Lazy Parenting Hack - DON'T PUSH
This is a PSA to all the K and primary teachers out there...stop with the sticker charts! At the very least, stop with the poster boards that publicly display all your students’ names and a row of stickers going across for every book they have read.
If you think it will motivate the children to want to read...I’m here to tell you, you are wrong. What it will do is motivate your competitive parents in the group to insist their children who “read” the most “know” the most and make your parents/children who aren’t able to do this feel like failures. Not to mention cause immense stress/tears at home.
The pressure parents feel around helping their children learn how to read is immense! Since their child was born they have been judged by others...when did they first sit up, take their first step, say their first word, tie their shoes, lose a tooth...the list is endless. And unless they are a seasoned and experienced parent of 3 or more children who KNOW and BELIEVE at their core that this comparison game is bull crap, all you are doing as a teacher is adding fuel to the fire.
Because let’s be real here...sticker charts aren’t about learning to read. They are about competition. And if we are being truthful, they are mostly just a way for a select group of parents to play the “my kid is better than your kid” game.
Somewhere along the way, a primary teacher told me that learning to read is more like a lightbulb being flicked on rather than a dimmer light turning brighter. I didn’t really understand that analogy until I saw it happen first hand FOUR TIMES 😊at different ages and in different ways with my own kids.
If the work has been done in the primary years to ensure all the electrical work needed is in place (knowledge of letters and phonetics) and the connections are lined up properly (knowledge of different reading strategies such as look at the pictures/sound it out/ find smaller words within the bigger words) then I believe...one day...FLICK...they can read Harry Potter. This moment, which I have called the light bulb moment, is the day when I felt like they could read any text I put in front of them. It was different for each of them and they each got there through the lessons they learnt at school as well as the reading for FUN we did at home.
Please note - I know I have been lucky. None of my children have struggled with any learning challenges that required outside, specialized help. I do believe that there are children who have challenges with seeing the letters, making the connections and understanding the process of reading. I believe as parents we need to be in communication with teachers to ensure the foundational pieces are coming along. If they aren’t, than support is needed and the earlier help can be provided the better.
BUT (yes here is a BIG but) I do believe the pressure of learning to read needs to be held in check. What is MOST important is that children LOVE books, LOVE stories and all the amazing goodness that comes from being immersed in a tale of adventure and make believe. Want a child who hates to read...MAKE them read! Make it homework to read. Fight with them over getting their reading done. Make them feel stupid by pointing out to them that they are not reading to the level expected of them. Make them feel inferior to their classmates by them seeing the fewest stickers next to their name.
Want to raise an avid reader? Then surround them with books! Encourage them to look at them and enjoy their age/level appropriate ones. Cartoons, graphic novels, chapter books, encyclopedias, fiction, non-fiction...all of the above! Ensure that YOU are reading in front of them. That you are talking about books that you have enjoyed. Share with them books you loved as a child. Share in their experience of reading. Read to them. Read with them.
My wish is that every child views books as a way to learn more about the world around them and also as a way to escape their world and enter a new one. To do this we must foster a love of books and reading for reading sake...not to get stickers to put on the wall.