April 8, 2014
I recently had an epiphany--one of those epiphanies that make you grateful you had it but mad at yourself that it took so long for you to figure it out.
The epiphany had its birth in my fascination and study of pre-literacy. Pre-literacy is all the stuff you do to create little people who want to be readers and therefore grow up to be readers. There are some tried and true ways to do this.
1) Be an enthusiastic reader. This is the most critical thing a person can do to create readers. I know some of us are way too busy to read as much as we'd like. It's okay, you can fake it. For example, I tell my kids about my favorite books all the time. I also check out my favorite books on tape so the kids can listen to the books and we can talk about them.
2) Read to your kids.
3) Order a magazine with your child's name on it. The Friend is great for this. We have gotten Ranger Rick in the past and currently get the National Geographic.
4) Have books in your home. There is lots of research to show that if a child owns a book, he or she is more likely to do well in school and enjoy reading. That is why there are book charities that give children their own books. Find a local book charity in your area and donate!
5) Give books as presents so your kids associate books with excitement.
There are other pre-literacy strategies, but those are the main ones. I know these tips and have done all of them. My children all love, adore, and treasure books. On library day they spend hours poring over the new books they checked out and brought home. In this I have been successful.
Another thing I am really good at is getting my children to be good eaters. By "good eaters" I mean that my children eat a wide variety of foods and don't complain about any food put on their plates. I am really proud of this because food is really important to me--I love to cook. And eat. Especially eat. Here is my system:
1) Be an enthusiastic eater! You can convince any child that a food is delicious if you make lots of enjoyment sounds while you eat it or, better yet, say casually that you hope he doesn't like the food so there will be more for you.
A short story to illustrate the point. My parents always put a can of smoked oysters in our stockings because they loved smoked oysters and we didn't get much seafood in our little Canadian prairie town. Because we only got smoked oysters at Christmas we all firmly believed they were a treat (they totally are!). When my baby brother was about three he had someone open his can of oysters for him first thing Christmas morning, tried one, and said, "Mine are rotten!" We laughed until we cried. Notice, though, that he assumed something was wrong with that can and not oysters in general because it was inconceivable that something we all viewed as a treat could taste bad.
2) Make a wide variety of foods.
3) Never, ever, ever fight about food. This is obviously my own personal opinion and lots of people disagree with me. I think that food is a joy and a pleasure and should be treated as such. The only rule we have for food at our house is that if you serve yourself, you have to eat what you take. That way the kids learn to not waste.
4) Don't make alternate menu items for kids--because of their age or their preferences. I don't make kids eat what I serve, but they certainly don't get to have something else instead.
5) Don't ridicule kids for not liking something. I don't like squash but nobody criticizes me for it or forces me to eat it. My kids love almost all food but I have a five year old who isn't a huge fan of onions. When we eat meals that include onions, he simply pushes them to the side of his plate. If it is ever brought up, we simply say, "Eli is learning to like onions." That's it.
Of all these rules, the most important one is to be an enthusiastic eater. All my kids love asparagus because I do. They love smoked oysters because I do. They love incredibly spicy Thai curries and Chinese dishes, grains, and breads, and especially vegetables--because I do.
So my epiphany is this: maybe everything is taught this way. Maybe our enthusiasm about something will always infect our children. I love to read and my children love to read. I love to eat and cook and my children love to eat and cook.
What if I loved to study my scriptures? What if I had the same enthusiasm for the scriptures that I do for chocolate? Or Lloyd Alexander novels?
Let's be frank. I am terrible at reading my scriptures despite my deep and profound belief that reading my scriptures is the most important thing I can do to keep my testimony growing. I have an on again/off again ability to read my scriptures. Before I was called to be Relief Society president I was doing a pretty good job reading my scriptures. Then I stopped reading completely while I held that calling. Now that I've been released I keep trying to force myself to get back into the habit.
What if my children develop the same lack of enthusiasm for scripture study because of my example?
I was deeply humbled by Sister Reeves talk. What good is it to raise readers if they aren't reading the scriptures?
During conference I heard over and over and over the call to read our scriptures. That might not be what you heard because you needed a different message, but it is what I heard. I also felt strongly prompted to reorganize our family scripture study around topics instead of reading the Book of Mormon straight through. I have a new plan of action and a determination to do better. If my enthusiasm is catching then I want my children to catch such a profound love of the scriptures that it changes their lives.
So I must change mine.
Wish me luck.
And good luck to all of us as we try to implement the messages we heard at conference.
Andrea is a homeschooling mother of six; ages 10, 9, 7, 5, 3, and 13 months. She is a "retired" school teacher who loves books, books, and more books! She also loves writing, cooking, hiking, dancing, singing, and hanging out with her family. You can read more about her homeschooling efforts on the blog Frolic and Farce.