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Summer Arts Programs: Fun and Educational

  • Written by NWAC

When looking for summer programs for children, many people try to find something fun that will fill the out-of-school time so children (and parents) get a break from the school routine. Numerous studies, however, acknowledge that those few months out of the classroom can be a time when children lose skills and knowledge. Summer arts programs help bridge the gap between summer fun and enhancing academic skills.

The Northwest Art Center, a non-profit organization that offers visual arts programs for children, youth, and adults, provides year-round art education programs that give students a solid grounding in the fundamentals of art while incorporating fun and creative expression. Summer programming happens for children ages 3 through 17.

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Parenting tips to help young children love to read

  • Written by BPT

Children are energetic learners, trying to make sense of the world around them. One of the most important activities to help a child stretch his mind, especially in the early years, is reading. From birth to age 5, development in all areas of the brain is rapid, so it is especially important during this time that parents make an intentional effort to integrate reading into a child’s daily routine. This practice helps mold your child into an active reader and establishes the foundational literacy skills he needs for future success in school and life.
“The first five years of life offer a critical window for brain development and learning,” said Anne-Marie Fitzgerald, executive director of Reach Out and Read, an evidence-based, national nonprofit whose pediatricians promote early literacy and school readiness to 4 million children nationwide. By reading aloud and talking to their children from birth, parents can play a key role in helping their little ones develop essential foundational language skills and eventually, arrive at kindergarten ready to read, learn, and succeed. Learning does not begin on the first day of school; it begins in the home with engaged parents who take the time to share stories, words and a love of reading with their children.”

While picking up a book and reading to your child may seem like a simple act, many children miss this benefit. A 3-year-old child’s vocabulary should span about 600 words with 80 percent intelligibility.

This means that a person who has not previously heard this child speak can understand eight out of 10 words. Providing children with a solid foundation in literacy skills not only equips them to thrive in the 21st century, it also impacts our country’s ability to compete in the global workplace.

“The future of our children and our country depend on coordinated community efforts to prepare all students in the U.S. to excel in a dynamic, global society,” says Jo Kirchner, president and CEO of Primrose Schools, a family of more than 270 private preschools across the country. “Together we have a responsibility to step up to the challenge by pooling our knowledge, time, expertise and ideas to improve early literacy and education outcomes.”

Raising a reader

As you read aloud to your child, keep these tips in mind to maximize your reading time together:

• Start early. Begin reading and speaking to your child the day she is born – it is never too early to start.

• Practice every day. Make reading with your child a daily routine, reinforcing the development of language and literacy skills.

• Serve and return. A key part of language learning occurs in “conversations” with our children. After a baby listens to people around her talking for a few months, she begins to respond with her own rendition of those sounds, starting with coos, babbles, or shrieks. Dr. Jack Shonkoff of the Center on the Developing Child at Harvard University calls this back-and-forth interaction “serve and return.” As we “serve” words, children “return” sounds. Before we realize, the child is beginning to speak intelligibly and meaningfully – first with syllables and single words, then with phrases and complete sentences. Use “serve and return” when reading together as your child starts to learn about story background and context.

• Play word games. Letter puzzles, rhyming games, breaking words into sounds, and other phonological play helps your child build a foundation that will later be used to decode words.

• Have a conversation. While you are reading a book with your child, engage in conversation about the characters, the plot, the setting, and ask your child questions. This offers him an opportunity to build his vocabulary and comprehension skills.

• Pick books at the appropriate reading level. When your child is reading to you, pick books that have words that your child is familiar with – repetition is one of the best ways to learn. Books at or just below your child’s reading level allow her to work on fluency and build confidence. When you are reading to your child, pick books at a higher reading level so that your child hears new words in context first, before being presented with the challenge of reading them himself.

• Wait before interrupting. Rather than correcting your child mid-sentence, wait until he comes to a comfortable stopping point and then go back to the trouble spot to talk it out together. Stopping your child to correct him each time he makes a mistake can erode his confidence.

Maximizing your child’s learning with technology

  • Written by BPT

A practice that was once frowned upon, many schools are now encouraging students to bring their own tablets, smartphones and notebook computers into the classroom to improve student learning opportunities. With the rise of Bring Your Own Device (BYOD) programs, many parents are wondering how they can ensure their child has the most appropriate technology to help them succeed. The upcoming holiday season is a great opportunity to find the right device for your child.

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Growing number of parents turn to police

  • Written by BPT

As more people become aware of the harmful consequences of cyber- bullying, parents are more likely to report cyberbullying incidents directly to their local police than local school officials.

That’s the finding of a new national survey of 642 American parents conducted by the Fraud Prevention and Investigations business unit of Thomson Reuters.

According to the survey, 36 percent of parents would turn to law enforcement first if they learned that their child was the victim of cyberbullying threats and attacks versus 29 percent of parents who said they would go to their local school officials.

