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Daily Dose

Read Aloud Challenge

1:30 to read

Have you heard about the 21 day Read Aloud challenge for the month of October?  Studies have continued to show the importance of reading to your child.  But, did you know the importance of reading aloud to your baby…from birth?  

 

Reading aloud and having your baby hear your voice plays an important role in early brain development.  In a recent study, only 15% of parents read aloud to their child from birth, and only 8% reported reading aloud for at least 15 minutes a day. 

 

The challenge is for parents and caregivers to include 15 minutes of reading aloud in their daily routine for 21 straight days.  I wonder why the challenge was not for the entire month?  

 

There are so many classic children’s books to begin reading to your child. I recently went to a clever baby shower where the guests were asked to bring their favorite children’s book and to write an inscription for the new baby. What a fun way to welcome a newborn to the family and to start their library. One day the child will probably really enjoy reading all of the inscriptions as well as the books.  

 

I still can remember having a baby boy on my lap and reading him stories that I am sure my parents had read to me. Some of my favorites….The Little Engine that Could (I still use that quote quite often), Caps for Sale, Madeline, Richard Scary books, Toad and Frog, Winnie the Pooh, Dr. Seuss (which is what some of my patients call me), Alexander and the Terrible Horrible No Good Very Bad Day (we still have these days as adults), Goodnight Moon, I Love You Forever. I know every family has their favorites.  

 

With another new grand baby due this month I am going to start the challenge myself. Whether it be a girl or a boy (will keep you posted), I am going to pull out all of those books I love (which are in boxes in the garage) and start my grandparent reading time every day. Fortunately for me, the new grand baby lives just blocks away and what a great EXCUSE for a short visit. 

 

So, no matter the age of your child, birth till 6 or 7 years for sure, commit to reading aloud everyday, for 15 minutes without the distraction of electronics. Once your child is reading, reverse the challenge and have them read aloud to you for at least 15 minutes a day.  Who knows…it may be so much fun that you start reading for longer periods every day!

 

Daily Dose

Summer Slide

1:30 to read

School is out for everyone and that means lots of “down time “ for school children - all ages. I think that summer is really an important time for kids to get bored a bit.  In other words, fewer schedules, less connected to electronics, more play time and less stress….hopefully for all. I do know that as a working parent, I don’t think summer was as “unstressful” for me as it was for my children…as I had to continue to make sure that they had good child care and supervision - always challenging at times, but it all worked out and I would try to schedule a bit more time for me to be available for some fun outings.  

But, with fewer schedules and more time to “hang out” some children do experience what is referred to as “the summer slide”.  This can be defined as “the loss of academic skills over the summer break”. When children don’t read, work on math problems, or are not engaged in some sort of learning activity their skills and knowledge over the course of a 2-3 month summer vacation may regress. There is data to show that the loss in learning does vary with grade level,  subject matter and socioeconomic status - but most children show some negative changes when they are tested at the beginning of the summer vacation as compared to the end of the summer.  

The best way to try and prevent the summer slide is to have an idea or plan on how to keep your children interested in learning….but by doing different things than one might do during the school year.  

How about a summer book club or reading program that you might find either on line or through your public library.  There are book lists and fun reading projects for all ages…and if your child is older you might join them in reading one of the classics or even a new novel and discussing it together.  Even if your child claims to “not like to read” these programs are fun and reading a sports book or a scifi adventure may spark their reading.

Field trips:  Whether you live in the city or suburbs or even the country there are many FREE places to visit in your community. That might be a simple trip to the park to play while at the same time talking about why we have parks, and green spaces.  Museums typically have programs for children of all ages …and many are interactive with the parents. It is amazing how much “new” stuff there is to learn, for all of us.  If you are fortunate to live in driving distance to a national park or seashore take advantage of the many free events there. 

Mass transit: I know that when we finally got light rail in Dallas I took the opportunity to ride the rail with our young boys….all sorts of learning taking place as we read signs, and learned how to read a map of the rail system.   We also saw some local sites that we had never taken advantage of.  Inexpensive way to spend a day and the subway, light rail and bus systems in some areas are really growing.

This is also a good time of year to teach your children a few of the “basics”…whether that is how to pump a swing, or ride a bike with or without training wheels, how to tie their shoes, wash the car, or catch a ball …lots of life skills that may get ignored during the school year, and these are skills everyone should know. 

 

 

Your Child

Be an Involved Parent

2.00 to read

Millions of kids are back in school. For some it will be the start of a long educational journey, while others have already been in the system and are moving up to the next grade. Parents expect their children’s teachers to educate their kids, supervise their safety and keep them abreast of any changes or concerns they may see in their child’s behavior. Fair enough.

