Early reading skills generate lifetime value

Day by day
Early reading skills generate lifetime value
By LIZ THOMPSON
Tuesday September 9, 2014
This Week News

When I took my daughter for her first day of kindergarten, I was a puddle of tears as I walked out of the school. She had breezed into the classroom and never looked back.

Thirty-five years have passed and I still get goose bumps remembering.

I shouldn’t have been surprised she took on the new situation so easily. Out of necessity, I had to work outside the home since she was about 2 and had placed her either in day care or with a trusted sitter/friend. My crying because I was leaving her in the care of others was nothing new.

By the end of that kindergarten year, the teacher told me she wished she’d had Mary two more weeks because she would have had her reading. She was a caring and dedicated teacher. As her mother, again I was not surprised but was infinitely happy. Reading was part of our lives from her early days.

My sister, Cynthia Slocum, of Westerville is six years younger than me, and my mom said I taught her to read. I don’t remember this but I believe my mom.

The fact my sister went on to be an attorney has nothing to do with my teaching her, which was probably more like coaching and encouraging, but it proves that reading is essential in many aspects of our lives.

Cynthia remembers. It obviously made an impression on her.

“I do remember the exact moment at the library when you were explaining words to me as we were looking at a book, and suddenly it all made sense, as if someone unlocked a magical world,” Cynthia said. “I think it may have even been a Dick and Jane book.”

Teachers say they can see the exact moment when students make that connection to something they were teaching, like a light bulb goes on — the great “Aha!” moment.

I don’t remember learning to read, and I can’t remember a time I didn’t read. The library was a favorite place for me and librarians were always near for assistance.

I was apparently like my daughter and gained that skill young, for which I’m thankful. Cynthia was obviously amenable to learning as well, even from her big sis.

While remembering my daughter’s first day of school as if it were yesterday, I started thinking of teachers who inspired me. As a youth, teachers of various subjects and music instructors filled much of my life.

Elementary school teachers stressed reading daily, and story time was a favorite throughout those years. In middle and high school, besides music, English was a favorite for me with our required reading and book reports. This was before computers to research facts and type papers, mind you.

Reading for pleasure became more possible when my daughter was older, when I had more time. I picked up a newspaper one night when Mary was about 8.

“Mommy, women don’t read the newspaper!” she said.

“Well, Mary, women most certainly do read the newspaper, but usually after all her housework is done,” I replied.

Right then, I started reading in her presence.

With so much press about Common Core and the third-grade reading tests, I began to wonder how hundreds of students reached third grade without someone noticing they weren’t reading, or reading well enough to pass a reading test.

Jane Mixer of Grove City was an elementary school teacher for 24 years in Ohio and Virginia. She taught kindergarten the longest, but also taught grades 1-3.

“Some children are not ready for first grade,” she said. “They may not have matured enough to be able to sit still and follow directions. They’d rather be playing. But having to tell parents their child would benefit from another year of kindergarten was never easy.”

She went on to say that retaining a child in kindergarten is definitely easier than in later grades.

“Reading is so important. It’s individualized. But if a child gets as far as third grade and they can’t read well enough to pass a test, there is a problem,” Mixer said.

“There are no easy answers, but it is the responsibility of the parents and the teachers.”

She said if she taught her students anything, she hopes it was to enjoy learning and being in school while feeling accomplished.

Read with a child. It’s fun and the reward will be great and long-lasting for you both. As my sister said, “It unlocks a magical world.”

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The little things…

Day by day

The little things paint our days, make up life

By LIZ THOMPSON
THISWEEK NEWS
Monday August 19, 2013

It’s all a matter of perspective.

“That’s a cute dress,” I said to the young girl in the library. Since she was wearing leggings, I added, “Or is it a top?”

The Dad answered with a smile, “It doesn’t matter what it is called as long as it twirls!”

“Will you twirl for me?” She did. It was a great dress or top for twirling.

I found myself smiling for a long time after I moved on from the girl who loves to twirl. The 30-second conversation and a smiling twirl brightened the rest of my morning. Even now, hours later, I can still see her shy smile as she started to spin and the crooked smile of the Dad telling me, “See?”

How we see our day to day lives; the significant things and the moments paint how we count our day as a success or not.

Songs and poems have been written about the little and simple things in life that make it all worthwhile. My life experience has proven it really is the moments that make up the whole.

We have friends with acres of corn who offered to let us pick several large bags.

This was an unexpected and delicious gift. That we had so much we were able to share with our neighbors and family, made it more special. After we blanched, cooled and cut the corn off the cob to freeze and I realized I didn’t cut my fingers once — which is kind of a big deal for me — I was even more grateful.

More than once in my life, someone has told me to look out a window or out at something — a bird, flower, person — and I find I’m looking too far away when it’s right near me. Often I have missed the chance to share this sight because I looked too far.

That reminds me of the idiom about not being able to see the forest for the trees. Being too wrapped up in the details to enjoy the general situation.

One night I was peeking out from under our covered patio to see if there were stars in the night sky. I caught a glimpse of a shiny thread and followed the line only to see a spider the size of a silver dollar propped in the middle of its web.

Had I stepped two feet to my left, I would have walked right through the center. My focus was too distant to see the whole picture.

No matter what we think or what people tell us, time doesn’t really fly. It feels like it when we realize a month is almost spent or summer is almost over. Children back to school already? Where did the summer go? we think. Of course, it didn’t “go” anywhere and our minds tell us this fact but before we know it we are getting our cool weather clothes out again.

We have moved so many times that we remember what was happening at any given time by saying, “Where were we living then?” Our moves and various homes are markers for our life moments; where and when our children or grandchildren were born; when we started or left a certain job; and when time started flying by too fast and the little life moments became more precious to us.

I know when the latter started happening with me. It was when I slowed down a little at a time. Sure, life happened to slow me down but now I count it as a blessing in disguise.

When my youngest grandson, 13, asked me to do exercises with him, and I asked what kind — chin ups, pushups, sit ups and more — I said my sit ups aren’t the kind he described, and would he prefer a game?

He agreed and we played Tiddly-Winks, his choice, and he still beat me even though I said, “I grew up playing Tiddly-Winks.”

Then we played the card game War and much to my surprise, I won. We played till I had all the cards. My grandson said, “That never happens!” I said that is does when you play long enough. While we played, we also talked, laughed and joked. We enjoyed the moments.

It’s all about perspective. I see it clearly.

A quote by Frank A. Clark sums it up well.

“Everyone is trying to accomplish something big, not realizing that life is made up of little things.”