This blog represents most of the newspaper columns (appearing in various Colorado Community Newspapers and Yourhub.com) written by me, James LaRue, during the time in which I was the director of the Douglas County Libraries in Douglas County, Colorado. (Some columns are missing, due to my own filing errors.) This blog covers the time period from April 11, 1990 to January 12, 2012.

Unless I say so, the views expressed here are mine and mine alone. They may be quoted elsewhere, so long as you give attribution. The dates are (at least according my records) the dates of publication in one of the above print newspapers.

The blog archive (web view) is in chronological order. The display of entries, below, seems to be in reverse order, new to old.

All of the mistakes are of course my own responsibility.

Wednesday, November 21, 1990

November 21, 1990 - Fifteen minutes a day

According to a study done in 1986 by the U.S. Department of Education, the average American mother spends less than half an hour a day talking or reading with her children. Fathers spend less than fifteen minutes.

According to more recent studies, the greatest single factor in a child's success in school is how much schooling the mother got. Why do mothers have more influence? What's the difference?

Fifteen minutes a day.

People with fancy degrees have spent a lot of time and money proving what should be obvious to everybody. If parents talk and read to their children, two things happen: children get the idea that they are important, and they get curious about the world.

Both of these are rare. Many children grow up thinking they are UNimportant. They learn early that it doesn't make any difference what they think or say or feel. Usually, the lesson starts with their parents. But too many of our basic institutions -- schools, churches, businesses, even libraries -- just pound it home. Kids are annoyances. They don't behave. They don't have any money. They don't have any respect. (Of course, they don't GET any, either.)

As for curiosity, well, it killed the cat, right? "Don't ask questions. Sit still. I don't know. Just keep quiet." In countless ways, every day, older people teach the younger ones not to wonder, not to challenge, not to dare.

In a book called "The National PTA Talks to Parents: How to Get the Best Education for Your Child," author Melitta J. Cutright gives plenty of good advice. It's based on this: "The difference between a good school and a great school is the parents."

Concerned about your child's education? Good. Start by giving YOURSELF a report card. Are you involved in your child's education? Do you have books and magazines at home? Do you set a good example? Do you talk to your children about their schooling? Do you call teachers early if you think there is a problem with how well your child is learning? Do you accept responsibility for teaching your children basic discipline and respect for others -- or do you think teachers have to do your job too?

After you grade your own performance, fill out a report card for your children's teachers. Do they take the time to catch your children doing something right? Do the teachers get to know what your children need, want, and what they're good at? Do the teachers ever call you up or somehow make an effort to talk to you? Do they expect your children to do well? Do they welcome your involvement in your child's education?

After you've done your homework, have some fun. Gather your children and take them somewhere you may have never been together. Go to the library. Show your kids how much sheer entertainment there can be in reading, listening to stories, flipping through magazines, listening to books on cassette.

Fifteen minutes a day. Think about it.

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