Parents are partners in education
It can be easy to think that we send our children to school to learn, and that we don’t need to focus on educating them at home. Vinnie Reynolds said, “Parents as partners in education are critical to learning, especially before they even start school. The foundation we give them at home helps them to grow and progress on a much faster trajectory when they get into school.” The focus on education at home will help our children to have a foundation for learning so that they are able to assimilate the information they learn in school, and have a desire to keep learning.
This foundation for learning has a lot to do with how we talk to our children. We want them not only to think, but to think about thinking. This method of analyzing, or being aware of their thought process is called metacognition.
There are steps that parents can use to consciously teach their children as they read together
As you read together, ask your child all kinds of questions. Vinnie suggests questions like these, “Why? What does that mean? How did you get to that answer?” It’s important that you aren’t focusing on getting to one right answer, but letting them explore how and why the child got to that answer in the first place.
Children also learn to predict through the method of asking questions and discussing. This skill can be used in reading, and in many other situations. Use it at the grocery store. “Why did you choose the red pepper instead of the green pepper?” or when clothes shopping, “Why do you like that shirt?” Questioning your child allows them to go deeper into their own thought process and understand what they are thinking. Vinnie points out that it also allows you to understand your child better. These types of conversations help you to bond with your child.
Go back and repeat what your child said or read. This will help them to understand and pick out the main points. You can also ask your child to summarize things for you.
This skill can be used when reading books, especially longer or higher level books, but also in everyday settings. For example, when your child tells you about an incident that happened on the playground that day, you can repeat back, “So what you’re saying is…,” helping them to understand their own meaning and also to feel understood.
Making predictions is a skill that children can learn. Parents can help by pausing when reading and asking, “What do you think will happen next?” Discuss with your child why they think that. What clues were there that helped them understand what might happen?
Predicting and inferring are closely related. Vinnie points out, “Inference is especially important in reading. Inference is the ability to pick up on clues and make an educated guess as you read. This is a skill children can learn through asking questions.” As you continue to ask questions, children will become better at predicting what will happen next, both on the page and as a result of actions in their lives.
“Make it personal so they understand it more fully,” says Vinnie. She points out that it’s important to connect books to themselves and to the world around them. Books become an amazing vehicle for growth when we implement them into our thoughts and actions. When children see that what is happening on the page relates to what is happening in their life, they are able to put the written word into action. That is how they truly learn from books and make them a part of their lives.
Using these four steps as we read with our children will help to prepare our children to think, to be more self aware, and to be empowered to continue to grow.