All school-aged children are now back in school and are happy to be back into their school routine. Many parents were counting down the minutes until the school bus arrived on the first day of school and were also happy or happier (?) to see the start of another school year. Please remember that when your child comes back home at the end of a school day that he/she has much to share with you so please be ready to listen. By that I mean, put down your iPhone, your iPad or get off of your computer and really listen. Look at your child and give all of your attention to him/her. You will be sending your child the message that you are really interested in what has happened to him/her in the 7-9 hours since you last saw each other. Ask your child specific questions, listen to the answers. Please don’t ask, ‘how was your day?’ or you will get ‘fine’ as an answer. Sit with your child, share an after school snack and ask specific questions such as:
- Who did you eat lunch with?
- What specials did you have today?
- What story did your teacher read to you today?
- What were you working on in math today?
- Did you read with the teacher today?
- What were you writing about in your journal today?
You will get much more information about your child’s day when you ask specific questions and your child will be happy to share information about his/her day. Do this everyday and if you don’t see your child immediately after school, talk about his/her day while you prepare dinner or while the family eats dinner together. These are the days that will be making memories for your child about his/her childhood…..help make the memories special by sharing time and talking with your child.
Children should be read to every day at home, no exceptions, no excuses! Children are read to at school every day, but nothing can take the place of mom or dad reading a story every night… especially right before bedtime. When I was teaching first grade, along with the daily reading instruction that was taking place in my classroom, I was required to give a standardized reading test individually to each and every child twice a year. One of the first questions that I was required to ask during the reading test was “Who reads with you at home”. A few children always said ‘no one’ but the remaining children always answered immediately with “mom”. Not once in all of the times that I gave this test (we’re talking hundreds of test sessions) did a child every say ‘dad’. Dads, where are you when your child is being read to, or reading outloud at night? Your child needs YOU, or an uncle, or a grandfather who is available every day to read to your child. Dad, your child needs to see that you value books, the ability to read and enjoy them, and the process in which your child will become a lifelong reader. Dads, think about the message that you are sending your child when you are not involved at all in the reading process. You may not realize it but the message that your child is receiving is that you do not put any value or importance on reading and the ability to learn to read. Think about it. Is this really the message that you want to send your very impressionable young child? I don’t think so. Start tonight… Start a new evening tradition, grab a book, a comfy reading spot (chair or bed) and surprise your child with the wonder of a story read by dad. You will be happy after the story and I guarantee that your child will even be happier than you will be.
Heading back to school in the fall after enjoying a relaxing summer vacation is a stressful time for most young children. It is even more stressful when a child is heading off to school for the first time. For many children this happens when Kindergarten starts. As a Kindergarten teacher for many years, I can tell you that a day in the life of a Kindergartner is challenging for a 5 year old. He/she must be able to play, have fun, listen to a new teacher, talk only sometimes, follow classroom rules and directions and always try to do his/her best. This makes for a very tiring day for a young child. When a Kindergartner comes home he/she is usually exhausted and this daily exhaustion will last until your child becomes familiar with his/her new daily routine and all that is expected of him/her at school. (Usually sometime in November is when the adjustment is complete.)
Many parents are in a hurry to sign their children up for as many extracurricular activities as possible once the school year begins, but if you want your child to get as much from the extracurricular activities as possible, you would be wise to wait until after the first of the year to enroll your child in activities other than school. Young children have worked very hard during their school day doing all that has been asked of them by their teacher. School is a very structured environment and when your child comes home, he/she NEEDS to have time to play in a non-structured environment. He/she needs some down time in order to practice making decisions on his own (what to play with for example?) and would benefit from having time set aside each day for free play at home. Parents, help your child adjust to his/her school environment and when your child comes home, please, no extra activities, just time for playing anything that your child chooses. You will all benefit from the lack of extra activities, especially during the first few months of school.
Here is an interesting article on busy children:
This week we are celebrating Dr. Seuss’ birthday at my school. In today’s homework packet the children received a reading oath. They are being asked to turn off the TV/ or turn off the video games one day this week and read!! Then child and parent sign the oath to say that it was accomplished. I am the child of a children’s librarian so being asked to read when I was growing up was never an issue at our house. We were surrounded by books and loved reading every free minute we had. It makes me sad that as teachers we have to assign reading as part of homework. Most of my first graders would not read for pleasure if it was not part of their homework. When I read the oath today and told them that they were being asked to turn off the TV/or video games for one day this week, there was a loud collective groan from my class. If I had my way there would be no TV or video games or computers at all during the school week. Really!! Parents, fill your home with books (books on ipads or computers count as long as there is reading going on and nothing else) so your child is able to grab a book to read whenever he/she wants to read. Only you can see that your child gets the love of reading at a very young age and when that happens, he/she will love reading for life.
Books Available At All Times
Learning to read is just like learning any other new skill, it takes practice…lots of practice. This is especially true for first graders. We do lots of reading at school. There is guided reading in small reading groups, reading to yourself, reading with a buddy, reading a worksheet, reading a big book, reading the room (reading all wall charts in the room) and the list goes on and on. Then the children go home and for some, the reading stops. Many children want to read at home, they are so excited about their skills and the love of reading that they just can’t stop. Then there are the children who read the bare minimum because they are only reading because their homework said that reading at home was required. Then there are the children that don’t read at all at home. Their excuses are many, “I don’t have any books at home”(hard to believe since we send the children home with books every Monday and they check out library books on Tuesdays), “I couldn’t find my book”, “I was busy”, but the one I can never believe is “my parents didn’t have time to read with me!” What? Your parents didn’t have time for you?? Parents, your child needs your guidance not only while learning to read, but also after they have become a reader. Your child should have access to books anytime they want to read one. Many parents have ipads and iphones – find the sites that free offer books for your child to read (http://www.storylineonline.net/) and then teach your child how to use your device. Make sure your child has books in the car, books by his/her bed, books in the living room for when you turn off the TV. Children will read if given the opportunity and it is up to you the parent to see that your child is reading at every available moment, and not just because he/she has to. If you want your child to become a lifetime lover of books, you have to do your part in instilling this love NOW!
When I was a young mother, I really looked forward to the time of the day when all of the hustle and bustle had ended, homework was done and baths and teeth were finished. Story time. Our children looked forward to this special time each evening as much as we did. It was a time to think about our day, plan for tomorrow and ALWAYS listen to a story or two. My niece, who is now a young mother herself, came across this website that listed 20 questions that you should ask your child at bedtime. It is a wonderful way to connect with your child and see what he/she has been thinking about. Take a look and go ahead start asking your child these questions and look forward to the delightful conversations that will follow.