Nocturnal Lives

Musings from the mind of Amanda S. Green – Mother, Writer, Possessed by Cats

Tag: children

Bedtime reading and more

There are times when I wonder if I’m still asleep and everything going on around me is some weird dream brought on by the three day old pizza I had before going to bed. If that were the case, at least it would explain some of the idiocy going on around us. Really, guys, those times make me wonder why I bother writing novels when reality is so, well, unreal. An article I saw yesterday falls into that category.

“THE ABC has questioned whether parents should read to their children before bedtime, claiming it could give your kids an “unfair advantage” over less fortunate children.”

Yes, you read that right. Now read it again. Did your head explode? Mine sure did. Especially when I saw that it was followed up with this piece of idiocy, “Is having a loving family an unfair advantage?”

It seems there is this British “academic” by the name of Adam Swift who believes that there is a bigger difference between those who are regularly read bedtime stories and those who aren’t than there is between those who get to go to exclusive schools and those who don’t. But it was the reaction of the presenter, one Joe Gelonesi, that really got me.

“This devilish twist of evidence surely leads to a further conclusion that perhaps — in the interests of levelling the playing field — bedtime stories should also be restricted.”

When contacted by another news organization, Gelonesi tried to justify what he said — and frankly the entire interview — as a way of getting attention for the uneven playing field. But — and this, to me is the most telling — he admitted that they hadn’t even discussed the possibility of encouraging more parents to read to their kids. I guess it is just easier to tell folks they are being bad and mean by reading to their kids.

Talk about moving the bar down to the lowest common denominator instead of raising it.

And yes, I know there will be those who condemn me for my privileged view point. Screw ’em. The truth of the matter is, the further we lower our expectations, the worse things will be in the long run for us. How far have we slipped when it comes to how well our kids do against school aged children from other countries? How badly do many of our college students do when compared to their counterparts elsewhere? What happened to the U. S. being at the cutting edge of technological developments?

Instead of pushing our kids, we are coddling them. We focus more on how well they do on standardized tests than on teaching them how to think critically. We coddle them to the point where they face few, if any consequences, for their actions in school or at home (this is an over-generalization but you get my point). And now we have someone, even if only half-serious, suggesting that we take away one of the best bonding times parents have with their children as they grow.

Give me a break.

Parents, ignore the stupidity. Set the example for your kids. Read to them. Let them see you reading in your spare time. Talk to them about what you and they have read. Talk to them about what is happening in the world around them. Take an interest in their lives and their friends. Do not fall into the trap of believing we will all be better off if Big Brother takes over parenting.

coverI guess this really hit me because of a conversation I was having yesterday morning with some friends. We have been hit over the head so much recently about “privilege” and other buzz words that I found myself second-guessing the opening chapters of Sword of Arelion (Sword of the Gods Book 1). You can see, if you read the snippets I’ve posted on this blog or if you read the sample on Amazon, that it starts like any number of other books do. Someone is in peril and needs help getting out of it. Nothing new, right?

Except I make the horrible mistake, in the eyes of a certain group of so-called enlightened people, of having the character in peril be female who is saved by a male. Gasp! How dare I?

No, the real problem is that all their yelling and screaming and condemning of all things male made me stop and think twice about what I was writing. I have never before done that and I swear I never will again. That particular plot thread was what the story required. But I’m pissed at myself for even thinking about changing it.

And all because of the mass condemnations and stupidity that comes from the mouths of some of the progressives. No, we aren’t all equal. We never will be. We each have our own talents and our own weaknesses. If you want to be equal, you might as well make us all automatons.

As for reading to your kids being a sign of privilege or whatever, bullshit. I know more lower and middle class parents who make the time to read to their kids than upper class. Sure, those with less money might have fewer books in their homes but they do such revolutionary things like go to the library to check books out. They find a way. As every parent should. If you work at night and can’t be there to read at bedtime, you can record yourself reading to your child. Or you read with them at another time during the day. It is the taking of time to be with your kid and share a story with them that counts, not the time of day that you do it.

So, ignore the idiots who say you are doing a disservice to some unnamed person somewhere in the world at some point in the past, present or future and worry about your kid. Sure, teach your kid about things like service and charity, responsibility and honor. But do not hinder your kid for some idiotic philosophical idea.

Read to your kids. Read for your own education and entertainment. Read.


Raising boys

You can thank Yahoo and a link I saw there much too early this morning for this post. (Of course, now I can’t find the link.) It was with a great deal of trepidation that I clicked on the link. Anything that basically says “Here are X-number of rules for raising boys” sets off my internal alarms. As the mother of a grown son, I’ve already raised my “boy” and, if I do say so myself, he didn’t turn out badly at all. Still, I am always curious to see what the current thought is.

