A three-step guide for parenting for school and life success is simply:
- Read books together
- Talk about what you read
- Relax and have fun!
Unite for Literacy is naturally all about reading as a foundation for lifelong learning. However, the most powerful aspect of parenting little ones to be successful doesn’t necessarily involve reading at all. Perhaps the biggest contribution parents can make in ensuring school and life success for their children is to talk to AND with their babies, toddlers, preschoolers and primary kids pretty much constantly.
Talking about home life offers children language that creates access to knowing and participating in their family’s culture. Talking about picture books contributes vicarious experiences unavailable at home, and new and powerful language unavailable from family members.
In addition to expanding their understanding of the world, it is from discussion around books that youngsters learn their most powerful and personal learning tool: How to ASK GOOD Questions.
Good questions springing from or connecting to personal interests start terrific conversations. The opposite kind of interaction, quizzing for right answers to asking simple, school-ish questions, are conversation killers. Worse, they supplant the rich discussion around the house that nurtures language strength.
So, caution is in order, as there are strong questions and then there are questions that no adult would ever ask anybody but a child. Unless we want children to only ask us questions that they already know the answers to, we probably need to avoid modeling asking those kinds of questions. Conversely, asking important questions of babies will bring them to ask important questions of us. The power in questions children are asked establishes the power in questions they will ask. Thoughtful questions by parents therefore set the stage for actual learning via deep and wide personal inquiry.
From the ensuing conversation, the child learns what’s considered important and how to use questions to direct discussion to aspects of an experience, an outing, and of course a book, that she herself finds particularly intriguing. Books and reading aren’t simply pretty and fun. They are resources for exploring the world.
Young children pay attention to everything and need to control their environment to allow them to focus on things they find interesting…either by crying, throwing a tantrum or yes, by asking questions.
Parents who take a moment to put themselves in the baby’s place might ask fewer questions about a book’s content (“How many sheep are there on this page?”) and ask more about the child’s response to the book. Questions that open a conversation. Like, “Gosh! Why do you think a dog would want sheep to move from place to place?” What ensues is likely to be an actual discussion about the child’s understanding of the world infused with rich language from the reading.
The joyfully and energetically seeking of answers to their own questions is the definition of lifelong learning and a clear path to success in school and life.