Children typically enjoy being read to, and see educational, social and emotional benefits to the practice. But families are busy, and finding time to read aloud can be eaten up by the demands of everyday life.
Not all parents have been read to themselves as children, so may not have experienced a model they can then follow with their own children. And many adult Australians may be struggling readers themselves.
With this in mind, here are five suggestions that can help make the experience of reading to your children fun, relaxing and educational.
1. Give it all your attention
For many people, the best time to read with their children is at night, once the children are in bed. But if you find your child too cranky and disengaged at this time (or if you are feeling tired yourself), you might want to try reading to them earlier in the day.
Whatever the time, it’s important to give the book and your children all of your attention. Phones and other devices with enabled notifications should be switched off. Everyone should be comfortable, and children should associate time spent being read to with enjoyment.
Where possible, we strongly suggest reading to your child becomes part of the daily routine. The more often children are read to, the more substantial the benefits. Reading to children is both an opportunity to model how the written word sounds and a chance for family bonding.
2. Engage with the story
Children don’t typically enjoy having the story stopped every few seconds for comprehension checking, so we suggest you keep interruptions to a minimum.
But recapping is useful when picking up a book again after a break. If parents let their children provide this recap (“So, where are we up to?”) this also enables informal comprehension checking. Opportunities for prediction are also beneficial (“Wow… what do you think might happen next!”).
Sharing your response to a book and encouraging children’s responses stimulates critical thinking. These techniques and others can enhance learning and comprehension, but they shouldn’t upset the fluidity of the reading experience or turn it into a test.
You can share the task of the reading itself with your children if they want to. This is beneficial for a range of reading skills, such as reading comprehension, word recognition and vocabulary building.
3. There’s no age limit
You can start reading to your child from early infancy to support their developing language abilities, so it’s never too early to start. The skills infants and young children develop through shared reading experiences can set them up for literacy achievement in their subsequent schooling years.
Reading to your children remains important beyond the early years, too, with continuing benefits for literacy development and cognitive skills.
We should read to young people for as long as possible. There is no age where the benefits of being read to completely expire.
Very recent research in the UK found struggling adolescent readers can make remarkable gains on their reading comprehension when books are read to them at school. This is perhaps due to the opportunity for students to enjoy books that are too hard for them to read themselves.
4. Pick a book you both enjoy
We suggest you select a book that interests both you and your child. Reading together is a great opportunity to share your passions while broadening your children’s horizons through making diverse book choices.
Don’t be afraid to start reading chapter books to your children while they are still very young. The age to begin this will vary depending on your child’s attention span, but it’s often possible to begin this with pre-schoolers.
As long as the story isn’t too complex, children love to be taken on an enjoyable journey into books that are too hard for them to read independently. This can also help to extend child’s vocabulary, among other benefits.
It’s a good idea to take your children to the library and model how you choose interesting books for shared reading. Research shows many primary and high school children are easily overwhelmed by choice when they attempt to pick what books to read independently, so helping them with this is a valuable skill.
5. Don’t worry about your style
Not all of us are destined to be award-winning voice actors, and that’s OK. It’s great to use expression and adopt different voices for the characters in a book, but not everyone will feel able to do this.
At multiple points in our research, we’ve come across people who have praised the reading efforts of parents who weren’t confident readers, but who prevailed nonetheless. For example, in our recent paper a respondent described being read to by her mother who struggled with dyslexia. This mother, and many other parents, have inspired a love of reading in their children through their persistence.
Being taken into the virtual reality of story is a memorable, pleasurable experience that stays with us forever. Reading aloud provides parents with a valuable opportunity to slow down, relax and share the wonderful world of books with their children.
The Best Cleaning Tips for 6 Common Summer Stains
Remove any excess sunscreen from the clothes or towels, and rinse under cold water. Rub or brush some Tide liquid detergent onto the spot. Don’t rinse the detergent off before starting your load of laundry. Run the load, using the hottest wash temperature that the garment’s care label allows. Tip: Avoid stains by using sunscreens free of the chemical avobenzone.
