Reading for Life
Tips for developing that greatest life skill of all
by Michel Thibeault, Head Teacher
Reading is probably the most important academic skill we learn at primary school. Apart from being a gateway to knowledge, it helps us with just about everything else – writing, creative thinking, problem solving, communication – and that’s why it is so essential to instill a love of books in our children.
We have put together some tips on how you can inspire lifelong readers. But first, here are a few tactics that don’t:
1. Pressuring, nagging, or bribing and rewarding reading
Encourage children to read, but don’t hound them. Given the rewards for reading will make them read, or pretend to read, in order to get what they want but will not make them discover the joy of reading.
2. Criticizing what children read
Explain what troubles you about certain types of reading materials after reading them yourself. Forbid as little as possible. And whenever you can, accept differences of opinion as just that. Make the right books available but since we cannot control everything, teach them to determine by themselves if it’s appropriate or not.
3. Lavishing too much praise
If you catch your child reading, show interest but don’t make a big deal out of it. Children need to know that they’re reading for their own pleasure, not for your approval.
4. Setting unrealistic goals
Look for small signs of progress rather than dramatic changes in your child’s reading habits. Don’t expect a reluctant reader to finish a book overnight; maybe over the next week, with your gentle encouragement.
5. Judging your child’s performance
Separate your child’s school performance from reading for pleasure. Helping your child enjoy reading is a worthwhile goal in itself.
Now for what works:
1. Role Model
Make sure your child sees you reading for enjoyment, reading to learn and reading for practical purposes (cookbooks, maps, etc).
2. View reading for pleasure as a value in itself
Almost anything your youngster reads, including comics, helps build reading skills.
3. Create a book-rich environment
4. Create a reading environment
Turn off TVs, phones and iPads! Use the time to read.
5. Know your child’s interests and provide books accordingly.
6. Go to bookstores and libraries with your child
Give them an opportunity to choose their own books.
7. Talk about what you read and what your child reads the way you would talk to a friend about books you read.
8. When your child is sharing her reading, actively listen to her!
Give your undivided attention to the conversation!
9. Give books as gifts.
10. Give him/her your all-time favorite book from when you were his/her age.
11. Read to them, read to them, read to them
Make reading aloud a natural part of family life.
12. Subscribe to a magazine that relates to your child’s interest.
13. Play audio books in the car.
14. Read for yourself some books written for your child’s age.
15. Keep the big picture in mind
For all sorts of reasons, some children go through periods without showing much interest in reading. Don’t panic! Time, and a good role model can help re-kindle their interest.
Click on the links below to read this article in Thai:
Ankle-deep in mud, Prathom 1 and 4 students happily helped Loong Boonying drive a water buffalo ploughing the rice field. It was hard work but they enjoyed themselves. Our students were on a field trip to the Thai Buffalo Training Camp in Mae Rim to learn about the different varieties of buffaloes and to experience for themselves how these strong domestic animals help farmers plough fields and crush rice grains. The children also learnt how rice is milled the traditional Thai way before it is ready to be cooked. A really fun and educational trip!
Lots more photos on the blog:
Indriya‐samvara (we use the Thai translation at school which is pronounced insee‐sang‐won) means ‘using the senses wisely,’ or restraint of the senses. The term is often found in Buddhist texts as indriya samvara sila and as such this Wise Habit means self‐control of the senses in order to live a more virtuous life.
While a total of 22 indriya, or ‘faculties’, are referred to in Buddhist literature, we are concerned here with the six ‘sense doors’ ‐ the eyes, ears, nose, tongue, body and the mind – through which we experience the external world. To take care of these six senses, we need to be mindfully aware of them so that when any of them come into contact with an object ‐ whether a vision a sound, a smell, a taste, touch or a thought ‐ we are not overcome with desire or aversion, which leads to the arising of negative thoughts and actions. Cultivating awareness in our daily lives of what our body is doing, what we are seeing or hearing and how our mind is reacting, leads to better decisions. Practising indriya-samvara is to use our powers of observation and evaluation to see the results that come from using our senses in a mindful way.
“When everything around us is encouraging distraction, agitation or superficiality we have to find within ourselves the ability to make choices about the kind of things we are going to look at, the kind if things that we are going to listen to and the kind of things that we are going to spend time on. There is nothing out there that is going to give us that kind of guidance. It is something that we need to give importance to so that indriya-samvara really becomes part of our life” (Venerable Ajahn Jayasaro).
An example for families might be how we relate to the TV, or ‘screen time’ more broadly. We need to ask, what amount of time and what type of use is wise? What are the benefits and what is detrimental? Venerable Jayasaro continues, “Do you let your child endlessly play computer games? Of course not. This is taking care of the senses. Once we ask, ’Does it make sense to expose our children to certain media,’ we can bring control to our children’s exposure and relationship to phones, TV, computers and the internet.” Venerable Ajahn Prayutt advises that we steer away from viewing things as only beautiful or ugly, or as something to simply like or dislike as soon as we come into contact with it. Otherwise our children will be always chasing desires and avoiding unpleasantness, thus perpetuating the cycle of tanha (unwholesome desire) and dukkha (dissatisfaction).
Children without a principled understanding of how to use the senses wisely will be easily led astray, distracted in the classroom and prone to over‐excitement. Children who understand and practise restraint, however, in regards to eating, touching, watching and listening, will also know how to react to the outside world, how to watch TV, how to use social networking responsibly, that the true value of food relates to health, not taste. With the ever‐increasing targeting of children in marketing and accessibility to new media, the challenge to apply restraint is pressing. ‘Restraint’ in this sense is not the same as repression. We are not trying to deny or withdraw from the sensory world which, after all, is impossible. Rather, we are cultivating the ability to watch over our impulses, to employ discernment in that space between contact with a sense object and reaction so that any resulting thoughts or actions are intelligent and beneficial. Impulse control is now widely considered to be the greatest indicator of success in young children.
Mostly, however, we are not interested in exercising restraint and we fall victim to unhealthy sensory pleasures, whether it’s listening to gossip or over‐indulging in eating. We might tell ourselves to give up some unwholesome habit or other, but until we clearly see its drawbacks we find it difficult to let it go. Often this is when it’s too late. This is where the Wise Habit yoniso manasikara (wise reflection) becomes important. If we encourage our children to reflect on the cause and effect of excessive indulgence or aversion, they will soon learn for themselves what is good for them and what is not. Once they start discriminating between what they should let into to their minds each day and what to keep out, they will experience a growing sense of self‐reliance and contentment just to be with themselves, without always asking ‘what’s next?’ With careful, persistent practice, indriya‐samvara will become a wise habit for life.
Download Thai text here: Indriya_TH2014
“My Dad is special because he looks after me and taught me how to play monopoly!” says a Prathom student during Panyaden’s Father’s Day celebrations this morning to honour His Majesty the King’s birthday. Another student promised her lucky dad breakfast in bed. Others also expressed their gratitude to His Majesty the King, the Father of Thailand as well as to their dads with essays, song and dance performances. We also enjoyed the video featuring some Panyaden dads who shared what they like about being a father.
Our teachers, Kru Noy and Kru Tee, along with School Director Kru Neil, wrote and presented a funny skit about 3 dads realizing how much their children loved them when the latter tried to show appreciation on this special day set aside for all fathers and father figures. After the heartfelt performances, we were off to our school paddy fields to thresh the rice we harvested in honour of His Majesty’s sustainable rice programme.
Thank you dads for everything you do for us every day and for all your love and support!
More photos on the blog: