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What a Child Can Learn Through Reading

Through books, a child is taken from the confines of their reading area and into the world of a writer’s imagination. They can walk through a land far away, fly through a cloudy sky, or experience life that is different from their own. I have often written that we read as an escape from our ordinary lives. But for a moment I want to revisit one of readings fundamental aspects; reading is a teaching tool. And for children’s reading, the teaching is often under the surface or in the background. Without a child realizing it, they are learning.

How to Do Things

Reading can be a great way for our children to learn things. Or at the least, it can give them a springboard to ask questions about learning to do things. Through a character they read about, a child is introduced to the experiences and abilities in which they may have an interest. The day to day lives of a storybook character can cause a young reader to want to live that life. So, they try to act out what they read. Through this process, they learn valuable lessons about what they can do, and what they cannot do; at least yet.

Books like Harold and the Purple Crayon give a child eager anticipation to draw. Unfortunately, your hallway may need to be wiped down a few times before they learn drawing goes on paper. This eagerness to experiment can lead to bigger things like in All By Myself. The main character of this story is learning about growing up. It’s about his adventure of trying to brush his hair and pour a glass of juice on his own.

Growing up is going to happen, and reading is a great avenue for children to explore and ask questions about life in general. When they see characters doing things that they haven’t learned yet, it gives them a desire to attempt to do those things. And the opportunity for us to guide them in doing them properly.

How to Interact with Others

This attitude of curiosity is not only applicable to trying new things; it can attribute to a child’s behavior. If a character in a story is using good manners, then those behaviors can be picked up by a young reader. You as a parent can also use that character’s actions to bring about a change of behavior in a child, especially when the child admires the character. For instance, Olivia is very respectful in how she communicates with adults. She is also friendly with others and likes to share. These examples can be pointed out to your child to emulate, which will help them as they get older and move into the schooling years and have to deal with other people.

Interaction with others is one of the most significant issues when it comes to making the transition from being at home all day and starting school. Stories about sharing and helping others can help that awkward transition a bit easier. There are many children’s books out there that tackle the first day of school and all the emotions that surround it; the anxiety of meeting new people, fear of not being liked, the sadness of being away from a parent, and the nervousness of having to learn. Reading a good book can prepare a child for human interaction outside of the family circle they have grown accustomed to.

How to View the World

It is all about perspective. Books give a glimpse into a character’s life. We are introduced to someone and given their characteristics. Those details can tell us about how they view the world around them. Books will often take a character through a series of events that will cause a change in the character that will affect their worldview. Often it is from a negative outlook of life to a positive view through a certain event that occurs. An unhappy character finds joy. A mean character finds the ability to be nice.

Bullying is a terrible thing for a child to face. Especially at a young age. But it is inevitable, at some point your child will face a bullying situation. The question is, what side will the child be on? Will they be the one who is being bullied, a witness to someone being pushed around and made fun of, or will they be the instigator? In each instance, believe it or not, reading can teach a child how to deal with these situations. Again, there are a plethora of children’s books that deal with this subject and how to handle it. Allow a child to be prepared by reading some of them.

How to View Themselves

How a child views the world and how they see themselves often go hand in hand. A child with a poor worldview can often feel isolated and afraid. A positive view of the external can leave their head lifted high and more confident about themselves. However, a personal view goes beyond the covers of a book. If a child’s self-esteem is crushed by a parent or someone close to them, then no book in print can overcome such obstacles. But that is another blog entirely. Just understand that in a positive environment, a good book will reinforce positive teaching.

Stories like The Ugly Duckling and The Ugly Five all teach about uniqueness and loving yourself for who you are. Tacky the Penguin and Giraffes Can’t Dance show a child they can be who they are in spite of what others say; that being different has its advantages. Through a book, a child can learn that it’s okay to be smart, silly, or own an imaginary dragon. They can see a variety of characters with what some would see as disadvantages and how they view themselves in a positive light.

We have used the example of The Little Engine that Could before. After other engines find excuses for not wanting to pull a load of toys up a difficult hill, one small engine takes on the challenge. She believed that even though she was small that she could do what she sets her heart out to do. That confidence allows her to succeed at the immense task in front of her. “I think I can, I think I can, I think I can… I thought I could, I thought I could, I thought I could.” Stories like this, with proper adult guidance, will challenge a child into believing they can do anything if they have the determination to do it.

