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Children must be watchers, participators to become literate

Literacy looms everywhere in our everyday life giving us many opportunities to interact with our children and others. We might be putting dishes in the dishwasher or fixing a car, working on a craft, bowling, etc. and conversation flows naturally. 

A child needs to be a watcher, as well as a participator to become literate.  Too often we fill their time with activity and inhibit them from thinking through.  It is thinking about experiences and what we read, that adds most to our literacy. 

If you still hand wash dishes, why do most of us wash our glasses first, then our less dirty dishes, then our most dirty dishes?  Or when an appliance acts up, why do we check the plug, the dials, etc. before we call an expert. 

These simple acts may be “old hat” to us, but they are new thoughts to a child.  Take time to explain and share an experience with a child.

Children of all ages (aren’t we just grown-up children) need to be encouraged to read daily.  Just reading fifteen minutes a day for two weeks allows us to finish a book. 

Marking our place with a bookmark allows us to pick up a book and start reading where we left off.  Exciting looking bookmarks and book labels encourage reading.  Most of us like to see our name mark the spot.

It’s scary to think that the average eighth grader watches 21 hours of television plus participates in electronic games, but reads only two hours a week outside of school.

Bedtime reading need not stop at a certain age.  It does take different forms, but most of us like to read aloud and listen to others read. 

This practice fine tunes listening skills.  After the shared time, let them read for thirty minutes before it is time for lights out.

Be active in their reading. After they finish a book ask them questions like, “Where did the story take place?”; “Describe the people in the story so I can get a picture of them.”; “Were there any surprises in the story for you?”; “Do you agree with the author in his/her solution?”  “Would you recommend the book for me to read?”

Bedtime is also a time to discuss a sports article in the newspaper, or a comic strip you both like. Comic strips are very good about using symbols which increases critical thinking skills also. 

Encouraging the adolescent to read more than the words and to read for understanding and to learn new strategies are essential ingredients to progress towards true literacy.

Greatness is not always recognized.  Sometimes we look at famous people and compare ourselves to them. Could you speak before you were four and read before you were seven? Einstein couldn’t. Were you a whiz at school?  Isaac Newton did poorly in school. Winston Churchill failed sixth grade. Louis Pasteur was rated as “mediocre” in chemistry when he attended the Royal College. Leo Tolstoy flunked out of college. So, failure in one area doesn’t mean there is no hope.  

   Written language equals oral language. It acts as a reminder. It links us with each other and affects our life. “Children who know they are loved, know they have a purpose, and know they have a hope are prepared for anything this world wants to dish up. 

A secure, loving home is the only environment that naturally satisfies these needs.” (Tim Kimmel in Little House on the Freeway)

Kimmel also says, “Children receive more confidence from a hug than they do from a good grade on their report card. They get more mileage out of a compliment than they do out of an expensive store-bought gift.  Affections-meaningful touch and affirming words-form a wall of protection around a child’s confidence.”

If you as a parent don’t set boundaries for yourself, how do you know when you’ve done “right”?  Boundaries set the scene for success holding goals together.

Your children desperately want to please you. Give them a chance. Take time for them and love them enough to teach them how far is too far. Ideally set boundaries that stretch as your children mature.

Neglect is perhaps the most common abuse.  Neglect comes in the form of over structuring your child’s life, so they can’t navigate on their own, or viewing them as a nuisance that inhibits you from getting or doing what you want.  Either way is more about you than about the child.

Some things a child remembers as an adult are Mom/Dad loved me enough to: set reasonable boundaries that stretched as I grew; say “no” and mean it; to come to my school’s open house, program, play, game, etc. even when I knew they’d rather be doing their own thing; accept me as I am, not believing I am perfect, nor that I am evil; listen to what I say all the way through, even when their decision isn’t going to change; take time to guide me, and help me pick up the pieces when I’ve gone against their advice; consider me a joy most of the time, not an inconvenience.

Remember you only can guide a child for a few years, then he/she is in control. Your positive influence is a big contribution to society. 

You may have to put off some of your wants to meet some of your children’s needs. You may need to choose to do things differently than your parents did with you.

You can choose to never start, or you may choose to stop abuse even if you were abused in your own childhood.

Your child learns to read best if he comes from a safe, caring, environment. You have the power to create such an environment and you do have input on the kind of environments others create for their children.

Until next week — Christine Pauley

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