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April 10, 2019

The Power of a Parent

Recently, I had the opportunity to spend part of the day sharing information about the Suncoast Campaign for Grade-Level Reading (SCGLR) with ESOL & immigrant families at the Sarasota County Schools Multi-Cultural Family Event (ESOL = English as a second language).

There were beautiful performances and tables decorated with red and purple tablecloths. The vegetable plants on the tables were a welcome touch, giving the event an organic feel and making me think of my home country, Colombia.

As I was listening to the meeting, which included parents voting on who would run the Latino parent organization at the school during the next year, I couldn’t help but feel admiration for all the participating parents. Each was playing an essential role within their school by being involved and showing interest in their children’s activities.

I valued the opportunity to connect with the families once the meeting finished. One conversation made a significant impact on me. A mother came up to our table and asked for information about SCGLR. I shared the materials and affirmed the importance of children reading on grade level by the end of 3rd grade.

She became very excited. She asked me the favor of repeating what I had shared with her to her younger son. She explained that her younger son did not like to read in comparison to her oldest son that read all the time at home. I welcomed the opportunity.

She walked over to get him, and as they approached the table, I got on the eye-level of her 8-year-old son and made eye contact with him. I knew it was important to first connect before I began talking to him about reading. I introduced myself, and I asked him what he wanted to be when he grew up. He said he didn’t know yet. His mother quickly added that he should be a dentist so he could make a lot of money. We all enjoyed her humor, and he smirked as he looked up at her.

I then said to him, “Well, whoever you want to be, a dentist, a doctor, a lawyer, an artist, or anything else…to be good at any of those professions, you need to know how to read well.” We talked about the importance of reading and how easy it would become if he practiced it every day. He was quiet until he said to his mom, “what about you?” I knew he was referring to her reading habits. From his tone, I gathered that his mom did not devote any time to reading. His mother replied, “I am the one raising you so you shouldn’t be pointing at me.” I gently suggested reading is important for everyone.

After they walked away, I reflected upon the importance of parents setting a strong example by reading. Data backs up this suggestion: according to Scholastic, the four most powerful predictors of reading frequency for children between the ages of 6–17 are a strong belief that reading for fun is important; really enjoying reading; having parents that are engaged and involved in reading with children; and having parents who are frequent readers themselves.

Parents and caregivers are their children’s first teacher. When we read to our kids, and if they see us reading for pleasure, it sets a positive example. A child will follow, to an extent, what a parent does. If a parent is asking something from the child, they may have a better outcome if they are already setting a strong example.

Okay everyone, get reading…let’s lead a generation to success!

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