Category Archives: opinion

Low reading skills are a crime!

teen in handcuffs

2/3 of students who cannot read proficiently by the end of 4th grade, will end up in jail or on welfare.

 

We’ve recently put our reading program U CAN CONNECT in a local Boys and Girls Club and it has been so rewarding.  I discovered a whole new group of kids to admire – those who functionally cannot read but they’re so willing to try.  One third grade boy with a bright smile and dark tousled hair looked me in the eye and said, “You gotta to teach me to read or I’m going to be junk.”

Sadly, he’s right.

Year after year we hear these sad statistics but if we don’t know a low reader, we don’t think much about them. When a child is unable to read on grade level by the 4th grade, it affects ALL of us.

These statistics are not made-up statistics by publishers of children’s books or by tutoring companies – they are the yearly national facts pulled from court documents and employment records.

Here are the most-recent facts:

85 % of all juveniles who interface with the juvenile court system are functionally illiterate.

prison doors

    More than 60 % of all prison inmates are functionally illiterate.

Penal institution records show that inmates have a 16% chance of returning to prison if they receive literacy help, as opposed to 70% who receive no help. This equates to taxpayer costs of $25,000 per year per inmate and nearly double that amount for juvenile offenders.

Illiteracy and crime are closely related. The Department of Justice states, “The link between academic failure and delinquency, violence, and crime is welded to reading failure.” Over 70% of inmates in America’s prisons cannot read above a fourth grade level.

Many of the USA ills are directly related to illiteracy. Just a few statistics:

Literacy is learned. Illiteracy is passed along by parents who cannot read or write.

One child in four grows up not knowing how to read.

43% of adults with low literacy skills live in poverty compared to only 4% of those    with good reading skills

3 out of 4 food stamp recipients perform in the lowest 2 literacy levels

90% of welfare recipients are high school dropouts

Low literary costs $73 million per year in terms of direct health care costs. A recent study by Pfizer put the cost much higher.

These are staggering costs for our society and they do affect each and every one of us.

lightbulb guy

Want to help?

Look around in your community for opportunities to work with these low readers. Some ideas are the Boys and Girls Clubs, residential drug programs that house families, afterschool programs, Big Brother/Big Sister program and homeless family shelters.

This one simple solution will help children learn to read:

Choose a book that is on his/her reading level, not grade level. Read it together in this way: You read the first sentence while the child follows along. Then, both of you read the same sentence together. Then the child reads the sentence all by himself. This teaches the sounds of the words, the feel of fluent reading and the sight recognition of the words.

We all can change the sad face of illiteracy in this country, one child at a time.

photo credit© Can Stock Photo Inc. / gajdamak

photo credit© Can Stock Photo Inc. / txking

photo credit© Can Stock Photo Inc. / julos

Fight winter with warm words of encouragement

hot chocolate

Your daughter runs into the room to show you her new project.  It’s lop-sided, made from pipe cleaners, construction paper and something that looks like dryer lint.  You smile and say, “Thanks nice, Honey.”  She looks hurt for a second before whining, “That’s what you always say to us, Mommy.  I thought this castle was better than ‘nice’ this time.”   

Do you ever find yourself lost for words when it comes to congratulating your children?   Are you searching for good, appropriate phrases to use that don’t mislead them on their ability, yet it doesn’t leave them feeling like their effort wasn’t worth it?  

We all bloom when we hear words of praise or affirmation.  Having a variety of these warm words at your fingertips (or on the tip of your tongue) as you’re washing dishes, calling out spelling words or chasing the dog away from the trash might be asking too much.  This list gives you a mug full of kind words you can sprinkle on your children to keep their self-esteem toasty all year round!

