Many kids hear what you say. Some kids do what you say. All kids do what you do. This year, whether it is your child’s first year of school or last, show them you support reading and education. As parents we all have goals and expectations for our children. The best way to help our children achieve their educational goals is to stop telling them what to do and begin showing them what to do.

An effective way of helping your children or teens become great readers is to read yourself. Read in front of them. Read newspapers, magazines, books, the backs of cereal boxes, the directions on a cake mix. Read aloud the song lyrics from your favorite CDs. Read in the bathroom and at the breakfast table. Read at the beach and keep books on your nightstand. Take your kids to the library and make sure they see your pleasure checking out reading materials for yourself.

When they interrupt your reading with requests and questions, make them wait until you’ve finished the page or the chapter before you respond. And, once in a while, after a hard day at work, let them see you turn off your favorite television program and relieve your stress and exhaustion by reading an entertaining book, one you just can’t put down. More than words, that one act alone will make them understand that reading and books are not only a valuable experience, they are a desirable experience.

Very often a child or teen will participate in an activity or develop an interest if it gains them attention from the adults in their lives whom they respect and love. That’s a great deal of power, and if we adults are smart we will use it wisely. Don’t just tell kids that school and education are important, show them:

  • When educational issues are up for a vote in your community, take your children with you to the polls and let them see that you care enough about their education to take the time to vote.
  • Make sure your children’s and teens’ teachers know who you are and that you care about the education your children receive. Support and attend your kids’ school activities as much as your life commitments permit.
  • If you are a single working parent and time considerations limit your classroom participation, talk to your children’s teachers and investigate other ways that you can support your children and their classroom activities at home.
  • Be curious. In the course of your daily life let your children see you asking other adults questions, even “dumb” questions. Ask questions of your dry cleaner and grocer, your doctor and dentist, your auto mechanic and plumber. Your children will learn not to be afraid to ask questions. They will see that they can benefit from asking questions. They will learn from you that in reality there are no “dumb” questions.
  • Share your living skills with your kids. Show them how you balance a checkbook and keep a household budget. Have them read a recipe when you cook, or read and interpret directions and manuals when assembling household equipment and when making household repairs. And when you engage your kids in these activities, demonstrate how the skills you learned in school — reading, math, and thinking skills — help you accomplish a particular activity.
  • Whatever your occupation, take your children to your workplace and let them know how the knowledge you acquired in school applies to your line of work. Show them how you use acquired knowledge on the job. Kids of every age need to see that what they learn in school does have vast practical applications.

Take a chance and share your life passions with your children. Share your feelings of wonder. If you fish, fish with them. If you knit or sew, spend time teaching them to knit and sew. Let your kids see you contemplate a summer night’s sky and wonder aloud at its magnificence. Education should be about discovery, about the joy in learning about one’s self and the world. Some of our children do not find that joy in their classrooms, but as loving parents we can instill a joy in learning with our kids at home.

© 2015 The National Children’s Book and Literacy Alliance