But what obligations should a parent have to their child’s education and school life? Many send their kids off to school and that’s that. Studies have shown and common sense tells you that the more involved a parent is with a child’s education at home and in school; the better a child learns and progresses.

Research has shown that children of involved parents are absent less frequently, behave better, make better grades from pre-school through high school and go farther in school.

They are often more socially mature and have a better sense of who they are.

The benefits don’t stop at school. A home environment that encourages learning is more important than parents' income, education level, or cultural background. By actively participating in their child's education at home and in school, parents send some critical messages to their child; they're demonstrating their interest in his/her activities and reinforcing the idea that school is valuable.

Not every parent has a lot of time they can spend with their child. The reality is that there are many single parent families. There are children who are being raised by a relative and children who are in foster care. Some schools are working on developing and implementing more flexible schedules that offer working parents options to spend extra time with their kids.

The National Education Association recommends some specific ways for parents to become more involved in their child's education.

At home:

- Read to your child. Reading aloud is the most important activity that parents can do to increase their child's chance of reading success

- Discuss the books and stories you read to your child

- Help your child organize his/her time

- Limit television viewing on school nights

- Talk to your child regularly about what's going on in school

- Check homework every night

Other tips for helping your child succeed in school come from teachers themselves.

- Teach your child to be prepared. No more excuses for late or not turned in homework

- Reinforce the importance of your child’s education. Whether you have a college degree, a high school education or dropped out let your child know that they are expected to complete school and continue with their education by either going to college or a trade school.

- Discuss newsworthy current events, and what is going on in your neighborhood, religious institution or pop culture. Listen to your child’s opinions with an open mind. Share your daily experiences in age appropriate language. The earlier a child feels an integral part of the family, the more they learn to value family, friends and others. Education includes a social awareness. 

- Go directly to the teacher of you have questions about your child’s progress or lack their of in school. Establish a good relationship with all your child’s teachers. Know their names and what they expect form your child. Let them know what you expect of them.

- Don’t try to get your child out of detention. Allow your child to accept the consequences of their behavior. Too many parents make excuses for their children’s bad behavior instead of facing it head on. Bailing your child out takes away their ability to learn responsibility. It can become an ugly habit and deprive your child of the maturity he or she will need to handle difficult situations. We all know there will be plenty of difficult times in everybody's lives. 

- Implement a consistent homework routine that focuses on relearning the day’s lessons.

- Respond to your school’s email and phone calls. Your child’s teacher is busy also and they wouldn’t be contacting you unless it was important. If you have concerns don’t wait to be contacted, be the one to reach out first.

- Volunteer. If at all possible volunteer to help with school or sports events. Showing your child that you are invested in them is the best way to teach them about unconditional love and sacrifice. Just knowing you care enough to give up some of your own precious time for them teaches them the true meaning of “I’ll always be there for you.”

When parents contribute effort and time, they have the opportunity to interact with teachers, administrators, and other parents. They can learn first-hand about the daily activities and the social culture of the school, both of which help them understand what their child's life is like.

Not every parent can be available for every school meeting or event. If you can’t make it, see if another family member or a close friend can be there in your place. For the 9 to 10 months that a child is in school – that is their world. Be a part of it, you’ll be glad you did and even if you get a little push back from your child, they’ll remember how much you cared when they're older and have kids of their own.

Sources: Anita Gurian PhD, http://www.aboutourkids.org/articles/involved_parents_hidden_resource_in_their_children039s_education

Pete Mason,  http://www.huffingtonpost.com/pete-mason/advice-from-teachers-to-p_b_3819530.html

Your Child

The Debate: Homework or No Homework?

1:45

Does homework improve a student’s academic achievement or does it interfere with family time and create a negative learning experience? That’s part of the debate that is currently going on over whether homework is a good or bad thing for students.

Brandy Young, a second grade teacher in Godley, Texas, recently made the news when a letter she gave to her student’s parents, went viral on social media.

Young said that she was dropping homework from her curriculum for the new school year.

"Research has been unable to prove that homework improves student performance," Young wrote. "Rather, I ask that you spend your evenings doing things that are proven to correlate with student success. Eat dinner as a family, read together, play outside, and get your child to bed early."

That made a lot of Young’s students very happy.

According to the Association for Supervision and Curriculum Development (ASCD), homework has had a fluid history.

