Sunday, 14 February 2016

The Benefits of Recreational Reading

I've recently rediscovered the pleasure of recreational reading. At Christmas, knowing that I was headed out on a long air journey with limited luggage space, my wife gave me an e-reader. It proved to be invaluable, helping to pass long hours in the sky and at airports. I'd always enjoyed reading as a recreational past time. Finding the time and packing the books has become a challenge in recent years. I've taken to carrying my e-book, with its small light profile and easy access to online libraries with me, and I am really enjoying the benefits of a recharging recreational read in those moments where previously I was just hurrying up to wait.

The National Library of New Zealand in an online post Reading For Pleasure - A Door to Success clearly identifies recreational reading as a valuable 21st Century Skill. It points out that "Adolescents entering the adult world in the 21st C will need to read and write more than at any other time in human history. They will need advanced levels of literacy to perform their jobs, run their households, act as citizens, and conduct their personal lives. They will need literacy to cope with the flood of information they will find everywhere they turn. They will need literacy to feed their imaginations, so they can create the world of the future. In a complex, and sometimes dangerous world, the ability to read can be crucial."International Reading Association, ( Moore et al, 1999, p3 as cited by Clark & Rumbold, 2006).  Other benefits of reading for fun include stimulated creativity and imagination, improved physical and mental health and increased empathy and social skills. Ironically, taking time for oneself better equips us to deal with others.

Recreational reading is also valuable for families. The website Early Moments provides an excellent list of ten reasons identifying benefits for families that read with, and to, one another. Key amongst these are strengthened bonds between parent and children, improved concentration and communication skills and an improved ability to self regulate and acclimate to new or different circumstances and environments. Starting early is key. Reading to toddlers and preschoolers makes reading a positive experience, one children are more likely to view as a fun indulgence rather than a painful chore later in life. Reading together is good for everyone. It provides parents a pleasant and calming timeout, and an opportunity to model life long learning to children who come to associate reading with positive feelings and outcomes.

Sadly , with so many distractions and other sources of mental stimulation present in our lives, recreational reading has been on the decline.  A 2012 OECD survey indicated that the rate of recreational reading was decreasing by as much as 5% per year in many western countries and that the rate of decline increases with age and is higher in males than females. I'll be doing my part to reverse the trend by keeping my e-reader charged, loaded and available. Whether on line or in print, getting in a good read can assist us all in ensuring education matters are both fun and informative.

Monday, 8 February 2016

The Power of Positive Relations

BC's Family Day falls near the mid point of the school year, and provides a great opportunity to look at the topic of the partnership that needs to exist between school and home.  Parents are a child's first teachers, and the influence they have on their children's learning remains powerful from that first day of kindergarten right through to a student's last day of classes. Finding better ways for home and school to work together is therefore in the best interests of everyone .

In  The Home-School Team: An Emphasis on Parent Involvement Edutopia points out that "students  thrive when their parents become part of the classroom".  The article points out that  "children learn best when the significant adults in their lives -- parents, teachers, and other family and community members -- work together to encourage and support them".  It further suggests that such partnerships should be a guiding principle when considering how schools should be organized and how children should be taught. Parental input is vital through out a student's school career. Despite years of training, good intentions and a well developed curriculum,  teaching cannot, in and of itself, fully address all of a child's needs. The meaningful involvement of parents and community support are essential too.

But parents are sometimes wary of the role schools expect them to play. At our monthly SUP-PAC meetings, I frequently hear from parents who want to have a supportive role in their students' education, but are sometimes fearful that changes to the curriculum or structure of schools will lead to them having to take on too much of a role, or actively teach at home subjects and materials that they prefer to trust to the professional teachers. In turn teachers can also have concerns about the home/school partnership. As Rick Lavoie suggests in his article The Teachers Role in Home School Communication finding the right balance can be "be challenging, time consuming and frustrating… but well worth the effort.".  Lavoie points out that the relationship needs to be based on an understanding of shared responsibility, and mutual care for the success of the students. As Lavoie puts it " Before parents will care about what teachers know - they have to know that teachers care".

Parent and Child Magazine summarizes the home school partnership very well, identifying how  successful learning at school is often supported by what parents do at home. A student's education  is impacted in no small part by the instruction they receive, the effort they put in, and the relationships they and their parents establish with their teachers. Schools building effective relationships with students AND their parents are instrumental in improving the quality of the educational experience for everyone. A relationship built upon mutual respect, clear communication and authentic opportunities to share, listen and help can guarantee that education matters to all.