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Tips for Parents

How to Motivate Your Child to Read

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It's never too early to introduce your child to the world of reading. Follow these guidelines, which are based on the recommendations of the America Reads Challenge.

Steps:
  1. Talk with your child about what you're reading: Share interesting newspaper and magazine articles, point out beautiful words from books and introduce new vocabulary.
  2. Provide a good selection of books for your child so that he or she can always find one of interest.
  3. Have your child pick out books in addition to the ones you choose.
  4. Discuss the books with your child as he or she reads them. Ask questions about themes, characters and how the story might relate to real life.
  5. Help your child build confidence by allowing him or her to reread a book several times.
  6. Reward your child for reading new books.



How to Help Your Child Prepare for the First Day of School

Follow these simple steps to help your child face those first-day fears.

Steps:

  1. Begin preparing your child a few weeks before the big day (sooner, if this is his or her first school experience or a new school). If your household has relaxed bedtime and morning routines over the summer months, start to wake your child a little earlier each morning, and move bedtime up 15 minutes every few nights to re-establish "school hours."
  2. Plan a "back-to-school" shopping day with each child individually, and make it a special event. Of course, you'll set (and try to stick to) a general budget, but leave some room for one or two small extravagances (reuse last year's backpack, but buy this year's hottest cartoon-character notebook).
  3. Before the big clothes-shopping trip, spend some time with each child sorting through last year's things and decide together what goes into which pile (keeper, hand-me-down or donate). Insist that your child try on every keeper.
  4. For a new year in a new school, plan a visit there a week or so before the first day. Walk through the building locating the classrooms, bathrooms and lunchroom.
  5. If your child will be riding the bus, find out the route he or she will take and take a drive on it together a few times. If he or she is a walker, plan the route and walk it together both ways.
  6. Help your child deal with first-day jitters by focusing on some special advantage of, for example, being a fourth-grader. Perhaps your child is now old enough for his or her own house key, an increase in allowance or some other new privilege.
  7. Celebrate the big day. Go out for dinner or plan a special meal the night before, or present your child with a small gift.
Tips:

Unless your child's school sends out a detailed list of required supplies for his or her specific grade and classes, it's best to buy just the general stuff . Middle school and high school teachers in particular are likely to provide lists of exactly what your child will need for each subject area a few days into the new school year.

Warnings:
  • Don't wait too long to schedule that back-to-school shopping trip. 

  • Review important safety rules with your child such as using established walking routes to and from school, what to do if approached by a stranger, what to do if he or she misses the bus or loses the house key.


How to Help a Teen Find a Job

Networking, answering ads and creative thinking are the keys to a successful teen job search.

Steps:
  1. Sit down together and assess skills, expectations and requirements, just as you would do for yourself.
  2. Discuss options, taking into account your teen's time availability and transportation needs.
  3. Think creatively: If your daughter wants to be a tennis star, maybe she can work at the local tennis club. Or your wannabe reporter can call local newspapers and radio stations for an intern position.
  4. Help your teen create a résumé, even if this is her first working experience. A teen résumé can include academic and extracurricular information and can mention awards, honors and relevant skills and interests.
  5. Role-play with your teen. Listen to her ask for the job and describe her strengths, and coach her on what she should say in response to questions the interviewer may pose.
  6. Make a list of possible contacts, including both yours and your child's.
  7. Get phone numbers and encourage the teen to call for job possibilities.
  8. Once your teen has applied for a job, encourage her to make a follow-up call if the management doesn't respond within a week.
Tips:
  • Usually, a child must be 16 to legally get a traditional job, although there are exceptions.
  • Make sure your teen knows about good grooming and the importance of articulate, respectful and punctual behavior.


How to Encourage Good Study Habits in a Child

As with any habit (good or bad), the sooner good study habits are developed, the better they will stick. It's never too early to introduce your child to positive study habits, which will reward his or her efforts throughout school and life.

