herald

Saturday 17 November 2018

Being tired is no excuse for not reading to your children

IRISH children are getting worse at reading and writing -- and parents are to blame. Sorry, but we can't lay this one at the door of the Government.

A survey this week shows that nearly two thirds of parents say they are too tired to read to their children at bedtime.

That says just one thing -- that parents are, perhaps unwittingly, sabotaging the educational potential of their own children.

Reading to children spurs their interest in books. It encourages the smallest child to take up a book and try to figure out what the words on the page mean.

Even if a parent only has 10 minutes to devote to reading a story to a child, that boy or girl may be encouraged to pick up the book and take a look at it himself or herself when the parent has finished.



disgrace

There are also few better ways to connect with children than to be prepared to sit down beside them at night and read them a bedtime story.

What sort of nonsensical society have we become? Would we like Education Minister Ruairi Quinn to arrive in the bedroom each night to sit down and read a story to our children?

Is that how wretchedly lazy we are now? I suspect it is.

Getting more children reading and writing to an acceptable level is one of the aims of the current Minister for Education.

That's because we are falling down the international literacy lists very quickly.

Just over a decade ago, we were fifth on the OECD list. Now we are 17th.

This is a disgrace. But you cannot lay it all at the doors of teachers or the Department of Education.

Teachers are much the same now as they were a decade ago.

So are the brains of schoolchildren. So is the curriculum they follow.

Nobody has replaced the standard Leaving Cert and Junior Cert textbooks with Ladybird books.

What has changed is that parents are too tired, they say, to read to their own children.

And without the cooperation of parents, the education system just cannot do the job that it is there to do.

There is an old piece of research from the UK which shows that children whose parents listen to them reading do better in school, even in immigrant families where the parents do not in fact understand what it is that children are reading out to them.

That's about children reading to their parents and not the other way around.

But it does illustrate the extraordinary importance of parental attention in the education of children.

But why should I even need to write this?

Have we so lost our sense of proportion, our priorities, even our intelligence that we need to be told the obvious?

In worse times than these, parents made the time to read to their children and their children benefited hugely from it.

These parents also worked hard. These parents also were tired at night. These parents also would like to have sat down and taken a break rather than reading the same book for the umpteenth time to their child.



vandalism

But they did it and the fact that they did it accounts at least partly for the reputation of this country as having a well educated workforce. That reputation, in turn, has brought hundreds of thousands of jobs to Ireland over the years.

That is why it is just unacceptable that today's parents can turn around and make the excuse that they are too tired to read to their children.

It just won't do. It is in fact an act of educational vandalism. Those who say they are too tired to read to their children need to get their act together and their priorities right.

You can't leave it all to the teachers and the politicians.

Padraig O'Morain is accredited by the Irish Association for Counselling and Psythotherapy.

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