Use this easy six-step method to rid dirt stains from summer clothing:
Brush excess dirt off surface of the fabric. Rinse in cold water to dilute stain. Create a solution of 1 1/2 tablespoons Tide liquid detergent per gallon of cold water. Soak garment for 30 minutes. Wash in warm water as usual. If stain remains, repeat steps before drying
3. Fruit Juice
Easily wash away stains from fruit juice on white clothing:
• Immediately rinse the garments in cold water
• Pretreat with Tide liquid detergent and let it set for 20 minutes.
• Without rinsing off the detergent, throw it in with your next load of laundry
4. Ice Cream and Grass
Rid colored cotton or linen garments of ice cream and grass stains with our five simple steps:
• Brush excess stain off surface of fabric
• Rinse in cold water to dilute stain
• Pre-treat stain by covering with Tide liquid detergent. Allow to set for 20 minutes
• Wash in warm water as usual
• If stain remains, repeat steps before drying
5. Tomato Sauce and Mustard
• Tomato Sauce: Brush off excess sauce and pour detergent directly onto the stain, being sure to cover it. Use an old toothbrush to rub the detergent into the fibers of the garment. Then put it in your next load of laundry.
• Mustard: Rinse with cold water, and then pour Tide liquid detergent directly onto the stain. Allow to set for 20 minutes, and then put it in the washer with your next load.
Tip: For deeper mustard stains, submerge in hot water mixed with laundry detergent for several hours.
Remove sweat and antiperspirant buildup on your favorite tank tops and white shirts:
• Rinse sweat and antiperspirant stains with cool water for 15 seconds to dilute salts and acids
• Pre-treat stains with liquid detergent containing enzymes and set for 15 minutes
• Wash with fabric-safe bleach in the hottest water that is safe for fabric
Always check the instructions on the garment’s care label, and try to clean all stains as quickly as possible. The longer a stain sits on clothes, the harder it will be to remove. If a stain persists after washing, repeat the previous steps before tossing in the dryer, as drying will set the stain.
Why do our brains freak us out with scary dreams? – Niamh, 8, Newcastle.
Great question, Niamh.
Getting a fright from a dream is very normal. But our brains don’t have a secret plan to freak us out with nightmares.
In the olden days, many people believed dreams were a window to another world. People lived two inseparable lives: one in a waking world and the other in a dream world.
They believed the dream world contained a mixture of the past and the future, gods and goddesses, and helped people find purpose with their lives. These dreams often revealed new people and ideas, which explains why some people found them scary. Others saw them as a sign or a prophesy from the gods.
When scientists first studied dreams, around 200 years ago, they thought dreams were a special type of story that brains told themselves. Scientists thought it was a special language where ideas and emotions were explained using symbols and signs. Different parts of the brain would talk with other parts in this dream state.
If your house was damaged, for example, it was supposed to represent the dreamer, and the brain was trying to tell you that you or your ego had been damaged. Dr Sigmund Freud, seen by many as the founder of psychoanalysis, wrote a very famous book about dreams called “The Interpretation of Dreams” in 1900.
About 100 years ago, people started to explain things more thoroughly using science and technology. This brought a different way of understanding why things happen. But it doesn’t mean the way other people thought about dreams was necessarily wrong.
There are two main types of sleep, according to scientists, and dreams occur during a stage called REM sleep (Rapid Eye Movement).
REM sleep is when we are most likely to dream. It is called REM because people quickly flick their eyes back and forward while they sleep.
If you watch cats or dogs sleeping, you will sometimes see their eyes moving and their paws twitching. This indicates they are in REM sleep and probably dreaming. But we don’t really know what cats and dogs dream about because they can’t tell us.
The other main type of sleep is non-REM sleep, called deep sleep or Slow Wave Sleep (SWS). In this type, people sleep very deeply. But they don’t typically report dreaming. If you try to wake them, they’re often slow and confused.
For the last 50 years, some scientists believed that dreaming was the way brains decide what to keep and what to throw away each day. In a sense, it’s like cleaning your room: your brain decides what you’ll need to know and tosses the unimportant stuff into the bin.
Scientists think young people find it harder to separate the waking and dreaming worlds and often confuse the two.
Filmmakers have taken this confusion to the screen again and again over the years. There are many movies about how dreams can scare and confuse us.
