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One of the Best Things You Can Do for Your Kids

 My Blog
One of the Best Things You Can Do for Your Kids
Karen L. Kehler MA MSHA: Posted on Monday, July 22, 2013 1:26 PM
It's that simple.   Read a book.  Any book.  Just read. 
Read at the beach.  Read on the porch.  Read on your deck.  Read while watching TV.  Read in Bed.  Read at the table.  Read on a hammock.  
Read anything. Read the paper daily.  Read cookbooks.  Read the sports pages.  Read the Bible.  Read your Kindle®  Read best sellers, mysteries, classics, erotica, textbooks, manuals, blogs.  Anything.  
Did you know that reading for pleasure drops from 40% to 20% of reading by 8th grade?   How many people do you know who read several books a year?  It's probably less than 3 people you know -unless you're a member of a book group or a student.   
My goal since the early 80's after I was done with my first degree was to read a book a week.   I probably easily met that goal that was 30+ years ago.  I challenge myself with all kinds of reading - my career demands non-stop reading to stay ahead of the newest information while my pleasure reading is filled with everything from best sellers, classics, non-fiction, and suggestions from being in a book group.  I can't imagine my life without books and reading.   

I recently read a thought provoking book by Lisa Bloom - Swagger - about Raising Boys - - that addressed some of the horrific statistics of our boys in this generation of gangs, gun violence and incarceration.   She backs her concerns with front line experience in America's courtrooms along with staggering statistics of how illiteracy is often at the root of the issue.   Did you know that 60-70% of those incarcerated cannot read above a 3rd grade level?   Did you know that our colleges have to offer remedial reading and math to get students to a reading level once they have been accepted? Did you know that there is  3:1 odds of a person who can't read at a 3rd grade level ending up incarcerated or collecting welfare?    
When a person can't read above 3rd grade they will also have trouble navigating through what others who can read assume 'everyone' can do.  They struggle to fill out job applications, read employee manuals, loan agreements, leases, contracts, recipes, medical information including prescription information and directions, road signs, insurance policies, banking and billing statements and warning labels.    An employer is going to notice it on an application -so they will bypass them over someone who can.   If they didn't graduate either - their chances of getting employment are reduced significantly - leaving them vulnerable to illegal activity to finance even basics.   
This startling statistic was played out in my county in Pennsylvania with the annual publishing of the local school district's PSSA scores.  These are the scores taken to determine if a school district is meeting 'standard' of their grade level in the basics: reading, math, writing, and science.   In Pennsylvania the average is 67% of 5th graders meet the 'standard' - that means that 33% DO NOT!    This 'average' never goes above  72% through 11th graders!    So that means that 28% are not meeting reading standards in 11th grade.  The serious question to also ask - is how many students have dropped out by then and not counted?  We can easily assume that those dropping out can't read very well.  Many Pennsylvania high schools have a 40% dropout rate - so those students aren't even counted.  

This is NOT a BLAME THE TEACHER or even parent diatribe.   What I started questioning was HOW DO KIDS GET BY NOT LEARNING HOW TO READ WHILE THEY ARE IN SCHOOL?  
What are we missing?   What are they doing to sneak, lie, deceive those in charge - adults, loved ones, professionals, scout, civic, church leaders that interact with these young people every day? 
Have you asked the children - teens you know how much they read?  What book they read last?  Have you seen them reading for pleasure?  
Here's what to look for: 
  • They may get great grades in classes that don't demand reading and writing assignments, and compensate by being active participants in other classes - where teachers assume they read the material when in fact they didn't - they picked up information from TV, Youtube, and listening to others.
  • They have been caught and disciplined for cheating. They may not have been caught either - but find ways to copy rather than answer independently. 
  • They let adults fill in applications finish homework and tell them answers - that adults may do anyway to get it done faster, on time, or by a deadline. 
  • They 'use' girlfriends, peers, siblings, other adults to complete assignments,type papers, give them answers - often requiring extra help with spelling and sentence construction.
  • They depend on TV, video, movies, YouTube and smart phone apps to show how to do things rather than written materials.
  • They use excuses to delay or distract from completing written and reading assignments like: "I left my glasses at home", "I left the book at home," "I left the book at school."  "You can't read my writing - can you fill it out for me? "
  • They use excuses to their peers like "that's for girls" or "I play sports not lay around and read."
Now here's what to do so your child, grandchild loved one doesn't slip through the cracks. 
  • Read for pleasure yourself.  When children witness adults around them enjoying and benefiting from the reading experience - they will be attracted to it as 'something to do.'  
  • Read out loud to even the youngest of children - create a loving environment and experience shaped by reading.  Read bedtime stories, stories that teach, stories that make them laugh, cry, and wonder.  

  • Participate in Summer Reading Programs - every library has them.  Encourage and reward participation.  Create contests and prizes for number of books completed.  Give more credit for more challenging reading.  Barnes & Noble has one online.   

  • Use the Internet to get Summer Reading Lists for all ages- especially for College preparation.   These lists can be found within major library sites, educational sites as well as amazon and others.   These selections are not always the classics but also those that teach about culture, diversity, morality, historical events and political issues. 

  • Share reading the same book with a young person. You will really enjoy re-reading a children's book as an adult and gain wonderful insight into what your child thinks as well.   I also encourage this with those sharing waiting room time for medical treatments - share a book that instigates thoughtful conversations that TV won't. 
  • Reward with books - not food!   If you can get your child interested in reading - instead of taking them out for food - let them select on book instead!   This can mean making a 'special trip' to the library, visiting a bookstore or downloading one on an e Reader.   Connect pleasure and positive reinforcement with reading rather than punishment.  

  • Build reading time into their day.  Create shut off the TV hours - when they can read quietly.   Don't tie it into punishment!  This is when getting the right book makes all the difference.  You want books THEY want  to read - not ones they have to read.   

  • Encourage reading series, collections or one specific author.  Get them 'hooked' into continued reading rather than one and "I'm done now" enjoyment of reading. 

  • Make books important in your home.  I read somewhere years ago that 85% of homes over $200,000 in value have rooms for 'libraries' - showing the connection to be 'well read' to success of being able to afford an expensive home.    Visit Library fundraisers, book sales, create a loaning program with friends and neighbors, visit the library as a fun thing to do regularly.  Have books piled up - easy to pick up and read.   Don't negatively comment about 'don't mess them up',  'leave them alone' and make them untouchable - either with forbidden heights or put 'away' for protection.   

  • Follow up with areas of interest in the 'real world' - if they're reading about history - take a trip or tour of where it happened.  Visit the places where their books take place.  Go to the regions of the country where they enjoyed a story.   Talk about how reading prepared them - was similar or different.   This is often how these same children will decide on careers and paths in the future.   Expand their experience by showing them what they learned on a written page.   

  • If you struggle yourself with reading - whether its enjoyment, skill or not knowing where to start yourself - start easy, simple and enjoyable!   You are no longer reading (assuming you're done with high school) for 'requirement' -now is the time to ENJOY reading.  Read fun books first - challenge yourself as you gain confidence and wonder about how books can thrill, intrigue, teach, enlighten.   Get an 'easy to read' Bible.  Ask others what their favorites are.  Ask at the library or bookstore for suggestions.  Often both have signs on titles that the staff enjoyed - just look for them - often near the 'best selling' titles.   Browse titles - covers - let one select you!   

Okay, I'm going to stop here - I want to get back to the book I started this weekend - if you love reading you know exactly what that feels like! 

4 Comments to One of the Best Things You Can Do for Your Kids :

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