Thursday, June 2, 2011

Caring for all of our children

Northside residents
The challenge schools face educating both children of privilege and those from disadvantaged environments is highlighted in a recent commentary "Strong homes in a weak village won't do" by Daniel Shaw, a speech language pathologist.  He notes that while his own children had all the advantages of a strong start, including a two parent household and stories being read to them at an early age, others have far less advantage.  Many receive very little reading and minimal verbal exchange during those early critical childhood years. Often they have a poor diet and lack stable supportive role models. Hence, schools have a much greater challenge to work to overcome the vastly different experiences and support systems that children bring with them into the classroom.

It turns out the instability caused by divorce also significantly diminishes children's ability to learn in school.  A study released by the University of Wisconsin - Madison, found diminished test scores and social well-being of children in grade-school following the divorce of their parents. A news release "Children of divorce fall behind peers in math and social skills" further describes some of this research performed by Hyun Sik Kim. She noted that after a period of time these kids tend to progress with their peers, but after two years still don't catch up.

So it is that many children face tremendous adversity.  One of the ways this adversity can be overcome is through supportive mentors, who provide stability, encouragement and guidance.  A 30 year longitudinal  study was conducted by Emmy Werner of children growing up under adversity on the Hawaiian Island of Kauai.  Concluding her research Dr. Werner noted:
The life stories of resilient individuals on the Garden Island have taught us that competence, confidence and caring can flourish even under adverse circumstances if young people encounter people in their lives who provide them with a secure basis for the development of trust, autonomy and initiative. (Children of the Garden Island.)

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