, I put a pony bead into a jar. At the end of the session, we count the beads.
Note I don't put a bead in the jar for every task done or every repetition of something. If she doesn't do something with a great attitude, she doesn't get a bead. Some short practice sessions she'll end up with 19 beads, and some long ones she'll only get 5. She gets a bead if I say "OK, rest position" and she comes right over without me having to ask twice. She gets a bead if she tries really hard on a particular task, especially if it's difficult.
What do we do with these beads? For each one she gets one minute of computer time. I've found a really great website for kids that teaches phonics, math, telling time, pattern recognition and many other things. A lot of it is free, but I'll probably be upgrading soon because it's amazing. It's called Starfall. I love that her reward for practicing is educational!
When we don't have our computer, like when we travel, she gets the same amount of time on my iPhone. I don't tell her what she can and can't do (there's nothing inappropriate on there) but she always picks the same app: Timmy's Kindergarten Adventure. Same idea. Cool educational program that she loves to do and is motivation for having a great attitude