Wow   Way to Go   You’re Special   Outstanding   Excellent   Great   Grand   Humungous Effort  Great Job  Good Going  Well Done   Remarkable   Super   Brilliant Thought   Super Cool   Super Duper  You Make a Difference   I Knew You Could Do It   Fantastic   Incredible  Out-Of-This-World   You’re Super   Nice Work   Looking Good   You’re On Top of It    Now You’re Flying   You’re Catching On   Now You Got It    You’re Incredible   You Can Do It    Bravo   Hurrah   You Have A Shining Personality   Congratulations   You’re Fantastic   You’re Improving   Hurray For You   You’re a Joy   You make me feel Happy   Sizzling Good Work   Let’s Try Again   Great Attempt   Dynamite Effort   You’re a Winner   Good For You   You’re Wonderful   I Respect You   You’ll Make It Happen   You’ll Make It   You’re Precious   Great Discovery   You’re Making Progress   Hip, Hip, Hooray    Bingo    Superb   You’re Responsible   Great Work   Spectacular   Marvelous   Terrific   You Really Tried    Astounding Thought   I Like You   Thanks For Caring    Super Job   You’re Sensational   I Like Your Work    Great Idea   A Job Well Done   You Are Fun   You Did It   You Tried Hard   I Trust You   What An Imagination   You’re Important   You’re a Great Friend   I Know You Can Handle It   You’ve Got a Friend   You Did It   You Make Me Laugh   You Brighten My Day   Awesome   Look How Far You’ve Come   You’re Terrific   That’s Correct   You’re a Treasure   That’s the Best   Golden Behavior You’re Growing Up   I Love You    I Respect Your Judgment   You’re On Your Way   Outstanding Performance   Cool Dude    Hurray For You   Super Job   I Knew You Could Do It   Thanks For Caring   Sensational  

         Although children love praise, some are more touchy-feely and like you to put your words into action.   Below are many different, yet simple ways that this can be accomplished.

Hugs    Smiles    Kisses    Special Treats    Rewards    A Gift Hidden in a Backpack   Pat on the Back    Thumbs Up    Brownie Points    Applause    High Five    Cheer    Wink   A Secret Sign   Approving Nod   Wave of the Hand    Blow a Kiss    Pat on the Head    Ruffle Hair    Jumping for Joy    Special Time With Mom    Special Time With Dad   A Note Hidden Under The Pillow   An I.O.U. for an Ice Cream    A Surprise Stop on the Way Home    A Certificate of Accomplishment    Balloons  A Message Taped to a Toothbrush   A Special Bookmark   Draw a Smiling Face on the Mirror   Make Happy–Faced Pancakes  

         You’ll find that your children, once complimented for a short period of time, will start complimenting family members and friends, using some of these same words.  Whichever way you choose to show appreciation to your children, they will love it and will bloom into healthier, happier individuals right before your eyes. 

credit: http://www.canstockphoto.com

Is too much praise ruining your child’s success?

girl with a trophy

Let’s lay out a scenario. You decide as a parent that you will build your child’s self-esteem, no matter what, because they will need great self-esteem to stand up for themselves and to succeed in this oft-times challenging world.

From the moment your child starts walking and talking, you let them know they are winners! “You were the best today in karate” even though they may be the child that is behind on all of the moves. “I don’t know what the dance teacher was talking about; you danced better than the other girls.”  Your child’s confidence grows and they believe you…they are the best in the activities they get involved in. They are the smartest in preschool and then in elementary school. Life is good!

Then a strange thing happens. As soon as new activities get hard, your child won’t step up to the challenge. They bulk and choose the simple road, choosing an easy activity or a sport they have always played over a harder one or something new. They read simple books instead of trying a story that is at their grade level. They don’t “like” games or activities that are hard or challenging, calling these things “boring.” They seem to be playing it safe.

What in the world happened to the winning spirit you have infused in this child?

In the book Mindset, (2008 by Carol S. Dweck, Ph.D.), she explains in simple terms what has happened.

She talks about two mindsets that we can have. The first is called a Fixed Mindset. In this one, we believe (even as young children) that our talents or our traits are set. That our talents don’t change. We are successful because people have told us we are successful and we seem to have a few talents we just were born with.  We become caught up in success and failure situations to validate ourselves. Working harder wouldn’t matter to us since we believe that our talents are not developed. We are just lucky enough to have them.

The second mindset is called Growth Mindset. In this mindset the individual is focused on stretching him or herself to learn something new, to improve. Effort is a good thing. There is no judgment after each activity of success or failure; just an assessment of what could be done next to improve upon the last results.