Steps:
  1. Be a good role model. If you sometimes bring work home with you or you're taking a course yourself, your child will learn your habits. Make them good!
  2. Help your child organize things. For example, the protractor and compass belong to the math binder, sheet music in the violin case.
  3. Help him or her organize space. The kitchen table is for eating; your child's desk is for studying.
  4. Help your child organize time. Establish a routine for completing schoolwork. It doesn't have to be the minute your child walks in the door; just agree on a set time and stick to it.
  5. Minimize distractions. Thirteen-year-old wisdom notwithstanding, geometric proofs are not better retained when learned concurrently with loud music, "South Park" and a telephone receiver at one ear.
  6. Check your child's work. Every night is unnecessary, but check it often enough that he or she knows you might - and that you care.
  7. Insist that sloppy or careless work be redone, but don't correct errors; teachers need to know what students don't know.
  8. Give praise whenever possible and appropriate. A sincere expression of pride in your child's academic accomplishments can go a long way toward making studying a habit.
Tips:
  • Don't wait until report card time or parents' night to address concerns about your child's study habits. If you believe he or she needs help, offer it now.
  • See what the school offers in the way of study skills training. Particularly in middle school and high school, helpful classes are becoming more readily available.


How to Find the Latest Research on Learning Disabilities

Finding out that your child has a learning disability can be scary and shocking at first. You may not know where to turn. Follow these steps to find the latest research and information.

Steps:
  1. Call your local school board. Chances are it has a Department of Specific Learning Disabilities that deals with all special-needs students.Someone will also be able to give you numbers and addresses of agencies that can provide you with more information.
  2. Go to the library. Ask the librarian to point you in the right direction, or use the library computer system to search for material on the subject. Be sure to check the date of the materials you find as some information may be outdated and not appropriate to your needs.
  3. Do an Internet search. Simply type "learning disability" in the keyword search window and a host of sites will pop up. You'll find sites with definitions, legal advice, and teaching and parenting ideas. You will also find chat rooms where you can talk to other parents with the same concerns or ask questions of experts. Several national organizations focus specifically on the needs of students with learning disabilities and offer lots of links and federal studies at their websites.
  4. Talk to your child's teacher. If your child is placed in a special education class, the teacher should have resources for you to use. If your student's teacher does not have information for you, request it as soon as possible. Make sure your child's teacher is qualified to teach students with learning disabilities.
Warnings:

Find information about how to effectively parent a child with learning disabilities if you experience extreme frustration.


How to Buy Educational Gifts for Toddlers

Toddlers spend much of their day playing. Encourage learning by giving a toddler in your life an educational gift for birthdays, holidays or just because you love him.

Steps:
  1. Give a book. Toddlers love to look at pictures whether they're actual photos or drawings. They like to manipulate the pages of sturdy board books while they pretend to read. A quality children's book is a great way to encourage reading and letter recognition.
  2. Buy books that introduce a specific skill. You can find a range of children's books introducing such concepts as the alphabet, numbers, shapes and colors. There are even books for toddlers that explain opposites and cause and effect relationships, or social experiences such as sharing and feelings.
  3. Look for age-appropriate craft kits. Toddlers enjoy creating. What better way to teach colors than by painting or drawing with washable markers? Learning shapes can be exciting for toddlers when they are able to glue together different sizes and textures of shape cutouts. Foster creativity and, at the same time, teach an important concept.
  4. Buy toys that require filling and pouring. When toddlers pour water or sand into containers or from one container to another they learn important characteristics about volume. The spatial orientation skills involved with filling and emptying containers will help the toddler understand the relationship between different sizes.
  5. Find any toy that focuses on letter or number recognition. Blocks, puzzles, electronic toys - the list is endless. The more toddlers are immersed in alphabet or number print, the more likely they are to retain and recall numbers and letters.
Tips:
  • Make sure the gift you buy is recommended for the age of the child you are buying for. Toddlers become frustrated easily and nothing is more frustrating than receiving a toy you cannot play with.
  • Buy a gift certificate from an educational catalogue that sells toys. You can still buy something educational and give the gift of choice, too.
Warnings:

Check the gift for small parts that may be a choking hazard for small children.