For the love of reading.

At the local library yesterday (yes, there are still a few left and we are going to make the most of ours for as long as we have it) I noticed a lot of initiatives aimed at gamifying reading for children. From stamps for borrowing books to medals for reading over the summer. I understand that whoever came up with these ideas wants to encourage kids to read, and of course that is a great aim. However there is a danger.

These initiatives are all about motivating kids to read by providing some external reward (stickers, medals, name on a poster). Focusing on an external motivation can undermine intrinsic motivation. The best reward for reading is the pleasure of a good story. The best way to encourage kids to read is to understand what they like, what interests them and help them find stories that they will enjoy. You might have to try a lot of different things. Your kids may love the same books you loved, but they may not. Think about what type of play they enjoy, which stories they like you to read or even what they want to watch on TV. Yes it’s more effort than making a sticker chart but this is how you inspire a love of reading that lasts for life, long after the appeal of sticker charts has worn off.

Oh and of course you don’t have to buy tons of different books while you are learning what your child enjoys. THAT is what libraries are for.

Learn to be happier and more successful.

Forget learning a foreign language, cooking perfect pastries or running a marathon. The one skill that will really make you happier and more successful is empathy. Yes I said skill. Because you can learn empathy and the more you practise it, the better you’ll get. Learn French and you’ll be able to communicate better with the 70 million or so native French speakers in the world. Practise empathy and you’ll be able to communicate better with everyone, including the people who are already in your personal and professional life.

I’m writing about empathy today because too many times recently I’ve heard someone say ‘they’re just not good at empathy’ or ‘I’m no good at empathy’. The trouble is, that’s like saying ‘I’m just not good at maths’. You need to practise to get good! If you believe that you can’t do it you don’t have the motivation to practise and so you never GET good. You need to know that you can improve your empathy (and maths!) with practise.

How do I practise? There are loads of exercises, which you can find online and in books. Here is a simple one to get you started.

When you see someone feeling an emotion

  1. Name the emotion you think they are experiencing.
  2. Guess why they might be feeling that emotion.

You can start by trying this in your head with strangers. For example you might see someone on the tube carrying lots of bags. You might decide that they are feeling tired and guess that this is because they have had a busy day traipsing round the shops.

Once you are more comfortable with this you should do it with people you know and you should speak to them. Say something like ‘It look like you are experiencing . Is it because .’ The advantage of doing this out loud is that you find out if your guesses are good and that feedback will help you get better at guessing. You will also find that these exchanges sometimes lead to conversations that improve your relationships.
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Try this at least once every day for 2 weeks. At the end of each day write down how you felt about the day’s experience. After 2 weeks go back through the experiences. Were they positive? Do you want to continue? Feel free to share some your experiences in the comments.

Studying Over the Summer?

The summer holidays are here and the weather has been pretty good. Parents all over the country are asking themselves the same questions. Should my child be studying over the summer holiday? How much should they study? Here is my 2 pence worth.

Short answer:

It depends on the child.

Ok, perhaps you were looking for a little bit more detail?

It depends how old the child is. It depends what kind of year they had last year. It depends what they want.

If your child has not yet reached GCSE age then they probably shouldn’t study over the summer. Learning and growing as a person involve more than just studying. The summer is a great time to hang out with friends, develop hobbies and get out in the fresh air. Whether it’s football in the park or building sandcastles on the beach enjoy the nice weather and the long days.

Having said that, there are a few exceptions. Did your child had a bad school year last year? Perhaps they missed a lot of lessons due to illness or moved schools. Now is the perfect time to catch up on what they missed so that they are in a position to understand what happens next year. Alternatively if your child really enjoys studying or is really excited about learning a new subject by all means encourage them.

If you think your child would benefit from tutoring over the summer please contact me at anna.granta+tutor@gmail.com.