Fives ways that reading with children helps their education



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Story time.
Moneky Business Images/Shutterstock

Emma Vardy, Coventry University

For book lovers, reading to their children may seem obvious. Why would they not want to pass on their love of literature? However, researchers have shown there are more benefits for both adult and child that come with reading than just building a bond – particularly when it comes to education.

A lot of research has been done into the effects of children engaging with literacy related activities at home. Much of this focuses on the early years, and how the literacy environment helps to develop emergent literacy skills. Shared book reading early on stimulates language and reading development, for example.

But the home literacy environment doesn’t stop being important once children have learnt to read. The opportunities that a child has to read at the home, and parental beliefs and behaviours, continue to impact on children’s reading throughout the school years. Here are just five ways that reading with your child can help their general education.

1. It opens up new worlds

Reading together as a family can instil a love of books from an early age. By taking the time to turn the pages together, adults can help children see that reading is something to enjoy and not a chore. Some schoolchildren read because they like it but others do it because they will be rewarded – with stickers in a school reading diary for example. Those children who read because they enjoy it read more books, and read more widely too. So giving your child a love of books helps expand their horizons.

2. It can build confidence

Children judge their own ability to read from observing their classroom peers, and from conversations with parents and teachers. When sharing a book, and giving positive feedback, parents can help children develop what is known as self-efficacy – a perceived ability to complete the specific activity at hand. Self-efficacy has been shown to be important for word reading. Children who think they cannot read will be less inclined to try, but by using targeted praise while reading together, parents can help children develop belief in their own skills.

3. It can build positive reading attitudes

Studies have shown that the more opportunities a child has to engage with literacy based activities at home, the more positive their reading attitudes tend to be. Children are more likely to read in their leisure time if there is another member of the family that reads, creating a reading community the child feels they belong to. Parental beliefs and actions are related to children’s own motivations to read, though of course it is likely that this relationship is bidirectional –- parents are more likely to suggest reading activities if they know that their child has enjoyed them in the past.

Sharing an old favourite.
VGstockstudio/Shutterstock

4. It expands their language

When reading a book together, children are exposed to a wide range of language. In the early stages of literacy development this is extremely important. Good language development is the foundation to literacy development after all, and increased language exposure is one of the fundamental benefits of shared book reading.

Shared book reading early on can have a long-term benefit by increasing vocabulary skills. And if they encounter a word they don’t understand, they have a grown up on hand to explain it to them in a way that makes sense to them. When children are taught to read while sharing a book, it can improve alphabet knowledge, decoding skills, spelling, and other book-related knowledge (such as how to actually read a book). Doing something as simple as sounding out the letters of a word they do not understand can vastly improve a child’s skills.

5. It can help their speech and language awareness

Formal shared reading can also involve the use of intonation, rhythm and pauses to model what is known as prosody. This is not a skill that is directly taught, but by simply pausing when needed or changing the tone of your voice can help children develop fluency when reading aloud. This is one of the reasons that shared book reading is not just for pre-schoolers. Demonstrating what is involved in reading complex text aloud fluently is very valuable for children of all ages.

You don’t need a lot of money, or even hours of spare time to read with children. Even small efforts can have big benefits. Nor does it have to be just at bedtime. Sharing a book, a magazine or a comic can take place any time of the day.

The most important thing to remember is to have fun. Interest in reading emerges from enjoying it with a parent. If you’re interested and make an effort, it can have a huge impact on a child’s engagement with reading.The Conversation

Emma Vardy, Research Associate, Psychology of Education, Coventry University

This article is republished from The Conversation under a Creative Commons license. Read the original article.

The education of Ursula Le Guin


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A connection can be made in between Ursula Le Guin’s fiction and her father’s groundbreaking work in anthropology.
Oregon State University, CC BY-SA

Philip W. Scher, University of Oregon

On Jan. 22, Ursula K. Le Guin died in Portland, Oregon. Since then, much has been written memorializing her genre-defying body of work, her contributions to feminism and science fiction, and her broad interest in human society and government.

But as a cultural anthropologist, I’ve always been interested in the relationship between Le Guin and her father, anthropologist Alfred Louis Kroeber.

Kroeber’s ideas – which had a profound influence on his daughter’s writing – stemmed from an important development in the discipline of anthropology, one that viewed human culture as something that wasn’t ingrained, and had to be taught and learned.

Culture isn’t genetic

Kroeber’s mentor was a Columbia University anthropologist named Franz Boas. Kroeber was especially drawn to Boas’ newly developed notion of culture and the broader theory of “cultural relativism.”

Cultural relativism emerged in the late 19th century as an alternative to theories like social Darwinism that linked culture to evolution. These theories – widely accepted at the time – tended to rank human societies on an evolutionary scale. Not surprisingly, Western European civilizations were seen as the pinnacle of culture.

But Boas proposed something radically different. He insisted, based on field-based research, that humans live in stunningly diverse cultural worlds shaped by language, which creates institutions, aesthetics, and ideas and notions of right and wrong. He further argued that each society needs to reproduce its culture through teaching and learning.

