A Smarter Beginning 

Why is Learning to Read English So “Tuff”?

February 8, 2014 | Blog | Permalink

caught-reading_lWe all know children who found learning to read English difficult. They may be our own children. They may be other children in our family. They may be a friend’s children or classmates of our children. The strange thing is that when I speak to people from other countries about the difficulty many English speaking children have in learning to read, they’re shocked. They tell me children in their countries generally don’t have this problem. Furthermore, fewer children have dyslexia in non-English speaking countries. Why? It can’t be that English speaking kids learn more slowly nor can it be that their genetics make them more prone to dyslexia. So what is it?

 English Speaking Children Lag Behind

 Why do English speaking children lag behind children in non-English speaking European countries in learning to read? The most obvious reason is that English is harder for children to learn to read than other European languages. But why is it harder? And why are more English speakers diagnosed with dyslexia?

 The answer is one we don’t hear about often in relation to learning to read. It has to do with the difficulty of English spelling and with the many initial and final consonant clusters. Consonant clusters are groups of consonants without a vowel such as the “spl” in the word “splash” and “sts” in “bursts.” A study was reported in the British Journal of Psychology (www.lyddansk.dk/sites/default/files/Foundation_literacy_acquisition_in_European_orthographies.pdf)  comparing the length of time it took for children in fifteen European countries to acquire “foundation literacy.” The study tested the recognition of familiar words, the matching of sounds to letters, decoding and other things. The findings were that “…readers of English require 2 ½ or more years of literacy learning to achieve a mastery of familiar word recognition and simple decoding….” This is in contrast to the one year of learning required for most of the other European languages. This means that what takes speakers of, for example, Italian and Greek one year to learn takes English speakers 2 ½ years. That’s quite a difference.

 How Does English Spelling Cause This Disparity?

 Remember all the spelling quizzes those of you in English speaking countries took for many years in school? That doesn’t happen much in most non-English speaking schools because their languages are easier to spell. There is a mostly consistent relationship between the letters on the page and the sounds they represent. For example, children in Italy learning to read the words for the numbers one through four, uno, due, tre, quattro, read the words pronouncing the sound for each letter and these sounds do not vary from word to word. Each individual letter is always pronounced and it’s always pronounced the same way with only a few exceptions. This consistency of relationship of the letters with the sounds they represent requires a single mental process (see link above).

 Now let’s look at how the first four numbers in English, one, two, three, four, are read. In “one,” the first sound of the word is “w” although there is no “w” to be found. Just to make it a little more difficult for a beginning reader, the pronunciation of the similarly spelled word “on” has only the sound of the “n” in common. Looking at the word “two,” we find that there is a“w” but it’s not sounded. This is in complete contrast with the word “one” where “w” is sounded but not written. To make it more complicated, “two” is pronounced exactly like two other words which are spelled differently: “to” and “too.” Moving on, we come to the word “three” which isn’t too difficult once the child knows how to read the “th” letter combination which is different from the “t” alone. But let’s look at the word “four.” To start, the “u” is not pronounced and the word sounds just like another word, “for.” At least as confusing, however, is that “four” looks like the word “our” but is pronounced totally differently. In fact, it’s pronounced like “hour” where you see but don’t sound the “h.” This is a lot to digest, especially for a child learning to read, and we’ve looked at only four simple words!

 Letters and Their Sounds Less Consistent in English

 In short, English shows much less consistency in the relationship between letters and their sounds than Italian and most other European languages. This requires what the foundation literacy study calls dual process learning rather than single process learning. (Danish and French also take longer to learn to read although not as long as English.) Dual process learning is more complicated because it requires the use of more cognitive skills than learning using single processing. In addition, English contains more initial and final consonant clusters. This explains why, as the data suggest, it takes twice as long to learn how to read.   Perhaps it’s also why more English speakers are diagnosed with dyslexia than speakers of other languages where dyslexia doesn’t show up so noticeably and where it affects reading less (www.4therapy.com/conditions/learning-disorders/dyslexia-poses-bigger-challenge-english-speakers-2347).