As you can see, lots of people wonder why dreams are scary. The truth is that we don’t know for sure.
What we do know is that all people dream, and all people think dreams can be weird, scary and puzzling at times. We share the ability to dream with all warm-blooded animals, so it likely has an important function in keeping us healthy.
I suspect everyone tries to make sense of their dreams — even scientists. But we still can’t see inside someone else’s brain to see what they are dreaming about. And that’s probably a good thing.
But the continuing decline suggests more attention needs to be given to retaining those already in the profession.
Why the decline?
- uncertainty about physical contact with students;
- an increased workload due to expectations to take on masculine roles; and
- social isolation caused by difficulties in developing positive professional relationships with colleagues.
If male primary teachers have more effective coping strategies they might be able to deal better with these challenges, and consequently persist in the profession.
What are some coping strategies?
Participants in this study detailed several coping strategies and supports that enabled them to deal with these challenges and persist with teaching.
Some men described how they dealt with their fear and uncertainty about physical contact by employing a strict no-contact policy for their own self-protection. They used humour and playing sport with students at break times to build relationships with their students in ways that did not involve the physical contact strategies that their female colleagues used.
Other strategies they described included:
- setting up their classrooms to minimise incidental physical contact;
- never being one-on-one with students; and
- moving to a public location to talk with students.
Many indicated they were happy to give an upset child a hug. However, they were fearful of other people perceiving the contact as inappropriate and making a career-ending accusation.
Those men who were prepared to make the same physical contact as their female colleagues were generally older, more experienced and had worked in their schools for many years. This had allowed them to develop trust and rapport within their school community.
Several participants discussed the gendered double standards on physical contact. They noted the media sensationalising of inappropriate behaviour by male teachers, with much less attention when accusations were later proved false.
Teaching has intensified
Although the substantial intensification of workload in recent decades has affected all teachers, previous research has noted that male primary school teachers report higher workloads than their female colleagues. This is because of expectations to perform roles such as behaviour management, manual labour, sports coaching, and being responsible for subjects such as science and ICT.
Participants reported they were expected to perform these roles, and seemed to have accepted this as a part of their job.
Men primarily employed strategies such as arriving early at school and recycling lessons from previous years to use their time more effectively, and cope when additional behaviour issues arose. They also sought help from other men working at the school, such as the groundsman to help with manual labour.
Many said strong support from their principal was a vital component of their ability to cope with this challenge.
Participants said they generally got on well with their female colleagues. But they felt socially isolated because they did not have many colleagues, particularly male ones, with common interests. This isolation was particularly evident in the staff room at break times.
Men coped with this challenge by using strategies such as being proactive in identifying common interests for conversation topics, developing positive professional relationships with trusted female colleagues they could rely on for support, and pursuing out-of-school hobbies such as clubs and sport. There they could interact with more men and “balance” their female-dominated work environment.
Men also described self-isolating behaviours such as reading the paper and going back to their office to do work.
Several themes emerged as participants described their strategies for dealing with these gender-related challenges. These included the influence of traditional constructions of how men should and shouldn’t act, schools perpetuating these societal constructions, and the importance of having strong support from colleagues and school leaders.
These factors all need to be considered if more men are to be retained in teaching.
2. Location – When sharing your child’s photo, be sure to ensure that you haven’t posted a location or an image of them standing outside the school. This makes it extremely easy to target them as you have just given away where they will be and what they look like, as well as their name.
3. Consent Issues – This one might sound silly but is in fact just as important as the rest. Sharing photos of your child can have an impact on their future social lives as they may be too young to give consent, and effectively you are taking away their privacy rights from an extremely young age.
4. Advertising – The new Facebook trend is to monitor your profile to target what your interests are. If you are sharing a ton of baby images and are wondering why baby products keep popping up in your news feed, there is your answer. This is used so they can target you with specific ads that meet your needs to help companies successfully sell more of their product.
5. Once Online, Always Online – Once you have shared a photo, and then thought twice and deleted it, it will always remain out there on a server and become public property.
6. Personal Information – This one isn’t just about the Kidlets. By sharing your birthday online, your home address or home town, your full name and a where you work, you are making it extremely easy to become a victim of identity theft and possible repercussions such as break and enter or credit card fraud. Be vigilant.
