Hi! I'm Susan Stephenson, a parent, teacher, and writer from Australia. Three things I'm passionate about are children's literacy, literature, and learning. I love sharing ideas at www.thebookchook.com about ways we can slip a little learning into our kids' lives in an increasingly digital world.
Every parent knows how important education is for children. Whether learning takes place at school, home, or someplace else, it contributes to children being happy and successful in later life. One thing's for sure: We all want our kids to be happy, and to succeed in achieving their dreams.
So what can parents do to help? The number one thing is to read to our kids, right from when they're babies. Studies show this is a big contributor to academic success. Best of all, it's a wonderful time to bond with our kids, and a time-honored way to calm them down before bedtime.
We also need to make sure our kids see reading as a valuable activity. That means they see us reading for all sorts of reasons: for enjoyment, to find something out, or maybe to follow a recipe. We can point out words in the environment, too. And playing silly word games together as a family is a great way to promote an interest in words, the building blocks of reading.
Sharing stories, songs, games, rhymes, and chants with our children not only promotes word play, it also builds vocabulary and an understanding of story structure. Even a five-minute car trip is time enough to sing or say a nursery rhyme together. Language developed from this kind of fun impacts both reading and writing skills in kids.
Of course, children want screen time, too. And here's where I believe parents need to get sneaky. As well as limiting activities like TV and video games (tough love), we can ensure the screen time kids do get has educational value. For me, this means taking advantage of what technology has to offer, and linking that with literature, literacy, or creativity -- anything that will get kids thinking.
When kids want screen time, we can suggest they try The Stacks Games, or show them how to create a beautiful story at Storybird. After we watch a movie with our kids, let's take them to the library or store, and find books on the same theme. If our kids are rapt in a show about Polly Princess, make Polly the jumping-off point for creating stories, poems, songs, dances, and pictures. If our kids are obsessed with LEGO, we set them LEGO challenges, read LEGO books and directions together, or help them use the blocks to tell stories.
I LOVE what technology can contribute to kids' lives. It's one of many tools in a parent's box of tricks. Used wisely, technology opens up avenues for exploration and learning. It gives our kids a way to piggyback off someone else's creativity and express themselves. It provides e-books, online stories, and lists of print books a child might like.
But it will never replace the special bonding that comes from sharing a book with the child snuggled on our laps. As Emilie Buchwald said, "Children are made readers on the laps of their parents." It's how we pass our own love of reading on to our children. Reading aloud to our kids every day helps them become successful learners. It truly helps them make their dreams come true.