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Forget School For the Summer!

canstockphoto3930124As we enter into summer, one question I am frequently asked by parents is : ‘What can I be working on so that my child continues to progress over the summer?’  If your child has had a difficult school year, having two full months with no formal academic activities can certainly cause worry.  Looking for answers, and at times not finding much, it can seem like there’s not much for parents to do but enroll kids in tutoring, or if possible a skill building workshop or class, or resort to working with their kids on their own with worksheets and materials from their child’s teachers – not always a fun endeavor when kids want to be outside with peers or doing something non-academic related.

My number one recommendation to these types of requests (while keeping in mind that every child is an individual and will require individualized recommendations)? READING. Yes. Regardless of your child’s age, reading ability, level, and grade, the more time your child reads, the better. Reading, and if your child is struggling with reading, reading with your child,  is simply the strongest recommendation I can offer to help your child succeed academically. 20 minutes every day. That’s the recommendation. Not a workbook. Not a program, not a technique, not a workshop. Read with your child. 20 minutes, everyday. You don’t need to learn ‘how to teach your child to read’. You don’t even need really great reading skills ! Just read with your kids. 20 minutes. Everyday. Here’s why:

In the world of education, 20 minutes a day is a magic number regarding reading. This is connected to a famous study conducted in 1987 by Nagy and Herman. The study examined how much time students spent reading, how many words read, and then performance on standardized tests measuring reading achievement. I probably don’t need to tell you; students who spend 20 minutes a day reading scored at the 90th percentile on tests measuring reading achievement. Those in the study that spent 5 minutes reading? Scored in the 5oth percentile. That’s a big difference.

Thanks to Pinterest and the internet, type in ‘why your child can’t skip reading tonight’ and the visuals that accompany this statistic will astound. But here is the logic: one student, Amy, reads 20 minutes a night, 5 nights a week. In one week, that’s 100 minutes of reading; in one month, 400 minutes; one school year, 3600 minutes; and by the end of the sixth grade – 21,600 minutes of reading!  Her friend, Mark, reads only 4 minutes a night, or not at all. In one week, that’s 20 minutes of reading; in one month, 80 minutes; one school year, 720 minutes; and by the end of the sixth grade – 4320 minutes of reading.

Is your child more of an Amy (by the end of the sixth grade, has read 21,600 minutes or 60 days) or more of a Mark (by the end of the sixth grade, 4320 minutes or 12 school days)? Given that the fluency (how fast or slow a student reads) can vary, the number words read might be somewhat different, but it’s estimated that Amy would have read 1.8 million words, and Mark over 282,00o words.

It’s such a dramatic difference, I myself had to look at that math twice just to be sure it wasn’t a trick.

Now ask yourself, who is the better reader? Who would you expect to know more? And so on…..

So this summer, let yourself and your student truly relax and enjoy some reading! In the long run, it might be the best thing you can do to help your child’s school achievement for next year.




Adolescent School Anxiety : Why Some is Really Ok

Wasatch Family Therapy Teens

All of us, regardless of age, experience anxiety on a daily basis. Hopefully, as adults, we have learned healthy ways to cope with life’s daily stressors and can identify those times that call for when we need more, i.e. a job loss, relationship problems, a death, an illness, etc. If we’ve prepared well, we have the tools, resources, and supportive people ready and in place when we need them.

Attending high school gives teens ample opportunity, perhaps more than they’d like – on a daily basis – to practice coping skills managing different kinds of anxiety in numerous settings (social, academic, and personal.) While feeling anxiety from a low to moderate level can be unpleasant, it’s also beneficial. It helps teens in the short term: I’m worried about my chemistry test, so I’m going to increase my study time tonight. It’s beneficial in the longer run and helps teens build self-esteem: I’m proving to myself that while I only got a C- on my last test, I put forth extra effort and improved my grade to a C. These examples involve a real event. Anxiety can also involve a perceived event. For example: I perceive my friends don’t like me, so I’ll choose to start engaging with new peers who are more positive. Because anxiety develops from thinking about real or imagined events, almost any situation can set the stage for it to occur. While most children will experience some anxiety related to school and will cope well, some children experience excessive anxiety.


Play Ball! Tips For Helping Your Teen Make The Team

(c) Can Stock Photo
Spring is here and with each longer day of – hopefully – sunny weather, it’s also time for a new season of high school sports: baseball, softball, tennis, and soccer. For many of us, this may bring memories of own experiences, positive or negative, which we may or may not be conscious of. Regardless of whether you pitched your team through the state finals, missed kicking the winning the goal, kept the bench warm for your teammates or choose to ‘watch and cheer’  here are some useful ideas to consider to support your teen when he/she tries out or plays competitive high school sports.