The “Golden Rule” for Ensuring a Child’s Success

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Parents and older siblings are the young child’s first teachers… but they are not school teachers. What they do for a child is much more important than what happens in school.Pink child's Brain

There is a single critical role for family and friends to play in the joyful development of children, especially between birth and the beginning of school. How families play that role can make all the difference for children throughout childhood and into their early adulthood.

This essential ”family value” comes from the fact that families are positioned to offer love, guidance and stimulation to the child from the very first minute of life and then up to a full 24 hours a day for five full years, prior to the youngster’s going to formal schooling.

In THOSE five years children develop 90% of their “brain power,” much of their language and thinking capability and an enormous number of high impact concepts about how the world works.

As we now know, HOW that brain develops depends largely on the life experience of the child. Different areas of the brain are strengthened by different life activities; eating, sleeping, hugging, playing, talking, reading and so on. The areas of the brain that get stimulated grow stronger. The areas that get little stimulation tend to wither away, never to reach their full potentials beyond this all important birth to 5 “window”.  All but 10% of the brain’s structure is established before professionally certified educators ever even meet the children.

That 90% ready-to-go brain is what educators have to work with. From Kindergarten through grade 12 they can only influence small changes to this most important “tool” for thinking and feeling. That remaining 10% of brain development is enormously important of course. Nobody would wish to neglect 10% of their brain development. But the school’s 10% is built with,  and upon, the 90% that is already in place.

Thank you, Families!

Goodness! That’s a lot of responsibility on parents and family!

It is indeed, but fortunately, small children who grow to become successful in school don’t require parents with genius IQs or fabulous incomes to get really great brains. In fact, recent research conducted in 27 countries, over several decades, concluded that the single, surest indicator of academic success was not family income, or parental education, but rather it was the number of books in the home.

According to those researchers, what made a difference was the “family scholarly culture” that exists when there are abundant books around the house.* Now, “scholarly culture” sounds pretty snazzy, but that merely means that families with lots of books tend to read them and to talk about what’s in them. That’s it. Like the Golden Rule for living a good life, it’s not rocket science.

So reading and discussing books tends to stimulate the brain in ways that lead to school success. Reading and conversing about books also leaves children with rich language abilities, and a broad understanding of the world, and its people and places and things well beyond the home. Reading and reflecting about books leaves them aware and interested in reading, talking about them and learning more. That’s the definition of an Avid Reader. In short, they become PRIMED for school success.

So… Relax and have fun with reading books in your home, talk about those books and how they connect to life and to the world. Do that every day. THAT is the Golden Rule for preschooler’s families to have the very most positive influence on in their children’s brain, language and social development and thus their school success.

With public libraries and more free books available online every day, every family can do this for their kids

…and, as a bonus, reading and talking with small children is also tons of fun!

*Evans, M., Kelley, J., Sikorac, J., & Treimand, D.(2010). Family scholarly culture and educational success: Books and schooling in 27 nations.  Research in Social Stratification and Mobility 28 (2010) 171–197.