Ms. S. Sokugawa – Relationships are the key to learning.

The act of reading is a very complex task, especially for the young reader. As adults, we sometimes forget all the necessary things for reading to occur. For many of us, we have been reading for a long time. Since we have been practicing it for a long time, things seem to “happen naturally”.

As initial readers, being acquainted with the “frequently used words” (sight words or common words) is one of the crucial foundations necessary for reading to happen. Many words do not follow the phonemic rules. Examples of these kinds of words include: the, of, because, said, some, have. For this reason, consistent repetition of these words is an essential step in helping to build reading fluency. One way this repetition can be done is by reading the flashcards frequently and consistently. Another way is by reading and looking at books often so that when we recognize the printed words, we can better transfer that understanding contextually. Therefore, reading with parents, older siblings, and other adults helps this transformation take place.

In addition to the sight words, having a phonemic awareness and understanding is another critical foundation necessary to becoming skilled readers. In a nutshell, phonemic awareness is knowing the individual sounds (phonemes) that a word makes to help in sounding out unfamiliar words. The phonemes can be the individual letter sounds, digraphs, vowel team syllables, or r-controlled syllables combined with an understanding of the heard vowels when saying the word (i.e.  closed syllable, open syllable, magic e). The more familiar a reader is with the phonemes the easier reading becomes.

Once a reader has an understanding of the sight words, phonemic awareness, and has built some fluency through remembering the words, the phonemic awareness should never fall by the wayside. This phonemic awareness helps to build our vocabulary and an understanding that words follow certain rules. This becomes helpful during the writing process especially when it comes to homophones. The spell check function does not detect an incorrect use of there, their, or they’re even though the word is spelled correctly. Again, the more books and stories read, the greater the knowledge and spelling skills.

These foundations help to prepare the reader for the ultimate task of understanding what they are reading. Decoding the words during the initial phase of reading is very important, but the skill of reading for the remainder of one’s life does not end at decoding. Comprehension, or the understanding, of the material is the actual goal of reading. As we read, many parts of the brain are working in conjunction with one another to process the act of reading and the information that is being gathered. Dialogue with others is a key component to strengthening understanding so asking various questions about the story helps children to become better readers. Therefore, audio books and story are good to a certain point and to hear reading being modelled. However, interaction with other people where dialogue occurs helps children become strong readers.

Being a parent is one of the most difficult jobs, but it is also one of the most rewarding jobs of our lives. When your child is a baby, especially those difficult times when babies can be very demanding, it feels like those difficult moments may never end. However, as with most things, you overcome them. As we overcome each challenge we build resilience.

This is the same for your child. If your child does not encounter any challenges along the way, how can we expect them to overcome them with confidence? Challenges help us grow stronger. When we take away those challenges because we don’t want our children to get hurt, it is important to recognize that we may be taking away the opportunities to help them grow. Safety is always number one, but remember that your child needs challenging situations to grow.

Remember that your child is a child until they are 18 years of age, at which point they become an adult. Parenting is a lifelong endeavor and so, support for your child, even as an adult will continue. As your child moves through adulthood, how will they handle the challenges faced in front of them? Adulthood lasts a long time. The skills that our children build during the formative years (0-5 years), childhood (5-13 years) and adolescence (13-18 years) carry them into adulthood. We, as parents, also went through the same stages. Think about your own upbringing and the challenges you faced? If our children face challenges and adversity, our role as parents can help them face those challenges by giving them tools to build their skillset to help them build resilience. If we don’t let them face these challenges and adverse situations, are we limiting their ability to maximize their potential? Challenges are extremely important and often time, parents attempt to remove those challenges with good intentions without realizing the detrimental effects on their development. Consider that we are developing not only children, but future adults, and it is important to consider our role in their development. Parenting is not always easy, but the choices we make during the developmental years have lasting effects that lasts throughout their lives.

When we look at our lifespan, we are children from birth to 18 years of age. We are adults from 18 years to 90 or 95 years or more if we are lucky. Some people live to be over 100 years of age. That means that if we live to be 100 years of age, 18% of it is childhood and 82% is adulthood. The skills that we learn in that beginning 18% helps with the remaining 82%. As parents, our goal is to raise children who will become functioning members of society who will help to contribute to the community they are a part of. We need to guide and nurture them in facing each challenge so that they can build a solid skillset that will help them be strong and resilient so that they will be ready face any challenge with humility and grace.

Having boundaries and limits in place helps to bring understanding to our children’s lives that can extend into their adult lives. Therefore, it is important to always consider the choices that we make as parents. Every choice we make as parents impacts our child’s development. This is an exciting opportunity to develop robust skillsets in our children. Final thoughts to consider: If our children do not learn boundaries when they are young, what impact does will this have on how they face challenges in the future? As your child’s teacher this year, I feel privileged to have a minor role in your child’s development.

If you are interested, I wrote an article that was published in January 2022 by the European Journal of Social and Behavioural Sciences. Please click here for the link if you are interested in reading it.

wall-837313_640-1The saying “Life is a journey” is often used when talking about our experiences and our learning. In order to make some understanding about this statement, we need to figure out what each word means. If we are lucky, we will live to be in our 80s, 90s, or even 100s. That is a long time! Keeping in mind, throughout those 80, 90, or 100 years, we will have experienced many things. However, if we take each experience for granted, what is the point of encountering each of those experiences? This includes the people we meet along the way, the places we go, and the opportunities that arise, even if they are negative. Each moment has something to offer and if we take them for granted, we will miss out on potential wonderful experiences. This includes learning new things.

To embrace each experience, we need to consider that learning is like a never-ending staircase. That means that even if we become good at a skill, there is always room for improvement. This is the concept of Growth Mindset, created by Carol Dweck [Carol Dweck: A Summary of The Two Mindsets ( ]. This never-ending staircase of learning allows us to go back a step or two to retrace where we have come from, and then proceed upwards to demonstrate what we have learned.  Without making “mistakes”, we cannot learn and become better than we were before we made our mistake.  They are the glitches that are needed for learning to occur and to improve what we are doing.  The most important part, however, is the learning we take from those glitches.  By looking more closely at where we went wrong, we can then figure out what we can do differently.  IF we do this step, it means that we are truly learning, and will not repeat the same mistake over and over again.

Encouraging a growth mindset begins with how we phrase comments. When making comments to children, it is important to validate them and their efforts with comments that will encourage them to keep trying and persevering, even when things get difficult or results in unexpected ways. Comments such as “You’re smart” stifles the motivation to try as the child may feel that they are already smart and do not need to go beyond what they are already doing. For further examples, you can click on the following link. Growth Mindset For Parents | Growth Mindset Parenting (

Our job as the community of adults surrounding the children we care for, is to provide a safe and nurturing environment so children can grow into strong, successful, self-sufficient, resilient members of the community.  One of the ways we can help our children is to be supportive when adversity or challenges come their way.  It is important to remember that although we don’t want to see our children hurt, if it is a challenge that they can overcome with no harm, we need to let them face it by letting them experience it.  Yes, it may be painful, but not being able to deal with the challenge will be worse, especially as they grow older, and the challenges become more difficult.  Having caring words to console them is a good way to help them, but also help them to see how they can change things for the next time so that they won’t have to experience the same feeling again.  In order for us to learn, we must make mistakes.  However, we must learn from them by reflecting back on what went wrong and see what can be done differently the next time.  If children do not encounter challenges and hiccups along the way, what will happen when something more drastic happens?  How will they manage?  Being able to face the challenge, learn from it, and bounce back stronger is what we want our kids to be.  This is building resilient children who will become stronger adults.

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