 Implications for Teaching Children to Learn English

 “Learning to read and write [English] fluently is particularly tricky….” (www.bostinno.streetwise.co/channels/which-languages-are-hardest-to).So what does this mean to us?  Should we start teaching children to learn to read at an earlier age to make up for the longer time it takes? Many parents may already be doing this. Should schools take into greater consideration the child’s stage of cognitive development before beginning to teach that child to read? Should we delay the teaching of reading, as some already do, until children are more ready to handle the difficult task?

 What do you think? I’d love to know.

 P.S.  Here’s an amusing poem by Lord Cromer that can be found at www.spellingsociety.org.


When the English tongue we speak.
Why is break not rhymed with freak?
Will you tell me why it’s true
We say sew but likewise few?
And the maker of the verse,
Cannot rhyme his horse with worse?
Beard is not the same as heard
Cord is different from word.
Cow is cow but low is low
Shoe is never rhymed with foe.
Think of hose, dose, and lose

And think of goose and yet with choose
Think of comb, tomb and bomb,
Doll and roll or home and some.
Since pay is rhymed with say
Why not paid with said I pray?
Think of blood, food and good.
Mould is not pronounced like could.
Wherefore done, but gone and lone -
Is there any reason known?
To sum up all, it seems to me
Sound and letters don’t agree.

Photo credit: John-Morgan/Foter/CC BX 

Finland’s Lucky Children

January 30, 2014 | Blog | Permalink


Is this what we want for our children:  “Anxiety and stress levels among youths [in the US] are at an all-time high; they are bogged down with homework, over scheduled with extracurricular activities, deprived of free play and faced with the pressures of getting into a top college”? (Peter Gray, interviewed at www.alternet.org/education/real-problem-education). Think there’s no alternative where you live? Well, Finland thinks there is.

International Scores of Finland and US Compared

2511588698_6c63a2ab84On the International Student Assessment exam given every 3 years in mathematics, science and reading, Finland has come out among the top countries in the world. In 2006, Finland was # 2 in math, # 1 in science and # 2 in reading. In 2012, it was # 12 in math, # 5 in science, and # 6 in reading. This was slightly down but still among the highest scoring countries. By comparison, the US was # 36 in math, # 28 in science and # 24 in reading. That’s a significant difference. How has the US been trying to decrease the gap? The answer is by instituting core subjects, standardization, lots of testing, and greater accountability.

Finland’s Education System  

Now let’s take a closer look at Finland’s education system. After all, it’s working. To begin with, Finnish children don’t start their formal education until they’re 7 years old. Starting any earlier is regarded as a violation of their right to be children. In addition, there are daycare programs for babies and toddlers as well as a preschool for 6 year olds the year before formal education begins.

 From the ages of 7 to 16, Finnish children receive their basic education. They are grouped heterogeneously in classes with all ability levels mixed. They get 1 hour and 15 minutes of recess each day compared with 27 minutes on average in the US. During the first 6 years of school, homework is discouraged and children’s abilities are not measured. There is no standardized testing before the age of 16. At that point, students are given the only mandatory standardized test they receive. Then 95% continue on to either vocational or academic high school. The graduation rate from these schools is 93%. Sixty-six percent of these graduates go on to higher education. This is the highest in the European Union. (www.smithsonianmag.com/innovation/why-are-finlands-schools-successful-49859555/)

 Finland’s Teachers

What about the teachers in Finland? All teachers must have a Master’s Degree and this is paid for by the government. According to Pasi Sahlberg, a Finnish educator and author, it is “More difficult getting into teacher education than law or medicine.” (www.nytimes.com/2011/12/13/education/from-finland-an-intriguing-school-reform-model.html?pagewanted=all&_r=O)  In fact, teachers have the same status as lawyers and doctors. They come from the top 10% of college graduates and the competition for jobs in teaching is stiff. They are in the classroom for 4 hours a day and spend 2 additional hours each week for professional development.

Finnish teachers have a great deal of autonomy in the classroom since the Finnish curriculum exists only in broad guidelines. Teachers and schools are encouraged to work together and to collaborate rather than to compete and this is passed on to the children. In addition, teachers in Finland are 96% unionized and there is no merit pay.

