Archives For brain research

Maurice Sendak

The summer is a great time to learn how to help your child become a better reader. Three books offer great insights to help foster your child’s inherent desire to read:

2014 06 19 How Children SucceedWhat does it take to succeed against difficult odds? In How Children Succeed, Paul Tough focuses on real life stories from teachers working with children that have grit and character – the ability to achieve in tough situations confounded by poverty and parental neglect. By sharing these stories and current brain research, this book serves as a touchstone for teaching your child how to learn from failure and turn it into achievement. It emphasizes the powerful importance of your role as parent and teacher in nurturing character – and ultimately your child’s success

2014 05 whole brain childHow do you nurture your child’s developing mind? The Whole-Brain Child by Daniel Siegel offers 12 strategies that emphasize teaching brain integration – helping your child interpret her behavior better so that she can connect her emotions to her experiences. Seigel offers you a plan for helping develop your child’s thinking brain – so that she becomes skilled at using words to explain feelings. This book puts you in a great position to teach your child skills that will foster and develop emotional intelligence that is essential to having a full and successful life.

2014 05 20 Mindset Then New Psychology of SuccessMindset: The New Psychology of Success by Stanford University psychologist Carol Dweck emphasizes the importance of having a growth mindset. Through her research and experience, Dweck defines a person with a growth mindset as one who takes on challenges and views them as growth opportunities. For example, a child with a growth mindset will view failing a spelling test as opportunity to study harder next time to make a better grade. This book gives great ideas that you can use to help your child succeed by fostering a sense that not succeeding is not the end, but instead an opportunity to work hard to achieve to success. Additionally, Dweck offers great insights into the danger of praise and positive labeling with our children. According to Dweck, parents should focus praise on effort, “Wow! You got an A on your test. You must have studied hard!” …not on ability, “Wow! You got an A on your test. You’re so talented!”

These three books have inspired me as a parent and teacher.

What are some books you can recommend for parents and teachers to read this summer?

Click here to see my more in depth review of The Whole Brain Child

Click here to see my more in depth review of Mindset

Click here for my blog about the importance of grit and character

As your child’s school year ends, your child might begin to realize differences in her abilities compared to her peers. She might say, “I’m never going to be a good reader! All my other friends know how. I just can’t do it.”

2014 05 20 Mindset Then New Psychology of SuccessAfter listening to a great audio book called Mindset: the New Psychology of Success by Carol S. Dweck, I recognize the importance of our children having a growth mindset and believing in their abilities. With a growth mindset, children recognize that success is within their power. By working harder and smarter, they can change the outcomes in their life. As a reading specialist, teacher and parent, I see this with my students and own child. Something is challenging, so they think that they are just not smart or something is wrong with them. Without encouragement, they may decide that they can never overcome the challenge.

When teaching your child to become a reader you are also teaching her to become a lifelong learner. Learning to read is how she will expand her ability to learn.Your younger child may be just starting to learn the many rules of reading and spelling. You might reassure her, “Even though you didn’t do so well on your spelling test, you can work harder and study more and then do better on the next spelling test.” Your older child may have challenges, too. Maybe she did not do as well as she thought on her book report. You can remind her, “Now you know that it might take more than just one night to complete a satisfactory report.”

Through this conversation with your child, you are teaching her that she can learn and change her behavior. That is how the growth mindset works – your child realizing that she has the ability to change and grow though her efforts.

What are some examples of ways you have helped instill a growth mindset with your child?

2014 05 whole brain childThis week I am writing about a great audio book I just finished called whole brain child: 12 revolutionary strategies to nurture your child’s developing mind, survive everyday parenting struggles, and help your family thrive by Daniel Siegel. The book helps the reader understand the two parts of our brain labeled “emotional” and “thinking”. We learn how we can teach our children how to integrate the two parts.

You might be thinking, how does this relate to reading? In my experiences teaching children to read, the key is motivating them to want to read. To do this I have to work on the “emotional” part – essentially my students’ drive and inherent motivation to want to read – by helping my students regulate their behaviors throughout the reading process. Simply by staying focused and keeping their bodies quiet during my instruction, my students improve reading mastery.

Here are three examples of how to do this with your child:

2014 05 14 visual timer1.) One big component of reading instruction and reading is sustained reading attention. This is making sure your child is focused enough to be able to learn a concept or material. One way to get your child focused on reading and not worrying so much about how long she has been reading is to use a timer. Have your older child set it for 20 minutes and then read. Use a visual timer if your child is younger. Let her set it for just ten minutes. This gives your child some control over the time. The focus becomes the material and not on, “How much longer do I have to read?”

2.) Another key component of reading is listening and reading comprehension, particularly when your child begins to read longer materials such as novels or chapters in textbooks. Some children find being still for long periods of time very challenging. So, a way to help regulate the “emotional” brain and bring it back to the “thinking” brain is to let your child move after ten to fifteen minute intervals depending on your child’s needs and age. This might look like doing twenty jumping jacks or some yoga-like stretches – like downward dog. The key is to break up the time, get your child moving, and then back to reading.

2014 05 14 word families 23.) A third component of reading, especially when children are young or just learning to read, is remembering patterns when reading to be able to spell and read the words. You can help integrate the “emotional” brain with the “thinking” brain to make learning all the structures and rules of reading less overwhelming by creating “structures” for patterns in words. Charts which show word family patterns or sound rules can help your child learn the patterns in word that are essential to learning how to read.

By practicing these examples, your child can integrate the “emotional” part of the brain with the “thinking” part to help motivate reading and build an inherent love of reading.

What are ways you help regulate your child’s behaviors to help create a greater focus and motivation toward learning new skills?