Should book reports be expected of elementary school children?
It is my belief and experience that when children are in elementary school, book reports are neither important nor advisable. The goal in the early years is to nurture a love of reading in children–reading being the door to knowledge–so we need to introduce it in a way that is both enjoyable and rewarding. If children are taught to read when they have reached the reading-readiness age,* if they are given an excellent and diverse selection of books to read, and if they are allowed the freedom to pursue reading as a leisure activity—in other words, something they do for pleasure and enjoyment, not because it is school work or homework—they will naturally fall in love with reading.
Rather than spending time writing book reports, which are meaningless at this stage and can feel like a cumbersome chore for a child, allow children to spend their time reading books they enjoy. Ideally, children will read some books that are reading level appropriate, some that challenge their reading ability, and some that their parents or teachers read to them (books that are at a higher reading level, but still within the child’s range of comprehension). It is important to surround children with good books and create a culture of reading in the home. Keep bookshelves in every room of the house and provide both fiction and non-fiction material; science and history books will be as fascinating to children as a good novel if these genera are not introduced through dry, dull textbooks. And please do not give your children e-readers! Let them learn to love the feel and smell of a real book; this is part of the sensory experience of reading that helps to nurture a love for this activity.
*The reading-readiness age for girls is 6 1/2 to 7 and for boys it is 7 to 7 1/2 though some children may be ready a little earlier and some a little later. When children are developmentally ready, reading should be an easy skill to learn.
I have three children, five and under, and I cannot keep my house as tidy as I used to. Can you offer any suggestions?
Dear Miss Tidy,
This may not be what you would like to hear, but my advice is not to worry about it too much. It’s far more important that your children are a part of a loving household, and that they are able to play and explore in their surroundings during the day, than it is to have a spotless house. This can be challenging for parents who are accustomed to having a place for everything and everything in its place. For the most part, keeping the home clean and organized are good habits to have, but we have to give a little (and sometimes a lot!) when raising children.
Teach children to put their things away when they are finished playing and to take care of their home, but don’t let the need to have an immaculate home get in the way of allowing kids to be kids. A home in which children live should be obvious to anyone the minute they walk through the door. This isn’t to say that guests should be tripping over toys, but a home that is too sterile, too devoid of any signs of play always makes me a little nervous. If you have a large home, and you can dedicate some rooms for adult use only, this would be ideal. However, most of us don’t have this luxury, so children’s books and toys in the family room or living room are common. Enjoy your kids’ childhood and don’t stress too much about the momentary disarray that inevitably comes along with it!
Through her seminars, speeches, and consultations, Elizabeth work’s as an advocate for young souls by debunking many of the myths that have crept into Western society about raising and educating children and offering parents alternatives. To learn more about Elizabeth’s work, please visit: www.elizabethyhanson.com.
If you’d like to submit a question to Elizabeth’s advice column, please email her at this address: firstname.lastname@example.org.