Last August I told you what I thought was one of the most damaging things a parent could do to a child; then in October I told you what I think is one of the best things a parent can do for a child. I want to get back on that positive subject today.
In honor of summer I want to tell you a beach story. Always, in the past, if I’ve told you a story it was from my own experience. This one, though, was witnessed by a fellow educator from the Coast, and I’m passing it along to you through him.
On a beautiful, sunny day at the beach on the Mississippi Gulf Coast two families were set up to enjoy the day. They had their beach chairs in place and their umbrellas and their coolers with food and drink. The families were maybe two hundred feet from each other. Between them was a public school educator. The children, as children will do, wandered up and down the edge of the water, and sometimes away from the water, and circled all around their spot at the beach. Sometimes the wandering would bring them close to the public school educator, close enough to where he could hear the conversation between parent and child.
The child from the family to the right of the educator found a seashell and was taking a long look at it. The mother, seeing this, rose out of her chair, came over to the child, and started talking to the child about what he had found. The conversation might have gone something like this: “Hey there, show me what you’ve found. That’s called a seashell. This smooth part is the inside of the shell. The rough part is the outside of the shell. Can you feel the smooth side and the rough side? What colors do you see in the smooth part? There’s pink and white, and that’s kind of light brown; you could call that beige or maybe taupe. Do you know that an animal once lived right here on this smooth part? There’s another half of the shell that’s missing and the two halves came together, and the animal lived between them. There are more shells all over the beach. Where do you think the shells came from?”
Okay, you get the idea. The mother took the time with her child to talk in depth about the seashell that the child found on the beach.
The child from the family set up to the other side of the educator also found a seashell and was carrying it toward his mother when she said something that went about like this: “Boy, you throw that nasty thing down and get your $%# over here and sit down.” That was the end of the conversation.
Now let’s suppose that, over the course of the children’s formative years, each mother continues to react to her child’s experiences in the about same way. Do you realize that one child will have a vastly superior vocabulary? The first child is being exposed to many more words than the other child. Also, the first child’s inquisitive nature is being is being developed the other child’s is being squelched. There are studies that show it will be almost impossible for the second child to ever catch up with the first child in terms of language acquisition. The first child will most likely find school and learning much easier the other child ever will.
I’ve got a little year-and-a-half-old nephew (who just happens to live on the Mississippi Coast). He will carry books to his mother and father wanting them to read them. He will do this over and over and over again. Many times he will want the same book read time after time. I can hear from my brother’s voice that this can get pretty tedious, but I tell him to read the book. Read the book the same way that our mother read to us. Some kids don’t have a book in the house to carry to mother or father, and some mothers and father wouldn’t take the time to read it anyway.
I’d like to see all our Lawrence County children have the advantage of starting school with a strong language base and an interest for learning new things. If you’re a new parent, give your child that advantage. If, like me, you’re not a new parent, please help me to spread this message.
Have a good week. Take time to watch and smell and appreciate the rain, but be careful out there on the roads. Thanks for reading.