Wednesday, August 26, 2009

Light Up Your Child's Mind: Book Review

It's time for my first book review! The giveaway that I'm doing for this book will end tonight at 6 p.m Eastern. You have until then to enter, if you haven't already, to win one of five copies of this fantastic book.

To view a summary of "Light Up Your Child's Mind" from Hachette Book Group click here.

I was so excited when I got the opportunity to review this book. The authors of this book, Dr. Joseph Renzulli and Dr. Sally Reis, simply propose that each child out there has a special talent or area of giftedness. As a parent we always think our kids are "gifted" or "special." Lucy is only 11 months but already G.I. Joe and I are quite sure she has incredible talents. A big problem in today's society though is that too many school systems don't see it that way. This is not to say anything negative about teachers, my own mom is one. While I was in school I had quite a few teachers who inspired me to reach my full potential and follow my passions. But that wasn't always the case.

What countless students run into in school is the same stumbling block that I faced: tests. Whether your student has a hard time with weekly tests or those yearly standardized achievement tests, it has lasting effects. Test scores are often the only basis for recognizing a child's gifts. I was an honor roll student all through elementary school but took a blow to my confidence when I wasn't selected for the gifted enrichment program. I was bored in school, the material wasn't difficult enough to cause me to study much so I took matters into my own hands. I allowed myself to fall behind in math, which resulted in the first and only "C" I ever got on a report card. After that report card came out I had myself a little side project, getting my math score back up. It was a game to me. That was my very own, and very misguided, "enrichment program."

While not every child may choose to disengage themselves the way I did, it is a waste for bright young students to get lost in the shuffle as teachers seek to saturate them with only the information they "have to have." Renzulli refers to this as "consumer knowledge." Some people are "good at school." They soak up information and can play it back easily for testing purposes. The world benefits greatly from knowledge consumers. I know I like our doctors to sound like they've consumed every medical textbook possible. But there are also "producers." Some kids don't respond primarily to text book material, they have to investigate and create on their own.

The authors use this book to encourage parents to get involved with their children's education. In most cases you can't just go to your child's teacher and say "Hey. My kid says what you are teaching is boring. Can you spice things up a bit and teach The History Of Skateboarding so he'll pay attention?" There are things parents and teachers can do to work together. It all starts at home though with the parents getting hands on. This is why I love this book! Parents are the ones who know a child's strengths better than anyone. The school may want to just focus on the weaknesses but what about appealing to his strengths? When that is carried into an open conversation with teachers, the child benefits. Even though some kids will never be interested in Washington crossing the Delaware, they might be more willing to put time into those areas of study if they have incentives.

Renzulli and Reis offer a lot of anecdotes throughout the book about children they have interviewed who were once unmotivated but went on to develop a passion for something. From a 6 year old starting his own little business, a first grader writing a book, to eighth grade girls starting a campaign that saved countless wild life in their neighborhood, "Light Up Your Child's Mind" is full of real life inspiration. These special examples are things that are possible from every child when the parents take the time to dig deeper. The result is kids who feel confident that they can do something important in their community, and the security of knowing that their parents believe in them.

One of the things that impressed me most about this book is that the authors start right out by saying that "giftedness" is not the "magic gene" that people think it is. It is actions and often it's a lot of work. With Renzulli's methods at home, and inside the classroom, your child's talents will be nurtured and grow into a passion and love of learning.

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