I read an interesting book last night, The Smartest Kids in the World and How They Got That Way by Amanda Ripley. While I'm drawn to books about education, I always approach them with a little trepidation because the theories and worldview behind them can be all over the board. This one turned out to be interesting, if only from an anthropological point of view. The author looks at three countries whose children scored extremely well on the Program for International Student Assessment or PISA. The interesting twist is that she follows three US exchange students as they get a front seat view into the schools of Finland, South Korea, and Poland. I didn't agree with everything the author espoused, but it was fascinating to see into the schools of other countries.
There was one interesting bit that I thought worth sharing here.
"Parents who read to their children weekly or daily when they were young raised children who scored twenty-five points higher on PISA by the time they were fifteen years old. That was almost a full year of learning. More affluent parents were more likely to read to their children almost everywhere, but even among families within the same socioeconomic group, parents who read to their children tended to raise kids who scored fourteen points higher on PISA. By contrast, parents who regularly played with alphabet toys with their young children saw no such benefit.
At least one high-impact form of parental involvement did not actually involve kids or schools at all: If parents simply read for pleasure at home on their own, their children were more likely to enjoy reading, too. That pattern held fast across very different countries and different levels of family income. Kids could see what parents valued, and it mattered more than what parents said." (from chapter 6; Drive)
Our children are watching us. Our children are looking to see if what we say has any impact on our we live our own lives. If we tell our children reading is important, then they will watch to see if it is really important enough for us to do it. "Do as I say and not as I do" just doesn't cut it. Our children know what we really believe simply by watching us.
If what we say and what we actually do do not match up, our children will take the action over the words in their search for the truth. If we tell our children not to be picky eaters, but are picky ourselves, what are they going to believe? If we tell our children that faith and God are important, yet they see no evidence of belief or obedience in our lives, what are they going to think? If we say we should treat everyone with respect and not yell at others, yet that is exactly what we do when angry, how are they going to act?
It is an awesome responsibility to be a parent. It is also humbling because often the negative traits we see in our children which drive us nuts are very likely the ones that we also have, but just can't face. The next time you find yourself telling your children what is really important, be sure that you actually believe it yourself.
I have to say, I also love the above excerpt because it justifies my little reading habit. I love having someone tell me that I am furthering my children's well-being and education merely by indulging in one of my personal pleasures.
Go read something. You can't say I haven't given you plenty of ideas over the past week or so.