“Throughout the first few decades of the 20th century, educators commonly believed that homework helped create disciplined minds. By 1940, growing concern that homework interfered with other home activities sparked a reaction against it. This trend was reversed in the late 1950s when the Soviets' launch of Sputnik led to concern that U.S. education lacked rigor; schools viewed more rigorous homework as a partial solution to the problem. By 1980, the trend had reversed again, with some learning theorists claiming that homework could be detrimental to students' mental health. Since then, impassioned arguments for and against homework have continued to proliferate.”

The case for homework involves several studies noting that student’s academic achievements improve when they are given meaningful homework and they complete assignments. A number of synthesis studies have been conducted on homework, spanning a broad range of approaches and levels of selectivity.  One such account, known as The Cooper Study, included more than 100 firsthand research reports, and the Cooper, Robinson, and Patall (2006) study included about 50 empirical research reports. Conclusions from their studies stated,  “With only rare exceptions, the relationship between the amount of homework students do and their achievement outcomes was found to be positive and statistically significant. Therefore, we think it would not be imprudent, based on the evidence in hand, to conclude that doing homework causes improved academic achievement.”

The case against homework also cites several studies that suggest homework doesn’t improve students’ learning but instead overvalues work to the detriment of personal and familial wellbeing.

Some no-homework activists say that extended school hours work better for helping students learn and retain knowledge.

Several popular books have been written taking the no-homework stand; one is The Homework Myth: Why Our Kids Get Too Much of a Bad Thing by Alfie Kohn. 

If homework needs to be assigned, Kohn suggest teachers should make sure that the assignments are beneficial, ideally involving students in activities appropriate for the home, such as performing an experiment in the kitchen, cooking, doing crossword puzzles with the family, watching good TV shows, or reading. Kohn also urged teachers to involve students in deciding what homework, and how much, they should do. One idea is that family participatory homework exercises can help students learn practical applications with school subjects and receive more bonding time in the process.

Many education experts believe homework provides valuable tools for student learning but also agree that meaningful homework should always be the goal and not assigned as a matter of policy.

Research has also shown that while students are typically assigned homework from Kindergarten to 12th grade, there has been no specific consensus on the benefits of homework at the early elementary grade levels, however, older students do improve their grades with homework.

Many parents are still uncertain about how they feel about homework. Some will tell you that their child has far too much assigned during the week and over the weekends, but they are not quite ready to chuck homework altogether. 

It’s an interesting debate that will continue to garner attention.

Whether you believe homework is necessary for better learning or is an obstacle to student achievement, one thing both sides can agree on is that parental involvement is the key ingredient to a happier and more prepared student.

Story source: Robert J. Marzano and Debra J. Pickering,

http://www.ascd.org/publications/educational-leadership/mar07/vol64/num06/The-Case-For-and-Against-Homework.aspx

 

 

Your Baby

Reading to Infants has Long-Term Benefits

1:30

Children love to have stories read to them. The words and pictures excite their growing imaginations and according to a new study, may improve their learning capabilities when they start elementary school.

The researchers followed more than 250 children from the age of 6 months to 54 months. The investigators found that kids whose mothers started reading to them in early infancy had better vocabulary and reading skills four years later, just before the start of elementary school.

"These findings are exciting because they suggest that reading to young children, beginning even in early infancy, has a lasting effect on language, literacy and early reading skills," said lead author Carolyn Cates. She is a research assistant professor in the department of pediatrics at New York University School of Medicine. 

"What they're learning when you read with them as infants still has an effect four years later when they're about to begin elementary school," she explained in a news release from the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP.)

The findings show the importance of programs that promote parent-infant book reading soon after birth, Cates said.

Reading to your child not only improves academic achievement, but also builds a more supportive and stronger bond between a child and parent or caregiver. Snuggling up with a book lets the two of you slow down and experience unique moments together.

Reading aloud to your little one also helps baby or toddler learn basic speech skills by reinforcing the sounds of language.

Remember, every book (even ones that are read and over – and there will be many- as your child develops favorites!) is a unique opportunity to give your baby an advantage later in life when learning skills are put to the test.

The study is scheduled for presentation May 8 at the Pediatric Academic Societies Meeting in San Francisco. Research presented at meetings is considered preliminary until published in a peer-reviewed journal.

Story sources: Robert Preidt, https://consumer.healthday.com/kids-health-information-23/child-development-news-124/reading-to-babies-translates-into-more-literate-preschoolers-722224.html

https://www.earlymoments.com/promoting-literacy-and-a-love-of-reading/why-reading-to-children-is-important/

Daily Dose

What's on Your Child's Mind?

1.45 to read

Do you remember the saying “ a penny for your thoughts?”.  There are many of those old fashioned sayings that are no longer used, many of which  have been replaced by witty text acronyms.

