Read to your Kids

By Jeanne Reynolds

I had to hear it a couple of times for it to sink in. When it did, I could hardly believe it.

“Here’s a great hack for your home virtual assistant device,” the radio announcer enthused. (For those like my husband who think a hack is a terrible golfer or someone who sneaks into your computer system, “hack” is current slang for a quick fix, trick or work-around.)

“You can get (name of device) to read your child a bedtime story!” she continued. “Just say, (name of device), read Billy a bedtime story. Then you both can sit back and listen until one of you falls asleep.”

This may be the single worst piece of advice I’ve ever heard. I mean, it ranks right up there with, “Here, eat this sausage dog right before you get on the roller coaster” and “Don’t worry, these bungee cords almost never break.”

Seriously? Take a beloved childhood ritual – one of the most important things you can do to help your child develop a love of reading that will reap untold lifelong benefits – and ask a machine to do it for you?

Now, I totally get how exhausted, frazzled and pulled in 7 directions parents of young children are at the end of the day, especially if they’re also holding down jobs outside the home. And reading a story may seem like another chore there’s just not enough time for. The digital voice is better than nothing, right?

No. It’s not.

Because that’s no more “reading” than is watching a movie version of a book. Both are entertaining, but very different. And just getting Billy to shut up and go to sleep is not what a bedtime story is all about. bedtime-story

Reading – seeing the words and pictures, turning the pages – is essential to a child’s future. Children who don’t read proficiently by third grade are four times more likely to drop out of high school. And two-thirds who are still struggling by the end of fourth grade will end up in jail or on welfare.

And it’s not just being able to read, but loving to read. A third of high school graduates never read a book after high school. Living in a house overflowing with books, and remembering trips to the public library as a highlight of the week as a child, this is harder for me to understand than black hole theory. And incredibly sad.

It’s one reason I’ve been volunteering for the past school year with Midlands Reading Consortium. Even though my pre-K student can’t read a lick (yet!), I’m trying to model the joy of reading and help him develop not just a skill but an avocation he’ll enjoy the rest of his life.

No batteries required.

Can We Create a Better Future for Learning?

By: Shannon Boatwright

Yet again, my deep thinking, passionate child has inspired me. She cares deeply about the earth, animals, health, and people. She recently has become a fan of YouTuber, Prince Ea and I’m ok with that because this guy gets people thinking, puts important issues in our faces and forces us to think, to discuss, and to hopefully take action.

A couple of weeks ago she shared with me Prince Ea’s video, “Why School Sucks.” Now I don’t care for the title, though the realistic side of me has to agree on many levels. I’m an individual who has seen all sides of the occupation world. I’ve worked with big companies, I’ve worked with small, family-owned companies, I’ve worked in the entertainment business, I’ve been a freelance worker, I’ve been an entrepreneur, I’ve been a stay-at-home mom, I’ve taught privately, and now I teach in the public school system. I’ve seen and experienced a whole lot from different sides of the game, therefore I feel like I have a well-rounded view of this issue at hand, which is:

We NEED to create a better future for learning!

Our system is askew. It needs MAJOR reform. When my girl showed me Prince Ea’s fabulous video mentioned above, I had just taken my middle school classes through a lesson about the tools in the actor’s toolbox. After the lesson, I pointed out to all my students how I made sure to present the information in such a way that reached every type of learner – visual, auditory, kinesthetic. They read the information, they saw the information in unique ways, they heard the information, and they physically experienced the info. My students were given every opportunity to develop a deep understanding of the knowledge I was imparting on them. And my students responded very positively to this. They appreciated it.

After I saw Prince Ea’s video, it certainly made me feel good about my teaching approach. I made sure to share the video with all of my classes. I loved his main point that we are all different learners and the sooner we discover our individual learning style, the sooner we can be successful. He also encourages his audience to never let someone tell us that we are slow or incapable of doing anything. I felt like this was truly a crucial piece of advice that my students, and everyone for that matter, need to hear.

My students were captivated by the video. I honestly think it helped them put the pieces together and gain an appreciation for my efforts, as well as build a confidence in themselves and understanding their own personal educational journey. It was a wonderful experience to impart this knowledge and realization on my students.

I also made sure to show my students Prince Ea’s video, “Ten Celebrities Who Failed.”

This video just reinforced the information in the first video I shared with them. It reminded them that everyone has obstacles to overcome, but success can be attained. With persistence, incredible effort and confidence in your ability, success can be yours.

In relation to this topic, I came across the Facebook channel, “Atttn: Stories Worth Your Attention.” They share a variety of videos that make incredible points and also get people thinking. On this channel, I recently saw a video in which Mike Rowe discusses the importance of learning a trade. In the U.S. so much emphasis is put on getting a college degree, and we’re often led to believe that going to college is the only path to success. The truth is, many companies cannot find qualified people to fill important trade positions. I especially like Mike Rowe’s point that “the jobs that exist right now, do not require a four-year liberal arts degree. They instead require the willingness to actually learn a skill that is in demand.” Think on that. I’m sure everyone could provide an opinion, personal experience, and input on that topic.

