Articles, Literacy

Why it’s important to have regular family dinners.

A young boy is ignored at the family dinner table by his parents as everyone is engrossed in multiple electronic device.

Experienced teachers share things parents should do to set their kids up for success – Part 1 of 10

What I’ve noticed over the years is that the children who do well academically tend to have a strong family culture of regular family dinners. These children report having robust discussions about the days events, current affairs and other relevant topics. As a result these children often have strong verbal skills and a good dose of confidence, mainly because they get a lot of practice. Their strong verbal skills generally translate into stronger writing skills. This ultimately means that they cope fairly well at school.

As teachers we get to hear about your family’s daily life during classroom discussions. It may surprise you to know that we hear about the arguments, the money woes, which parent farts in the bath like Shrek, that crockery was thrown last night and who received a speeding fine and cursed at the cop.

Are you really listening to you kids?

Your children also tell us that you are completely inseparable from your phones and tablets and that you often don’t make eye contact when they try to communicate with you. They mutter that they are tired of you murmuring “Uh huh” “Mmm” and “I’m listening – carry on” when you are busy on your phone and really aren’t listening at all.

I hear the resentment in their voices. We, as teachers, hear them complain to their friends about the fact that both their parents work at the dinner table, taking business calls, because they are so busy setting up a new company. We know which families eat separately because of busy schedules or which families religiously eat dinner in front of the TV. As teachers we are privy to way too much information.

Dinner time and self-worth

I want to remind you that despite how busy your lives are and how commendably hard you are working to provide for your family, you must remember that children crave talking about their day with their parents. YOU are the significant adults in their lives and YOU matter most.

Dinner time is the perfect platform to feed their minds and nurture their souls through conversation. Conversation helps them to blow off steam and feel important. It helps to build their vocabulary and practice their newly acquired communication skills. It encourages them to think for themselves, find the words to express their thoughts and to practice social etiquette. All of this is invaluable.

Don’t underestimate the benefits of family dinners for us as adults either. We need them and benefit from them as much as our children do.

Powerful messages

By regularly setting aside time for family dinners, you are sending a very powerful message – “I value you. I value the time I spend with you. I genuinely want to know how your day went. What you experienced and learnt today is something that this family values. I value what you think and what you want to say. You do not have to ASK for time to speak to us, your family. We want to listen.”.

Advice for Parents:

  • At dinner time put away all electronic devices, and turn off the TV. Remove all distractions.
  • Your children have a life away from home that they are dying to share with you – new experiences, successes, failures, worries and concerns, new knowledge & skills, new friendships, friendship problems or just the everyday things that they have discovered and experienced out in the world.
  • They share the attention of their teachers with a large group of children for several hours a day. Therefore, at home they need your undivided attention for at least a portion of the evening. Give it to them before they go looking for someone else who can give them the attention they need.

Further reading:

To explore working with Lianne in Randburg / Sandton and other areas in Johannesburg, contact her for a consultation to discuss how she can assist you.

Articles, Literacy, Reading

Why you CAN’T skip reading to your child for 20 minutes per day.

The idea for this article comes from a poster I came across on Pinterest that blew me away. Finally, I had come across an infographic that hammers home the point that reading to your child on a daily basis is NOT negotiable. It easily outlines the accumulative effect of reading to your child from an early age, and highlights how disadvantaged your child could be if they are only read to for half – or less than half – of the time of their peers.

Take a look at the poster below and you’ll see what I mean. Click here to purchase posters or to download a PDF version from the creator.

Infographic: Why you CAN’T skip reading to your child for 20 minutes per day.

In this poster you can see that by the time James goes to nursery school he has been read to for 28,800 minutes, an accumulated 20 minutes per day 5 days a week. Travis, on the other hand, has only been read to for 5760 minutes before he goes to nursery school, an accumulated 4 minutes per day 5 days a week. The difference between 28,800 and 5760 minutes is HUGE.

The questions then posed by April Greer who created the poster are…

  • Which child would you expect to know more?
  • Which child would you expect to have a better vocabulary?
  • Which child would you expect to be better prepared for school?
  • Which child would you expect to be better prepared to learn to read?
  • Which child would you expect to be more successful in school?
  • How do you think each child will feel about himself as a new student?

These are profound questions.

They force us to consider the fact that doing something that some parents consider to be irrelevant, such as reading a bedtime story to your child for a mere 20 minutes a night, can have a significant impact on a child’s …

  • exposure to words and vocabulary development,
  • school readiness,
  • knowledge,
  • self-image
  • and their ability to achieve success with greater ease.

While some children are still busy with the struggle of learning to read, your child could move ahead to reading to learn.

So the next time you think about putting your child to bed without a bedtime story, you may want to reconsider.

Tips for bedtime reading:

  • Make bedtime stories part of your nightly routine.
  • Try to read in the same location if possible.
  • Cuddle while you read. It helps you to bond.
  • Toddlers love reading the same books over and over, which is appropriate for their developmental level.
  • Often they will only want to read the pictures – which is part of the pre-reading strategies they need to learn.
  • They will sometimes want to go back a page or two, or even back to the beginning of the book when you’re only half way through the story. Try not to get frustrated as this is also age appropriate and is perfectly fine.
  • NEVER take storytime away as punishment or as a form of discipline. You don’t want to sabotage your own efforts to turn your child into a lifelong reader.
  • Aim to keep reading time relaxed, calming, positive and enjoyable.

Reading aloud

Some adults take to reading aloud like a duck to water. However, there are those individuals that feel as awkward as a fish out of water, especially when reading in front of other adults. Here are some pointers to help you get on.

In the video clip below Michael Rosen, an English children’s novelist, poet, and author, gives some wonderful tips on how to engage your child more while reading.

Richard at gives us fantastic tips for reading to children.

Are you up to the challenge of reading nightly bedtime stories?

Further reading

To explore working with Lianne in Randburg and other areas in Johannesburg, contact her for a consultation to discuss how she can assist you.