The following is a guest post by Executive Editor Christina Parisi about preparing boys to start school.
As a parent of two boys, I can’t help but notice all the press about how boys are not doing well in school. While recently signing my eldest up for kindergarten, I was given a packet of information 30 pages long listing everything he was expected to know before entering–from his personal information, to tying his own shoes, to basic literacy. Not only are kids expected to already be reading simple words before they enter kindergarten, but by the time they finish first grade they are expected to write poetry. I’m not talking about a super-special kindergarten either. This is my town’s public school system.
According to some research, girls’ brains are built differently than boys’ are, and those differences help girls learn to read faster than boys. While the boys can eventually catch up, during those first few years of school they get progressively behind, which affects their work as well as their self-esteem and interest in school.
Richard Whitmire, author of Why Boys Fail: Saving Our Sons from an Educational System That’s Leaving Them Behind, suggests this is a critical stage for boys, because if you don’t get the early literacy part right and get the boys interested in school, they will have trouble later on, as is already evident. Higher-education consultant Tom Mortenson put together a report tracking men for the past five years. He has found that “for the first time in American history, young men today are less likely to be college-educated than their fathers.” And if you’re watching the economy, you can see that their job prospects are affected by that. At one point in the recession, nearly 80 percent of the job losses were among men. If boys are not getting the education they need now, how will they get jobs in the future? As parents we have to be more involved so that our sons stay engaged in school.
Here are five quick tips for busy parents to help their sons succeed:
- Read to your son. Boys especially like adventures. Have him read to you or better yet, trade off characters where you are the bad guy and he is the good guy. This is less intimidating to him than alternating reading a page and then having you read a page. If your child is too young to read, then have him pretend to read to you or to a younger sibling after you have read him the same story. This will help engage him and improve his memory, attention span, and narrative abilities, which are all related to basic literacy.
- Have your son make up stories about his favorite characters. This can be done anywhere, at any time. The key is to get him talking and telling stories. It also provides you with the opportunity to teach him new vocabulary in a context he is more likely to remember.
- Ask him to show you his work, not just his homework. Ask to see what he did in the class and what they talked about. This shows that it’s not just important to go to school and to get the work done, but that you are personally interested in what he does while he is there.
- Talk about the things you loved about school and why. Or if you hated school as a child, talk about why education is important and the kinds of things you can achieve through education.
- Have him practice a routine that will help him be successful. This includes preparing his bag and clothes the night before, getting up on time, eating breakfast, and considering his schedule the night before. These basic routines help relieve anxiety about being unprepared and will help him transition into taking care of himself.
Taking an active role in your child’s literacy and school experience will help him learn the skills he will need for later success. The American Management Association prides itself on teaching skills to keep America working, and we support programs for kids to learn such skills early. But arming your kids with skills for them to succeed later depends on a partnership, and that begins with you. Good luck.
Christina Parisi is an Executive Editor at AMACOM and the Director of AMA Self-Studies. She has been with AMACOM for 12 years and acquires books in management, leadership, training, HR, and general business. For submission guidelines, see our website.