What does March mean to you?
For many children around the nation, it means standardized testing. (Wait, don’t run away! I know…it makes you anxious even if your kids are just toddlers!).
But here’s the thing. There are a lot of valid pros and cons to testing, but in the end they don’t really matter because testing is already a reality for your kid. Those test scores do affect your child.
If your child is in grade school, he knows exactly what it means to be approaching the standards. Middle and high school are tough enough, but to know you aren’t quite where you “should” be can be quite a blow to your self-esteem.
How are you going to handle this as a parent?
Some schools are proactive and will put your child in the special help classes if their scores are low. These are ego boosters (major sarcasm there!).
Next month I have more advice from a teacher’s perspective, but this month I would like to address helping your child from a proactive stance as a parent.
The best advice I can give you to help your children be more successful in standardized testing is to start reading to them when they’re young and to keep reading to them as they grow up.
Read with them as they get older. You can switch readers…first you, then them.
Read separate books together as they age. Designate a family reading time so you’re all cuddling up together while you read!
Listen to audio books on road trips.
How does reading help with standardized testing?
Vocabulary: When children do not know the meaning of a word, readers automatically look for the meaning in contextual clues. They have been doing this for years when reading books so it transfers to required reading as well.
Language: Readers learn how language works. This seems like it is obvious but let’s break it down. If you are not comfortable with reading, you are at a serious advantage when reading about other subjects as well (social sciences, math, history, etc.). If you understand how written language skills work, reading about other subjects becomes much easier. This helps your child to succeed in social studies, science, and all of their other subjects.
Expression: As you read a book together, talk about the story. This teaches children how to gather feelings and information from reading. As a wonderful side benefit, it allows them to talk about their own feelings in a non-threatening way.
Higher Level Learning: Simply by reading with your child, you can encourage higher level thinking skills. You can begin this almost as soon as your child is speaking. Read a story together. When you are out and about, draw real life connections from the story. When your child is making those connections, you have just witnessed a higher level of thought process. Encourage it as much as possible. What does this look like? My nieces are ages 3 and 8. They love the series, Bad Kitty, by Nick Bruel. They have a kitty named Cat. There was one book in the series about Bad Kitty giving herself a bath; they found it to be hysterical. My younger niece said to me when we saw Cat one day giving herself a bath, “Aunt Kara, Cat only likes those kind of baths. She would scratch and jump and go crazy like Bad Kitty if I put her in the bath tub.” This is amazing!
It may have been a long time since you have taken a standardized test, but for the writing portion there is often a passage or quote, and the students are asked to say how this applies to their own lives. This is making a connection with literature and daily life, something you can inspire in them from a very young age.
Moral of the story? Make reading a priority!
-Kara a.k.a. Epic Engineer