Sunday, May 22, 2011

Pre-school age children do not need tutors to get them ready to enter Kindergarten.

A recent article flagged a growing trend to push expensive tutoring programs aimed at the preschool set. I suggest parents relax and avoid anxiety producing pre-school tutoring programs and their promises of making sure children are ready for school. Reading to children and talking with them about the story are the early literacy skills they need to enter school ready to be successful learners, prepared to learn to read. Many of the skills children need to learn to read are first learned in conversation. Vocabulary is the lynchpin to literacy.

“Fast-Tracking to Kindergarten” rightly pointed out that “Research suggest that there is little benefit from preschool tutoring; young children learn just as much about math, if not more, fitting mixing bowls together on the kitchen floor.”

Competition in education has trickled down to the pre-school population and parents find themselves caught in the commercial push of products aimed at the early childhood population. I applaud Alison Gopnik, a professor of psychology at the University of California, Berkeley, who said “tutoring programs…at best, they are useless.”

The seminal 1985 Commission on Reading’s report, Becoming a Nation of Readers, concluded “The single most important activity for building the knowledge required for eventual success in reading is reading aloud to children.” But being read to does not automatically lead to literacy. The real link seems to lie in the verbal interaction that occurs between adult and child during story reading. Talking with children had an even stronger effect on literacy learning than reading aloud to them.

Some poems are meant to be shared, loved and remembered.

Eloise Greenfield was born May 17 1929 in Parmele, North Carolina at the beginning of the Depression. Early on her family moved to Washington, D.C. where she still lives today. Here is one of my favorite poems, from her collection, Honey I Love, an ALA Notable Children’s Book. Enjoy discovering on your own other of her poems that are meant to be shared, loved and remembered.

Love don’t mean all that kissing
Like on television
Love Means Daddy
Saying keep your mama company
till I get back
And me doing it

Friday, May 13, 2011

“Oh my goodness, I was as giddy as a pig in the sunshine.” Patrick Lewis, upon hearing the news of being named Children’s Poet Laureate.

Our new Children’s Poet Laureate, Patrick Lewis said “ A lifelong love for poetry is most likely to result if cultivated early in childhood and reinforced thereafter” Patrick Lewis has certainly done his part and then some in cultivating a love of poetry for both adults and children. He says  “poetry can transport children when they realize the beauty of language. Lewis reads poetry “ always looking for that ‘ah ha!’ moment, and he wants to bring that same ‘ah ha!” to children.

Upon receiving the news of his being named Poet Laureate he said,  “Oh my goodness, I was as giddy as a pig in the sunshine.” “When I received the phone call, I immediately had butterflies, and they jumped up and began tap-dancing on my heart—and that’s where they are now!”

For years, Lewis wrote poetry while teaching business, accounting, and economics at Otterbein College in Westerville, Ohio, before hanging up his professor cap in 1998 to write fulltime. “It was just serendipitous that I had two absolutely wonderful careers—one having nothing to do with the other—so I’ve been very lucky in that regard,” he says.

Lewis has written many poems and here is one to enjoy as we celebrate with him on his recent appointment.

Books Discover Children
Yes, children do discover books,
But books find children on their own,
And then can’t wait to get their hooks
In kids who think they’re all alone.
For instance, GOODNIGHT MOON knows why
That girl is thinking to herself,
How can I ever say good-bye….
When Rabbit pulls her to the shelf.
And FROG AND TOAD hops to the child
Who almost lost his closest friend:
The only way pain’s reconciled
Is by the letter that you send.
When CHARLOTTE’S WEB bumps into you-
A girl who’s fastened to a farm-
The simple life you thought you knew
Is spelled out in a spider’s charm.

Sunday, May 8, 2011

Mothers hold their children's hands for a short while, but their hearts forever.

Mother’s Day seems to be the perfect time to look at the perennial “nature versus nurture” debate. I see NO downside in hedging your bets. If hedging your bet is defined as protecting yourself against a possible loss, what parent wants to possibly lose the opportunity of doing whatever they can to nurture a child becoming the best person they can become?

Before you become a parent you most likely have strong opinions on the nature versus nature argument.  However, once you become a parent you find yourself determined to parent in ways that reflect the state of the art child rearing practices. The rub is that state of the art parenting practices do not stay static—they change with new information, and new fads, which reflect the latest trends and what is in vogue. So what is a parent to do? I weigh in on the side of the good advice of William James who said, “Act as if what you do makes a difference. It does.”   Parent as if what you do matters. What is the downside? The one state of the art child rearing practice that I am confident will never change is: LOVE your child.

Happy Mother’s Day—celebrate the day with the gift of the poem The Reading Mother, by Strickland Gillilan

I had a mother who read to me—
You may have tangible wealth untold;
Caskets of jewels and coffers of gold.
Richer than I you can never be—
I had a Mother who read to me. 

Monday, May 2, 2011

School Standards that encourage deeper thought is a good thing

I am cautiously optimistic of the Common Core standards, which is the newest experiment in the arena of school curriculum standards.
NYTimes “Trial Run for School Standards That Encourage Deeper Thought.”

The stated goal is “to go beyond reading lists” (emphasizing reading for meaning) “and math formulas to try to raise the bar not only on what students in every grade are expected to learn, but also on how teachers are expected to teach” gives prominence to the foundation for education. Students will be asked to read fiction and non-fiction and skills such as the ability to analyze and express ideas in a persuasive manner will be emphasized.

The Common Core standards have the potential to teach students the concept of making connections—knowing how to connect books, experiences and ideas.  Reading is thinking and students today spend too much time on assignments that are busy work, which do not promote thinking. It appears that Common Core could put into practice the adage: “Tell me and I’ll forget. Show me and I may remember. Involve me and I’ll understand.” Involving students in what they read promotes understanding and thinking—both indispensable to best practices in education.

Sunday, May 1, 2011

Diane Frankenstein to speak at Lakeside Presbyterian Center for Children, May 11, 6:00-7:30p.m. 201 Eucalyptus Drive, S.F. 94132

Diane W. Frankenstein, author of the award winning book, Reading Together: Everything You Need To Know To Raise a Child Who Loves to Read will offer tips, strategies and best practices to make the most of summer reading and to make sure your children are enjoying the books they read. Open to the Public.