Numerous studies in Dr. Dweck’s book looked at children and adolescents who were given the same task, but they were praised differently.  An experiment was done with answering questions. One part of the group was praised for being smart and getting a ceratin number of problems right and the second group was praised for their effort and how hard they had worked on the problems. When the examiners offered harder, more challenging problems to the same participants, the “smart” group refused to do any more problems for fear harder questions would make them seem less smart – a failure in their eyes. 90% of the “effort” group asked for as many new problems as possible because they thrive on learning how to get better, on earning their successes. One more astonishing fact came from this study. The children were all asked to write down their scores for other school students to see what it would be like to go through the 10 questions they had just completed. 40% of the group that were praised for their ability, and not their effort, lied about the scores they achieved, because in the Fixed Mindset, imperfections are shameful.

So, with those two mindsets established, how are we to praise our children without driving them into the Fixed Mindset group? How do we get them to stop thinking in the black and white terms of “I have to win or be the best otherwise I have lost?” How do we shift to a Growth Mindset?

  • Children know when they are being falsely praised. Sure, they will take the praise and run with it but, in the end it’s hollow.
  • Start thinking of how you as a parent can change your statements to reward effort. Let your child hear you talking about how other people tried and failed and then succeeded, not because they were smart, but because they worked hard to change, improve and to stretch themselves.
  • Begin praising the effort in your child’s day, whether emotional effort, (“I know that was a hard thing to do but your apology was very good.”) or physical effort (“When you went after that ball today in the game, that was great hustle. Soon, you’ll be able to catch that player.”)
  • Make your statements to your child non-judgmental. Don’t give opinions about their traits or talents but instead, talk about their development and how exciting that is.
  • Don’t label your children! “This one is the artist and this one is our runner.” Try, “He really worked hard on a drawing yesterday. You should see how much he has improved.” Or “She has been really working to improve her running times and it’s really paying off.”
  • Teach children that there are tiny steps in reaching a goal. Things don’t just happen. Lay out each stage your child will need to accomplish in order to achieve something hard that they want and then reward every little step in that direction.
  • A mindset can be changed – yours and your child’s.

No parent sets out to undermine a child’s skills or to create a child who is afraid to attempt anything hard because it knocks them off their safe pedestal of always being the smart one or the fast one. But when we continue to praise ability, and not effort, we fall into the Fixed Mindset and our children will follow along with us.  We are all capable of reaching for a Growth Mindset; it just takes, well, it takes some effort!

 

 

 

Technology – the changing face of education

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=aXV-yaFmQNk

A Magazine is not an iPad!

How fast things change. I bought a used Mercedes Benz in 1993 that came with a phone. This seemed like a bonus since I’d never thought to have what was then called a hand-held, portable cellular phone.  This one was built into the console and was roughly the size of a brick, so it wasn’t the portable variety. It was attached to the huge box by a three-foot cord; just long enough to feel opulent while driving down the road. I never paid for service. $199 for the plan plus an extra 59 cents a minute and 20% taxes was a ridicules fee.  Another caveat – there had to actually be one of the sparsely located cellular service towers in the area or it was nothing more than a box that left no room to hold a Tab.

My, my, my….how far we have come.

Now, often for free, we can talk, Skype, Viber or text people around the world or someone in another room of the house. If we are in danger on the road, instead of having to look for someone to help us, we can run from our burning car, with our credit card phone in our hand and get immediate help.

So what about the changes technology has brought to education? These new ideas can provide an amazing opportunity for a child to reach beyond the experience and knowledge of their teacher. Why limit that? Education as we currently know it in traditional schools will reach a tipping point, according to Stephen Harris of Connect Principals, in his January 2013 article. He believes that the current school model with exhaust itself sometime in the next decade. He asks, “Why would a child attend school in a traditional way if better ways to educate a child emerge?

Our children will interact with technology in ways that are not yet mainstream. Voice activated writing, touch screen technology, spreading from being fixed installations to multi-surfaced & pervasive…this will be their world.”

Just as we cannot envision our world today without our mobile devices to do our banking, travel plans, to entertain us, to gives us pictures of a world we have never seen, our children will not remember a childhood of learning or exploring solely through books or paper delivery.  Our children already seem to be born with innate touch-screen skills.

Mobile learning is the future. We need to embrace it.