7. Nude Photos – I know some of us find a baby bottom adorably cute and innocent but that’s not the same as everyone else. Unfortunately pedophiles and predators can use Facebook to access these images, Photoshop them and then use them for their own personal use or sell them off. This is a hard truth to face and I know a lot of us want to believe that it will never happen to our child but we are online. It is an open world and people will decide what they want to access and what they want to do with it. By sharing photos online, you are giving access to BILLIONS of users worldwide and it isn’t impossible for your child’s photo to end up in the wrong hands.
If none of the above is convincing enough for you to change your privacy settings or change something, please read this article from a Pedophile Detective who had to work up enough strength during 10 years to write this article. It will change your entire view and show you things from the other side of the fence. (https://sweatdepot.blogspot.com.au/…/what-predators-look-fo…)
Please remember that ‘ONLINE’ is never safe which is why we need to look out for each other and make sure that our children and their innocence and privacy are protected.
I want to know why adults think video games are bad because the adults around my neighbourhood are ANNOYING me by saying “READ A BOOK! NO VIDEO GAMES”. Why can’t they say “it’s time to play video games now”? – Bo, aged 9, Melbourne.
Parents and children can have different ideas when it comes to video games.
Children like video games because they are fun and because they can be challenging. You have to solve problems, work out the best moves for your character, and decide how to use your equipment and supplies in the best possible way. Making all these decisions can be exciting.
Parents want to make sure that their children are safe and healthy. Because of this, they notice different things about video games.
Many worry that playing video games might have a bad effect on the way their child behaves. For example, if a video game has lots of fighting in it, they worry that playing it will encourage their child to be violent.
They are concerned that their child might always choose to play a video game instead of playing outside and getting exercise. Even though you sit still when you read a book, they know that kids can develop good reading skills and learn a lot. Many adults aren’t so sure that kids can learn anything educational from video games.
Sometimes adults think that spending too much time with animated characters is unhealthy for kids. They know it’s important for kids to spend time with “real” people and learn good social skills needed for the real world.
What do experts say?
Experts think playing video games can have good and bad effects on kids. New research shows that there are lots of benefits.
One good thing is the video games that children play today often encourage them to work in teams, cooperate, and to help each other. This is because games today are often designed for multiple players, not like old-fashioned video games that were mostly designed for one player.
However, children who are obsessed with video games and play them for a long time can get really competitive and can often try to win at all costs. Experts aren’t sure yet, but they have real concerns that this might lead to kids acting like this in real life too.
One thing you also might like to know is that kids who regularly play video games often get higher grades in maths, science, and reading tests. This is because games require players to solve puzzles. You won’t get higher marks playing any video games, just those that require the player to solve these kinds of puzzles.
Doing more of the good and less of the bad
It’s important for kids to think about what types of games they pick.
Make sure all of your games aren’t fighting games. Instead, choose more games where you need to solve puzzles. These are fun and can also help with your schoolwork. Your parents will be much happier about that!
Also, think about whether the fighting games you play are affecting how you play with your friends in real life. Only you will really know if they are having a bad effect. If they are, you might want to change the games you play.
Why not ask your parents to play a problem-solving video game with you? This will help your parents see that video games are not all bad.
It’s also important that kids and adults don’t spend too much time using a screen. That means kids not spending all their time on technology, and parents not always checking their phone and screens.
What we want to aim for is adults and kids who can spend some of their time on their screens, but also enjoying other kinds of interests and spending time with family and friends.
The “active” ingredients are usually listed as vitamins, minerals and sometimes omega-3 fats and vegetable powders. They may say “contains sugars” or they may not. Rarely, some list an amount of sugar and other ingredients such as food acids like citric acid, lactic acid and ascorbic acid.
In our opinion, these products are unhealthy and exploitative. Their high sugar content may appeal to young children, but they’re not a good introduction to a healthy diet.
The problem of tooth decay
Dental caries are a significant Australian public health problem. In 2014-15, A$9.5 billion was spent on dental services in Australia, up from $6.1 billion in 2007–08. In Australia, around 50% of children start primary school with largely untreated cavities. In Victoria, 7.1% of children aged under 12 have had a general anaesthetic for dental treatment.
