Not a teacher? You can still help your children learn

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There is one constant that will never change. Parents and grandparents (I add them because so many kids are being raised by an extended family these days) have to read often to babies, toddlers and pre-schooler’s. That works whether you read from a physical book, a Kindle or an iPad. Talk about words, how they sound, what they mean, how they convey information and meaning. Then, have lots of reading material around the house and encourage your child to pick them up and read themselves. Allow time each day for “quiet reading,” away from the television set or video game.

The Common Core standards have changed the game slightly. Rather than reading “literature,” students are going to be asked to read non-fiction and primary source material. For example, younger kids might be asked to read, “A Tree is a Plant,” to learn not only to synthesize material, but to learn something about science as well. Parents should make sure that from an early age, their children have access not only to chapter books, but to non-fiction books as well.

That brings us to the skill that students have to develop of using evidence from a reading piece to support a conclusion that they have to come to. You can get them acquainted with the skill by asking them to defend their position, to give evidence, while sitting around the kitchen table eating a family meal. If there is a subject your child is really interested in, ask them their opinion of something involved in that subject and then ask them to write a paragraph or two defending their opinion. You can even use historical fiction to hone the skills necessary. For example, the book “Johnny Tremain,” a fictional story about a youth who lived in Boston during the events leading up to the Revolutionary War. The book is appropriate for pre-teens and teens. While the information is historically correct, and your children can learn about that period by reading the books, it also allows for lots of discussion and opinion that will lead to involved writing assignments that necessitate thought and using “evidence” from what they have read.

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