Final Thoughts

As a child travels through the adventures of a book, lessons are learned. Every book has a premise or an expected outcome after reading it. Teaching a child about making friends, tying one’s shoes, and believing they can be whatever they choose to be, are important life lessons in their progression to becoming an adult. It is a great thing that literature helps reinforce the lessons we are verbally teaching our children. We can use the stories our kids read as examples of good behavior and the consequences of poor decisions. As you open the pages of the story you read to your child tonight, or the book they read to you, ask yourself, “What is the lesson this book is teaching, and how can I use it to help my child grow?”

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Helping Your Child Understand the Meaning of Christmas

It happens every year. Even before the last slice of turkey is eaten, or the final pumpkin pie tin is tossed children everywhere eagerly anticipate Christmas. “What will I get this year?” “What is Santa going to bring me?” and “How many gifts will I find under the tree?” are all common questions. From a day spent giving thanks for the things they have, they slip into an attitude of greed for the things they do not have. As parents, it is our job to help our children understand that Christmas time is not about getting, it is about giving.

To help them gain a better perspective, it may be necessary to show them how truly blessed they are. Kids will only know what they see. Being so young, they have a limited view on life. They only see their little world. That world may have the influence of abundance, either because their parents have excess, or their parents live sacrificially so the kids can have an abundance. When our kids are blessed in this way, they need to understand that others do not have the same opportunities.

A few ways to teach your kids about this life lesson are as follows:

Donate to a Charity

This can be done through monetary giving or a donation of time. If monetary, it should accompany a visit to the place you are donating to. Even if it is a website, allow your child to view what the organization stands for and whom the funds go to help. If it is time, then find an organization that works in your local community. A soup kitchen, clothing donation station, or a meal on wheels type charity is ideal. Somewhere your child can meet those they are giving to.

When children get to meet those less fortunate, they can learn to appreciate the things they do have. And in turn, want to give to those who do not have. As they see us treat others equally and not look down on them it provides them with a good example for them to follow. Children will imitate what they see. What will they see in you? Will they see you with a giving Christmas spirit, or giving into society’s portrayal of getting all that you can?

Go to Church

If you do not regularly attend church, this is one area that I highly recommend for you and your family. Your children get inundated with influences all week at school. And with all the silly laws and rules in place, any religious teaching is strictly forbidden. There is too much all-acceptance in today’s society. Anything goes. Morals are set aside to usher in tolerance and acceptance of attitudes and beliefs that go against a firm moral standard. The church is a place to affirm a moral standard. A child will be taught that there is a standard to live by.

In society, Christmas is driven by the dollar. Television and radio tell you that your love for someone will determine how much you spend on them. Christmas has lost its true meaning. Even the word Christmas is not accepted anymore. It has gotten so bad that you cannot even say Christmas without someone getting offended. One misplaced sign can get a company sued very quickly. Terms like Happy Holidays and Merry Xmas are what is accepted. It is not surprising that a child without a church-going base may have never heard the true story of Christmas. For them, it can be a season of gifts, or of families getting together, never about the birth of Jesus.

Talk to Your Child

Remember, you are your child’s first teacher. Most of the things that they will learn in life, will be through observation. They see they do. So, what do they see you do? Are you giving into the retail hype and treating Christmas as “gimme that”? Or do they see you giving sacrificially to those less fortunate? Kids need to understand that life is not about the things that we can get. It is not about achievements and accolades. What status you attain means nothing if what was done does not benefit others; if it is not done with a spirit of compassion.

If a child has been taught that Christmas is about getting gifts, decorations, and Santa Claus, then it’s time to sit down and have a heart to heart. Use the methods above to show them all the things we do have is a blessing, not an entitlement. Teach them that a good heart gives. Admonish them over selfishness and putting others down. Most of all, teach them the real reason for Christmas. Teach them about Jesus, the manager, Mary and Joseph, the star. Show them that Jesus’ birth had a plan. God’s plan and his love for us.

Final Thoughts

If you do not teach your children, someone else will. If you want your child to know the truth, then you must assume the responsibility and be the one to guide them.

It is okay to want things; it is okay to receive Christmas gifts. It’s when the getting outweighs the giving that our children can get confused. Use the resources that are in front of you to help them understand. Volunteering is one of the great eye-openers to the less fortunate. TV and movies are either over dramatic or don’t portray the reality of being in need. Reading about it only gives the knowledge that it exists. Seeing it, putting a face on it, is the only real way to grasp what is out there.