Sugars provide food for the bacteria that dissolve tooth enamel. As sugar consumption increases, so do cavities. This damage is irreparable and individuals are left with life-long problems that require fillings, and possibly root canal work or extractions.
In addition, food acid (especially citric acid) causes dental erosion that can lead to the progressive loss of the surface of the tooth. This may require complex and lengthy treatment involving fillings, veneers and crowns. The sticky consistency of “gummies” adds to the problem.
The World Health Organisation (WHO) says higher rates of dental caries occur when the intake of free sugars (added sugar plus honey, syrups and sugars in fruit juices) is more than 10% of total energy intake. This is despite fluoride in drinking water and using toothpaste.
Dental caries rates decline progressively as sugar intake is reduced to less than 5% of total energy intake. Hence, for a range of health reasons, the WHO recommends we get no more than 5 to 10% of our daily energy from free sugars.
So, two- to three-year-olds with a daily energy intake of 4,300 to 5,450 kilojoules (kJ) shouldn’t consume more than a maximum 430 to 545 kJ, or about six to eight teaspoons (25-32g) of free sugar a day, and preferably half that amount. And four- to eight-year-olds, with a daily energy intake of 5,700 to 7,100 kJ, shouldn’t consume more than 570 to 710 kJ, or about eight to ten teaspoons (33-42g) a day, and again, preferably half that.
Contrary to this advice, 50% of Australian children aged two to three, and 67% of four- to eight-year-olds, consumed more than 10% of their total energy from free sugars in 2011-12. The top 10% of two- to three-year-old boys consumed 18 teaspoons (70g), rising to 23 teaspoons (90g) in the top 10% of four- to eight-year-olds.
Knowing how much sugar is in what we eat
Part of the problem is there is currently no clear way of knowing how much sugar has been added to a product (including gummies) by looking at the ingredients listed on the label. Choice (the Australian Consumers’ Association) is campaigning for food and health ministers to act on added sugar labelling so consumers can limit their consumption, as advised by the WHO and other authorities.
“Gummies” also exemplify the problem of regulating products at the food-medicine interface. Some of these products, such as the Kids Smart Vita Gummies above, are listed with the Therapeutic Goods Administration (TGA) as complementary medicines.
For complementary medicines, there is a requirement to declare the presence, but not the quantity, of sugars on the label.
For no apparent reason, other “gummies” such as Bioglan Omega 3 Fish Oil Kids Gummies have not been listed with the TGA and may be classified as foods by their sponsor.
For food, there is a requirement by Food Standards Australia New Zealand (FSANZ) to disclose the total content of sugars on the nutrition information panel on the product label.
The Bioglan website states each bottle of 60 gummies contains 168g of product; an average serving is two gummies (5.6g), which the formulation states have 3g sugar (54% by weight). They also stated there was 3mg of sugar per 100g of product which is clearly mislabelled; 100g of product must contain 54g of sugar, not 3mg.
Using the TGA Food-Medicine Interface Guidance Tool, we determined this product was a food, so we sent a complaint about mislabelling to the NSW Food Authority. However, they advised us to send the complaint to the TGA. The TGA response ignored our concern about mislabelling. We also asked why there were different sugar labelling requirements for foods compared to medicine. The TGA stated the warning statement, “contains sugar”, serves as an advisory without unnecessarily deterring general consumers from taking a medicine they may need.
It is our view “gummies” that contain food acids, and have a high sugar content, are not medicines consumers need, and their sale should be prohibited on public health grounds. At the very least, the amount of sugar (and the presence of food acids) should be disclosed.
Health benefits dubious
In addition to the high and damaging sugar content, we argue these are exploitative products that mislead consumers about the benefit of dietary supplements.
Both the website and the label of Kids Smart Vita Gummies Multivitamin for Fussy Eaters say the zinc content will boost the appetite of a “fussy eater”. Zinc is readily available in foods such as meat, fish and poultry while cereals, grains and dairy foods also contribute substantial amounts. We are unaware of any evidence that zinc boosts the appetite of “fussy eaters”.