This saying came to mind recently while I was talking to a mother about her 5 year old daughter. She told me that she often finds her daughter lost in “deep” thoughts and that she will ask , “what you are thinking about?”.   It made me pause a moment, as I truly don’t remember if I ever just stopped and asked my own boys this question. I hope that I did, but if not, it was a missed opportunity.  I only wish I could rewind and remember.

While talking to this mother she recounted how her daughter used to answer with things like, “ I am thinking about playing with our dog”, or “ I am thinking about the ice cream cone we just finished.”  Her answers were usually short, sweet and were often related to whatever activity she had just completed. But now that she had started kindergarten her mother says that the answers are much more complex and interesting.

When asked about her thoughts, which her mother says she makes sure to do once a day, the little girl will answer with things like, “ I am thinking about how many words end in …ag”, or “ I am thinking about counting by 5’s”.  What fun to get a glimpse inside that kindergarten brain which is absorbing her new learning environment like a sponge and loving every minute!   This mom is trying to write down a few of these cute answers so that she can look back at these special memories one day. She is VERY organized!

So… ask your child of any age, “a penny for your thoughts?”. You may need to raise the ante for this decade, maybe a “dollar for your thoughts” , or an I-tune song download for your thoughts”, (especially for that teen group)  but you may get a glimpse into your child’s/adolescent’s mind and start a great conversation.  You can’t go back in time but you can start now! Think I will take my own advice and the next time I see my boys I think this will be one of my new “lines”!

That’s your daily dose for today.  We’ll chat again tomorrow.

Your Baby

Study: Preemies Do Well in School

1:45

Parents of premature babies often worry how their child will do academically later in life. A new study may ease their minds.

Researchers followed more than 1.3 million premature babies born in Florida and found that two-thirds of those born at only 23 or 24 weeks were ready for kindergarten on time, and almost 2 percent of those infants later achieved gifted status in school.

Though extremely premature babies often scored low on standardized tests, preterm infants born 25 weeks or later performed only slightly lower than full-term infants. For babies born after 28 weeks, the differences in test scores were negligible.

"We know a lot about the medical and clinical outcomes [of premature babies] and we know some about short-term educational outcomes, but what we didn't know is how the babies do once they get further out into elementary school and middle school," the study's first author Dr. Craig Garfield, associate professor of pediatrics and of medical social sciences at Northwestern University Feinberg School of Medicine, told CBS News.

The babies were born in Florida from 1992 to 2002 with gestational ages of 23 to 41 weeks who later entered Florida public schools between 1995 and 2012. The scope of the study included a diverse group of children with varied backgrounds and economic status.

The study did not include additional research possibly connected to the children’s development such as medical issues related to premature birth, or information about factors that may have helped these children perform well in school, such as their biological makeup or if they got extra support from family or school programs.

"This is a really large group of children," Garfield said. "A lot of studies are done in a select group, but the population in this study is really all the babies that were born and lived up to one year in Florida and we were able to follow them through the education system to eighth grade."

Senior author David Figlio, director of the Institute for Policy Research at Northwestern University, acknowledges concerns that very premature infants (those born between 22 and 24 weeks of pregnancy) tend to score well below their full-term peers on standardized tests. However, he said he believes "the glass is more than half-full."

"Most infants born at 23 to 24 weeks still demonstrate a high degree of cognitive functioning at the start of kindergarten and throughout school," he said in a statement.

The study is good news for parents already consumed with uncertainty about the future of their premature infant – something they need during a very difficult time.

Story source: Ashley Welch, http://www.cbsnews.com/news/premature-babies-preemies-catch-up-in-school-study/

Parenting

Back-to-School Jitters

2:00

Where did the summer go? Some children will be headed back to school in less than a week and others within the next couple of weeks. It’s not uncommon for kids to be a little anxious as the big day draws near. Your child may be feeling a lot of emotions right now, ranging from high anxiety to  “I can’t wait.” That's understandable. Think back on how you felt when you started a new job or were moving to a new part of the country, it’s quite similar but without the benefit of life experience to help you process the changes.

Besides the unknown of a new school year, there’s the challenge of getting back into an early morning routine and the addition of after-school activities to everyone’s schedule. It’s a hectic time but with a lot of patience and a little smart planning, it can go smoother than you might think.

If your child’s school offers an orientation or back–to-school night, one way to help ease your little one’s fear is to take them and let them see the school, meet their teachers and say hello to some fellow students before classes begin. A familiar face or two can help make the transition go a little smoother during that first week of school.

If your child is able to meet his or her teachers, give them time to talk and get to know each other, if only briefly. Let your child answer any questions the teachers have instead of answering for them. You might even help your child come up with a few questions they can ask the teacher.

