Thursday, September 15, 2005
Reading is Fun (Sometimes)
Learn more about the books by reading Amazon comments. A more detailed description of the philosophy behind the books here.
I can't forget play. LO and his daddy had a great time being silly and rolling around on the floor today. Their cute, and sometimes I wonder who's having more fun. He (LO) is such a free spirit. I'm trying to be very careful to protect that. But today, I started thinking... What about MY play time? How hard am I working to protect that? I ran across this quote:
-- What do most Nobel Laureates, innovative entrepreneurs, artists and performers, well adjusted children, happy couples and families, and the most successfully adapted mammals have in common?
They play enthusiastically throughout their lives.
-- What common denominator is shared by mass murderers, abused children, burnt-out employees, depressed mothers, caged animals, and chronically worries students?
Play is rarely or never a part of their lives.”
It might do me a bit of good to spend more time on the floor with LO (and daddy). It also would be nice to spend more time thinking about other ways to preserve and enhance MY unique identity. No doubt about it, this blog is helpful. I just have to keep telling myself that being proactive with play and friendships is as important as anything else on my 'to do' list. It's a journey...
Got to your site through Jenny D's - interesting site. I am a ph.d. in language, literacy and culture, and would like to suggest a few ways you can use texts that your son loves to teach him how to read -- i agree that it is difficult to find satisfying phonics texts out there, and yet so many kids need good phonics instruction. Two suggestions - buy a cookie sheet and a set of magnet letters and then do word building work with the letters - you can start with five letters (like c, a, t, s, m). put them all on the tray; ask your son to pull down the letters to spell "cat" then ask him to change cat to sat or mat. You can use words that are in his favorite texts and then build words off of those. Another fun activity is to do language puzzle - photocopy a page from a favorite book. Cut the words into sentences and have him put it back together. Then cut the sentences into smaller and smaller piece. You can make the "puzzle" as challenging as you want and you can do the puzzle many times in many different ways - the repetition is very helpful.
I think that you're right to be concerned about the racial achievement gap. It's real and the best way to have LO live up to his potential is for you to be proactive in shaping his environment. We know that positive environmental influences can't boost innate IQ but they sure can help us live up our potentials. That said I'm not aware of research that claims to show the best way to provide a positive environment. We know that Asian families raise their children differently than White families who in turn raise their children differently from Black families. When experments were done on white children raised in families that emulated Asian values to educational success, the children didn't excel to the same standards as their Asian counterparts. In a sense the experiment was a failure in showing that environment had a drastic influence. What it did show was the limitations.
Now what I imagine is the tricky part for you is raising your son to be fully engaged with his heritage and also living up to his potential. Here follows an unpolite line of thought - is it possible to do both? That's what I take away from the "Carleton" comment. We do know that African immigrants and Afro-Caribbean immigrants tend to perform to higher standards than African-American students. Why is that? I think we can exclude genetic factors for the moment and concentrate on differing environmental conditions. From the content of your writing I sense that you will soon have to prioritize cultural homogeneity against educational achievement. From your writing, I'm sure you have a good grasp of the dynamics involved.
You mention helping other children via Head start types of initiatives and I'm wondering if the positive influence that you can provide for a short period of time can overcome the remainder of the cultural influences that they pick up. I'm pessimistic on that front. Maybe content yourself with providing more engagement with LO where you know your influence in still paramount and can have a large and positive effect.
One of the issues I think you should start exploring is trying to determine how your son best learns his lessons. Studies in school systems show Black students perform to higher standards with didactic lessons rather than constructivist approaches. Perhaps this is because of the nature of the schools, the socio-cultural mix therein, or other factors. Whether this is repeatable within a home-schooled environment is a very good question. Nevertheless, I think it's important for all children to learn and master basics before they start discovering knowledge for themselves. One thing you may want to investigate is playing digit-span and reverse digit-span "games" with your son. Basically, they stretch the memory. You start by having him memorize a multi digit random number and repeating it back to you after he's memorized it. The reverse part comes in by his repeating the number in reverse order. This part of the task uses different brain functions than simple memory. As he gets accustomed to the "game" his brain is physically responding in how it grows and his time to memorize will decrease. Over time, years, the number of digits increases. What this means is that his memory can take in larger gulps of information. As the reverse digit span calculation increases, it means he can process more difficult calculations.
Anyways, good luck, keep writing because this is an interesting journey you're on. Also you've got probably less than a decade to stamp your influence on your son before the importance of his peers overwhelms your input. Read Judith Rich Harris' The Nurture Assumption for more information,
I taught my daughter to read with a book called "Teach your child to read in 100 easy lessons." It's a systematic phonics-based approach. I get the impression that you may consider it "boring" but it's extremely effective and very easy to use for both parent and child. I suggest you check it out.
Harold T. Peabody III
But, I gotta tell you, my Ma told me I learned to read from billboards and other commercial signage. And Sesame Street. There's so many different sources of written text out there.