The Secrets of Getting Good Grades

Don’t believe for a minute your children have to be geniuses to get mostly A’s and B’s. This is an absolute myth. What most kids need is a willingness to work hard, persistence in completing difficult tasks, self-discipline, a sense of responsibility and a focus on doing their best. As parents, you are the mentors who can instill in them these habits that lead to success in school.

You also are the ones whose involvement in their education is essential. It has been shown repeatedly that what families do to help their children learn is more important to their success in school than family income or education. To be involved, you will need to:
• Know what your children are doing at school. Talk with them each day about school. Look at all the work they bring home, whether they are in kindergarten or high school.
• Expect your children to do homework or school-related work every day for about 10 minutes for each year in school – starting in first grade.
• Show interest in your children’s education by attending as many school functions as you can.
• Handle academic difficulties and behavior problems when they first appear to resolve them quickly.
• Praise your children’s efforts so they know you are proud of the work they are doing in school.
• Help your children get organized so they arrive at school on time and ready to learn.

Q: My son will soon be starting kindergarten. He believes school will be a hard trial because he saw his sister doing so much homework this year in fourth grade. We’ve said it will be fun. What more can we do?
– Wondering

A: Your son is confusing what children are expected to do in kindergarten with what he saw his sister doing in fourth grade. Do you know any children who have just completed kindergarten or a kindergarten teacher who could describe the good experiences he will be having in kindergarten? If so, have him talk to them. This will give him a positive view of kindergarten. Also, if he could visit the kindergarten room, he would see all the fun things in the room. Plus, you should read to him books that describe what children do in kindergarten.

Q: My two children are both preschoolers. I am constantly talking to them and reading them lots of books. Still I’m worried about their being ready to read when they get to school. Are there signs that indicate the possibility of future reading problems?
-Avid Reader

A: Over time, most children are likely to become good readers. Nevertheless, it’s helpful for parents of young children to know the signs that their preschoolers could be potential candidates for reading difficulties so early help can be secured for them. The National Center for Learning Disabilities (NCLD) has developed a list of characteristics and traits indicative of future reading problems. Does your preschooler:
• Have a small vocabulary and/or slow vocabulary growth?
• Struggle with remembering sequences, such as numbers, alphabet, days of the week?
• Have difficulty pronouncing simple words and learning colors and shapes?
• Have difficulty understanding simple directions and following routines?
• Often get extremely restless and easily distracted, compared to peers?
• Have a hard time holding a crayon or pencil, picking up small objects with fingers, copying basic shapes?
• Strongly avoid certain activities, like storytelling and circle time?

Besides things to look for, there are things that you can do according to NCLD that will encourage your child to develop into a good reader. You should:
• Read to your children every day.
• Point out words and letters you find in your daily routines, while shopping or traveling through the neighborhood.
• Sing songs and share nursery rhymes.
• Go to the library and read books together.

For more information about your child’s early reading skills, visit NCLD’s “Get Ready to read Web site (www.getreadytoread.org) or www.dearteacher.com and search for “reading” under “preschool.”

Parents should send questions to dearteacher@dearteacher.com.