THE ABCs OF SCHOOL SUCCESS: Tips, Checklists, and Strategies for Equipping Your Child
Wesley Sharpe, EdD
The smell of just-sharpened pencils. The bright yellow of a school bus. The quiet in the kitchen. In mid-August, a parent's thoughts turn to getting the kids back to the classroom, and Wesley Sharpe's THE ABCs OF SCHOOL SUCCESS promises to help parents make sure their children have the best possible chance of succeeding in school.
This book is chock-full of excellent, well-organized information. Sharpe jumps right in from the opening pages, noting that what you say and how you say it to your baby will boost speech and language development, and that the American Academy of Pediatrics recommends that infants be exposed to no television in the first two years. He follows research with simple school readiness ideas for preschool age children, such as learning to problem solve ("Don't ask yes or no questions; keep them open-ended") and reading aloud ("Choose high-quality literature to get started").
If you like lists, you'll appreciate Sharpe's practical lists of tips, each logically following the other. One example: "Reasons to Read Aloud" lists are followed by "7 Read Aloud Do's and Don't." Next, "10 Math Stories That Kids Love," then "4 Strategies for Making the Most of Math-Related Stories." A parent skimming the book for specific tips might have benefited from a more detailed index for these lists, although they can find them under general category headers in the table of contents pages.
Sharpe presents a wide range of material, and his advice is well-ordered, practical and to the point. In one interesting section, he looks at the gender differences in learning and problems fostered by schools that perpetuate stereotypes (girls aren't good at math, for example) and ways to work around this. "10 Ways to Promote Fairness in Your Daughter's Education" includes ideas parents can act on in a participatory rather than confrontational way. Sharpe also includes conversation starters for parents to use with their daughters about school. He takes this a step further, looking at the myths and facts of sending your child to a single-sex school or classroom. The final chapter of the book helps parents craft an "action plan" to ensure that their children have the best possible chance of success at school.
For readers who like to interact with the text, Sharpe includes checklists to fill out, places to respond to questions about a child's school situation, and even interview questions to ask your child about school. A "Learning Style Inventory" of 32 yes or no statements to fill out helps you determine your child's particular learning style. "The Truth About Creativity: A Quiz" helps parents discover if their ideas about creativity are factual or based on error. Some of the exercises included are intended for parents and children to do together, such as "Go 'Imagineering,'" a game where you stretch out on the floor with your child and imagine becoming different objects you've cut out of magazines (think balloons).
In a chapter on "Learning and Creativity," Sharpe provides ideas for fostering your child's emotional IQ and suggests books that help develop "emotional intelligence" (some of my favorites: BEDTIME FOR FRANCES and A WRINKLE IN TIME). There's a great section on learning self-discipline, including sample contracts for parent and child to sign promising good behavior, and specific sections on children with ADHD and with special education needs. Homeschoolers, Sharpe hasn't forgotten you. You'll find a chapter devoted especially to homeschooling, including choosing a curriculum and socialization.
Although my children are grown, I found myself wishing I had such tip lists as "Key Strategies for Homework," advice on helping a child overcome a fear of school, or a series of lists on bullies ("8 Questions to Ask a Child You Suspect is Being Bullied," "6 Ways to Comfort a Bullied Child"). A section on tips for choosing schools would have saved a lot of frustration when we moved several times. The book is very up-to-date, with sections on after-school safety, cyber-bullying and Internet safety.
Parents of preschoolers and school-age children will find THE ABCs OF SCHOOL SUCCESS a must-have book that they can't do without, crammed full of helpful, practical advice that will help every child reach their full potential. Parents, don't let your kids start school before you read it.
--- Reviewed by Cindy Crosby. Contact Cindy at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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