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Archive for November, 2012

E-Books: Is Technology Helping Children to Read?

When our fifth-grader recently announced he was going downstairs to curl up with his mother’s old Kindle, I was stopped in my tracks by a delicious memory from five years ago, when my family used to curl up together with print books for a reading hour each Sunday night before bed. Today, that may seem like nostalgia.  Half of American families own tablets, and many parents are wondering if co-reading e-books with children is a good thing.

Reading - Teacher & Girl BTen years ago, this was not a dilemma. Most parents thought that computers, laptops and DVD players were convenient for entertainment, but only a minority believed that technology was going to play a significant and positive role in their young children’s education at home or in school. However, with the increase in smartphone and tablet use during the last decade, most parents are now comfortable with digital learning. Still, many parents who are comfortable with the benefits of digital gaming and interactive problem-solving are less enthusiastic about using devices to help their children learn to read.

Parents highly cherish children’s ability to read, as they should. Our families and our communities suffer if children fail to master reading by the third grade. How can parents use digital tools to help their children develop literacy skills?

Parents value co-reading because it promotes interactive storytelling, enriches children’s vocabularies and stimulates parent-child conversations, but co-reading e-books may or may not provide the same benefits. Two recent Cooney Center QuickReports from the Joan Ganz Cooney Center, Comparing Parent-Child Co-reading on Print, Basic and Enhanced E-book Platforms (Chiong, Ree, Takeuchi & Erickson, 2012) and Co-reading with Children on iPads: Parents’ Perceptions and Practices (Vaala & Takeuchi, 2012) had three significant findings:

  1. Print and basic e-books both elicited similar levels of content-related actions like pointing, labeling and talking about the story’s content. Enhanced e-books, however, prompted more non-content-related actions like pushing the parent’s hand away or talking about the device, with measurably less vocabulary growth and less pre-reading skill building. While enhanced e-books appeal to children, they don’t enrich the essential parent-child conversation about content that strengthens literacy skills as much as print books or basic e-books do (Chiong et al., 2012).
  2. Overall, print books and basic e-books were found to be better for co-reading between a parent and a child than either e-book platform. Neither kind of e-book supports story-focused conversation and story comprehension as well as print books do (Chiong et al., 2012).
  3. The majority of parents who co-read e-books on iPads prefer co-reading print books, unless they are traveling or commuting with their child. They feel that e-book co-reading is too difficult and they do not want their young children to have too much screen time (Vaala & Takeuchi, 2012).


To summarize, designers of enhanced e-books need to create e-books with co-reading-related activities and include fewer games and videos (Chiong et al., 2012). Parents seem to prefer print books, but they will use e-books for strengthening literacy and pre-literacy skills when they travel (Vaala & Takeuchi, 2012). We have a lot more to learn about this subject, so don’t recycle your print library yet.


Chiong, C., Ree, J., Takeuchi, L. & Erickson, I. (Spring 2012). Print books vs. e-books: Comparing parent-child co-reading on print, basic and enhanced e-book platforms. The Joan Ganz Cooney Center. Retrieved from http://www.joanganzcooneycenter.org/upload_kits/jgcc_ebooks_quickreport.pdf

Vaala, S. & Takeuchi, L. (Summer 2012). Parent co-reading survey: Co-reading with children on iPads: Parents’ perceptions and practices. The Joan Ganz Cooney Center. Retrieved from http://www.joanganzcooneycenter.org/upload_kits/jgcc_parentsurvey_quickreport_final.pdf


Holiday Helpers

With the holidays fast approaching, consider asking your children to help decorate the table. They will put their imaginations to use and enjoy a boost to their self-esteem. Below are a few crafty ways your children can help decorate your family’s holiday dinner table.

  • Origami Napkins: Find a clever (but easy) way to fold napkins, demonstrate how to fold them first, and then let your little ones try. When they are done, they can put their napkin creations at each place setting.
  • Homemade Napkin Rings: Cut cardboard tubes (paper towel or toilet paper rolls work best) into 1 ½-inch wide sections. Younger children can decorate the rings with paint or crayons, while older children may enjoy gluing on beans or beads to make fun designs.
  • Personalized Place Cards: Help your little ones make place cards for each of your guests. Cut some cardstock down to size and let your tiny Picasso’s decorate each card with a personalized masterpiece. Provide a list of names so they don’t miss anyone and can easily see how to spell each person’s name.
  • Fun Fall Centerpiece: Gather a brown paper lunch bag, paint, leaves your children have collected, a sandwich bag filled with rice, twigs, tape and some twine. Ask your children to decorate the bag with paint and, while the bag is drying, tape the leaves to one end of the twigs (creating long “stems”). When the paint is dry, place the rice-filled sandwich bag in the bottom of the paper bag to help the bag stand on the table, arrange the stems in the bag with the leafy ends on top, gather the top of the bag around the twig “stems” and tie the bag with twine. Voilà!

