Thursday, 14 September 2017
Nearly every day, I see an article online about what's wrong with our kids, from teenage boys to toddlers. Speaking from the view point of a mother who has both at the same time, I am so disappointed that this is the only way they seem to be perceived: as a problem that needs to be fixed.
My grandmother passed away recently. She was a woman who faced many challenges in her life and didn't always make the right decisions when it came to the best interests of her children, but she was passionate about always loving them for who they are. I learnt so much about the challenges of parenting from her and I will be forever grateful.
Our children are doing amazing. They are growing up in a world that is moving faster than any other time in history. No previous generation has had to adapt to the amount of technological, economical and climate change that they will have to do in their lifetime. As far as I am concerned, they are adapting incredibly well and in most cases, no thanks to us.
If I had a choice between reading a book or playing a game on my iPad when I was their age, I would have chosen iPad, and I love books. The lure of modern technology comes from smart marketing, inadequate arts funding for interactive creative projects and a bunch of dinosaurs who are still trying to compete with immediate, individualised, integrated programming and display an appalling lack of the imagination and foresight required to embrace what could be an amazing partnership between the new and the old. When parents are so distracted themselves, not only by having to be a two income family just to make ends meet, and then catching up with the younger generation by trying to understand the technology and social media they use with such ingenious prowess, that any time left should be to focus on the children. This is where we as parents fail them, by scheduling in after school and weekend activities from sporting, music and extra academic lessons to fill the white noise that deafens you as a parent of a child that you can't connect with. Connection with our kids is what's missing, and that's where we are failing them and not the other way around.
If we could just spend more time teaching our kids about critical and creative thinking, using the technology they are comfortable with, then they can hold the key to their own salvation. The insatiable need we have to give our kids labels is making them think that if they don't have one, there must be something wrong with them. It's not normal to be normal anymore. We've taken everything that was done with the best of intentions and twisted it with political purpose or economic gain. Even play based learning, extra help in the classroom and children's mental health issues have been skewed so far from the essence of their original purpose that they end up in most cases doing our kids more harm than good. Our education system, child protection agency and health care system are broken and the good people within these organisations that are trying to do the best for our kids are fighting a losing battle. All of these things are our of our kids control and another example of how they are constantly reacting to the world around them in order to survive. There is no time to think.
I understand that our kids aren't perfect, but what more can you expect from an imperfect world? As a parent, I'm not going to beat myself up about that, mainly because I don't have the time or energy to dedicate to what society thinks of me or my children, but mostly because the time I do have is better spent letting my kids know how proud I am of everything they are achieving and how much I'm looking forward to seeing the men they will become. I also let them know how sorry I am that the world they have to grow up in, the world that my generation was meant to fix, is a world full of 'ifs' and 'buts', without a clear answer of why things are the way they are or a united, safe and secure direction for the future. I believe with all my heart that the next generation, when we give them the support they need, not the criticism they definitely don't deserve, then and only then will they be the ones who really can make the world a better place.
Wednesday, 6 September 2017
The Importance of Group Story Time
It is a growing problem but a common fact that children are less interested in reading books as a single passive experience. If this is their sole experience of story time, we are in danger of them becoming disinterested in reading at all. The importance of regular storytelling in a group format has never been so important.
Children become engaged during story time because they construct mental images of the text events while it is being read aloud. When you provide them with a story that is vividly written, they become engaged with the text and actively respond to it. The use of picture books as stimulating text, not only for pre school aged children but for those in primary levels of education, provides a starting point in terms of creating a home or school culture that fosters engaged reading and aesthetic response. The interpretive tools that children use as they attempt to craft meaningful interpretations play a significant role in cognitive engagement and creative thinking.
One interpretative tool that has displayed for me the most cognitive engagement is when children relate the content of the text to their own personal experiences. When children are able to think about the text and make connections between the new information presented in the story and their store of background experiences, this allows them to be active and thoughtful about their interpretations.
Children often use this ability to make connections between familiar knowledge and incoming information in order to make predictions and inferences about characters, their motives and actions, as well as story events. If they can enter into shared reading knowing that their own unique set of interpretive tools has value, they find it easier to construct a meaningful connection and learn to work well in a collaborative environment.
We need to encourage children more often to open their tool boxes and apply those tools in ways that build team work and critical thinking. The collaborative effort of group story time means children, along with the story teller, can add pieces of information recalled from the text, earlier predictions or background knowledge to support and elaborate ideas which is a natural and organic encouragement of further reading. Each new piece of information added to the discussion becomes a new tool that can be used to see how they all fit together as a whole, allowing them to raise their own questions and topics for discussion and learn the intrinsic value of linking the process of reading to finding answers to their own concerns.
If you have had a similar experience with group story telling, I would love to hear from you in the comments.
Tuesday, 29 August 2017
Thanks so much for including my blog post about Work Life Balance with these amazing tips from entrepreneurs about achieving balance.
Monday, 21 August 2017
Tuesday, 1 August 2017
Last week, I was speaking with some author friends and we all agreed that in our recent author visit experience, children were struggling with the concept and practical application of imaginative play. And we asked ourselves the question, "Is imagination in danger of becoming extinct?"
Modern children are very good at mimicry and mirroring instruction. The excel at engaging in guided learning but with the current curriculum and focus on learning outcomes, more so than learning pathways, are they loosing the ability to think creatively, independently and inventively?
