Pros: Must read parenting book about how children learn.
Quick! What is the best parenting book you've ever
read? Sometimes, it seems like I've read the entire
parenting book section, yet there are always a few
that stand out as superb. I have one for you to add
to your "Best" list.
Raising Lifelong Learners by Lucy Calkins and Lydia
Bellino was recommended to me by my son's excellent
preschool teacher. It is definitely in the top 3
parenting books I have read. If you parent or teach,
please read it.
Why such a strong recommendation? If you have a new
baby, you've been in the feeding/sleep pattern/newborn
care section of the bookstore. If you have teens, you're
in the hormone management section. How to discipline?
Grounding? Spanking? Bottles OK? Your head can spin
just trying to walk through the book shelves! Eventually,
you'll forget about diapers, bottles/breast, highchairs
and other baby issues. You'll be left with a child who
will go to school, learn to read and become independent.
Before then, you'll want to have Lucy Calkins' knowledge
in your parenting tool chest.
Parents are educators. A child's first and most
important educators are in the home. Lucy Calkins
realizes this and has written a book about trying to
do things right as parents. In this book, she opens
her home and lets you peek at her two sons and their
family interactions. This fascinates me as it gives
me "real" ways to deal with my sons by example. Books
which give principles without examples seem flat to me.
This book is multi-dimensional, causing me to reflect
on my parenting as I turn each page.
Literacy is a learning goal we all have for our
children. How should we foster it? Does writing
competency start with creative play? Calkins believes
so. The stories which emerge from dramatic cooperative
play are the building blocks of writing and reading.
Conversations within families are another important
step in literacy. Does your family share "trouble
stories"? (stories about your family facing and
conquering some adversity) Calkins' family does. It's
a tradition for them. She relates a time when she
forgot to wear her shoes to dinner with her son.
Undeterred, he chose a Chinese restaurant, believing
that Chinese people don't wear shoes. During dinner,
they wove their "trouble story" to tell the family
upon arriving home.
Choosing to read will help a child learn to read.
When families read aloud to their children, the desire
is spawned. Hunger for books will carry these children
through their learning life. Helpfully, Raising Life-
long Learners lists some age appropriate stories to
read aloud to your children.
Writing follows a natural progression. Can a three
year old write a book? How should we encourage our
children to write? When children believe they are
writers, then they are. Every child has a story to
tell. Calkins likes to go on writer's walks with her
children. They observe, then write. She writes that
she was so proud when told by her son's teacher that
her son looked at a willow tree and said, "I could
write about that tree. It looks like a girl with long
hair falling all over her face."
Early reading education may be one of the most
stressful parenting topics parents rarely ever talk
about. If your child isn't in the top 1st grade
reading group, are you nervous? Embarrassed? How do
you support your child's reading efforts without
causing harm? Calkins has a lot to offer here for
any worried parents. From pretending to read, approx-
imating reading to actual decoding words, there is
advice for every stage of reading in this book.
Phonics vs whole language is explained here too, with
ideas on why both are important.
Mathematics education now allows a less rigid approach
for solving problems. Children are free to come to an
understanding of principles governing math from many
angles. Calkins has her sons do math at the family
table instead of in isolation in their rooms. She
encourages them to add more to their assignments. When
asked to measure family members' arms, her son included
the cats, dog, bird and rabbit.
Curiosity is common to both scientists and small
children. The trick is to nurture this appreciation
for the world. With children, we parents can see
everything anew again. Calkins tells a story about
a boy seeing lightning bugs. Finally, when the boy
sees them fully, he says, "Mommy, it's magic". "That's
why I had children, because of the lightning bugs",
Learning readin', writin' and 'rithmatic is all
well and good but what about play? Developing good
work habits? Progressing in writing through middle
school? Don't worry, Calkins has those subjects
Calkins ably passes the baton to Lydia Bellino who
gives tips on choosing the right preschool or kinder-
garten. She also covers our schools' curriculum, telling
us how to decode what is being presented to our children.
There is a section on testing and assessment in schools.
Bellino's best contributions probably come in advising
us how to build great partnerships with our children's
teachers. She also reminds us, "Parents' involvement
in school tells their child that they endorse the
school and that they regard themselves as partners in
their child's education." No small thing, indeed!
Bottom line on this book, (in case I haven't already
hammered it into your brain enough) is that if you have
children middle school aged or younger, read this book.
And have your friends read it too!