You could check with the teacher and see if he or she would mind having a picture taken with your child. As school day approaches, you can show it to your child talk about meeting their teacher. A little thing like that can help your child develop a familiar feeling for the teacher before school starts.

Since it’s always a good idea to read to your youngster, choose books with a back-to-school theme. There are lots of children’s books that tell meaningful stories about kids facing the challenges of moving to a new school, the first year of school, making new friends and lots of other possible scenarios in story form.

Get organized! Easier said than done, I know. If you’re organized and ready for school it not only relieves some of the pressure on you, but for your children too. Chaos or uncertainty about where to go and what to do adds fuel to a child’s concerns about whether everything is going to be OK or not. 

Let your child help create a study area in the home. Being involved in at least some of the decisions can help make this a personal adventure that they have some say in.

All kids need enough sleep and getting into a good sleep routine can help ease them into the changes school is going to require. As you already know from experience, a tired child is more likely to feel overwhelmed, nervous and cranky.  If you haven’t already, start the new bedtime routine now so that you don’t have the arguments and resistance during the first days of school when everyone is trying to find their footing.

The main thing to remember is that your child, whether it’s their first day to attend, or their last year of school, is going to feel a little jittery. Reassure him or her that everything is going to be fine. The new schedule, classmates, studies and activities will be familiar sooner than they think. Let them know that you understand how the unknown can be a little scary, but that this is also a time when good things can happen as they explore all their new opportunities. 

 

Daily Dose

Homework Help: The REAL Lesson

When you kids have homework to do, how much help do you give them? I can remember the first time a son of mine had homework and how exciting it was for “us” to all sit together and watch him do his homework and let him ask for help when he needed it. I can also remember the last time a child asked me for help with his homework, in Calculus, and I had no idea what he was doing.  So the full circle of homework has been completed in my house.

While I was so anxious to begin the whole homework thing as a first time parent (as we are for so many milestones), I was equally joyful when I no longer even thought about a child’s homework, and also knew I was no longer even competent to help. (Calculus, are you kidding me, it was a lifetime ago).  I think homework has a real purpose when a teacher gives an assignment to reinforce the day’s lesson, and the amount of homework is not unreasonable.  There were times as a parent that I felt that there may have been too much homework, or that the homework was really busy work, but be that as it may, it was an assignment from a teacher and therefore it was completed. I was fortunate that from the beginning we started having a good homework routine where our boys all gathered at the kitchen table to do homework in the afternoon. The routine was pick up carpool, come home and get a snack, have some down time, typically outside to get rid of excess boy energy, and then homework started.  The habit of doing homework at the kitchen table began with our oldest son and his brother’s followed suit. When our oldest son started school, the younger boys would “want” to have homework and we would make up things for them to do. As everyone got older the kitchen table suddenly had 3 boys doing homework and they would often help one another. The other thing about being a working mother was that I was often not at home to “supervise” homework, or to make sure that it was being done. I was fortunate I guess, it was just assumed that “homework is finished before Mom gets home”. By the time our boys were in middle school and high school, they had typically moved to a desk in their own rooms.  The benchmark of getting “your own desk” was somewhat of privilege and a ”right of passage”  in our house, and each child took great pride in the fact that they had a desk in their room and had moved out of the kitchen. Once our children had left the communal homework kitchen table I really never knew if and when they finished their homework.  They were responsible for knowing what they needed to do each night, and for getting it completed. Their father and I did not know when they had tests of what needed to be done, but we were there to support them if needed. What we did do is have dinner ready for them each evening and they had “a bedtime range” which was usually followed. They also had what we called “a homework pass”.  In other words each semester they would get a “ticket” that allowed them to call us from school to bring a forgotten assignment, or take them back to school to pick up a forgotten book. They got one each semester, beyond that, as difficult as it was, they had to figure out how to get that assignment or suffer the consequences. It was probably harder on me than them, but it was a lesson well learned. They did not forget many things at school or home and I think it made them the organized young adults they are today. The hardest thing for a parent is to watch your child struggle, or fail. But sometimes it is THE most important lesson that they will learn. Letting your child suffer the consequences of a paper not turned in on time, or a homework assignment not done, hurts every parent. But more importantly, it will prepare your son or daughter for college and their careers beyond. As much as we “want” to do the work, or bring them the project, that is not our job as parents.  Our job is to prepare them to be responsible, organized and independent adults who will go forward on their own, and not call home to talk to “the boss”. That's your daily dose.  We'll chat again tomorrow. Send your question to Dr. Sue!

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