When a child can see the true need for themselves and have an explanation given to them about what they are seeing, they can gain a better perspective on what their life is like; how blessed they truly are. Then they can grow up with an appreciation for what they do have, and not complain about the things that they do not. It will also instill a desire to give to those in need; even at a sacrifice to them. Just as the Lord has done for each of us.


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Keeping Your Child Reading Through the Summer Months

Just because it is Summertime, it does not mean that it is time to put the books away and have a three-month break from learning. Education is a year-round activity. Studies have shown that children can lose some of what they learned during the summer months. This is why the first few weeks of school is always review. This is taxing on teachers who want to get to the new stuff. It is also partially why many schools are choosing to have year-round schooling; to help children continue learning and not forget things from previous years.

During the summer, with family vacations, camps, and overall education burnout, it can become easy to neglect reading. Unless you have an established reading plan already in place, chances are the likelihood your child will pick up a book during the summer are slim to none. This is where we as parents need to be involved. But we don’t have to do it alone. There are many summer programs that your child can become engaged in that will encourage them in their reading and help keep their minds sharp through August.

Talk to Your Child’s Teacher

The first person to contact should be your child’s teacher. In fact, most of the time in the final weeks of school, your child may bring home a flyer for different reading recommendations that are available to you. From a guide to prepare your child for the next grade to a list of books or programs, the resources are available to give your child the ability to continue learning.

Most of the suggestions will be for websites that have information about Summer Reading programs. Many of these will be at a location like a library; your school may even have a program they offer. Online courses are also available. Some do charge a fee, however, if you shop around you can find one that will be in your price range.

Visit the Local Library

There is no better place to learn about reading programs than your local library. They host a variety of different events to boost your child’s interest in reading through the summer. They have days dedicated to certain topics, authors, or genres. Each grade level will have a different day, or time, that they will meet. Once there, they will engage in activities like learning games, story time, and of course lots of reading. If your child is lucky, they could even meet the author of a favorite children’s book.

Libraries have worked hard to make these events more like playtime than school time. Our local library has a weekly event that in addition to promoting reading, they will have a theme for that week. One week will be about Science, another week they will be about music, and yet another about magic and mystery. And that is just three weeks. Check out your library’s website for the options they have for your little one.

Develop Something on Your Own

If either of those is not available to you, you could develop something on your own. This is where a Book Fair can help. You can prepare for the summer months by stocking up on books for your child to read. These won’t be like textbooks; they chose these books themselves. You could also visit a library or bookstore to obtain a stash of books. Either way, the point is to keep your child engaged.

Another good option would be to purchase an eReader. This makes reading available with just the click of a button. If you have a library card then you can digitally check out books, then you would have an endless supply of material from which to choose. This will be beneficial if your child starts a book and doesn’t like it. It is much easier than going back to a physical library or store to make a return.

Those lists that come home at the end of the year could provide you with some ideas as well. Our child’s school sent us a flyer about reading programs, but in addition, that flier told us what to expect for our soon-to-be fourth grader. They tell us that fourth grade is somewhat of a transition year. They will be introduced to textbooks. In a couple of years, she will be in Jr. High and will have to draw on what she will learn next year. So, this summer we can begin to help her get prepared for what she will experience this fall.

Final Thoughts

I know, just because your kids get a Summer doesn’t mean that you receive the same three-month break. You still have to go to work, come home and cook dinner, and still have the mounds of laundry that need to be done. Come June, parents often take a breath and put school away with the backpacks until they get the Wal-Mart ad in August promoting Back-to-School sales. Only then do we start to look at what the next year holds.

Your child doesn’t have to go through the valleys of forgetting what happened last year. Reading keeps your child’s mind sharp. It helps them to grow. It will put them in a better position going into the next year than a child who spent their summer in front of the TV or with a controller in their hands.

It’s all about developing a hunger to read in them. This begins young, but when that hunger is established, it will be fun to read for your young reader. Katie DiCamillo, author of such books as Because of Winn-Dixie and The Tale of Despereaux is quoted, “Reading should not be presented to children as a chore, a duty. It should be offered as a gift.” Once that gift is acknowledged you will find yourself telling your son or daughter that it’s time to put the book down and get some sleep.

“The more that you read, the more things you will know. The more that you learn, the more places you’ll go.” -Dr. Seuss