Kids Smart omega-3 supplementation claims “to help support brain function, growth and development”. The US Food and Drug Administration recommends eating oily fish two to three times a week. They do not recommend taking omega 3 supplements, reflecting findings that randomised controlled trials of fish oil supplementation have generally been disappointing and fish contain many more nutrients than omega-3 supplements.
Gummy vitamins are unhealthy and exploitative products that mislead parents about the benefits of dietary supplements. The TGA and FSANZ should urgently review the regulation of these products.
There was no Naplan when I started teaching in 1990 at Doveton High, which was re-named Joseph Banks Secondary College as a way off shaking off the stigma associated with a suburb that had more than its fair share of disadvantage.
In spite of the blowups and meltdowns that punctuated the school week, we managed to keep those who were on the brink of giving up interested enough in learning to stay at school. We didn’t produce standout results, but we provided sufficient stimulus and a firm footing for life-long learning.
But as any teacher who has worked in such schools knows, it takes more than goodwill and energy to bring about meaningful change. It requires targeted support.
Julia Gillard, as education minister, understood this. And in 2008 introduced the National Assessment Program in Literacy and Numeracy (Naplan) as a way of identifying “black spots” in our education system.
Naplan – which rolls out tomorrow in schools across Australia – was intended as a diagnostic tool designed to acquire data, pinpoint deficiencies in education, and formulate an equitable funding formula in line with the now-defunct Gonski recommendations.
Data garnered from Naplan was intended to guide teacher training, shape curriculum, and inform resource distribution. No different, really, to a national health screening program designed to address the country’s health issues.
So, imagine a health clinic that uses national health data to market its business. Picture a clinic unfurling a banner that reads “Our cholesterol results are the lowest in the state,” or creating a digital advertisement that pops up on computer screens pronouncing “Hepatitis C rates at our clinic are the lowest in the developed economies worldwide!”
And what would we make of clinics that advise the seriously unwell to abstain from participating in a national screening program as a way of preserving its ranking? After all, they wouldn’t want the sick to tarnish their impeccable health record.
This is essentially what has become of Naplan. Visit the My School website and you will get a pretty good idea of how certain schools are using diagnostic data for marketing purposes.
Although Australian teachers work longer hours than their OCED counterparts, with lower secondary teachers working 821 hours per year compared to 694, and upper secondary working 812 per year compared to 643, much of their time is taken up by teaching to state mandated testing.
What’s more, the marketing role of Naplan has transformed some classrooms into an academic boot camp where teachers, in their role as trainers, drill students silly in readiness for game-day. One parent recently told me how her bright nine year-old boy who loves school appeared despondent after three weeks of continuous Naplan practice tests. As she put it: “a schedule of maddening testing and re-testing is sucking the life out of the things he enjoys at school.”
But according to some parents, such testing is not an entirely a bad thing. My sister, for instance, saw Naplan as a way of getting her daughters to work harder. As she put it, “it gave them structure, focus and a target to aim at”. No doubt, they are academically fitter for it, but to what end?
Teaching to Naplan is as effective as flossing for the first time days before a dental check-up or eating well before a health checkup. It’s a futile attempt to disguise any underlying problem.
There are far more effective ways of stimulating curiosity and checking for understanding. Teachers know this. But, I’m not sure if technocrats, politicians and school administrators do.
I have taught students who find formal testing torturous because they are unable or unwilling to swallow and regurgitate information on cue. They’re the type of student that results zealots talk out of sitting Naplan out of fear of damaging the school’s academic standing. After all, they wouldn’t want round pegs that refuse to slot into defined categories messing up the school’s fine reputation.
I recently asked the school psychologist why anxiety levels among children are on the rise. “Because they dread failure. And they don’t want to be shown up for it. It’s getting serious.”
I agree. Such heightened levels of anxiety can be traced back to primary school. A recent conversation with a parent who sends her boy to a reputable primary school spoke of raised anxiety levels in the lead up to school assembly where certificates are awarded to those who achieved a perfect score in the weekly spelling bee. As she said, “this will only get worse when children are pushed to excel in their first Naplan test”.
