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One way to help children is to enable them to read and write

Published: Friday, July 5, 2013 11:29 a.m. CDT

“Learn who you are, learn to be at peace with yourself, learn the effect you have on others, open your mind to new experience. Learn! It’s fun. It hurts. It changes us. And it keeps us ‘alive.’ (John W. Gardner in “Seven Words to Live By”.)

Those words often twirl around in my head. Learning excites me and I am grateful that I live in this country and have enjoyed learning opportunities throughout my life. I remember the panic and pain I felt when it looked like I would have to quit high school to bring in more income for my family. I did have to work to stay in school, making for long days. I have never regretted that decision.

Three major words that keep my life fulfilled are faith, learning (synonymous with literacy) and trust.  Faith in God is the foundation of my life. Learning both in spiritual things and secular things keeps me active and thinking. Trust is part of both. “Trust is the highest form of human motivation.”  It allows me to grow in faith and it helps me know by whose authority something is shared. Anytime you research for any reason it is important to know the reputation of who said it. The less trust between people, the more external control is needed. During the first 150 years of the United States, virtually all of the success literature dealt with fundamental values and character traits, integrity, patience, trustworthiness, fidelity, temperance, and humility. These were general values of society. Even those who choose to go against these traits know they exist.

The success literature during the next 50 years shifted from the qualities of success to the trappings of success. Rather than building value foundations, we built superficial skills with catchy slogans such as “Swimming in the mainstream”. The big “I” prevailed. We worried more about personal self-esteem, influencing people and getting what we want. We felt less concern about interacting with people and being compassionate. We forgot to develop into who we are — people who add to the lives of others as well as to our lives. We have strayed from character development to a personality ethic focused on skills and techniques that captivate and manipulate.” (Some ideas from “It Starts With Trust Building Organizational Effectiveness” by Charles S. Farnsworth and Dr. Dennis L. Blender. January 1993 ASBO International)

Statistics shouldn’t be ignored. No, statistics don’t tell the whole story, but sadly they do reveal trends that are too true. The most revealing idea in all of the statistics I read is that most of the ones which hurt our children are choices made by their parents. The good thing about choices is that poor choices can be foreseen, thus prevented and poor choices can be improved by later making good choices. Statistics can help us see where we are and that can lead to ways to make better choices.  

Too often we tend to either ignore children, ours and others or tend to hold them so close to us, they can’t develop their own strengths. Tim Kimmel in Little House on the Freeway said, “We must always keep in mind that our job as parents is to prepare our children to live independently of us. Before they move out from under our influence they must be adequately prepared to face the best and worst that life may bring their way.” The cute two-year-old with tantrums becomes the rude teen-ager if we are not careful.

One way to help children towards independence is to enable them to read and write both for their job and for their leisure. Barbara Rush said, “Get a child hooked on reading and its joy will last a lifetime.”

It is proven that the more you read, the better you read...” yet how many adults read daily. Literacy is a skill that gets rusty. You don’t lose it all, but unless you keep practicing the skill it will diminish. Consider the following statistics from the National Assessment of Educational Progress l988-l990. Three grades were surveyed: fourth, eighth, and twelfth.

Those who read more pages each day for school and homework had higher average reading achievement. In 1990 only 45 percent of fourth graders, 63 percent of eighth graders, and 59 percent of twelfth graders reported reading 10 or fewer pages each day. Has it changed in the last 23 years?

Twelfth graders who reported more frequent reading of novels, poems, or stories for their school assignments had higher proficiency. About one-fourth reported reading these types of materials each day, but 44 percent said they did such reading for school assignments only monthly or even less frequently. Literacy helps us learn from past mistakes so we don’t repeat them.

Until next week… Christine Pauley

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