To top off my inspirational journey with this whopper of an issue, my fabulous girl then shared Prince Ea’s video, “The People vs. The School System.”

In this captivating video he asks, “How do YOU think we can create a better future of learning?” The question alone blows my mind and immediately sends me into a tailspin of all the ways I want to answer the question and demand change for the learners of the world.

There are a lot of videos out there of teachers’ and principals’ reactions to this video. They all seem to agree with what Prince EA says, but some do point out that he doesn’t necessarily provide a solution. Well, he does bring up other countries who have made the change to create education success. So there is a solution – MAJOR CHANGE. Look to other countries who are creating such success with their new and improved education system and model them. There’s your answer. Our problem in America is that there are people willing to discuss it, to agree on these issues, yet they don’t have the guts to stand up and attempt to make a real change take place. The higher-ups are stalling any chance for progress because they’re on the fast track to something greater – which really just means, they’re on their own personal mission for higher status and higher pay. Therefore, we lower folks in this education totem pole are trapped in a sense. We’re at the mercy of those in the higher positions above us and until these higher level position people are willing to take a real chance in making a difference then the change will never, ever happen…we will stay within the confines of this ridiculous education system that is in desperate need of reform.

Yep, it’s certainly a vicious cycle. As individuals, what we can do is create awareness and simply change how we do things.

As a student: Discovering how we learn and making sure our teachers understand how we learn best. Being open, honest and aware!

As a teacher: We must make the effort to reach each student. And along with speaking up about this topic with our fellow teachers and our students, we must bring the issue to the higher-ups, creating a respectful atmosphere that makes them have to listen and want to be a part of making a change. Truth is when enough voices demand change and show the proof for why it’s so crucially needed, then the higher-ups have to do something. Right? We must respectfully put the people in power in positions to have to make a change and take action. They have to feel the pressure. We have to rally and speak up if we want to create a better future for learning. But that movement always starts at the grassroots, and that is where our power lies!

So if you are passionate about this topic, whether you’re experiencing it firsthand in some way, already have felt the blow of the flaws of our system, see the effects of a lacking system on the job front or are living it with your own children, share your thoughts, create conversation, engage in the mission to improve learning for all.

When Did You Grow Up?

 By: Ashley Whisonant

The day I have been dreading has finally come. My oldest “baby” started kindergarten this morning. I held back my tears and we walked down his hallway and into the room that will mold him into the student he will become. My confident little guy went from attendance check in to lunch choice with ease. He gave me a hug goodbye and sadly did not look back. Here are all the words I wish I could have said…

You will always be my baby. You are the one that made me a mom. I didn’t know how much I could love someone else until I met you. I am a ball of emotions. I am both terrified and overjoyed for you. All the experiences you will have, good or bad, will make you into our future young man. Remember to help others, even when it isn’t the popular choice. Find your voice and use it for good. Kids can and will be mean. Do your best to surround yourself with sweet souls. Remember to be yourself. Love you my sweet boy.

It Takes a Village

By: Ashley Whisonant
it takes a village to raise a child

Most of us have heard the saying, “It takes a village.” I never really understood the full ramifications until the last year or so.

Raising kids in today’s world really does take a village. Surrounding yourself with people that love your kids and want to help is the only way I could make it through motherhood.

Take for instance, the girlfriends in my neighborhood. We are there to help watch each other’s little ones while someone else finishes dinner or homework with an older sibling. We are each other’s sounding board for aliments and aches, husband rants, and work success stories. We laugh, cheer each other on, and work to help each other’s littles.

What about my boys’ preschool teachers? Thankfully they can stand to be with twelve 2 year olds because this momma certainly can’t. They help me and help my boys to be independent. From potty training to letter sounds, we are allies in this kid raising thing.

Maybe your village is an online community of women that encourage and help you. That is awesome. Wherever you can find it, get yourself a village. Without one, it is a lonely road.

Realize This is the Real World

By: Shannon Boatwright

So there’s this video circulating on Facebook. It’s been out in the web world for over 6 years now. But it’s resurfaced, rightly so, since we’re in total back-to-school mode. I’d seen it before but I recently watched it again, getting a good chuckle. As a good, hardworking teacher, you certainly get the point of the video. Any school employee that deals with craziness from parents will get this video.

Sure, there are unworthy people out there in the education system who should not be granted the privilege of teaching or even be in the presence of students. Sadly, passionless, burnt out, sad sacks exist in the education world. Sometimes you just can’t avoid those types. But the truth is, they are far and few between. There are millions of truly passionate teachers and dedicated folks who do care so very much and try their hardest to do everything they can do to provide the best education for our children.

 

Watching this video again reminded me of the great privilege I have to inspire, educate and hopefully create outstanding, respectable, hardworking individuals that will contribute to society. All that said, as you watch the video and chuckle too, whether you’re a parent, grandparent, guardian or supporter of children and education in any form, please remember that all the weight does not fall on the shoulders of the teachers, administration or support staff. An enormous part of creating, building, and molding a successful student must come from a student’s support system at home AND must be met with an individual student’s own effort and dedication to doing their best.

