- Published on Thursday, 27 October 2011 07:22
By Shara Lawrence-Weiss
Knowing that I have worked with children for more than 23 years, people often email me with questions: "Can you tell me ______?" "I'm wondering if it's normal that my child ______?" "What is the best way to teach ______?"
While I'm happy to reply I certainly make it clear that I don't have a PhD. What I have is the life experience. So I answer, according to my own experiences working with kids ages birth-13 and parenting three kids of my own (soon to be four).
Side Note: Once we hit those teen years I'll admit that I'm wading through mud. I read and watch videos about the teen brain but it still leaves me thinking that teachers who work with teens are HEROES. They have the patience of Job.
Back to my point: My replies regarding early childhood (and most parenting matters) generally fall into the realm of 'centrist.' I am not an extremist and I do not believe that there is one right away to parent or teach all kids. Every child I've ever come to know has had her/his own temperament, personality, likes and dislikes, talents and gifts, hopes and dreams. To say that there is one right way to parent (or teach) all children, in my opinion, is as ludicrous as attempting to ski while doing your taxes. Any time I see a parenting 'expert' claim that one-way-is-the-right-way for any learning style I steer clear of that person's advice. I much prefer chatting and learning from folks who value and understand differences and varying techniques to reach different learners (remember Howard Gardner's Theory of Multiple Intelligences?)
If I parented all three of my kids in the same way, I can't even imagine the mess we'd be in. Each child is so unique and needs a different approach.
Someone recently wanted to know:
"Should I be reading TO my child or allowing my child to read to ME?"
How about both?
While I'm an advocate of reading aloud (for people of all ages), some children would much rather take the reigns once they know some of the text or have memorized the images, etc. My 4 year old daughter is such a person (in the photo here she is reading to her babysitter). She is highly independent and last week I offered to read her books in bed. "Come on - let's cuddle up and I will read to you!" She looked me in the eyes and replied, "No, mom. I will read to YOU."
I said, "Oh, okay. You bet. Whatever you'd like - I'm just happy to spend time with you."
She proceeded to choose a book that I had read TO her many, many times. She opened it up and page by page, told me the entire story, nearly word for word. She can't read yet, technically speaking, but she has memorized the books that I've read to her countless times. She associates the images with the wording and sometimes she injects her own thoughts or interpretations, also, which I love. Imagination is a great thing.
Why would I stop her from reading to me, right? Why would I take away that pride or remove her joy of sharing her knowledge with me? She was so proud of herself and so happy to demonstrate her ability to recite the story line. She beamed from ear to ear, closed the book and smiled at me, waiting for a big hug and a word of encouragement.
While I fully understand the value of adult-led parenting and teaching, I also believe that child-led learning is critical to brain development and social skills. If I insist on being "in charge" at all times and never allow my kids to show me what they have learned - I'll be stifling their growth as well as their learning process.
Allowing our kids to lead the learning process is hugely beneficial to their development. So I would suggest starting out by reading TO your kids and when they are ready, allow them to take the reigns if and when wanted. From there, take turns reading. Even older children enjoy taking turns with chapter books. My son and I read through James and the Giant Peach together, each one of us taking a chapter at a time.
Kids will clearly show and tell you what they want, when they are ready, and if you are willing to hear them out...you'll be amazed by the results.
ABOUT the Author:
Shara Lawrence-Weiss is the owner of Mommy Perks, Personal Child Stories, Early Childhood News and Resources and Emergent Literacy. Shara has a background in education, early childhood, nanny work, published freelance, marketing and special needs.