 The Cost

What is equally interesting is that the Finnish school system is funded entirely by the government. Although class sizes are kept small and teachers earn well, Finland spends about 30% less on each student than the US.

As an explanation of why the Finnish system wouldn’t work in the US, it’s easy to say that Finland is much smaller  with a much more homogeneous population but we could also say that Finland is as big as many American states. Moreover, when we compare Finland’s scores on international exams with those of Norway, a country of similar size and demographics that follows the American system of education, we see that Norway’s scores are like those of the US.

So the question is, “Should your schools be incorporating aspects of Finland’s educational model?” I’d like to hear what you think.

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School Readiness: What Do Kids Need for Success?

January 4, 2014 | Blog | Permalink

What best predicts children’s academic success? Hint: It’s not I.Q. It’s being prepared socially and emotionally to learn.

kindergarten-is-fun_lWill Your Child Be Ready for Kindergarten?

This is a question parents in the past didn’t think much about. Today, however, many parents are concerned about their child’s school readiness. Why? One reason concerns what kindergartens want students to be able to do. Schools today expect children entering kindergarten to already know what used to be taught in the first grade. This includes social, emotional and behavioral skills. Unfortunately, many children are not ready.

What is School Readiness?

The term, “school readiness,” receives a lot of attention these days. What exactly does it mean? It means that when a child has developed certain emotional, behavioral and cognitive skills as well as the knowledge and attitudes considered necessary for progress in school, that child has a greater chance of academic success. In other words, a child’s preparedness for school predicts that child’s academic progress and success.

Aspects of School Readiness

When educators and psychologists talk about school readiness, they are focusing on:

-  Language and literacy skills such as phonological awareness.

- Cognition and general knowledge such as concepts, early math and science awareness, and thinking skills.

- Social-emotional and behavioral development such as self-control and self-confidence.

-  Approaches to learning.

-  Physical well-being.

Can you guess which of the above best predicts how well a child will do in school? Try social-emotional and behavioral development (Ladd, G.W., Herald, S.L., & Andrews, R.R., 2006. Young Children’s Peer Relations and Social Competence).

Social-Emotional and Behavioral Readiness       

Social-emotional and behavioral readiness may sound daunting but what it means is self-regulation. This consists of self-control, working memory, and the ability to adapt oneself to various situations. In fact, “The findings of numerous studies make it clear that self-regulation meaningfully predicts academic achievement,” (Ursache et al., www.psy.haifa.ad.il/~midrasha/uploads/). Unfortunately, many parents minimize the importance of regulatory skills in their children. They think that their child will learn these skills in school.  By that time, however, it may be too late. Children need these skills in order to make good progress during their early years in school.  Children who enter kindergarten without them will have difficulty learning. Once they fall behind, it will be a problem for them to catch up.

Some Self-Regulation Skills

What are the self-regulation skills children should have before entering kindergarten? Here are a few of the ones that psychologists and educators think essential. Children certainly need to be able to focus their attention on a task for a period of time appropriate to their age. They also need to be able to follow directions and inhibit their desire to do whatever they want. This includes controlling emotions such as anger or excessive exuberance. They should be able to play nicely with other children and to be aware of the feeling of others. They should also be able to verbally communicate their needs.  They should show enthusiasm and curiosity for the activities going on around them.

It’s important to make sure that your child is one of the fortunate ones who have received the preparation necessary for school readiness. As parents, it’s up to us to give our children “a smarter beginning.”

What are some of your techniques for teaching your child self-regulatory skills? Please share your experiences with us.

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School Readiness and Poor Vocabulary

December 19, 2013 | Blog | Permalink

Some children hear 30 million words less than other children in their first 3 years. This leads to a poor vocabulary which has negative effects on school readiness, literacy and future school success. These children often never catch up.

listen-to-your-kids_lWhether you choose homeschooling or regular school for your child, you want him or her to be ready to learn. This means having certain necessary skills and attitudes. Unfortunately, many kids today enter kindergarten without being ready. Their prekindergarten experiences have not provided them with the necessary preparation. The worst of it is that they are likely to have problems which increase as they go through school.

