Children who read at home with their parents perform better in school. Show your kids how much you value reading by keeping good books, magazine, and newspapers in the house. Let them see you read. Take them on trips to the library and encourage them to get library cards. Let children read to you, and talk about the books. What was the book about? Why did a character act that way? What will he or she do next?
Look for other ways to teach children the magic of language, words, and stories. Tell stories to your children about their families and their culture. Point out words to children wherever you go -- to the grocery, to the pharmacy, to the gas station. Encourage your children to write notes to grandparents and other relatives.
Academic achievement drops sharply for children who watch more than 10 hours of television a week, or an average of more than two hours a day. Parents can limit the amount of viewing and help children select educational programs. Parents can also watch and discuss shows with their kids. This will help children understand how stories are structured.
Studies show that successful students have parents who create and maintain family routines. Make sure your child goes to school every day. Establish a regular time for homework each afternoon or evening, set aside a quiet, well lit place, and encourage children to study. Routines generally include time performing chores, eating meals together, and going to bed at an established time.
"The American family is the rock on which a solid education can be built. I have seen examples all over this nation where two-parent families, single parents, stepparents, grandparents, aunts, and uncles are providing strong families support for their children to learn. If families teach the love of learning, it can make all the difference in the world to their children."
Richard W. Riley
U.S. Secretary of Education
Talk directly to your children, especially your teenagers, about the dangers of drugs and alcohol and the values you want them to have. Set a good example. And listen to what your children have to say. Such personal talks, however uncomfortable they may make you feel, can save their lives.
You can communicate to your children the importance of setting and meeting challenges in school. Tell your children that working hard and stretching their minds in the only way for them to realize their full potential. Expect and encourage your children to take tough academic courses like geometry, chemistry, computer technology, a second language, art, and advanced occupational courses. Make sure they never settle for doing less than their best.
Your school should have clear, challenging standards for what students should know. For example, what reading, writing and math skills is your child expected to have by fourth grade? By eighth and twelfth grades? What about history, science, the arts, geography, and other languages? Are responsibility and hard work recognized? If your school doesn't have high standards, join with teachers, principals, and other parents to set these standards.
Parents cannot afford to wait for schools to tell them how children are doing. Families who stay informed about their children's progress at school have higher-achieving children. To keep informed, parents can visit the school or talk with teachers on the telephone. Get to know the names of your children's teachers, principals, and counselors.
Parents can also work with schools to develop new ways to get more involved. Families can establish a homework hotline, volunteer on school planning and decision-making committees, help create family resource centers, serve as mentors, and even help patrol school grounds.
Activities sponsored by community and religious organizations provide opportunities for children and other family members to engage in positive social and learning experiences. Family- oriented community resources may include health care services, housing assistance, adult education, family literacy, and employment counseling. Families can reinforce their children's learning by going to libraries, museums, free concerts, and cultural fairs together.
Sounds like common sense, doesn't it?
Yet parental involvement is one of the most overlooked aspects of American education today. The fact is, many parents don't realize how important it is to get involved in their children's learning. As one dad said when he began to read to his daughter ever day and discovered that it improved her learning, "I never realized how much it would mean to her to hear me read." Other parents would like to be involved, but have trouble finding the time.
All parents and family members should try to find the time and make the effort because research shows that when families get involved, their children:
Family involvement is also one of the best investments a family can make. Students who graduate from high school earn, on average, $200,000 more in their lifetimes than students who drop out. College graduate makes almost $1 million more!
Most important of all, ALL parents and families can enjoy these benefits. It doesn't matter how much money you have. It doesn't matter how much formal education you've had yourself or how well you did in school. And family involvement works for children at all grade levels.
It's a lot of different types of activities. Some parents and families may have the time to get involved in many ways. Other may only have the time for one or two activities. But whatever your level of involvement, remember: If you get involved and stay involved, you can make a world of difference.
Family involvement in education can mean: Reading a bedtime story to your preschool child...checking homework every night...getting involved in PTA...discussing your children's progress with teachers...voting in school board elections...helping your school to set challenging academic standards...limiting TV viewing to no more than two hours on school nights...getting personally involved in governing your school...becoming an advocate for better education in your community and state...and insisting on high standards of behavior for children.
Or, family involvement can be as simple as asking your children, "How was school today?" But ask every day. That will send your children the clear message that their schoolwork is important to you and you expect them to learn.
Many children and parents are yearning for this kind of togetherness these days. Among student aged 10 to 13, for example, 72 percent say they would like to talk to their parents more about their homework. Forty percent of parents across the country believe that they are not devoting enough time to their children's education. And teachers say that increasing parental involvement in education should be the number one priority for public education in the next few years.
"Parents who know their children's
teachers and help with the homework
and teach their kids right from wrong --
these parents can make all the difference."
-- President Bill Clinton
State of the Union Address
The Family Involvement Partnership for Learning includes over 100 family, education business, community, and religious organizations nationwide.
For more information call one of the partners, the U.S. Department of Education, at 1-800-USA-LEARN or write to:
Family Involvement Partnership for Learning
600 Independence Avenue, SW
Washington, DC 20202-8173
When you contact us, ask to receive a copy of the helpful booklet Preparing Your Child for College.
Last Update: 10/4/98
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