Most expat families I knew in Changsha homeschooled their children. Generally this was done for linguistic reasons, the children not speaking Chinese well enough. Even those families whose children did go to Chinese schools often provided extra lessons at home. This would be homeschooling by virtual necessity.
In the US homeschooling is understandably less common. Recently, however, I've found myself in conversation with several families who teach their children at home. Their reasons have varied, but at least two of these families have chosen to homeschool, at least in part, because their children were not being challenged in their previous public schools. I've been very impressed with the curiosity and knowledge of these children and by their willingness and ability to interact well with adults. One thing has stood out for me with all of these families: the prominence of reading.
All of these kids read a lot. Two parents (different families) remarked that their children often grab books and teach themselves. One child likewise told my wife he often just gets a book and teaches himself. These parents are not lazy, but rather these students are motivated, curious and have the reading skills needed to pursue their interests. It reminds me of a family I met in 2003 whose daughter chose to study Latin (as an extra subject) once pulled out of the local school.
In a post last week, Stephen Krashen discussed the role access to books plays in promoting literacy. Jeff McQuillan also has also authored a study on the effects of print access. As common sense would seem to make obvious, students with higher literacy tend to perform better academically, as they are better prepared for texts, both written and aural. Overall, the importance of reading and of creating a culture of reading at home and at school has been reinforced over the past two weeks.
My family recently relocated to the US. Most of the books in our wall-o-books had to be left in China. Amusingly, I brought so many of my sons' Chinese language children's books back to the US with me, that two bags were searched in the airport to make sure I wasn't transporting "illegal literature". Now in the US, we go to the library a lot, but I miss the heavy physical presence of books in our home. We may end up homeschooling our children, also partly for linguistic reasons. Whether we do or not, literacy will remain a theme in our home.
How do you foster reading in your homes or classrooms?
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A few other interesting articles
Cullinan, B.E. (2000) Independent reading and school achievement. Assessment of the role of school and public libraries in support of educational reform, Rockville, MD: Westat, Inc. [Accessed 5 January 2014].
Cunningham A.E. and Stanovich, K.E. 2001. What reading does for the mind. Journal of Direct Instruction, 1(2), p.137-49, [Accessed 5 January 2014].
Dickinson, D.K., Griffith, J.A., Golinkoff, R.M. and Hirsh-Pasek, K. 2012. How reading books fosters language development around the world. Child Research Development [Accessed 5 January 2014].
Duursma, E., Augustyn, M. and Zuckerman, B. 2008. Reading aloud to children: the
evidence. Arch Dis Child, 93(7), p. 554-57, [Accessed 5 January 2014].