Kroeber described culture as “superorganic.” According to this idea, the “civilizational achievements” of any group of people weren’t passed down biologically and could only be taught. If we’re deprived of our access to human instruction – books, guides, teachers – we won’t know how to build buildings, write poetry and compose music. Humans, Kroeber knew, are hardwired to create, but there’s no such thing as a “hereditary memory” that allows a people to intuitively know how to recreate specific things.

He told the hypothetical story of a baby taken from France and brought to China. She would, he argued, grow up speaking perfect Chinese and would know no French. His point – as obvious as it might seem today – was that there was no hereditary quality to “Frenchness” that would carry over, genetically, to a child born of French parents.

The idea of culture as “superorganic” says that people are organic lifeforms, like ants or dogs or fish, but culture is “added” to them, which influences their behaviors. Ants and dogs don’t need culture to reproduce their behaviors: Raised in isolation from their own kind, they still do the things they were programmed to do.

Upending the status quo

Kroeber, along with many of his fellow anthropologists, were drawn to these ideas because they depicted culture as universally human, but not universally rankable, racially predetermined or inherently more or less sophisticated.

Alfred Kroeber, left, photographed with the last known member of the Yahi tribe in 1911.
Wikimedia Commons

For example, it was common in the late 19th century for expansionists to justify their imperialist ambitions with “scientific” evidence that Native Americans were culturally inferior. They pointed to language: Native Americans, they claimed, didn’t have words for the passage of time. For this reason, they couldn’t grasp a complex concept like history.

But Kroeber and his colleagues pointed out the Hopi did have a complex way of reckoning time. They just didn’t count things, like days or hours, using the same terminology they might use to count men, or rocks or clouds, which are objects you can actually see. To the Hopi, a day is in no way like a rock. So it shouldn’t be treated as such.

Kroeber’s peers included African-American anthropologist and folklorist Zora Neale Hurston, Jewish linguist and anthropologist Edward Sapir, and female scholars such as Ruth Benedict and Margaret Mead. All grappled with discrimination and cultural denigration.

In response, Kroeber was compelled to write that history, geography and the environment influenced cultural differences. No culture simply emerged naturally.

“Social agencies are so tremendously influential on every one of us,” he wrote, “that it is very difficult to find any test that, if distinctive racial faculties were inborn, would fairly reveal the degree to which they are inborn.”

The only reason, according to Kroeber, that someone would insist on innate differences between human population would be to preserve the status quo: societies built on racial discrimination and colonialism.

‘But does it make them think?’

Throughout her childhood in Berkeley, California, Ursula Le Guin was exposed to these ideas. They very likely formed the basis of her worldview.

Her writing was never simply about creating a magical or strange world. It was about crafting a laboratory to play with identities – race, ethnicity, gender, sexuality or class – in a way that forced readers to think about how cultural prejudice colored their views of other people.

“Entertaining them is all well and good,” she told New York Times reporter John Wray, “but does it make them think?”

With Le Guin, it always struck me that the point of her imagined universes was precisely to show that nothing human was universal, and that what was “alien” was only a matter of perspective.

In “The Left Hand of Darkness,” Le Guin tackled the idea of gender norms. Here, I think she was channeling Margaret Mead’s breakthrough study “Sex and Temperament in Three Primitive Societies,” in which Mead was able to demonstrate that gender norms can significantly diverge across cultures.

In “The Word for World Is Forest,” Le Guin didn’t simply pen an environmentalist fable about the destruction of a forest and its people. She built off the insights of indigenous scholars like Vine Deloria Jr., who put native peoples’ voices and worldviews at the center of the indigenous rights movement. In “The Dispossessed,” she contrasts the different political systems of two neighboring worlds not to argue which one is best, per se, but to show that in order for these systems to exist, humans need to actively participate in and reproduce them.

In 2015 I planned an anthropology class that I hoped could use speculative fiction and fantasy as a way to understand basic concepts in cultural anthropology. The class was built around Kroeber and Le Guin.

A mutual friend gave my syllabus to Le Guin, and she wrote to me. She suggested some other works to include and seemed to appreciate the concept of the course.

The Conversation“I think my pa would be tickled,” she wrote, “that he and I have ended up on the same [syallabus].”

Philip W. Scher, Professor of Anthropology and Folkore, University of Oregon

This article was originally published on The Conversation. Read the original article.

Changing the World: November 27 – Educating the World


Today’s suggestion is about doing something about the many children throughout the world that receive no education or very limited education. This can be especially true of many girls in some countries and seems to be more so in some strict Islamic communities and regions.

It is difficult to know just what can be done in this field by the ‘average Joe,’ so to speak. Whereas individuals may not be able to do a lot personally, they may be able to contribute by being part of a larger organisation that is able to bring pressure to bear on governments around the world.

It is also possible to be part of a humanitarian organisation that seeks to assist people to receive education and/or by donating money to such a group.

For some ideas on this particular suggestion have a look at:

www.campaignforeducation.org & www.unicef.org

A response to reading ‘365 Ways to Change the World,’ by Michael Norton