Holiday Helpers at The Goddard School Choose This Year’s Top 10 Preschooler-Approved Toys

Children at Goddard Schools Nationwide Achieve Every Child’s Dream: Toy Tester

To help families choose fun and educational toys just in time for the holiday shopping season, The Goddard School, the leader in early childhood education, is recognizing this year’s best toys, as tested and chosen by the real experts—children.

Each year, Goddard Schools across the nation hold the Preschooler-Approved Toy Test to help families choose fun and educational toys just in time for the holiday shopping season. Toy manufacturers from throughout the country submitted more than a hundred toys, which were reviewed by a team of early childhood education experts at Goddard Systems, Inc. (GSI), franchisor of The Goddard School. The 20 toy finalists were then put to the test at Goddard Schools in 20 cities nationwide, by children ranging from infants to six year olds.

“Playful learning is at the core of our curriculum at The Goddard School. We chose finalists for the Toy Test that provide interactive, playful learning experiences. We enjoy providing our children the opportunity to experiment with these toys and select their favorites,” said Sue Adair, director of education for GSI.

As part of The Goddard School’s commitment to playful learning, the children tested toys that allowed them to use their creativity and imaginations while playing and learning—piquing their interest and encouraging them to explore. The children’s votes were tallied and the Preschooler-Approved Top 10 Toys for 2012 were selected. The Goddard School Preschooler-Approved Toy Test winners include (in no particular order):

“Toys that encourage learning through play can assist a child’s development by helping children solve problems, build self-confidence and collaborate. We hope our Preschooler-Approved Top 10 Toys will be a helpful resource for parents as they choose toys for their children this holiday season.”

Local families also are invited to participate by voting for their favorite Goddard School Preschooler-Approved Toy beginning on November 15, 2012 at http://www.goddardschools.com/toys.

The toy that receives the most votes by December 3, 2012 will be announced as the 2012 winner and GSI will donate 100 of the winning toy to Toys for Tots.

For more information, visit http://www.goddardschool.com/toys.

Helicopter Parenting: Parental Micromanaging

Guest Post By Brianna Meiers

There are often as many ways to approach child development as there are variations in how children grow and the rate at which they progress. Parental involvement is usually key, but it can go too far, as the post below describes. Parenting psychology writer Brianna Meiers takes a hard look at the trend of “helicopter parenting,” and discusses the ways in which micromanaging our children’s lives can actually do more harm than good. Interested in learning more? Click here to access more of Brianna’s writings, particularly as related to formal education programs in psychology.

Helicopter Parenting Complicates School, Sports and Leisure in a Very Detrimental Way

Parenting children through the trials of the modern world presents challenges largely unknown to prior generations. Today’s students are often defined more by the strength of their paper resumes than their characters or individual attributes. Everyone from college admissions officials to summer camp recruitment offices are interested in such abstract things as “well roundedness”; “character-building life experiences”; and “ability to bring a diverse perspective.” This has thrust many of the most well-intentioned parents into overdrive, frantically looking for ways to boost their children’s market profile. The phenomenon of parents micromanaging the lives and schedules of their offspring is known in the popular media as “helicopter parenting.” In most cases, this term is used disparagingly—while the intention is often good, the results, as more and more universities and employers are finding, can be incredibly detrimental. Helping children is one thing, but robbing them of their ability to fight their own battles and face failure and rejection with head held high is quite another.

The biggest problem with the “helicopter” method is that it prevents children from learning how to make their own decisions—and in so doing, perpetually shields them from the consequences of bad ones. The motivation is rarely so negative, though. Most parents who adopt these tactics really are just trying to help.

“Helicopter parenting appears to be inappropriately intrusive and managing, but done out of strong parental concern for the well-being and success of the child,” a team of researchers from Utah’s Brigham Young University said in a report recently summarized in USA Today.  “High involvement, low autonomy granting and presence of emotional support in the relationship reflects a uniquely distinguishable approach to parenting,” the researchers said.

Symptoms of Helicopter Parenting

In nearly all cases, helicopter parenting emerges from a fear or uncertainty about the future. This is certainly understandable, given the unpredictability of the world today. Children do need more guidance and help than ever before, and adults are in a better position to help advise and counsel them.

Advising and counseling is different from actual intervention and by-proxy doing, however. “These are parents who run themselves ragged with work and hyper-parenting,” New York Times columnist Judith Warner has written of the helicoptering mentality. “They’re parents who are physically hyper-present but somehow psychologically M.I.A.: so caught up in the script that runs through their heads about how to ‘do right’ by their children that they can’t see when the excesses of keeping up, bulking up, getting a leg up and generally running scared send the whole enterprise of ostensible care and nurturing right off the rails.”

Parents in this category are often responsible for things like “no score” soccer games with awards for every participant, so that everyone feels special; they may also be highly invested in proofreading homework and negotiating with teachers for the grades they think their child “deserved.”

