Mar 072011

Education improvement seems to take baby steps in the right direction, but there are plenty of opportunities to do better. An example of baby steps is the long-running “Read to Succeed” campaign in Texas.

Parents set the example…

Teachers might be on board but parents are — too often — not leading by example. “Do as I say and not as I do” does not work in real life. Too many parents don’t read, preferring to waste nearly a thousand hours each year watching television instead. The example they set by their actions speaks far more loudly than the words they perhaps preach to their kids. Kids rarely get limits on the TV and therefore, reading does not become a major activity at many homes in this age of the time-delayed DVR.

Limits improve quality. To encourage your kids to read more and learn more, set limits on consumption and set a good example with your own actions. If you tell your kids they will get their choice of one or two shows (or video games) each day, kid’s adjust quickly and complaints disappear within a week or two. Kids, with limits, will naturally reserve their TV time for the best shows, instead of wasting it on barely-ok-whatever-is-on. Adults could and should do the same and only watch the cream of the entertainment crop.

Reading is a good step, but writing is a leap…

Furthermore, reading is but one good step in the right direction toward success — if you want to teach kids how to succeed, I believe a far better sound-byte message is to convince them to write.  “Write to Succeed” changes the equation dramatically for the better.

There are lots of opportunities to write if you look for them:

  • When you get your kid to read a book, ask them to write you a short book report about it. You will be amazed at how this one step changes comprehension.
  • Encourage your kid to write a story every week and send the stories to grandma, Uncle Jim, and Aunt Donna. It fosters creativity and improves relationships with the extended family.
  • When your kid has a good idea for something they want to accomplish, ask them to create a step by step plan on paper, that you can later review and help adjust. Learning to think on paper will serve them well for the rest of their life.
  • Get your kids to write a script for a camcorder movie, then help them create it.
  • Convince your kid to keep a journal, so that they can remember their childhood when they are twenty or thirty.
  • Conduct a goals session — you will be amazed how far a kid can progress once they have picked goals that they want to achieve.
  • Teach them how to outline their story first, then finish it out in a subsequent passes. Consider using re-arrangeable index cards. It is a great way to start.
  • As they get a bit older, inspire them to be part of the yearbook staff or the school paper.
  • Do as you say, and look for opportunities to write for yourself.

Any of these steps will take their learning, imagination, and confidence to new levels. Writing changes everything because it introduces action and the need to reconcile your thinking. Reading is fuel but writing converts that fuel into motion.

When you write, you learn to think and plan on paper. You can’t help but become more logical in your approach to life and accomplishment. These habits, learned early in life, will help a kid succeed far more than reading alone.

Reading helps set a foundation, but writing turns things into action and success. Write to succeed!

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