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  Santa Cruz Parent Santa Cruz County

January 26, 2011
from the Editor
How to Raise Boys Who Read
Positively Imperfect

This Week
Navigating the Teen Years with Positive Discipline
How to Raise Boys Who Read cont.
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  from the Editor

(Site Photos) GardenPaintingofFamily.jpgWe know you're all outside enjoying this glorious weather!  The parks are ringing with children's voices.   Sometimes it's fun to try out a new park. You can get a good overview in our Activities, Arts & Attractions section.

Is your green thumb starting to twitch?  Look for gardening classes in our Events Calendar.  We even made a special Garden Section for you! Keep checking back as we have a backlog of events to upload!

Are your tweens and teens flexing their "independent muscles"?  Have you considered becoming prepared ahead of time with the tools to work through those often challenging years?  We spoke briefly with Dr. Jane Weed Pomerantz, our local expert on positive discipline.  The upcoming class is full of down-to-earth techniques to help parents.  Sure, you could read a book, but joining with other parents, sharing situations, realizing you share a common challenge and working on a positive plan together can be rewarding and very supportive.

We think Suki's blogs contain unique thinking and thought provoking opinions.  Whether you agree, disagree or want to add to the narrative, Suki appreciates comments so be sure to send her a reaction!   Passing along a message from Suki:

(Site Photos) SukiRedHead_138.jpgHi Everybody,

I have a new blog site, so if you follow my blog, please change your bookmarks! I'm now here: http://blog.sukiwessling.com/ 

Suki

You will continue to find Suki in our newsletters also.

It was great to see many of you at the Central Coast Independent School Fair last week.  If you missed it, visit our Education/Schools section for introductory descriptions of many of the leading private schools.  We also list public schools, charter schools, home schooling programs and educational support services.  If your school has not submitted a descriptive listing, talk to your principal or parent organization.  We want to include all schools so parents have choices.

Last week was "No Name Calling Week".  I missed it, but that's okay.  Every day should be "No Name Calling Day".  This must be confusing for children when so many adults don't seem to know about "No Name Calling".  My solution: the power is within the family to mentor "No Name Calling"!

This week is "School Choice Week".  I like that! I like all the choices in Santa Cruz County.

Parmalee

  How to Raise Boys Who Read

By THOMAS SPENCE in WSJ


When I was a young boy, America's elite schools and universities were almost entirely reserved for males. That seems incredible now, in an era when headlines suggest that boys are largely unfit for the classroom. In particular, they can't read.

According to a recent report from the Center on Education Policy, for example, substantially more boys than girls score below the proficiency level on the annual National Assessment of Educational Progress reading test. This disparity goes back to 1992, and in some states the percentage of boys proficient in reading is now more than ten points below that of girls. The male-female reading gap is found in every socio-economic and ethnic category, including the children of white, college-educated parents.

The good news is that influential people have noticed this problem. The bad news is that many of them have perfectly awful ideas for solving it.

Everyone agrees that if boys don't read well, it's because they don't read enough. But why don't they read?

continued at the end of this newsletter>

  Positively Imperfect

(Site Photos) SukiRedHead_138.jpgPerhaps I've just been in a self-critical mood these days, but lately I've been wondering: Do people think that I write about parenting because I think I'm the perfect parent?

It's the "gone to school in my underwear dream" gone awry.

Sometimes I'm out somewhere and my kids do something (the particulars hardly matter) and I'll not have the perfect Positive Discipline response. Almost immediately (but not immediately enough) I might think: What if one of my readers saw me now?

Moral of the story is, we're all human. Parenting is neither a science nor an art nor a discipline. It's something we make up anew every single day.

I know at least one of you is out there thinking: Well, MY kids are just fine and I never snap at them.

Go away.

To the rest of you: It's likely, given demographics and the way life works, that... >>>>>>>

 

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Santa Cruz Waldorf K-8, Morning in the Kindergarten
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Holy Cross Pre-8, Open House 1/30

 

Mount Madonna Pre-12, Campus Tour 1/31

 

Springhill K-8, Science Fair and Open House 2/1

 

Holy Cross Pre - 8, Visiting Day 2/2

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Building Garden Structures
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Cabrillo Swim School wants to get the next generation in the water.


Start March 20!

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 Navigating the Teen Years with Positive Discipline

(Site Photos) Teen_andMom.jpgThis upcoming February course provides parents and childcare providers with the tools and skills necessary to successfully use the Positive Discipline methods. Be sure to sign up early while there is still space!

