The Important Role of Parents

Over the last few weeks, I have spent some time in grade level roundtables with parents of children in all grades from Pre-K through 9th grade. There are a few more coming up in the month of December, and some groups would like to repeat, so we will do that in December and on into January. These roundtable conversations have primarily straddled three things:

• developmental milestones and what it means to parent this age group.
• questions about parenting rules and what others are doing in their homes.
• questions about school or school work for the age group.

They have been fruitful conversations, sometimes reinforcing, sometimes revelatory, about what it means to be parents in 2011. This Friday’s Parents’ Association meeting includes the topic of “media literacy” for parents. This is timely for all of us as we grapple with the ever changing role of media in our own lives and in the lives of our children. I am looking forward to some lively conversation in the upcoming roundtables and in this Friday’s meeting. Additionally, over winter break, many of us will read Richard Weissbourd’s The Parents We Mean To Be. The book is the topic of our January Parents’ Association meeting.

Indeed, one of the beauties of this school is that we do have involved parents, willing to lend their time, talent and resources in service in of education of their children. This is a wonderfully supportive group of parents. And so this environment can make me forgetful sometimes that not everyone is as lucky as we are.

At times I feel immune to some of the larger issues being debated in the media on the state of education because Independent Schools are just that: independent. I am reminded, however, that not all children have such an adult-rich learning environment and such attentive parents. Thus I was struck by Thomas Friedman’s Op-Ed piece in the New York Times last week that sparked an online debate I have been watching with a certain degree of fascination. For the record, what Friedman writes about is not new news. To see his piece, How About Better Parents? and the ever growing commentary, click here to read.

Of all the data Friedman has collected here, the piece I want to focus on is the very simple fact that students whose parents read to them on a regular basis while in the early primary grades perform systematically better than their peers. Friedman talks about all kinds of parental involvement and investment in school. But the focus on reading is not to be overlooked.

Here at Tuxedo Park School we have involved parents who help and volunteer in all kinds of ways at our school. We have just returned from Thanksgiving Break after a very successful, warm and wonderful Grandparent’s Day. At Grandparent’s Day I had the privilege of addressing the grandparents and asking them to tell their stories to their grandchildren. For parents, the plea is about reading. Read to them, read with them, read next to them, each of you in your own book. We are lucky enough to have access to books in all forms: in our local libraries, in our homes, online. Make reading a family habit. As you think about gift-giving this holiday season, think about giving your child the gift of your undivided attention while you read him or her a story.

Some wonderful suggestions:

Notable Childrens Books of 2011

Book Gift Ideas from Common Sense Media

About Kathleen McNamara Head's Up!

an educator in Independent Schools for over 28 years
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