Like the school voicemail message states, this is the REAL world and “your child must be accountable and responsible for his or her behavior, classwork, and homework.” The answer to why a particular student is failing at anything, may not be due to a teacher’s fault. Always stop to consider this and make sure that your student, your child, is making an honest effort.

My personal mantra for the new school year, as a passionate, Arts-loving Drama teacher, is one of Brendon Burchard’s many fabulous quotes,

“Grant me the strength to focus this week, to be mindful and present,to serve with excellence, to be a force of love.”

Here’s to a successful new school year that will hopefully produce a sea of inspired, educated, standing-ovation-worthy students that will move on to do great things in their lives that will make a positive difference in this crazed world of ours!  🙂

To The Mom of the Little Boy in Church

By: Crissie Kirby

boy in church

I see you enter the church with him and his precious smile lights up the entire sanctuary. I see you settle him with a snack or drink or with books or coloring pages and crayons. I hear you quietly try to shush him during the service when he talks. I smile at you and think that one day I’m going to tell you how much I enjoy seeing him in service, but I fail to do so because well, most days, I’m busy watching my own boys who (most of the time) settle in quietly on their own, but still have questions or are involved in the service and are perched quietly at the front of the church waiting to light or extinguish the candles. Maybe I’m afraid that I’ll get teary-eyed talking of the time, not so long ago, when my boys were doing exactly what your son is doing now. A wise woman used to tell me not to worry about the noises my boys made in church because she enjoyed seeing them there. Some days I would just smile and silently think that she had to have lost her mind when it seemed that something was being dropped every five seconds or someone was asking questions every two.

The old saying “with age comes wisdom” comes quickly to mind because now I understand what she was saying and why she told me to stop worrying so much. First off, you are doing your son a great service by bringing him to church and keeping him in “big church”. He’s learning from an early age what takes place during the entire service and how to behave during those times, even if it seems that it is taking forever for him to learn and you really question if he ever will. (Please no one get bent out of shape if you think I’m shaming you for utilizing a children’s church because I’m not – every family does what works for them.) You are exposing him to your family’s belief system and I applaud you for that. For me, though, I am grateful for those moments when I can see your precious son holding your hand as you return from communion, and remember my own two little boys who no longer hold my hand as we walk quietly down the side aisle from communion. I can glimpse my past in your little boy as one, or both, of mine participate in the church service, leaving me sitting alone in my pew.

So to the mom with the little boy in church, please just let him be little, let those of us around you soak up his innocence and laughter and questions. Allow us to quietly congratulate your decision to bring him to church, even when we fail to verbally tell you so. Allow us to remember the days when our little boys were the ones laughing and making noise and asking questions. One day, I promise, you will be in my position wondering where the days and moments went.

Summer Reading

By: Leah Prescott

One of my most fervent hopes for my children is that they grow into enthusiastic readers. A couple years ago, when we were struggling through blending and painfully making our young readersway through the repetitive BOB books, I thought for a while it might never happen. But something finally clicked with each of the girls and soon they couldn’t be slowed down. One of my girls particularly races through books at a pace that challenges the library’s young reader section.

As we wrap up our homeschooling year in a couple weeks, I’m looking forward to reading more books with my girls. Even though they are strong independent readers, there is still something magical about reading aloud together. I look forward to introducing them to some of my favorites like “Pride & Prejudice” and “Anne of Green Gables” with an almost giddy anticipation. Revisiting your childhood’s joys with your own children has to be one of God’s sweetest gifts to parents. Right now, we are reading the Five Little Peppers and it’s bringing up some very helpful conversations about entitlement in our family.

If your children are reluctant readers, here are some things you can do to help draw them into the world of literature:

1. Visit the library weekly and check out an abundance of books. Don’t give up, even if your kids don’t show much interest. Don’t forget to show them that YOU read too (blogs and Facebook do not count).

encourage kids to like reading

2. Do some research into your child’s favorite toy, movie, character or subject. Whether it’s Minecraft, cupcakes, kittens, or hula hooping, chances are, you will find a book or series that will spark their interest.

3. Keep books in the car. I sometimes regret that our minivan didn’t come equipped with a TV, but my children can get in a lot of reading in the car just from riding around town during our typical week.

4. Go media-free. Having a TV and video game free week, month or summer may be exactly what your child needs to finally embrace books. We have done this a couple times and it always helps us center our attitudes and hearts, as well as free up time for more productive hobbies like reading.

encourage kids to like reading

5. Discover audio books. The library has a good collection of audio books for adults and kids, as well as downloadable content. There is also Amazon’s sister store, Audible.com, although I confess it intimidates me. Whether you choose classic literature or a Magic Treehouse book, audio books can help your children connect to the stories in a way that reading might not have.

6. Throw a book party. This might take a little more preparation, but why not plan a book-themed evening with food and games related to a story or series? This could be elaborate as a Cat in the Hat dinner party or as simple as a Tom Sawyer picnic.

As a kick-off to a delightful, book-filled summer, don’t miss Storyfest 2015! State Museum and Library will host this free event on Saturday, June 6th from 9-4. The event will include crafts, presentations, face painting and more. Find more information here. Happy Reading!