These methods are designed to teach children essential life skills and important personal perceptions of courage, confidence, and capability. Participants will understand the importance of encouragement and ways to involve their children in decision making and problem solving.

Through reading, group discussions, and experiential opportunities, participants will explore a variety of options available such as consequences versus punishment, limited choices, and following through with dignity and respect. They will also provide support and learn from each other by using Parents Helping Parents Problem Solving Steps with real problems they are having with children in their lives.

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  How to Raise Boys Who Read cont.

continued

A considerable number of teachers and librarians believe that boys are simply bored by the "stuffy" literature they encounter in school. According to a revealing Associated Press story in July these experts insist that we must "meet them where they are"-that is, pander to boys' untutored tastes.

For elementary- and middle-school boys, that means "books that exploit [their] love of bodily functions and gross-out humor." AP reported that one school librarian treats her pupils to "grossology" parties. "Just get 'em reading," she counsels cheerily. "Worry about what they're reading later."

There certainly is no shortage of publishers ready to meet boys where they are. Scholastic has profitably catered to the gross-out market for years with its "Goosebumps" and "Captain Underpants" series. Its latest bestsellers are the "Butt Books," a series that began with "The Day My Butt Went Psycho."

The more venerable houses are just as willing to aim low. Penguin, which once used the slogan, "the library of every educated person," has its own "Gross Out" line for boys, including such new classics as "Sir Fartsalot Hunts the Booger."

Workman Publishing made its name telling women "What to Expect When You're Expecting." How many of them expected they'd be buying "Oh, Yuck! The Encyclopedia of Everything Nasty" a few years later from the same publisher? Even a self-published author like Raymond Bean-nom de plume of the fourth-grade teacher who wrote "SweetFarts"-can make it big in this genre. His flatulence-themed opus hit no. 3 in children's humor on Amazon. The sequel debuts this fall.

Education was once understood as training for freedom. Not merely the transmission of information, education entailed the formation of manners and taste. Aristotle thought we should be raised "so as both to delight in and to be pained by the things that we ought; this is the right education."

"Plato before him," writes C. S. Lewis, "had said the same. The little human animal will not at first have the right responses. It must be trained to feel pleasure, liking, disgust, and hatred at those things which really are pleasant, likeable, disgusting, and hateful."

This kind of training goes against the grain, and who has time for that? How much easier to meet children where they are.

One obvious problem with the SweetFarts philosophy of education is that it is more suited to producing a generation of barbarians and morons than to raising the sort of men who make good husbands, fathers and professionals. If you keep meeting a boy where he is, he doesn't go very far.

The other problem is that pandering doesn't address the real reason boys won't read. My own experience with six sons is that even the squirmiest boy does not require lurid or vulgar material to sustain his interest in a book.

So why won't boys read? The AP story drops a clue when it describes the efforts of one frustrated couple with their 13-year-old unlettered son: "They've tried bribing him with new video games." Good grief.

The appearance of the boy-girl literacy gap happens to coincide with the proliferation of video games and other electronic forms of entertainment over the last decade or two. Boys spend far more time "plugged in" than girls do. Could the reading gap have more to do with competition for boys' attention than with their supposed inability to focus on anything other than outhouse humor?

Dr. Robert Weis, a psychology professor at Denison University, confirmed this suspicion in a randomized controlled trial of the effect of video games on academic ability. Boys with video games at home, he found, spend more time playing them than reading, and their academic performance suffers substantially. Hard to believe, isn't it, but Science has spoken.

The secret to raising boys who read, I submit, is pretty simple-keep electronic media, especially video games and recreational Internet, under control (that is to say, almost completely absent). Then fill your shelves with good books.

People who think that a book-even R.L. Stine's grossest masterpiece-can compete with the powerful stimulation of an electronic screen are kidding themselves. But on the level playing field of a quiet den or bedroom, a good book like "Treasure Island" will hold a boy's attention quite as well as "Zombie Butts from Uranus." Who knows-a boy deprived of electronic stimulation might even become desperate enough to read Jane Austen.

Most importantly, a boy raised on great literature is more likely to grow up to think, to speak, and to write like a civilized man. Whom would you prefer to have shaped the boyhood imagination of your daughter's husband  --Raymond Bean or Robert Louis Stevenson?

I offer a final piece of evidence that is perhaps unanswerable: There is no literacy gap between home-schooled boys and girls. How many of these families, do you suppose, have thrown grossology parties?

Mr. Spence is president of Spence Publishing Company in Dallas.

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