Another mum noted how the school principal often reminds students on how they won’t know how good they are unless they have a go at something new. But as this mum emphasised, most kids would have go if the stakes weren’t so high.
The Naplan stakes are far too high. They have transformed schools into something resembling a television cooking contest where success turns on tension, tears and tantrums. Who will survive to the next round? Who will go down? Who will be humiliated? And who will rise to the heights set by mediocre entertainers doubling as judges.
It’s not only students who feel the pressure. Anxious parents invest in books, computer programs and even hire coaches to help their kids compete in a program that has little education benefit other than to boost an industry that thrives on testing.
In light of this, parents ought to exercise their right to withdraw their kids from Naplan. Unless the government is prepared to implement a fairer assessment system and prevent data from being published in public forums such as the My School Website, Naplan will continue to create confusion, take up valuable class time, and place unnecessary pressure on students and parents.
I am glad that there was no Naplan at Doveton when I began my teaching career. It would have reinforced the school’s low ranking in the academic pecking order, and it would have diminished our chances of reaching kids that choose learning over jumping through hoops.
Author: Chris Fotinopoulos
There is no doubt using a restraint protects against harm during a crash. In Australia we have seen steady declines in death and injury among children in cars since the late 1970s, when laws requiring children to buckle up in cars were first introduced.
But just having a restraint available is not enough. In terms of risk of death and injury, the protection provided to children in a crash progressively increases from simply having them restrained, to having them restrained in an age appropriate restraint, to having them restrained correctly in an age appropriate restraint.
One in every two restrained children travelling in cars in NSW has at least one error in how the restraint is being used.
The physics of car crash survival
Modern vehicles are designed to reduce crash forces on occupants by absorbing some of the crash energy. Restraint systems protect passengers in crashes by effectively tying them as tightly as possible to the car. This prevents excess movement, and allows passengers to make the best use of safety features built into modern cars.
These features aim to ensure that in a crash, passengers come to a stop over the longest possible distance, reducing the force and therefore risk and severity of injury in a crash.
But in tying the passenger to the car, it’s important the forces applied to the body are distributed over the strongest parts of the body, and that the motion of the body is controlled. This is where design of child restraints comes in.
Different seats for different kids
Laws were introduced across Australia in 2009 and 2010 that stipulated the exact type of restraint that should be used by children of different ages. The laws vary slightly from state to state, but generally these require:
- children up to at least 6 months of age use a rearward facing infant restraint
- children up to at least 4 years use a forward facing child seat with in-built harness, and
- children up to at least 7 years use a booster seat.
Since then we’ve seen improvements in the numbers of children using the right type of restraint.
While there has not yet been any rigorous evaluation of the impact of these laws on crash injury, they are linked with a reduction in fatalities. Figures from the Bureau of Infrastructure, Transport and Regional Economics show that before the new laws, on average, about 70 children died every year in Australia in car crashes. The average number of child passengers dying each year is now around 40.
Using the restraint properly
To get the best possible protection in a crash, restraints need to be used correctly. One in every two restrained children travelling in cars in NSW has at least one error in how the restraint is being used.
There are three broad types of errors that occur when children use restraints:
- errors in the way the restraint is installed in the vehicle
- errors in the way children are secured within the restraint, and
- errors that are introduced by children while they travel in the car.
Errors are often present even when parents are confident in their ability to correctly use restraints. Sometimes parents are aware of the errors, but don’t realise the potential negative impact.
The biggest problem is when the error loosens how tightly the child is tied to the vehicle. This includes slack in the belts tying the restraint to the car, or the harness tying the child to the restraint, and when the harness or belt is not placed over the correct parts of the body.
The latter commonly occurs when the harness (or seat belt in a booster seat) is not used correctly either because the parent has not secured the child correctly or the child removes their arms during travel.
The new laws of 2009 and 2010 have been followed by a slight increase in correct use of child restraints. In children aged two to five years in low socioeconomic areas of Sydney, we saw correct use increase from 36% to 47% in 2010, just after the introduction of the new laws.
I need help!
Restraint Fitting Stations, and restraint fitting check days run by local governments and safety stakeholders can help parents make sure restraints are installed correctly, and can also provide advice about how to correctly secure their children within restraints.