One reason that parents may hesitate going to their local school officials is that 30 percent of parents surveyed didn’t know if their child’s school has a policy to address cyberbullying.

Cyberbullying is defined as bullying that takes place using electronic technology, according to stopbullying.gov, a website managed by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. Cyberbullying can take many forms – hurtful messages or embarrassing photos posted on social media sites, harassing text messages and e-mails, and private information purposefully shared through text messages, email or through the Internet.

The issue has become a priority for parents surveyed, of which 50 percent indicated that they are very concerned about the rise in cyber- bullying.

Today, more than 80 percent of teens use a cellphone regularly, making it the most common tool among cyber bullies, according to dosomething.org. The presence of teens on social media sites has only compounded the issue, blurring the lines between a schoolyard problem and a law enforcement concern.

In a related survey of U.S. law enforcement professionals conducted by Thomson Reuters in conjunction with PoliceOne.com, 48 percent of law enforcement agencies report that time spent investigating cyberbullying, bullying and school violence has dramatically increased over the past two years. Yet, most law enforcement agencies feel ill-equipped to effectively investigate these cases, with 76 percent reporting that training to handle cyber- bullying complaints has been insufficient.

While parents may trust law enforcement officials more than school officials with handling cyberbullying incidents involving their children, 68 percent of the law enforcement professionals surveyed said that they work to foster stronger relationships with school officials and/or principals to prevent or deter cyberbullying.

"Though cyber bullying is a challenging issue for students, parents, school officials and law enforcement, these statistics suggest that people want to work together to understand the issue, protect kids from cyberbullying, and help kids understand the serious consequences of participating in cyber- bullying," says Jason Thomas, manager of Innovation for Thomson Reuters.

Addressing Key Frustrations With Your Child

  • Written by Maren Stark Schmidt

"If life is a bowl of cherries, why am I in the pits?" The late Erma Bombeck knew how to see the humor in day-to-day reality.

Maintaining a positive and forward moving life is a challenge to say the least.  Life has a way of helping us misplace our sense of humor in a hurry. Some days the sailing is smooth with fluffy breezes, while on others we might have to restrain ourselves from self-inflicted baldness.

In our efforts to fix problems, we might be best served by stepping back and examining our frustrations. Instead of trying to affix blame by saying "that’s your fault’ or "that’s my fault," we need to understand why the problem occurred.  Let’s ask instead,  "What is causing this frustration?"

Consider what is going on at the moment you feel frustrated and jot it in a notebook. I used to keep a slip of paper in my pocket to capture those instances then transfer my annoyances to a notebook. These incidents included people being late for appointments, telephone interruptions, spilled foods, children squabbling, stopping an activity to prepare snacks, etc.  I’d record the day, time and event in my notebook and any other issues that I thought might be of value.  

Noting these rough spots helped me ascertain the true causes and effects later, as a pattern began to emerge.

After noting problems for a couple of weeks I was able to determine the design of most of my frustrations.  Looking at my notes I asked, "Are certain events more common at a certain time of day, on specific days or with predictable people or activities?"

When I am able to pick out common elements and themes, it becomes clear what needs to change. 

When my daughters were about three and four, one of my major frustrations was bedtime. Most nights the girls would go to bed without too many delays. 

Except for the nights that my children seemed to have had a cup of espresso for dinner. There were tears about the lights being turned off.  They needed a glass of water.  Or to go to the bathroom.  They were hungry. They wanted another story, another song, another prayer. They were too hot.  Too cold.  They couldn’t find their teddybear.  They heard a strange noise.  The neighbor’s light bothered them. One of them hit the other one.

On those nights I didn’t know what to do. Whatever I did, bedtime was anything but restful, and it felt like it was my fault. Surely, I was doing something wrong.

When I looked over my frustration notebook, I discerned a design. The nights that the girls were reluctant sleepers were the nights that their dad was out of town, back from a trip, had called to tell them goodnight, or arrived home for the evening 30 minutes before bedtime. Ah! Hah! My daughters’ nocturnal activities were directed toward trying to secure "daddy time." 

Once I saw the pattern, I was able to anticipate my daughters’ need for "daddy time" and work with my husband to coordinate phone calls and arrival times. On the nights my husband was out of town, the girls and I spent a few minutes drawing a picture for him, or I’d tell a special "daddy" story.

Looking in my notebook I found that my daughters’ disruptions weren’t their fault or my fault, or even my husband’s fault. I saw that if we couldn’t have a bowl of cherries, we could have at least have a "chair of bowlies."  We didn’t have to settle for the pits.

Next week: Leave It Ready For The Next Person

Kids Talk TM is a column dealing with childhood development issues written by Maren Stark Schmidt.  Ms. Schmidt founded a Montessori school and holds a Masters of Education from Loyola College in Maryland. She has over twenty-five years experience working with children and holds teaching credentials from the Association Montessori Internationale.  Contact her at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. .  Visit MarenSchmidt.com.  Copyright 2013.