“What makes you sad?” my grandma asked. We’d just finished reading our favorite book, Owl at Home, by Arnold Lobel. The main character, Owl, makes tear water tea by thinking of sad things—like mashed potatoes left on a plate and beautiful mornings no one sees.
We were cuddled together under a big blanket on the living room couch. It was snowing out, but the house was warm and smelled like a mix of chocolate covered macaroons and my grandma’s perfume. I responded quickly.
“I’m sad when people are mean.”
I'd just been bullied for the first time in elementary school. A girl named Robin called me a baby and made fun of the “Owl at Home” book I carried in my backpack.
“You should remember that it makes you sad when people are mean," Grandma explained. "Think about how other people feel when people are mean. That’s why it’s so important for you to be a nice person.”
I was six years old. What could’ve been a silly, unrealistic book about salty tea became a life lesson about kindness and humility for me. My grandma has since passed, but the lessons I learned from reading and talking with her as a child have stayed with me through adulthood.
Reading with Children
Each November is National Family Literacy Month—a time when families celebrate reading, learning and growing together. Parents and guardians are encouraged to read with their children for 30 minutes each day, and to enrich those bonding experiences with broader, meaningful conversations and questions.
So, in the spirit of National Family Literacy month, I asked some colleagues about their favorite books to read as a family. Some of their book recommendations are below:
Just because the kids are home from school for the holiday break doesn’t mean that they should be glued to the TV or their iPhones. You can turn holiday days into learning fun. Even better, you don’t need to go out and buy any expensive holiday toys to keep them learning while the schools are closed. In this video, Pearson parent expert Dr. Kimberly O’Malley shares a few family-friendly suggestions to keep students learning over the holiday season—and shares five more ideas below.
Bake some cookies or your great aunt’s famous fruit cake!
Cooking and baking are easy (and tasty) ways to teach your kids about measuring, math, and even some science! Younger kids can help measure flour and sugar. Older kids can double the recipe, making it necessary to double the recipe measurements. For little ones, cookie cutters make for great lessons about shapes. The best part is that they are sure to stay motivated by the promise of some fresh baked cookies at the end of their “lesson.”
Don’t break the holiday gift budget!
Shopping with your kids offers many ways to bring learning into the holidays. Take the kids with you to the mall to buy some gifts for their siblings, family members, or friends. Have them compare prices or evaluate the quality of gifts. Or, have your kids join you at the grocery store to pick out the food for your family feast! Have them make the list with you. They can organize the list by food types or even location in the grocery story. Give them a list of a few items to purchase and a set amount of money to teach them about budgeting. For older kids, have them estimate the total, tell you how much change you are supposed to get, or calculate the tax on the purchases--without the help of the calculator on their phone! They can always use their phones to check their answers.
Let the kids help build and assemble holiday gifts.
STEM (science, technology, engineering, and math) careers are among the most in-demand, and there is no sign that the need for STEM experts will change over the next few years. It is never too early to teach the kids how to follow directions to put their new toys together, and for the older kids, use some of the tools you’ve got in the garage. Your future engineers need to know the difference between a flat head and Phillips head screwdriver. And, your curious future engineers might want to know the history of screwdrivers.
Teach the younger kids colors and shapes when hanging ornaments or decorations.
Even your youngest kids should join in on the learning fun this holiday season. As you are decorating the tree or hanging up holiday lights, ask your child to tell you the shapes of the ornaments or the colors of the ornaments or lights. Take them for a walk around the neighborhood and do the same with the decorations in your neighbor’s yards.
Learn a new holiday song or act out your favorite holiday story.
No matter what holiday you are celebrating, there are no shortage of holiday songs and stories to share with your kids. Pick your favorite from your childhood or look up a new one that you and your child can learn together. Studies show that movement increases creativity. So, why not try acting out the song or putting together a new dance to Jingle Bells?
At the end of the season, when you are packing up the holiday decorations, don’t forget to tuck the ideas that worked best this year into a box of ornaments or with the tree. Next year when you unpack the decorations, the list of ideas can help you kick off next holiday season with even more ways to turn holidays into learning fun for your kids. I'd love to hear how you engage with your children over school breaks.
Bob Sanders is Pearson's Director of Performance Scoring.
When I'm not goofing around with my family in 3D movie glasses, I oversee performance scoring across the country for Pearson.
My colleagues and I understand that there are a lot of questions about assessments in the U.S., about how assessments can help learning, and about Pearson's role in the assessment scoring process. So we thought it would be helpful to share a bit about our work and our people, who are the heart of our operation.
Many of us are teachers and parents or caregivers with children in the school systems. It's because we directly serve teachers, students, parents, and others, we take our work seriously and strive to get our assessment scoring right every time.
This video is the first in a series about Pearson's Performance Scoring team. It's an overview of the assessment scoring process and an introduction to some of the passionate people who read and score student submissions.