Five ways to use literature to encourage positive changes in children

By Ken Myers

It is well-known that children who read well experience greater progress in their academic studies. However, literature also is a valuable tool for teaching and reinforcing positive social skills that can help keep children on the right track when it comes to behavior. In fact, the power of literature is so strong, that many juvenile correction systems are implementing the use of required reading as an alternative to other types of punishment. Because literature has the potential to inspire positive change in children, parents and other adults who work with youths may want to try a few of the following ideas in order to begin seeing the effects of literature on a child’s social and emotional development.

1. Create a ritual. Children thrive on routine. This is especially true for children who come from rough backgrounds or who have been forced to overcome significant challenges. Younger children may benefit from having a set bedtime story ritual, while older children can find a regular reading schedule calming. This way, there is a portion of the day set aside that they can depend upon always being the same.

2. Use a book to approach a difficult issue. Working with children can lead to a need for some difficult conversations. Often, adults and children may struggle with ways to bring up particularly challenging topics. For this reason, books are often the perfect way to introduce specific topics for conversation. Through literature, you can seamlessly ease into topics such as divorce, death, and abuse.

3. Explore a common interest. For many children, bonding is a difficult process. However, when a child shares a common interest with an adult, the child is more likely to trust the adult for advice. This can be especially vital for juveniles to make progress towards their goals for better behavior. For this reason, try finding a common interest that you and your child can explore through reading specific literature and books.

4. Make a memory book. When children attempt to learn how to make better decisions, you can help them learn how to focus on the positive aspects of their lives. In these instances, encourage children to create their own literature. By making memory books, children develop powerful resources to track the positive changes occurring in their lives. In a group setting, each member can choose to create a page that everyone can read.

5. Extend reading through activities. Children learn best when they actively participate in an experience. For this reason, extend a literary assignment to include a physical activity. For example, a child who reads a sports-themed book may then enjoy taking part in a real-life game. This can reinforce the concepts the child learned in the story, such as the importance of teamwork.

When children read books, they are able to enter into a world where learning can take place regarding a variety of subjects. Not only is literature an excellent tool for teaching academics, but it is also a valuable resource for helping children learn positive social skills that will enable them to make better decisions. This is especially true for children who may not have had positive role models in the past. Literature should be an important part of any child’s life and supported through the efforts of adults who are dedicated to ensuring the child will have the best opportunities for success.

Ken Myers is the editor in chief and frequent contributor of http://www.gonannies.com/. Ken helps acquire knowledge on the duties & responsibilities of nannies to society. You can reach him at kmyers.ceo@gmail.com.

Image: Frederick Noronha on flickr.com


A Chance to Change

Nicole Beaudoin is a master’s candidate in the Professional Writing Program at UMass Dartmouth. Currently, she works with the University’s web team and teaches Business Communications as a TA. She has a passion for literature, writing and especially dogs.


Adolescence is a time in life for making mistakes and learning lessons to carry into adulthood. But for the thousands of juvenile offenders in our country’s prison system, adolescence is just part of their life sentence without parole. For many of these youths, one wrong decision has led them to live their entire lives behind bars for committing what officials call “adult crimes,” when in fact they do not even understand these crimes.

 

In the New York Times discussion forum “room for debate,” Mark Mauer, Executive Director of the Sentencing Project and the author of Race to Incarcerate, argues that sentencing children is inherently different than sentencing adults:

 

…children are different than adults. As the Supreme Court noted in its 2005 decision in Roper v. Simmons banning the death penalty for juveniles, children do not have fully matured levels of judgment or impulse control, and are more susceptible to peer pressure than adults.


Mauer says that children are “uniquely capable of change…No matter how serious a crime committed by a 13-year-old, there is no means of predicting what type of adult he or she will become in 10 or 20 years.


While the crimes some juveniles have committed are very serious  – murder, rape, home invasion – many offenders twice their age commit the same crimes and serve minimal sentences and receive parole. Why don’t youths receive the same chance for change?

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