Raising a smart child has a lot to do with cultivating emotional intelligence and empathy. Smart, successful leaders possess these qualities as well as listening and interpersonal skills, but today’s parents are challenged by having a wide range of technological tools, information and simulated experiences so that anything that piques a child’s curiosity can be retrieved literally in seconds thanks to the technological capabilities of our world.
Gone are the days of researching topics in an encyclopedia at the library. However, one irreplaceable tool that will never become outdated is what parents and caregivers bring to learning and especially the reading process, even if it is on a Kindle or iPad.
Parent involvement in reading is a tool that no computer can replicate. Parents and caregivers modeling strategies and investing in caring and thought provoking discussions will extend a child’s understanding. These priceless learning experiences not only make a child smarter but encourage them to continue to think deeper about topics as they grow and develop.
Dr. Erika Burton, Ph.D., an education expert and founder of the reading program, Stepping Stones Together says there are six key ways parents can encourage their child to exercise their higher order thinking skills:
Research supports early vocabulary development is the key to a child’s strong lifelong reading comprehension skills. Help your child develop strong vocabulary skills through identification of the world around them. Additionally, develop a child’s working vocabulary through using synonyms to describe words that your child may already know. Any time you can have your child experience a new vocabulary word by introducing the meaning and showing her the word in context will build new words into her usable vocabulary.
Many children begin reading by sounding out words, however, ask them what they read and they shrug their shoulders. Modeling how to make predictions is essential to beginning reading success. Read the title of any story before reading it and model how to make a prediction based on the cover and title of a story.
Study the pictures throughout a book before reading it. Ask your child what he thinks is going on in each picture. Have him make predictions based solely on the illustrations and inferences about potential problems within the story.
Beginning readers need practice and observation to become fluent readers. Encourage readers to read to and with you. More advanced readers benefit from shared reading opportunities as well.
Young and mature readers alike need proper modeling and practice to think beyond the text. This includes the ability to make inferences, compare and contrast ideas, and understand character traits. Parents or caregivers who discuss the moral, plot, or setting within a story or provide background knowledge for a non-fiction topic not only help their children become smarter but provide them with lifelong tools they will use in their future to continue to foster higher order thinking skills for life.
Krista Guenther, certified infant and child sleep consultant and founder of Sleeperific, says making sure your child gets a good night sleep (at least 10-12 hours per night for 5- to 7-year-olds) is also important when maximizing your child's potential, explaining, "Higher quality and quantity of sleep has been correlated to better intelligence and better behavior. Conversely, children with behavioral sleep problems, snoring or sleep apnea tend to be more likely to have deficits with memory, behavioral and attention, as well as lowered academic performance. Better sleep leads to better cognitive function, better memory and better school performance."
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