Ideas For Parents
It’s one of the most common concerns for parents of elementary (primary) school age children. How can I best help my child to read at home? Teachers are asked about this all the time, and reading progress is one of the areas that parents worry about more than any other.
So here are some tips for supporting your child’s development as a reader. Put as many of these things in place as you can, then relax! You’re doing your bit, and your child will respond.
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- Long before your child starts formally learning to read, instill a love of reading in them by sharing bed-time (and other-time-of-the-day!) stories. This special, one-to-one time, where you and your child can escape into all sorts of adventures and amazing worlds, is precious. Research has shown that a love of reading is a stronger indicator of academic success than wealth or class background. As you enjoy stories together your child will soon begin to realize that those funny marks on the page that sit alongside the pictures are the story, and in time they’ll want to learn how to decipher them for themselves.
- Selecting books with flaps, pop-up pictures, secret compartments, buzzers and fuzzy textures will engage all of their senses. You don’t have to spend lots of money – make good use of your local library.
- Frequently let your child choose the book they want you to share with them… grit your teeth if this seems to be the one hundredth time in a row that they have chosen the same book! Young children love repetition and familiarity, and it really does help them to develop reading skills! Encourage them to join in with the bits they recognize.
- Make (even a little) time for yourself to read, and make it clear that you enjoy your personal reading time. If your children grow up seeing you prioritizing reading at least some of the time, they will see reading as something to value in their own lives.
- Look for opportunities to encourage your child’s reading skills when you’re out and about together. Even before they can read, children can begin to recognize signs for toilets, entrance, exit, stop, danger etc.
- Continue to read with your child way past the usual early years. There’s plenty of evidence that reading with and to children even if they are already fluent, continues to develop their vocabulary and joy in reading. It also demonstrates that reading is something to be enjoyed throughout their life.
- Read as many different types of book with your child as you can. Not all children are motivated most by stories. Finding interesting non-fiction books to share with your nature loving or car loving child can be just as stimulating for them, as they realize that books can open up a whole world of information about topics they are fascinated by. Also, trying different genres of stories will expose them to all sorts of fiction so that they can begin to develop their own preferences – rather than yours! If your child enjoys looking at junk mail, encourage it. There’s nothing wrong with checking out the catalogue from the local supermarket or toy store. It is all developing lifelong skills in literacy.
- When your child is sent home with a book to read, don’t rush it. The fact that they read it through with you isn’t the end of it. In the early stages children recite rather than read. The books are simple and repetitive… perhaps every page says, “I am a…” So your child will know to say, “I am a…” then look at the picture, and say, “dog”. This is exactly what they should be doing. Don’t ever be tempted to cover the pictures. They are an important part of the reading process. Ask your child to point to a particular word… they may not know that word yet, but they can work it out from the phrase they have learned. They know that the word “I” starts the sentence, so they know that the first word on the page must be “I”. Keep it light, and fun. Gradually see if they can recognize those simple words out of context too.
- In the early days, read to your child, and discuss what you’re reading. After a while you can begin to read with your child. Let them decide if they want to read aloud to you sometimes. Later, listen to them read, just stepping in to help out with more challenging words when they need it. Later still, when your child is developing fluency, encourage them to read with expression. Playing around with goofy voices for different characters can be fun, as long as it doesn’t spoil a tense or dramatic story that deserves to be taken more seriously!
- Drop questions into your reading sessions to test and stretch their understanding of the text. Just every now and again – don’t over-do it or reading will become a chore! Try questions such as:
- What do you think Rob is going to do?
- Why do you think Susan said that?
- What did the teacher mean?
- What do you think Alex should do?
- What do you like about this book?
Above all, enjoy the experience. In our house, story time is a wonderful time of togetherness that we treasure and learn from. Some of the books will become favourites that will remain a part of your family for a very long time.
What family favourite would you like to share with other families?
BREAKFAST KICK STARTS THE DAY
You may notice some interesting information in the media over the next while encouraging children to eat breakfast. Research shows that lots of NZ children do not have breakfast but the good news is that when children do eat breakfast there are lots of instant benefits!
Here are some reasons that we should ensure our children have a healthy breakfast each day:
Breakfast gives kids the energy to learn better.
- Breakfast-eaters are more alert and have better concentration and memory.
- Studies have shown eating breakfast can improve school performance.
Breakfast-eaters have more energy to play sport.
- Eating a good breakfast boosts kids’ energy stores and provides their bodies and brains with the fuel to keep going through the day.
- One study showed children ran better after eating a good breakfast compared with a light breakfast or snack.
Breakfast gives children a head-start.
- A good breakfast helps children grow strong and healthy.
- Children who eat breakfast are more likely to eat fruit, vegetables and wholegrains, and drink milk.
Eating breakfast is a good way to maintain a healthy weight.
- Breakfast-eaters are less likely to snack on less healthy foods later in the day.
- Studies have shown eating breakfast is related to lower waist measurement, lower body mass index (BMI), and less weight gain.
- Children who sometimes or never eat breakfast are much more likely to have sweets, pies and soft drinks than children who always eat breakfast.
The Facebook Dilemma
Deciding whether or not to allow your child a Facebook page of their own is a real dilemma for Parents. Do we protect our children from the world wide web for as long as we can or do we take tentative steps with our children along the way to help them make a sense of their new 21st Century world? Only you will know the best thing to do.
Here go three options that you might like to consider if you are "dealing" with a teenager (remember you are meant to be 13yrs old to have a Facebook account).
1. Just say NO! You do have the power! You pay the bills! You own the computer! You make the decisions. This is likely to be a very useful strategy to start with. However, over time you may run the risk of your child going away and starting up their own Facebook account without your knowledge, and then getting into trouble without your guidance!
2. Start up a Family Facebook account. Encourage your whole family to use the account. Over time let your child have an increasing amount of say as to what goes on your family site. The advantages here are that you learn the process together as a family. Your child can learn from your good example. This really is a good intermediate step, and it should keep your child happy for a little while. They will eventually start to clammer for something a bit more individualised though, and they will say things like; "BUT all my friends have their own pages!!". Although there are now 500 million Facebook accounts, this sort of pressure on parents shouldn't stop YOU from making the big decision! Don't be forced into anything that YOU as a parent are unsure about.
3. Once you have made the decision that you are happy for your child to have a Facebook account of their own, sit down alongside them to help set it up. A couple of good ideas include making it a rule that YOU are always a friend on your child's site. Another good tip is that most email hosts (Xtra, Actrix, Vodafone etc.) allow you to have multiple email alias's from your one email account. This is a major advantage for you as a parent, because it means that your child can have their own unique email, but yet anyone replying to them comes through your email account. So you can see who is requesting to be friends on your child's Facebook account, and you can keep a good eye on what's going on.
Please note that when you do set up your account you really need to be careful to set the security settings tightly. The default setting is not good enough. You really don't want every man, dog, cat and pigeon looking at your photos, just because they are a friend of a friends friend's aunty's uncle.
Also be very careful about the photos that you do put up on the site. Common sense should always prevail. If you have a bad feeling about something, then follow your instincts. Work alongside your child to make these sort of decisions, because as we all know, common sense isn't always all that common!
At the end of the day you can DEACTIVATE a Facebook page if it does get uncontrollable!!
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