Today I have three fairly diverse articles, all of which inspired me to want to blurb and comment. The first is a call from a teacher and parent encouraging other teachers to replace traditional reading logs with something more conducive to nurturing the joy of reading. The second is about screen time, and ways that kids' joy of learning can be enhanced through more time spent playing offline. The third is about using fictional role models to help math and science-loving girls to overcome negative messages from society. All three articles are worth your time.
Starr Sackstein: "The mere act of assigning accountability logs to the experience has made it about compliance and not about a love of reading...
We must be mindful in what we ask students to do on their free time and really make sure it's something worth doing. Do we want them to love reading and spend time doing it because the enjoy it or do we want to monitor their every move and determine how they will interact with text?"
Me: My daughter does not have a reading log this year (for first grade). I am tracking what books she reads or (mostly) has read to her, using a simple list format that first picked up from her kindergarten teacher. But I don't strive to read a certain number of books per day, or for a certain time, or anything like that. I still feel like everything I do at home around reading should be centered on what maintains and increases her joy of reading. I'll fight back on school reading logs when and if I have to, but so far so good. I am glad to see Starr Sackstein encouraging teachers to stop using reading logs, and hope that this article gets widely read.
Naomi Shaefer Riley: "There is no doubt that for many kids screen time has cut into the hours that were previously devoted to physical activity, reading for pleasure and even sleep — all of which have fallen precipitously in recent years. But despite the best advice of doctors, not to mention our own sinking sense that screen time is changing our kids for the worse, parents won’t do much to limit kids’ access to these devices. Cutting back isn’t the same as buying more expensive groceries or the right sippy cups or attaching GPS devices to our kids’ backpacks.
At least initially, changing our kids’ screen habits would not only cause them significant discomfort and annoyance, it would also cut into our own ability to be left alone. Obsessing about plastic containers of soup is so much easier."
Me: This article isn't directly about the joy of learning for kids, but it strikes me as related in that when we get our kids away from screens, they are going to spend more time reading for pleasure (as noted above), building structures out of blocks, and playing physical games. I've certainly noticed this with my own daughter. If I would let her, she would be on her device all day long. When I tear her away she complains for a bit, but then she moves on to activities that I think are better for her, physically, mentally, and in terms of sparking her creativity.
Cynthia Platt: "Because these days, the commentary on her interests isn’t aimed predominantly at my husband and me anymore — it’s aimed squarely at her. Grownups expressing surprise that she likes science and math — or telling her that girls don’t really like these subjects. Her peers teasing her about doing math for fun...
Let’s face it: girls are as interested in these STEM areas of study as boys are. Everyone is interested in them, right? It’s cool and fascinating stuff! Just the most cursory research will tell you, though, that while girls do just as well in science and math classes as boys, by the time they’re out of school they only make up about 29% of the workforce in STEM fields.
This strikes me as a failure on our part as a society. We educate our girls in STEM, but then remind them — in ways both subtle and anything but — that they don’t belong there."
Me: This piece really resonated with me. My daughter currently loves math and science (and reading), and the idea of random adults questioning her choices, or kids teasing her at school, makes me sad. But I was reassured by Cynthia Platt's explanation for how her daughter has remained unbowed by such negative feedback. She has fictional role models showing her the coolness of girls doing science, kids making things, and kids staying true to themselves. I hope and intend that books (and carefully selected shows) will help my daughter to stay true to her own interests, too.