Don’t Minimize Vocabulary

Although there are a number of aspects of school readiness, the one I’d like to focus on here comes under the heading of language and literacy, and that’s vocabulary. Why vocabulary? Because it’s so critical for literacy. One well-known study, Meaningful Differences in the Everyday Experience of Young American Children (Betty Hart and Todd R. Risley. Brookes Publishing, 1995), examined the language experiences of young children in the home. They wanted to see where a child’s vocabulary growth came from (www.art.org/pdfs/amercianeducator/spring2003/TheEarlyCatastrophe.pdf).

They studied 42 different families one hour each month for 2 ½ years from when the children were 7 to 9 months old until they turned 3 years. The children ranged in sex, order of birth, number of brothers and sisters, structure of their families and family socioeconomic status. All were from well-functioning families. What they found was that some children had heard 30 million more words than other children during their first 3 years. (Obviously, the researchers were not talking about 30 million different words but rather the amount of speech the children were exposed to.) To break this down, while some children heard 2,153 words per hour, others heard only 616 words per hour.  Moreover, the gap continued to grow.

Why Was There Such a Profound Gap?

The children’s vocabulary depended on how much their parents talked to them during those early years. Also important was the type of encouragement, positive or negative, the parents gave them. Eighty-six percent to ninety-eight percent of the words used by each child by the age of 3 they had heard from their parents. The significance of this became clear when the researchers also found that there was a very close relationship between the children’s academic success at 9 years old and the number of words used and the amount of talk that went on between the parents and the child in the early years. Most important, the study showed that “…differences in parent-child interaction produced significant discrepancies in not only children’s knowledge, but also their skills and experiences….”

Talking With Your Child is Critical

Whatever else we can say about school readiness and what a child needs to be prepared for learning, the importance of vocabulary cannot be minimized. What this means is that talking with your child as much as possible from the earliest age is critical. As the researchers concluded, “The most important aspect of children’s language experience is quantity.”  And “talking with” means conversing, listening when your child talks, drawing him or her out, giving positive feedback, reading from picture books, encouraging your child to comment, and gesturing. All these things count. Think about them also in choosing a substitute caregiver when you can’t be with your child. Make sure that that person, whether a grandparent, nanny, or au-pair, talks with your child.  It’s also one of the criteria you should use in choosing a preschool.  Does the teacher make time to talk to the children one-on-one each day?

What do (or did) you do to prepare your preschooler for learning? Please share your experiences with us.

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Dialogic Reading: The Best Way to Read to Children

December 6, 2013 | Blog | Permalink

Are you reading to your child in the best possible way? Which way is that? It’s one that maximizes his or her language development, involvement and enjoyment. Dialogic reading does that by reading “with” instead of “to.”

Many of us have very fond memories of sitting on our parents’ laps and being read to from picture books when we were very young. I’m one of those people. But I have even fonder memories of my son years ago sitting on my lap while I read to him. The cuddly warmth, the shared experience, the excitement of discovery, the fun — it’s part of what made being a parent so rewarding. It was great. But recently, I found out that I could have made it even greater.

Picture Books Aren’t Enough

We know that picture books are important for children. Besides being fun and stimulating, they help with vocabulary building, with learning information, with the sounds of language, with the pleasure of hearing verse and rhyme, and with language development. That’s why for years now, parents have been advised to read picture books to their young children. So why are numerous children still entering school without the necessary skills for learning? And sadly, when they start out behind, they tend to lag behind throughout school.

OK. So we read to our kids from picture books as often as possible. We do this from the earliest possible age. But  how we do it is also very important. There’s a way to read that maximizes children’s language development and readiness for school. This is where dialogic reading comes in. The word “dialog”  gives the clue. Developed by the Stony Brook Reading and Language Project at the State University at Stony Brook and based on the strategy developed by Dr. Grover J. Whitehurst, it’s a technique that uses a conversational style.

