I began reading to Baby Bop while I fed him his bottle. He would tolerate it as long as he was drinking. To keep his attention, I would point out the objects in the pictures that went along with the text. It was quite a laborious process.
From this experience, I became aware of all the little things that parents do (or don't do) that effect brain development of their children and their long term consequences.
Over time and with substantial effort, Baby Bop began to show more interest in books. Fast forward to today and it is quite another picture. Books, books, books. He can't get enough of books.
Baby Bop made two steps recently on the pathway to reading. He is now able to listen and following a story line without pictures. We've added books on tape at bedtime in addition to our regular bedtime/story time routine. We started with the Magic Tree House series from the library. Listening to books above a child's reading or speaking level is a great way to building vocabulary and more sophisticated grammar usage.
A few days ago, we crossed into another new realm. Our nap time routine goes something like this. I read 3+ picture books to Baby Bop while he sits on my lap. He then gets into his bed and I read aloud from a variety of books. The rule is that I will read as long as he doesn't move too much and keeps his head down. We've learned from experience that Baby Bop will quickly go to sleep if we can get him to stop moving.
Yesterday he lay quietly in the bed with the covers over his head, but I could see that his head wasn't completely down. I asked him to put his head down. A few minutes later I would notice that his head was back up. I repeated this process three or more times, but he still wasn't going to sleep.
I was puzzled why Baby Bop's head lay in such an odd position. Finally, I pulled back the covers to find that Baby Bop had two books under the blanket that he was "reading." This reminded me of the covert reading habits (flashlight under the covers or a towel on the floor to block the light under the door) of my other children.
This morning while I ran an errand with my oldest daughter, I told her about "what cute thing Baby Bop did yesterday." Her response was, "He is so one of us."
From our experience, I know that a love of books can be nurtured in any child. However, I don't know how you do it well in an institutional setting. It is a 24/7 type lifestyle. That is one of the reasons why universal preschool, Sesame Street or full day kindergarten will not erase the educational divide. It takes a family to educate a child.
This reminds me of something I read in School Figures: The Data Behind the Debate. A study by Caroline Hoxby (Chapter 6: Students and their families) found that
"....the combined explanatory power of school input variables and neighborhood variables (such as the education, income, and racial composition of the local population) do not come close to matching that of family background variables."
In other words, (surprise-surprise) family is the greatest determining factor for educational achievement.
If schools want to increase academic performance of children (which is debatable and something for another post), educational remedies should begin and be directed by the parents. In a real sense, all schools should be parent co-ops, not daycare centers.
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