Parents do many things that make a huge difference in helping their children prepare for learning success.

The basics are absolutely important: eating healthy foods, staying active, getting plenty of rest, and not worrying about issues at home keep children refreshed and ready for each new day of learning.  

But what things lead them to learning success?

Research shows that what parents do at home has a huge impact on children’s overall learning success, so start this school year off right.

  • Celebrate together. 

Whether it’s reading, math, history, or science, every area of learning success involves many steps and plenty of hard work. Sincerely acknowledge your child’s participation and effort as a means of encouraging your child to persist. Reading a sentence is a beginning step for completing a chapter, which eventually leads to finishing the book. Identify the challenging steps along the way to success because learning is achieved at each rung of the ladder, not just at the top. Every sentence read may hold new words to learn and the possibility of better understanding. Encourage children to keep trying, and recognize their diligence as they move closer to a goal. Persistence is a characteristic with lifelong benefits for everyone.

  • Read together. 

Books are a great way to introduce new and interesting information. They can introduce words and topics that are unusual or different from those used in everyday language. Better than merely reading aloud, engage your child in a conversation about a book.  Occasionally ask questions about the story. Evaluate and expand on your child’s responses. Ask the question again to give your child a chance to use the new words and information.

  • Talk together. 

Share a sense of wonder. Every day we are surrounded by marvelous things that are new and interesting, especially to a young child. The spray from the hose makes a rainbow in the bright sunlight. Some things float while other things sink in the tub. Corn changes from tiny kernels into fluffy white puffs of popcorn. Plan special experiences, like a trip to the zoo, but look at every day things and experiences through your child’s eyes. How can that tiny sidewalk ant carry something that is so huge in comparison? What does high definition mean for television viewing? How does water get to my faucet? Find your sense of wonder and share it with your child!

  • Be knowledge seekers together. 

In addition to teaching your child specific information, provide the example for how to learn. Take that sense of wonder to the next level and explore the why behind what you’ve observed. There are many rich online resources to tap. The award-winning Wonderopolis.org is a perfect place where you and your child can have fun learning new information. Ever wonder why chameleons change their color? Or how you zorb? There is a new Wonder every day that integrates multiple skills and learning areas with factual content found engaging for all ages. Read, discuss, and use it for a springboard to exciting everyday experiences.

  • Share a belief of success. 

Have realistic high expectations and truly believe that your child can succeed. Expecting children to achieve unreasonable goals sets everyone up for disappointment and failure. “My mom thinks I should be able to do this, but I can’t. I must be really stupid!” The opposite is also dangerous. Too low expectations make a child feel you have no faith or belief in his or her ability.  

Know your child’s developmental level and capacity for moving to the next higher level of learning success.

Know that it takes time to move forward and learn. As you celebrate each step along the road of learning success, expect your child’s achievement and support it. Work together with teachers, school staff, and other parents to provide a network of support that is consistent and appropriately matched to your child’s growth and development.

Your interest and support conveys that you value learning success and that you care, and it gives your child confidence to do and be his or her best. 

Donna Bell, Senior Specialist at the National Center for Family Literacy (NCFL),develops curricula and materials on early literacy learning and parental involvement.  

Projects which she has managed include NCFL’s partner role with Edvantia for the Appalachia Regional Comprehensive Center and West Virginia’s Parent Involvement Resource Center; development of Becoming Readers infant and toddler toy/text sets available through Kaplan Educational Resources; Bringing Literacy Home training and materials for pilot home visitation project; What Works, a teacher’s guide for implementing the research findings of the National Early Literacy Panel; The Literacy House, How would you feel? and Find the Flags, interactive online learning materials; En Camino—online resources for parents, children and staff regarding postsecondary education; and Helping Your Child Grow, Learn and Succeed, a parent resource for the Kansas State Department of Education.  

As well as managing various projects, Ms. Bell contributes as a team member to many other NCFL projects, such as the Family and Child Education (FACE) Program and Wonderopolis®. She has led the development of parental involvement webinars, podcasts, trainings and print materials currently available online.