Preparing Students for Success: Reading
By Monica Van Aken, Ed. D, Head of School
The research is clear: students who have books, magazines, and newspapers readily available and who regularly see their parents reading and engaging in discussions on what they read end up the most verbally accomplished, and verbal skills are the key to success in school and college.
From the moment MMS students can blend three letters together to read “Mac and Tab,” we begin sending them home with nightly reading. What they read is less important than that they are reading and developing an interest in story and narrative. To become exceptional oral readers, children should also be read to. I advocate fairy tales for young children, especially as bedtime stories. These narratives from the oral tradition speak powerfully to children, helping them imagine and navigate the challenging and sometimes scary path to adulthood. The renowned psychiatrist, Bruno Bettelheim, wrote that fairy tales take moral education out of the abstract, making it tangible and meaningful to children. In recent years, William J. Bennett edited three highly successful anthologies that include classic fairy tales and modern children's stories: The Book of Virtues, The Moral Compass, and A Children's Book of Virtues, which also nurture the moral imagination of children. My favorites remain from the Brothers Grimm.
As children mature into middle school, I suggest parents read along with their children the "rite of passage" novels that schools tend to assign at those stages, such as To Kill a Mockingbird, Funny in Farsi, or Typical American. Yes, play games outside and on the screen; go to cultural and sporting events; watch and critique TV shows together; but make sure you limit TV to one hour per evening during the week and two hours per day during the weekend so everyone has time to read. Nothing you can invest in later, such as SAT-prep courses, private tutors, or summer-school enrichment, will return as much as the investment you make now in nurturing the reading habit in your child.