We have found that children of parents who had not used these services were twice as likely as other children to be incorrectly restrained. But these services can’t be on hand to check restraints every day when parents need to move children between cars or when the restraint settings need to be modified as children grow.
In these circumstances the best available information is the information supplied with the restraint. But parents currently find this information difficult to use, and difficult to understand. And neither of these measures addresses the interaction between the child and the restraint.
Information supplied with child restraint systems should be be user friendly – for all users, including those with lower levels of English literacy. Restraint systems must also be easier to use. Many current restraints are not intuitively easy to use, and sometimes physically difficult to use correctly.
As child safety advocates we need to shift our focus again. Instead of focusing on encouraging parents to use restraints correctly, let’s focus on working with industry to ensure information supplied with child restraints is comprehensible, and to improve restraint design so they’re actually difficult to use incorrectly.
In a study of children in Year 4 and 6, those who had regular access to devices with eReading capability (such as Kindles, iPads and mobile phones) did not tend to use their devices for reading – and this was the case even when they were daily book readers.
Research also found that the more devices a child had access to, the less they read in general.
It suggests that providing children with eReading devices can actually inhibit their reading, and that paper books are often still preferred by young people.
These findings match previous research which looked at how teenagers prefer to read. This research found that while some students enjoyed reading books on devices, the majority of students with access to these technologies did not use them regularly for this purpose. Importantly, the most avid book readers did not frequently read books on screens.
Why do we think children prefer to read on screens?
There is a popular assumption that young people prefer to read on screens. This was mainly driven by education writer Marc Prensky who in 2001 coined the term “digital natives”. This term characterises young people as having high digital literacy and a uniform preference for screen-based reading.
But young people do not have a uniform set of skills, and the contention that screens are preferred is not backed up by research.
Despite this, the myth has already had an impact on book resourcing decisions at school and public libraries, both in Australia and in the US, with some libraries choosing to remove all paper books in response to a perceived greater preference for eBooks.
But by doing this, libraries are actually limiting young people’s access to their preferred reading mode, which in turn could have a detrimental impact on how often they choose to read.
Young people are gaining increasing access to devices through school-promoted programs, and parents face aggressive marketing to stay abreast of educational technologies at home.
Schools are motivated to increase device use, with Information and Communication Technology being marked as a general capability to be demonstrated across every subject area in the Australian Curriculum.
The drivers toward screen-based recreational book reading are strong, but they are not well-founded.
Why are students more likely to prefer paper books?
Reading on devices through an application leaves more room to be distracted, allowing the user to switch between applications.
For students who already experience difficulty with attention, the immediate rewards of playing a game may easily outweigh the potentially longer-term benefits of reading.
Digital literacy could also be an issue. In order to use a device to read books, children need to know how to use their devices for the purpose of reading books.
They need to know how to access free reading material legally through applications such as Overdrive or websites such as Project Gutenburg.
Tips for encouraging your child to read
Research shows that reading books is a more effective way to both improve and retain literacy skills, as opposed to simply reading other types of text. Yet international research suggests that young people are reading fewer and fewer books.
While equipping children with devices that have eReading capability is unlikely to encourage them to read, there are a number of strategies, supported by research, that can help encourage children to pick up a book. These include:
- Be seen to enjoy reading. This study found that a number of students did not know if their literacy teachers actually liked reading. Teachers who were keen readers inspired some students to read more often and take an interest in a broader range of books.
- Create (and regularly access) reading-friendly spaces at home and at school. Loud noises, poor lighting and numerous distractions will not help provide an enjoyable reading experience, and are likely to lead to frustration.
- Encourage regular silent reading of books at school and at home. Giving children time to read at school not only encourages a routine of reading, but it also may be the only opportunity a child has to read self-selected books for pleasure.
- Teachers and parents should talk about books, sharing ideas and recommendations.
- Continue to encourage your child and students to read for pleasure. While we know that children tend to become disengaged with books over time, in some cases this can be due to withdrawal of encouragement once children can read on their own. This leads children to falsely assume that reading is no longer important for them. Yet reading remains important for both children an adults to build and retain literacy skills.
- Find out what your child enjoys reading, and support their access to books at school and at home.