The important role that imagination plays in creating engagement in more than just rope-learning and forced literacy reflects the essence of the need for questioning, exploration and extended discussion around issued that are important to children as individuals. Here are my top three reasons why we need to save Imagination from dying out all together.
1. Imagination is learned.
Children are not born with imagination. Imagination is a learned strategy that is modelled and used by a caregiver or peer in an attempt to construct meaningful interpretations of the seen and unseen world in which we live. The importance of creating an environment in which children learn to and feel free to use their imagination can be undervalued in a technologically advanced culture that lends itself to children becoming passive, unresponsive and unable to engage with any medium that required individual interpretation, namely, books. We need to teach the next generation to use their imagination if we hope to have the inventors, the dreamers and the big idea makers that will take them into the next century and beyond.
2. Imagination is a tool.
The context and culture of imagination influences engagement in many areas of children's lives and is a tool for experimentation and learning. Children use their imagination as a tool in their interactions with the world around them as they attempt to make sense of it or craft their own interpretations. The act of imaginative play itself becomes the environment from which information is gathered which is evidenced by their non-verbal cues as well as their overt responses. They also become more motivated to participate in learning as a result of the engaging properties of the use of imagination as a teaching tool.
3. Imagination is contagious.
The reflexivity inherent in the use of imagination is that when the culture of the learning environment permits children to question, explore and invent, not only are individuals cognitively engaged, but their use of imagination elicits engagement in their peers as well. Children can also use imaginative play as a way of safe space sharing of thoughts, feelings and ideas, modelling the behaviour for their peers and allowing age appropriate conversations of important topics that are relevant to their life and learning. More than any of that...it is so much fun.
If you have any other reasons why we need to save Imagination, especially in schools, please let me know in the comments.
Wednesday, 26 July 2017
Reading is not just vegetables, it's also dessert
Waging a war to get your child to read can never be won; the only true victory happens when you lay down your arms and befriend the fact that for some children, reading is like having to eat their vegetables...they only do it because a parent said it was good for them or a teacher makes them do it before they can move on to something 'fun'.
The more we treat reading like a chore or homework, the more children are going to become disengaged from the true purpose of books; to give the gift of another world, a new friend or a mirror to celebrate what makes us all truly unique.
Here are my top 3 ways that you can make reading less like vegetables, and more like dessert.
Reading is independent
Even though an emerging reader will need help in the beginning, the goal of teaching a child to read is so they can become independent and do it on their own. Have books available for your child at their current reading level, not the reading level they are 'meant' to be. This may mean starting with picture books and building on literacy and language from their, but in their own pace. They should always be able to read the text comfortably and it doesn't always have to be out loud. Don't interrupt or correct unless they look for help. Asking questions after each book is a great way to promote reading comprehension and determining whether to increase the complexity of the stories. The more you encourage your children to take their own initiative the more confidence they will build. They won’t be afraid to give books a go and you will find they will naturally choose reading over other alternatives.
Reading is about choice
School children are seldom given the choice for what, when and where to read. By giving your child a choice outside of school, it will allow them to understand that there is a time and place for texts that serve a purpose in an educational setting, as well as books that are read purely for enjoyment. Take them to your local library and let them choose books that interest them. Don't judge or deny because you think it is above or below their capacity; you would be surprised how much value can be obtained from the most obscure book, all because it engaged a child in some way.
Reading is fun
Going back to the purpose of books, reading is meant to be a way of connecting, not only to the world around us, but to world's that only exist in our imagination. If you child prefers to read graphic novels, comic books or on a tablet, that has to be totally ok. For all its intrinsic educational value, reading is entertainment. Fun online reading games, reading apps and read along YouTube videos all have their place in modern literacy. How can we expect children to grow up to be life long readers if we place restrictions on the mode that engages them the most, whether it be paper or screen? There is room for both. Books have always come in all shapes and sizes, so reading is reading, no matter the medium. Focus on your child developing a passion for reading and everything else is just icing on the cake.
Do you have any other suggestions for why you agree that books are definitely dessert? I would love to hear from you.
Tuesday, 18 July 2017
Picture Books depart magic and wisdom to children all over the world every day, but they are so much more than a literacy tool. They are a gift to all of us; those who read them as well as those who write them.
1. When you read a picture book, you are seen.
Reading a book is sharing a story with a stranger. You might be in the arms of someone you love, but from another town or even another country, a storyteller is opening up your eyes and in turn, looking to you for your response. It happens without fanfare. It sees past the face you put on over your real one. There might me hints at secrets that you hide but understand. There might be a look in the characters eyes that mirrors your own. It could be something as simple as a truth you had always considered but never been brave enough to say out loud.
This storyteller sees you. There is somebody out there who gets it—it being you.
2. When you read a picture book, you learn.
The degree to which readers feel comfortable expressing their views is never more evident than when reading a picture book. Children are able not only to put their ideas out for public inspection on the cognitive worktable, but they also respond to and challenge their peers ideas. These interactions with one another suggest a high level of cognitive engagement in that children are listening to and responding to not only the story, but to another and making thoughtful contributions. Additionally, the evidence suggests that the comprehension process stimulated by predicting, relating and questioning that occurs provides guidelines about how to talk about issues children feel strongly about and what to say in order to participate and share their own views.
3.When you read a picture book, you are loved.
If you would like to share what gift picture books have given you and your family, please feel free to comment or contact me, I would love to hear your stories.