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Sleep is key to kids' academic success

Published: Friday, May 10, 2013 11:35 a.m. CST

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Often in our modern, fast-paced living, adults don’t get enough sleep, which carries over to children not getting enough sleep. Many times, parents try to fit children’s bedtimes into their own schedules which sounds OK until you realize that many children don’t get the sleep they need.

Some parents don’t want to make their children adhere to a set bedtime because they don’t want to face a scene. A wise, loving parent sets a reasonable bedtime, adjusts it as the child grows and makes exceptions once in a while, but not at the child’s demand.

There is a definite link between bedtime and literacy. A tired child doesn’t stay on task and doesn’t learn as much as others of equal ability.

Since a large part of our self-esteem comes from academic performance, late bedtimes actually sabotage a child’s self-esteem. Most children 6 to 10 years old need about 10 hours of sleep. Younger children need more and older children need about eight hours. Less than the needed hours of sleep result in a child not being as mentally alert.

Setting a reasonable bedtime means planning a time, then making bedtime enjoyable for both the child and the parents. A routine prepares the child to go to bed. He or she shouldn’t be able to push the bedtime back, but know that at this time we start getting ready for bed and at this time we turn out the lights. Some families have one parent read one night, the other the next night, and once a child can read, the child reads the third night. On a weekend night once a child can read, they allow the child to read in bed as long as desired.

It is extremely important to read aloud to children regularly. If there is a babysitter, instruct him or her about the child’s routine. It helps a child if a parent helps pick out the bedtime story before the parent leaves. Routines like these also model the importance of reading in everyday life.

Celebrating a child’s literacy is more important than we realize. Supporting them in their sports efforts by attending games and supporting their musical efforts by attending concerts are recognized values, but we also need to support children’s literacy.

Set aside a place in your home to recognize achievements in writing. An empty picture frame hung in a prominent location could be used to periodically show off a special piece of writing. Later, you can store the work in a scrapbook. The refrigerator door and a magnet or tape still work.

If you don’t yet enjoy literacy opportunities, create customs or ceremonies that require the oral reading or recitation of a written text, such as a prayer at a meal, a family birthday wish, a special poem. Let the child do the reading. Ask your child about the books they are reading and tell them about yours. Find out what they like or dislike about the book without expecting them to like what you like.

Publish your child’s writing by creating books from your child’s work. The books could consist of school assignments, information on a particular theme, stories, or a daily journal. Include photos where the child writes the captions. Creating a family history allows us to touch our past and promote our future. These books make great items to take to a shut in and leave with them. The key to all these projects is creating an attractive finished piece in which the whole family takes pride.

Encourage your child to write for functional purposes. Have them write letters for vacation information from Chambers of Commerce or for product information. Don’t let them just go to the internet unless you use email as a writing opportunity. Encourage your child to read a newspaper and write a letter to the editor about something they believe in, or respond to something they agree or disagree about in one of the editorials or letters to the editor. Opinions backed by reasons develop thinking skills. Until next week… Christine Pauley

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