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READING / The ABC's of helping youngsters achieve literacy--the
first skill. | Head of the Class / READING TIPS AND
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Expert Advice

November 08, 1998|Maureen DiMarco | Maureen DiMarco is vice president of Riverside Publishing/Houghton Mifflin and former secretary of child development and education for California

The day I brought my first-born child to kindergarten was a day of excitement for us both, but also one filled with questions and anxiety for me as a parent.

Is she ready? Have I done enough to prepare her? Who is this teacher who will have her in her care for so many hours each day? How will I know if she isn't learning? How will I know if she is?

As she eagerly took her place in that classroom, the realization hit home that helping educate your own child is the most important job anyone can ever have, but it doesn't require prior experience, doesn't require an aptitude test and doesn't come with an instruction manual.

Yet as my children began to grow, and especially as they entered school, it became increasingly clear that this parenting business was tough to tackle alone. The help of family, friends, community, health care professionals, and especially teachers, provided essential support for raising and educating that precious person entrusted to my care.

After spending nearly 30 years in the educational system as a parent, an instructor, a school board member and as a secretary of child development and education for the state of California, and now as part of a major publishing company of educational textbooks and tests, I have long hoped for some place where parents and teachers could go for common sense advice about kids and schools.

In the coming months this space will be devoted to plain talk about kids and school and what parents and teachers want to know. A panel of jargon-free experts will share the responsibilities for answering your questions and sorting through all that conflicting and often incomprehensible stuff out there and making sense of it for the rest of us.

The California Teachers Assn. has a motto: No child succeeds alone. I would add that no parent succeeds alone, nor can any teacher succeed alone. The critical triangle of parent-child-teacher is ground zero for a child's success or lack of it.

But how to do your part of it? How to know what is best for a child?

Lest you feel inadequate, let me tell you a great secret: Parents and educators struggle with the same questions.

Fortunately, I received very good advice and guidance from many wise teachers and parents, which I have often repeated as others asked me the same questions I asked years ago.

Get to know your child's teacher and let her know you are eager to be an active part of your child's learning. This is the person who can give you the most important guidance and information to help you assist your child's learning. Ask questions about what is happening at school and share information with the teacher about what you observe at home. The more both of you know about the progress of your child, the more your child will succeed.

Make sure your child knows you are excited about what he is learning and consider it very important. Children are very sensitive to what adults take seriously and will mimic their parents' attitudes about school.

This column will try to answer your questions about how kids learn to read, about what you should be asking your child, about what you should be asking your child's teacher, about what test scores mean and about where to go for information and help.

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