For the most part, the advice was solid — and could be applied to boys or girls. I’ll try to remember each of the points, or at least most of them. Of course, my own opinions will be added.

1. There will be bathroom problems.

Well duh. There are always potty training problems with kids. Some will fight bring potty trained. Others will take to it like a gem but will have accidents because they refuse to go anywhere but their own potty. Still others will forget to go and will then strip off their training pants/diapers and go commando. Their poor parent won’t know it until they get flashed or they find — usually by stepping on it barefoot — the discarded wet, or worse, diaper. Sure there are a few boy-only issues but they are to be expected.

2. Boys won’t automatically love to read.

Again, duh, but that applies to both boys and girls. Most children need to have the love of reading modeled for them. If they see their parents reading, if their parents read to them on a regular basis and if reading is framed as something that is fun, boys will love to read just as much as girls do. To imply that boys automatically don’t love to read, or that they love to read less than girls do, is to paint with much too broad a brush.

Now, as boys get older and start looking for books that interest them, well, that’s where another problem might arise. There simply aren’t as many good books for boys, especially middle grade boys, as there are for girls. Then there is the fact that most books being pushed by schools right now are all about the current issue or social stance du jour. Boys, usually, want the derring-do or books about heroes they can identify with. Beyond that, most kids don’t want to read to be depressed or to have a negative world painted for them. Heck, most adults don’t want that.

3. Find an outlet for competition.

Once again, this applies to girls as well as boys. This simply illustrates my problem with lists like this. They make it seem like boys are the only ones who are competitive. Far from it. So, as parents — even as teachers — we have to find a way to channel that competition in ways that will help the child mature and learn to deal with victories as well as defeats.

4. Teach a boy to be compassionate — by letting him play with dolls.

Ooo-kay, this is where my head exploded. My first thought was, “Sure, let little Junior play with dolls and see how often he gets picked on at school.” My second was that was not the way to teach compassion. You teach it by modeling it for you child, boy or girl. You show through your actions and words what it is to care for yourself and for others. You set the example and, when you see your child not behaving in a compassionate manner, you let him know what he did wrong and what the proper response should have been. Simply putting a doll in your child’s hands — again, boy or girl — and letting them play will not teach compassion.

5. Don’t fret over toy guns.

Thank you! At last a note of reason. Toy guns can be used as a teaching opportunity as well. It gives you a chance to talk to your child about proper gun handling and safety, etc. You can teach them the proper respect for a firearm. Hell, let’s face it, we didn’t have generations of mass murderers that almost killed off our species because they played with make-believe guns or other weapons. It’s a modern concern, a false concern in my mind.

6. Don’t buy into the “boys will be boys” excuse.

I’m torn on this one. Yes, boys will be boys in that most are more active and often more “adventurous” than a lot of girls. But excusing bad behavior simply because he’s a boy doesn’t work, at least not with me. However, we do have to recognize that boys are different from girls. Oooh, I know, I know. We aren’t supposed to admit that but it is the truth and I, for one, am glad.

There were others but I can’t remember them right now.

Look, the best way to raise your son is to model good behavior for them. Be there for them. Talk to them and read to them and teach them that there are consequences to their actions. That latter is especially important since our schools, including our colleges, are failing where that is concerned.

Parents, set the example

Cedar Sanderson’s post over at Mad Genius Club this morning really hit home with me. Part of it is because she writes about a topic near and dear to my heart — children and reading. Another part is because it ties in with a conversation I had with some of my fellow library friends members at our meeting Thursday night. Then there were the articles about the “School of No” in New York where a series of articles by the NY Post about the lack of text books — as in no math or English text books, iirc — a failure to hire substitute teachers and an absentee principal finally brought down investigators from the Department of Education and even then it is alleged the principal failed to hire subs.

All of this brought back some terrible memories of my son’s third grade and how one teacher came close to forever killing his love of reading. That year was followed closely in the annals of school years I came to hate by my son’s fifth grade year where the principal decided it was more important to cancel the gifted and talented classes — without telling parents — so teachers could devote more time teaching to the test so the principal looked better in the eyes of the administrators. The only reason I found out was my son came home and said something and I, being the concerned parent, went up the next day and the school counselor, a wonderful and caring young woman, stopped me and took me into her office where she told me everything that had been going on. When I finally got to see the principal, she first denied the classes had been canceled and then she tried to say she didn’t know anything about it (funny, she seemed genuinely surprised that I didn’t accept the premise that every GT teacher in the school decided on their own or together to cancel classes they’d fought so hard to get in the first place). It took about a week of what were really nothing short of confrontations between this so-called educator and other parents with the same concerns I had to get the classes reinstated.

While that was bad, the third grade situation is still one that brings my temper to a boiling point after all these years. Before that year, my son loved to read. He grew up, as did I, in a house where reading was always encouraged. He was read to before he could read and then he read to himself and to me. Trips to the library were things to be treasured and enjoyed, not dreaded. Then came the year from Hell.