When most people read a picture book to their child, they read and the child looks and listens. With the dialogic technique, the child has an active role. He or she helps tell the story while the parent reads, asks questions, listens to what the child says, and encourages the child to say more by expanding on what has already been said. In this way, the child shares the story. She or he actively participates, becomes more involved and gets more satisfaction from the whole interaction.

2174657647_c4639785d5_mHow Does Dialogic Reading Work?

It’s not hard and it’s very natural. It’s a kind of conversation where both parties, you and your child, talk about a book. It uses something called PEER, an acronym for prompts, evaluation, expand and repeat. The prompt (P) comes from the parent and asks the child to say something about what’s on the page. If there’s a bear, for example, the parent might ask, “What animal is this?” When the child replies, the parent then evaluates (E) what the child said: “Yes, that’s a bear.” This is a kind of approval. Then the parent expands (E) on the child’s response by adding something: “It’s a brown bear.” Finally, the parent repeats (R) the prompt to check that the expansion has been learned: “Can you say ‘brown bear’”? (Note that the example given here is for a very young child.)

In addition, the acronym CROWD is used for the types of prompts parents can give:

     C   for completion prompts

     R   for recall prompts

     O   for open-ended prompts

     W   for “wh” word prompts (who, what, where, when, why)

     D   for distancing prompts.

For more information and examples of how to use the technique, see Dr. Whitehall’s article, “Dialogic Reading: An Effective Way to Read to Preschoolers” (www.readingrockets.org/article/400/) as well as articles on other websites.

According to Dr. Whitehall, “Dialogic reading works. Children who have been read to dialogically are substantially ahead of children who have been read to traditionally on tests of language development. Children can jump ahead by several months in just a few weeks of dialogic reading.” In line with this is the statement by the National Early Literacy Panel (NELP): “We have sufficient evidence to demonstrate that shared reading can indeed lead to the growth of language and literacy skills, and put young children on the path to becoming enthusiastic, lifelong readers” (www.books.google.co.il/books?isbn=1609180291).

If any readers are familiar with this technique, it would be great to hear about your experience with it.

Photo credits: wealhtheow1/Foter.com/CC BY; PittCaleb/Foter.com/CC BY-NC-ND


Teaching Your Child to Think Critically

November 23, 2013 | Blog | Permalink

                The Thinker

The Thinker

Is your child being taught to think critically? Why is critical thinking so important and what is critical thinking?


When the holiday season rolls around, most kids are excited by the thought of Santa Claus bringing gifts. They’ve heard that Santa and his reindeer land on the roof and that Santa then slides down the chimney with his sack of presents. The younger the child, the more easily she accepts this story at face value. Then, as she gets older, she begins to think critically about it. She makes certain observations. She notices in pictures of Santa that his tummy is large. She wonders how he fits into the chimney, especially with his full sack. 

She might also wonder how his reindeer fly through the air without wings. And why does Santa need a sleigh if he’s not going over snow? Maybe she sees different Santas in different stores and this may lead her to ask, “How many Santas are there and how come they all look and sound a little different?” Asking herself or her parent these questions, before long she decides that there’s something wrong with the story she’s been told. She realizes that it isn’t true. She has applied critical thinking to understand why what she sees and what she’s been told don’t agree and she’s arrived at an answer: Santa Claus is a story, make believe.

Critical thinking is thinking that doesn’t take what we’re told for granted. It doesn’t allow us to  accept an answer just because someone tells us to. “Critical thinking tries to get below the surface of something: questioning, probing, analysing, exploring….Critical thinking requires detective like skills…to take in all the angles and weigh up evidence on every side.” (www.qmu.ac.uk/els/docs/Criticalthinking.PDF).

Critical thinking is work. It’s much easier to accept answers we’re given. Nowadays especially, so much information is available through technology that our kids are used to quick and easy answers. The result is that they don’t take the time and trouble to think and to process information – to think critically. They need to be encouraged and even taught how.


When I look back on my years in the classroom, I remember the many times I asked a question and saw the hands of my students immediately fly up to signal that they knew the answer. The answers these “quick thinkers” gave, especially for questions on more complex issues, were usually wrong. How many times I told my kids to put their hands down and to take time to think. I reminded them that they weren’t catching a train, that thinking takes time and effort and that the quickest answer isn’t necessarily the best answer.

