Preparing for the First Day of School

Posted: August 20, 2013 in Uncategorized
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The first day of school is here and it’s time to go through the checklist to make sure my child is prepared. Backpack? Check. Pencils? Check. Erasers? Check. Able to read? Huh? Why does my child need to be able to read before he starts school? Isn’t that what school is for?

What Difference Can it Make? The Point of Being Prepared

“Before anything else, preparation is the key to success.” Alexander Graham Bell

I like to use the example of a child joining a team sport, like baseball, because it explains the value of being prepared. When I was young I wanted to play Little League Baseball, but my step-dad wasn’t into sports so we never played catch. The kids who are good at throwing and catching get to be first string. Kids like me get to warm the bench. Seeing how good the other kids were, I realized I wasn’t. And the coach and other players knew it, too. Hearing my teammates groan when it was my turn at bat didn’t help. Every time I struck out was proof that I wasn’t any good at baseball. I showed up at practices and games, but I wasn’t having fun like the other kids.

Imagine this story being about a child going to school, but he doesn’t need to know how to throw and catch; he needs to know how to read. What happens for the child who doesn’t read well, if he reads at all? Imagine you are that kid. When the teacher calls on you to read out loud in class (in front of a crowd of kids that may or may not be your friends), there is that feeling of your heart jumping into your throat as you feel every eye looking at you. It’s bad enough that you stumble and struggle over words you’ve never seen before. It’s even worse when you mess up badly and the other kids laugh. They’re probably laughing out of nervousness, afraid that they will be next. But you think they are laughing at you. You are finally allowed to sit down with a feeling of complete humiliation. You believe you are stupid, and now everybody else knows it, too.

In school we all get judged. On the first day of first grade, children are checking each other out to find out who is smart and who is dumb. And judgments are made. The other kids are going to judge your child; the teacher is going to judge your child; and your child is going to judge himself. And once your child decides he isn’t smart and is no good at reading, that is when you have a problem that is extremely hard to undo. Once a person (even a child) believes something bad about himself, it is really hard to change his mind. When are kids giving up on reading? As early as second or third grade.

Here’s What Can Happen if Your Child is Prepared for School

Imagine how different the story would be if your child showed up at school already knowing how to read well. Not books about cats in funny hats, but books like The Hobbit by Tolkien. Imagine your child getting called to read and he breezes through it. The other kids are going to judge him. But this time they are thinking how smart he is. And the teacher writes in the permanent record file how your child is an exceptional reader. He sits down after rocking the reading test and thinks, “Yup. I guess I’m smart.” Imagine how different his school experience is going to be compared to the kids who weren’t prepared for the game. What difference does preparation make? All the difference in the world.

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