The portents were there from the beginning that this was not going to be a good year for my son. I wasn’t too concerned when he came home at the end of the first week and said his teacher hadn’t been there after the first day. But, over the course of the next month to six weeks, he had substitutes on a rotating basis more often than the teacher herself was there. I worried about what the lack of consistency might do to his learning. I should have worried about what would happen when the teacher came back.

Which she did and very quickly I learned that was cause for concern. Remember, this is the third grade. Suddenly, my son no longer had assignment sheets to review at home to remind him what his homework for the night was. That meant I had no way of knowing if he was getting his work done. When the first set of progress reports came out after the teacher had been back for a month or so, it was clear something was wrong. An “A” student was suddenly close to failing. My son didn’t know what was going on other than the teacher always seemed to be mad at him and the other boys.

So, like concerned parents, his father (my ex) and I made an appointment to talk to the teacher and that’s when we realized that there was a very real problem. This woman, this educator who supposedly understood her students, was trying to teach her students responsibility. She’d write their assignments on the board and leave it there for a few minutes — less than five — before erasing them. It was up to them to make sure they wrote the assignment down. If they didn’t, too bad. No, this wasn’t in accordance with school or district policy and she hadn’t gotten approval to vary from the policy. But she was going to make men out of the boys, by God.

Our response was to meet with the teacher and the principal — well, vice-principal because the principal didn’t want to deal with the issue (see above about the GT classes. It was the same one.) — who basically told the teacher to quit and go back to following policy. She did. But she was still going to get those evil male children. That’s when she started using reading as punishment.

I don’t know how many recesses my son and the other boys missed for so-called “infractions” of her rules. She’d make them stay in the room and read the worst books she could find. Then they had to report on them. If their reports didn’t meet her standards — which weren’t written down and which were never shared with the parents — they were penalized even more. By the end of the year, I’d spent more time in the principal’s office trying to deal with the issue than I did in my entire time as a student. Worse, my son no longer wanted to read.

Nothing could tempt him. It was like pulling teeth to get him to read the summer reading list — not that I blamed him on most of the books, but there was the occasional good book included. I had to sit right there with him to make sure he finished his reading during the school year for the next two years or so just to insure he got his book reports done. His teachers those years, both excellent teachers who cared more about their students than they did about the politics of kissing the principal’s ass, worked just as hard as I did to re-instill the joy of reading in my son.

Finally, ready to hunt down the teacher responsible for this sad state, I talked with one of the children’s librarians at our local library. She only worked there part-time because she was full-time in a neighboring school district. When I explained the situation to her, she was as outraged as I had been. Then she sat me down and asked me what my son liked. What did he watch on TV? What games did he play? What subjects interested him? Before I knew it, I was walking out of the library with an armload of books, including a collection of manga.

My son ripped through the manga like someone who hadn’t eaten in days. The next day, he came in and asked if I’d take him to the library to get some more. Part of me rebelled. These were, after all, nothing more than glorified comic books. But he was reading. That really was all that mattered.

So we went and before long he’d read all the manga the library had to offer and it was bringing in more through inter-library loans.

That’s when something else happened that surprised me.

As I said, I’m a reader. So, whenever I’m in the car for long, or when I know I’m going to have to wait somewhere for long, I have a book or audiobook with me. At the time, I was going through the audiobooks of Diane Mott Davidson’s “Goldy the Caterer” series. I hadn’t paid much attention to the fact that, as we’d drive to and from school, my son fell quiet after telling me what happened that day. But then, one afternoon as we drove home and there was no audiobook playing, he wanted to know why. He wanted to know what Goldy was up to. Didn’t I have another book for us to listen to?

Flabbergasted, and pleased, we spent the rest of the drive home talking about the books we’d been listening to. Later that day, I asked what books he’d like to listen to. We’d tried reading the first Harry Potter book together but the bad taste from third grade had lingered on. So I was a bit surprised when he said he’d like to try Harry Potter. So, off to the library we went to check out the audiobook and the rest is history.

My son once more enjoys reading. His kindle is always with him. He’s found authors he likes and he doesn’t hesitate to share them with me — just as I do with him. But it was a close call, thanks to one teacher who didn’t think — or perhaps who didn’t care — about the consequences of her actions. What I learned from all this is that you not only have to set the example for your child that reading is something that is fun but that you have to protect them from those who would strip that source of enjoyment from them. You have to be flexible and driven when looking for ways to keep them interested in reading despite the crap the schools would have them read “for their own good”.

As Cedar said, it is up to us, as parents, to set the example when it comes to reading. We can’t rely on anyone else to do it. So, pick up a book and read with your kid. You won’t regret it.

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