 Obviously, my students had been trained by their previous teachers to believe that speed is a sign of being smart. Teachers often praise quick answers. That idea has some validity when talking about recalling information, but that’s not the same as critical thinking. Critical thinking is not the quick regurgitation of information that a student has memorized or even absorbed. Critical thinking is what we do with the information, how we apply it to larger issues and to solving problems. It usually involves answering “why” questions, not just “who,” “what,” “where,” and “how” questions.


Whether your child goes to school or is schooled at home, you want him or her to learn to think critically and to exercise independent thought. To do this, your child should be given time and quiet because thinking requires focus and concentration. Also, thinking needs to be encouraged and praised because it’s hard work even though it’s exciting, stimulating and rewarding. When a child has teachers who delight in their students’ exploration of a question and independence of thought, that child’s self-esteem and ability to think critically will flourish.

Is your child being taught to think critically? Have you had any experiences regarding this? Why not share them with us.

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Electronic Screens Disturb Sleep

November 12, 2013 | Blog | Permalink

Does your child have difficulty falling asleep at night? Maybe it’s because of the TV, computer screen and hand-held devices.


Unfortunately, a lot of the light we’re exposed to is blue light even though we don’t usually see it as blue. Electronic devices such as TV’s, computer screens, laptops, hand-held devices (smart phones, tablets, e-readers) use blue light. So do the new energy efficient lights (the curled compact fluorescent bulbs and LED lights). What this means is that we and our children are being exposed to it more and more.



Studies at Harvard and at the U. of Toronto (www.health.harvard.edu/newsletters/Harvard_Health_Letter/2012/May/blue-light-has-a-dark-side/) have shown that blue light has a negative effect on sleep. By reducing the body’s ability to produce the hormone, melatonin, blue light disturbs the body’s clock, its natural circadian rhythm. This results in difficulty sleeping. In fact, in June 2012, the AMA published a warning that “exposure to excessive light at night, including extended use of various electronic media, can disrupt sleep or exacerbate sleep disorders, especially in children and adolescents.” (ww.ama-assn.org/ama/pub/news/news/2012-69-19-ama-adopts-new-policies.page). In fact, blue light may also cause diseases such as diabetes, heart disease, cancer and obesity.


For our children, poor sleep may lead to fatigue during the day, lower levels of attention, concentration and memory, negative impact on learning and achievement, and even behavioral problems.


Well, you might insist on shutting down the computer and TV screen 2 or 3 hours before bedtime. But if that’s just not possible, perhaps because your child needs the computer for homework, try dimming the screen as much as possible during the evening. Also, don’t use blue night lights. Use red instead because red light has the least effect on the production of melatonin. And make sure your child sleeps in a dark room. This same advice goes for adults.

If the use of electronic screens is for some reason necessary at night, special glasses which block blue light can be bought online. Also, try to keep the screen as far from your eyes as possible.

Have you found a connection between electronic screen use and disturbed sleep in your kids? Why not tell us about it?

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Electronic Media in Your Child’s Bedroom

November 5, 2013 | Blog | Permalink


happiness-is-watching-dora-on-the-ipad_lIs there a TV or computer in your child’s bedroom? Then you need to know about the current research on how electronic media affects children’s sleep.

The poor sleep habits of children today have many parents, educators and child psychologists concerned. For example, a friend of mine recently told me that she found her 11 year old son at the computer in his room at 5 o’clock in the morning of a school day. He didn’t have to get up until 6:45. She still isn’t sure about what he was doing on the computer. She is sure that he got almost 2 hours less sleep that night.


We already know how important sleep is for children’s health, learning, memory and achievement in school. (See my previous blog entry, “Sleep Affects Learning: Is Your Child Getting Enough Sleep?) It’s obvious that the time spent looking at TV or using the computer replaces sleep time. It also replaces study time, physical activity, face-to-face socializing, etc. We know, too, that physical activity is important for good quality sleep. After all, biologically we weren’t meant to spend long periods of time sitting still staring at a screen. We were built to be active. Besides, electronic media, especially computer use and computer games, stimulate the brain, making it harder to fall asleep and possibly even affecting the quality of the sleep.


