Struggling Readers

I was one of those struggling readers. I didn’t become a reader until fifth grade. That puts me in league with two twenty-five-year-old single mothers whom Julie Pangrac of Project READ introduced me to. They told me their story Continue reading

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Should Parents Give Their Children Books For Christmas, or?

 Love

When I was nine and my father asked me what I wanted for Christmas I said, “Something I can build and then when it’s built I can play with it.”

Fifty years later, when my wife asked me what I wanted for Christmas I said, “Fifty pieces of rebar two feet long.” Continue reading

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Why Mathematics is a Foreign Language in America and What to Do about It.

Today, when (and if) the sun comes out, take a child outside and measure the shadow of something, and say, “Today, June 21st, is the longest day of the year. Let’s see how long the shadow is. Let’s pick something and mark the end of the shadow so that we can watch the shadow get longer as the summer goes on.”

All sorts of questions could come up depending upon the age of the child and the interests of the participants, for example:

What could we use to measure?

Could we use one of Daddy’s shoes? My shoe, Baby’s foot,

How could we use a tape measure?

What is the relationship of Daddy’s shoes to my shoes?

What is the ratio?

Do we need to pick a fixed time?”

…and so on and so on.

It is common for parents to ritualize story time every day. This is a good thing. To read to your children before he or she goes to bed is the most important thing parents can do to ensure that their children will grow up to be readers. It not only models something that you value, it builds your relationship, and gives you a time to be with your child in loving, fun, calm, quiet, spiritually enriching ways. Stories are the staff of mental life and relationships.

What if we had a curiosity ritual? This week we play around with sinking and floating; next week we notice the flight of balloons, or the creation of bubbles. What if parents were ritualistic about doing a cooking project with their kids every weekend?

Why do Americans do so badly in mathematics? Because mathematics is a foreign language in America. The vast majority of children grow up in a number-poor environment. We’ve forgotten that the language of mathematics is founded in curiosity.  We too often think of mathematics as rules rather than as questions.  This is like thinking of stories as grammar.  Being curious together can be a really special part of the relationship in families. Continue reading

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How Schools Can Make Kids Stupid and What Parents Can Do.

If the deadening weight of school ever threatens to extinguish the love you came here with, don’t let it. We were wiser than we knew when we wrote those college personal statements. Remember the person that naïve teenager wanted to be. Be that person, and more.

–Aarti Iyer—Columbia College Senior*

Episode 1: Taking Recess Away

Teacher: “Class, you can have your lost recess time back when you show me that you can sit quietly and focus on this worksheet for the next fifteen minutes without talking or staring out the window or bothering someone else.”

With one voice Class replies: “No deal. Here’s the deal: Continue reading

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An Educational Summer

There is not much disagreement that reading to your children for at least 20 minutes a day is a very good thing–and that’s good. A quick scan of a google search for “read to your children” will give you a pretty good outline of many of those reasons. However, the most important one is underrepresented: Continue reading

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Freedom to Read

While waiting for my car to be fixed one rainy Saturday, I walked into a local bookstore. The car mechanic had told me my wait would be long and the bill high. I picked up a book and sat down to read, looking for a refuge from the pain.

Before long I looked up to find a grandmother, trailed by a nanny with a baby, telling an intelligent looking six-year-old child, “Sit right here and read.” The girl sat down across the table from me and immediately plunged into reading her book. Every few minutes the nanny returned with more books, which the six-year-old, politely turned down. On the third try, the nanny’s face turned angry. “What’s wrong with these books?” the nanny asked, pushing a pile of books toward the child. The child pulled her body into an angry little ball and buried her face all the more defensively in her book.

Continue reading

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