Tuesday 23 January 2018

Amanda Brunker: 'If you want your child to succeed in school, you need to take matters into your own hands'

Amanda Brunker
Amanda Brunker
Amanda Brunker with her sons L to R: Setanta (8) and Edward (9) McLaughlin

Amanda Brunker

I don’t know about you, but reading, for me, is now a luxury.

When I say ‘reading’, I mean books. I buy them regularly, they stack up in pretty piles beside my bed and wink at me. But despite their flirty covers and catchy titles, most of them go months, sometimes years, without being read and loved.

Most grown-ups can identify with being too busy to read. Often, I find that even when I do have the time, my brain is then too busy to concentrate on a book. I can only process headlines and condensed stories, such as newspaper articles and Twitter posts. While books can be consumed just a few pages a night at a time, often our tired minds feel overwhelmed at the sheer size of a book, so we ignore them and flick on our phones instead.

Of course, I spend every day reading stories — they’re just normally work-related. But amazingly, one in six Irish adults have difficulties reading — and that’s reading anything: prescriptions, ingredients on food stuffs or even short texts.

Amanda Brunker with her sons L to R: Setanta (8) and Edward (9) McLaughlin
Amanda Brunker with her sons L to R: Setanta (8) and Edward (9) McLaughlin

That said, education has improved. While adults between the ages of 55-65 have the worst literacy score, those between the ages of 25-34 score highest.

I’m not the biggest fan of surveys, but this indicates to me that a huge amount of our community cannot read properly. And since we all live in a world that requires a massive amount of form-filling and written detail that needs to be processed for everyday life, that must be hell.

In my naivety, I thought all kids could read these days. Wrong. Education has improved since my mother’s era and while it has continued to improve since my days in school,  it hasn’t come as far as it should have. Which I find both heartbreaking and worrying.

In 2017, we’re all aware that all kids don’t learn in the same way, aren’t we? As if! Sadly, all kids are still squeezed into the same curriculum. Unless you’ve got a child with severe learning disabilities, or loads of money to pay for extra tuition, children with mild conditions of autism, dyslexia and numerous other issues fall behind in school. Throw in a language barrier, and maxed-out teachers are going to sink under the pressure — as are your kids. Depressed? My apologies.

I’ve said it before: we can only expect so much from the educational system. If you want your child to succeed, or you are just worried about them keeping up, then you need to take matters into your own hands. Tragic I know, but true.

Whether your babies are 50 or five years old, it’s never too late to help them to read and write. My own mum got some extra tuition in her 60s and it helped her joy of reading and poetry-writing immensely. So don’t feel any shame in asking for support and guidance.

Bring your children to your local library. They’re massively underused and a great source of inspiration.

Encourage your children to start reading what it says on their crisp packets or through the TV guide.

Get them reading the signs at the zoo and get them to do it out loud. It builds confidence and you can keep an ear on their progress.

Repetition and practice is what we all need when learning. Whether there are extra hurdles or not...

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