Earlier this year, a study was published to answer the following question: “Do computer use, TV viewing, and the presence of the media in the bedroom predict school-aged children’s habits in a longitudinal study?” (www.biomedcentral.com/content/pdf/1471-2458-13-684.pdf). This study investigated the sleep habits of 10 and 11 year olds from 27 different schools in 2006 and again in 2008 when the students were 2 years older. It measured TV viewing and computer use by these children, their bedtimes on school days and on weekends, how long they slept, and the differences for boys and girls. The results and conclusions supported previous studies and were very interesting, especially for parents.

What this study found was that use of the computer and TV viewing, and electronic media in the bedroom result in later bedtimes and significantly less sleep both on school days and on weekends. Moreover, for boys especially, electronic media in the bedroom resulted in worse sleep habits. What it also found was that use of the computer has a stronger adverse effect than TV on bedtime and sleep duration. This is probably because computer use tends to be more active than TV viewing and most likely stimulates and arouses the brain more.


What does this mean to those of us who have children, who are concerned about them, and who want to see that they get the best of what they need? We know that today, electronic media has become more and more a part of modern life for our children. But that doesn’t mean we need to accept the possible negative effects it might have on their quality of life or on their health and development. Here again, parental supervision is key. As parents, it’s up to us to decide what’s really best for our children and where to draw the line. Based on the information gathered from this study, you might want to think closely about putting electronic media in your child’s bedroom.

Have you had any experiences concerning electronic media in your child’s bedroom? Please share with us.


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Enough Sleep for Your Child to Learn?

October 15, 2013 | Blog | Permalink

We all have days when we’re too tired to think straight.day-82-tired-day_l Well, so do our kids. Unfortunately, in our modern world, even our children aren’t getting enough sleep. This is having serious effects on their development, on their behavior, and on their learning.

Signs of a Sleepy Child

You know them, especially if you’re a mother or a teacher: yawning, difficulty getting up in the morning, wanting to nap or sleep during the day, falling asleep in class, low energy levels, irritability, short attention spans, difficulty focusing on tasks, difficulty solving problems, etc. In fact, recently, there has been an increased awareness of the importance of sleep. This has been accompanied by interesting studies done on the effects of sleep loss.

Studies on the Effects of Sleep Loss on Students

A number of studies have focused on students up through university and on younger children as well. One study that involved students from grade school through university (G. Curcio et al., “Sleep Loss, Learning Capacity and Academic Performance.” Sleep Medicine Review. 2006, 10, 323 – 337) found that at all levels, there is chronic sleep deprivation or poor sleep quality and that his impacts negatively on students’ learning and performance in school.

Higher Cognitive Functions Affected

It is the higher cognitive functions that are most affected. We’re talking about attention, memory and problem solving. From this, the researchers concluded that less sleep produces worse academic performance. This was supported by another study done specifically on children 8 to 12 years old (J.L. Vriend et al., “Manipulating Sleep Duration Alters Emotional Functioning and Cognitive Performance in Children. J. Pediatr.Psychol. 2013 May 28). Here, each child received one hour more sleep for four nights and one hour less sleep for four nights as compared with their regular night’s sleep. After each of the four night blocks, the children’s cognitive and emotional functioning was measured. When the children received less sleep, their memories, attention, and emotional responses were affected negatively.  The conclusion? When the length of the children’s sleep was changed even for only a few days, their functioning during the day was significantly affected. More sleep produced better performance and less sleep produced impaired performance.

Your Child

So if you want a child who gets up easily, is awake and alert in school and focused on the tasks at hand, make sure that she or he gets enough sleep on a regular basis. And if there are quality of sleep issues that you can’t resolve on your own, seek professional help. Your child’s healthy development and academic performance depend on it.

Has your child had sleep issues that affected academic performance? Why not share your thoughts and experiences with us.

Always glad to hear from you,

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