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Posted at 6:30 AM ET, 09/14/2009

Why Don't Kids Talk About School to Parents? .... Is It O.K. That My Kid Reads The Same Book Over and Over?

By Valerie Strauss

The Answer Sheet likes to start the week by answering questions from readers. Email The Sheet with any school- and kid-related question you would like to see answered here.

Q) Why do kids always say “Nothing,” when parents ask them what happened in school?

A) They all don’t. Some are very chatty and tell their parents every last detail about who did what to whom at school.

But, it is true, most would rather not--at least according to a survey of parents released this year by a British government agency. The conclusions, as reported by the BBC:

*82 percent of parents wished they had more information about their children’s school life.

*16 percent of children volunteered information about their day at school.

*Nearly 25 percent of children felt like their parents “were hassling” by asking them about school.

It isn't rocket science: After eight hours in school and then more time doing homework, a lot of kids are sick of the subject of school and don't want to revisit it any more than they have to at night--which is when parents generally ask about it.

But there is a little more to it.

Have you ever gotten the cold shoulder from your child about his/her school day, and then a short time later heard your kid talking up a storm to a friend about something that happened that day that you would have loved to hear about too. The second you ask about it, though, they again go mum (which is what I did when my parents used to ask).

Some kids don't want to talk to their parents about school because they feel like their parents are in some way "testing" them by asking what they did and how much they learned. They have to answer questions on command in school and would rather not feel like they are being drilled at home.

My friend Liz’s son was 4 and in preschool when he said to her “Why do you keep asking me about school? I’m never going to tell you.” He eventually did, though, as a teenager, after she stopped asking every day.

The key was letting him come to her when he felt like it, offering what he wanted. Letting your children know you are interested in their day without putting them on the spot will probably reap the benefits you are looking for.

I confess I am not as patient as I should be, and sometimes ask my daughters one or two pointed questions to try to elicit some scrap of information--“Tell me one thing that happened in English class,” or, "What was the dumbest thing that happened today?"

It works.



The Sheet received several questions about reading issues and turned to an expert to get some answers--Teri S. Lesesne, professor of Library Science at Sam Houston State University in Texas and author of several books on reading, including “Making The Match, The Right Book for the Right Reader at the Right Time, Grades 4-12.”

Q) My child spent all summer rereading books she loved. I couldn’t get her to complete one fresh book. Did she waste her time?

A) Rereading is not a waste of time. Often when we reread books, we gain new insight into them. I reread often during my tween and teen years. It is not that the book changes, but readers do. Now, they bring more to the book and can get more from it.

Q) Why do young kids like to reread books so many times? Are they really getting something new out of it? Is it helpful?

A) Psychologist Bruno Bettelheim (“The Uses of Enchantment”) insisted there is a reason kids love hearing stories over and over again.Part of that reason is comfort (the story is always the same) and part of the reason is so they can learn the book well enough to "read" it from memory.

Q) How do I know how to find books that are at my child’s reading level?

A) Actually, reading level is not as important as developmental and interest levels for selecting books. However, when in doubt, my rule is "ask a librarian." Public and school librarians love helping parents select books. There are also wonderful resources on the Internet with booklists for all ages.

Q) I try to guide my child to books that are a bit of a challenge in terms of difficulty but she doesn’t like it at all. How is she supposed to grow if she doesn’t want a challenge?

A) Sometimes kids feel "dumb" when they cannot easily read. Maybe you could read the book along with your child, taking turns reading it aloud to each other. Audiobooks are another terrific way to "challenge" without disheartening readers. Kids can listen beyond their actual reading comprehension.

By Valerie Strauss  | September 14, 2009; 6:30 AM ET
Categories:  Parents, Reading  | Tags:  parents, reading, rereading  
Save & Share:  Send E-mail   Facebook   Twitter   Digg   Yahoo Buzz   StumbleUpon   Technorati   Google Buzz   Previous: 8 Things I Learned This Week
Next: Willingham: Student "Learning Styles" Theory Is Bunk


The thing that surprised me was how early it starts. At dinner, we always ask how everyone's day was to get the conversation going. DD has always been happy to chatter on about her day (well, she's always happy to chatter, period; doesn't really need a subject). But DS respond with "I don't want to talk about it." He's 3!! It's not that he's unhappy or anything; he loves preschool, loves his teachers, proudly shows me whatever art project or worksheet he's done today -- and frequently will babble on about some thing or other that happened that day, as long as it's unsolicited. He just does not like being asked, period.

Posted by: laura33 | September 14, 2009 11:44 AM | Report abuse

Thank you for the interesting article and valuable insight.

But please, check for spelling and grammar: especially in article about school

Posted by: mmore1 | September 14, 2009 12:13 PM | Report abuse

Thank you for the interesting article and valuable insight.

But please, check for spelling and grammar: especially in article about school.

Posted by: mmore1 | September 14, 2009 12:13 PM | Report abuse

First thing, students do not spend eight hours in school in the US. They should, but they don't.

The second thing is that school, especially high school, has become a very difficult place for teens. Girls have the hardest time because, well, they are girls. They want to fit and the cliques are such that the "good" ones are hard to get into.

I feel bad for kids in school today. I see them everyday and I can pick out the ones that are being bullied and those that are just lost. I can tell the ones that aren't receiving nurturing at home and the ones that are being aboused.

Yes, I do try and do things. I contact counselors, social workers and psychologists when I suspect something. But this is just a drop in the bucket.

I am certainly glad that I am 65 years old. I really enjoyed school but I can see that those days are gone, probably forever.

Posted by: mortified469 | September 14, 2009 12:15 PM | Report abuse

"Some kids don't want to talk to their parents about schol because"............

Posted by: jezebel3 | September 14, 2009 12:23 PM | Report abuse

I used to really get tired of reading the same books over and over to my kids. When my daughter was about 4, I started reading longer books to her, one chapter a night - we started with the Laura Ingalls Wilder books, Little House in the Big Woods and all the others, then later moved to the Chronicles of Narnia. That was more interesting for both of us! She never insisted on going back to the old "favorites" for familiarity's sake.

Posted by: catherine3 | September 14, 2009 1:02 PM | Report abuse

I have always asked my daughter how her day was as opposed to what did she do. Often times it'll come out in starts and spurts and sometimes I don't hear much at all.

Posted by: mosere | September 14, 2009 2:18 PM | Report abuse

How would you like it if your husband or wife cornered you every evening wanting to know how your day was, what happened, what did you have for lunch? Bet you'd get tired of it very quick and run for your den, TV or whatever!!!

Parents should give the kids time to unwind, chill out and just veg when they first come home! When they are ready to talk, just make sure you ARE THERE to listen.

I never had to ask my son how his day went. And, today, he's in his 40's, he still calls to fill me in!!! It is a matter of being there and REALLY listening!

Posted by: PalmSpringsGirl | September 14, 2009 7:37 PM | Report abuse

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