Tuesday, November 26, 2013

Compound Interest

Einstein is rumored to have declared compounding interest the most powerful force in the universe.
Regardless of whether it was in fact Einstein who said it, the power of dedicated investment even in small amounts, can pay off with great returns.

Putting away $10 each month from the time your child is born can make a much bigger impact in paying for his eventual college tuition than waiting until he hits high school to start saving.

The same can be true when we're talking about literacy with children. Just like saving that $10 each month, developing reading skills is a habit.  The earlier reading becomes a habit and the earlier its value is placed in life, the more these skills has chance to grow exponentially in a youngster.

So how are habits (good or bad) developed? New York Times Journalist Charles Duhigg asks that question in his book, The Power of Habit. After following many research projects studying the brain, Duhigg concludes the following.

  1. A cue or stimulus leads to an action.
  2. The action becomes a routine.
  3. The routine must result in a reward.
After a few cycles, the brain identifies the desired reward as the result of the routine. It begins to hard-wire the pattern to satisfy the desire starting with some cue. With many of our habits, it's easy to identify each of these. Maybe it's you or your child who gets home from a long day at work or school. We walk in the front door and exhale. That's our cue to begin the routine of turning on the television. We get a laugh or two or our fill of news while our brain releases chemicals indicating pleasure as the reward.

The problem, though, with reading and literacy skills is that we often forget the reward. The cue is when Mom or Dad tells junior to sit down and read so he can mark it off his weekly reading log. The routine is the boy actually doing it. However, we too often forget about the reward. It isn't enough to simply mark it off the checklist. When routine has NO REWARD, it becomes a chore. 
Reading is too important to be a mundane chore. It has be compete with a good laugh from an after school cartoon. This is one BIG reason we need to be very careful what we label as "reading." Even if he's reading comics, or graphic novels or even writing his own Christmas list, he's developing literacy skills through his own interests. Satisfying those personal interests pays off as the reward.

We as parents and educators need to be attuned and involved in these interests. The earlier we do, the greater his interest in reading will compound.

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