This sort of behavior can extend well into young adult life. Parents of millennials have been known to butt in to their children’s goings-on in college, often calling and e-mailing professors on their child’s behalf. In extreme cases, the involvement can also extend to the job market. Some firms are now so used to parental involvement that they prepare “welcome packets” for new hires as well as their parents—though most draw the line at parental participation in things like interviews and salary negotiations.

Key Comparison: Attachment Parenting

It can be easy to confuse a helicopter parent with a parent who has attachment issues. Though the two sometimes overlap, they are in most cases considered distinct. While a helicopter parent is constantly hovering and pushing a child to succeed for the child’s own benefit, a parent with an attachment mentality is often using the same tactics to reach personal satisfaction or fulfillment. While helicoptering seeks to pave a way for the child’s success and health, attachment is a way for the parents to put their expertise about the world and commitment to selfless service to use.

The key difference, then, is in the motivation: a helicopter parent sees it as his or her job to help a child succeed for his own good, whilst an attachment parent uses a child’s success to validate his or her own self-worth.

Unintended Side Effects and Concerning Results

Both styles of parenting can be harmful, albeit for different parties. In helicopter situations, the children are usually the ones to suffer. As these kids mature, they often find themselves dependent on their parents’ praise or, in many cases, intervention in order to feel happy or complete.

Attached parents, particularly mothers, often find the endless cycle of caring, providing, and giving exhausting to the point of mental distress. “If intensive mothering is related to so many negative mental health outcomes, why do women do it?” the Christian Science Monitor asked in a recent article about the ill effects of attachment parenting. “They may think it makes them better mothers, so they are willing to sacrifice their own mental health to enhance their children’s cognitive and socio-economic outcomes.” This can have a range of negative consequences for parents and children both.

The biggest criticism of over-involved parenting is that is does not properly equip children to face life’s hurdles independently. If mom or dad has always been there the smooth the way of prevent disappointment before it happens, a child may grow up ill-equipped to respond the first time he receives a bad grade, or does not get the promotion he wanted. Universities and entry-level employers often refer to young adults in this category as “teacups”—having spent their whole life within the protective confines of a china shop home, they are liable to shatter at the first whiff of unfamiliar force.

“If a child is continually shielded from disappointment and inadequacy, he is being denied the chance to learn how to persevere, try again, and survive the challenges that life provides,” Robyn Silverman, a child psychologist, told the CBS Early Show in 2010. “When parents take the reins, they do not allow their children to learn how to take charge of their own lives.  The repercussions can be long lasting.”

Advice for Parents Looking to Change

Just as it is never too early to start giving a child an advantage, there is never a bad time to—gently—let him start exploring the world on his own. Backing down is often easiest for parents of young children, as patterns are more easily altered at this stage. Allowing a child to falter, then helping her pick up the pieces is often better than simply shielding her from the failure altogether. The parent is still involved, but is teaching rather than simply protecting.

Things are often harder once kids hit college and beyond, though there is still time for improvement. Parents can begin by limiting their calls to maybe just one or two a day, instead of four or five, Indiana University psychologist Chris Meno advises. She also recommended that parents “flip” conversations: when their son or daughter complains of a problem, rather than immediately offering to intervene ask the child to brainstorm possible solutions. In some cases, refusing intervention and allowing the child to face the consequences—late bills, for instance, or poor grades—may be the best medicine, provided the parents are there to provide support, comfort, and reassurance.

Parents need to remember to let up on themselves, too. “Helicopter parents may need to first give themselves a break — of course they want to protect their sons and daughters from the world’s perils. But they need to follow this with considering the vital role of developing independence in their child,” Meno said.


“Will I Spoil My Child?”

Most adults believe a spoiled child is one who behaves in a way that the adult finds objectionable.  But what’s “objectionable?”  The answer varies widely among cultures and individuals.

Dr. Kyle Pruett A

What’s important to one person can be irrelevant to the next, what’s cute to one can be bothersome to another.  In our multicultural society, the key is for you, others in your home, and those who care for your child to agree on the basics.

Once those basics are set, reason and consistency are your best tactics.  Giving in from time to time won’t ruin your rules or spoil your child.  If something is really important to the little guy, let him win on occasion (except where safety and minimal behavior requirements are concerned).  It shows him that his views have merit and teaches him that perseverance on things that really count for him can be rewarded.  Especially give in on those instances where your initial position was extreme or unnecessary – something all adults do from time to time, even with other adults.

If caving becomes a habit, however, you do no one a favor, least of all your child.  The boundaries she needs to feel secure get muddied, and she will spend untold effort to reestablish them – a big waste of resources for her and a big test of your patience.

Within the limits you set there is never a need for limits on your love.  Care and affection don’t spoil a child.  In fact, they provide the best teaching model a child could ask for.  You are demonstrating the very behavior you want to encourage.  There is no downside to this.