BEUSCHEL: New three R’s for back to school

Aug 18, 2011


Being ready for school means much more than having new stuff for school. Children need to be schooled in the three R’s before they enter school for the first time. I’m not referring to the traditional three R’s: reading, ‘riting and ‘rithmetic. I’m suggesting a new version of the three R’s: reading, respect and responsibility. 

Much of what children need to have to be ready for school really takes place before they even start their formal education. Preparing children to be ready for school starts at home with their parents.

Children learn from the environments of their homes what is important to their family/parents. How the parents spend their time, money and energy shows children what is important in their families. Children come to school with this knowledge and readiness.

To start with, hopefully parents have gotten their children on the road to reading, since becoming literate begins the day the child is born. It starts from birth and moves on as parents and others read to the child and model reading behavior. 

Although nice to have, it doesn’t take shelves and shelves of books. There is so much reading material already coming into homes that the daily mail, boxes, cartons, cans and newspapers can all be a source for reading to children. Children can even make their own books by themselves or with their parents. There are wonderful public libraries to also use.

There is no excuse for children to not be on the road to reading before they start school. Parents have at least four years to raise their own literate children prior to sending them off to school. 

In any given kindergarten room, there will be children who can read words, children who can read sentences, children who can read books and there will be children who do not know the alphabet. They all had the same amount of time to be ready for school; the difference is whether or not their environment supported their beginning steps into literacy/reading.

(Note: children who are struggling with reading as they go through kindergarten or first grade may be experiencing a learning disability, which will be evaluated after several levels of reading intervention have been tried by the classroom teacher and reading specialists.)

Another aspect of being ready for school is respect. Respect is defined as “to feel or show honor or esteem for.” This can be applied to all things around us, animate or inanimate.

Again, this is something that begins in the home through the modeling of behavior by parents. How parents handle the day-to-day issues with children such as fighting with siblings, writing on walls, tearing book pages, interrupting adult conversation, waiting in the checkout lane, riding in the car, eating at a restaurant and taking care of their toys can lead children to an understanding of what is meant by respect.

Through our modeling as adults, children learn how to show respect. It takes effort to act as an adult rather than become childlike in our own behavior. It is the adults around children who teach the children respect. We need to model it, talk about it and expect it from our children. Children who understand what respect means and can demonstrate it are well-prepared for school.

Next, there’s responsibility — which is defined as “accountability or dependability.” Taking personal responsibility for what one says or does is again modeled in the home for years before children start school. How misbehavior by children is handled by the parents leads children to understand where the responsibility for one’s actions lies.

Frequent excuse making, ignoring misbehavior and/or not following through with discipline all contribute to children who do not have a clear sense of being responsible for what they say and do. Seeing parents who are dependable and exhibit accountability in their own lives also shows children what being a responsible adult looks like.  

The need for parents to do more to model responsibility and teach children how to be respectful is resulting in the new trend to have “child-free” restaurants.

“The Today Show” recently interviewed one restaurant owner who chose this option because, when he approached misbehaving children’s parents in his restaurant, the parents looked at him like he was crazy to expect them to either get the children under control or remove them from the restaurant. Now other restaurants are following his lead. 

The segment also mentioned that there is an airline now restricting children under certain ages from flying. Really? What next? “Child-free” grocery stores?

Shortly after seeing this segment on “The Today Show,” I saw a news report on President Obama’s visit to Holland. The reporter asked one of the parents who was there waiting for the arrival of the president why she came and brought her children. Her remark was heartwarming; she said this was a way to demonstrate to her children “respect” for our country and our president.  

The very next day I saw Dr. Boeve’s article in the Grand Haven Tribune, titled “Your Health is Your Good Responsibility.” We may be on a roll here!

Children will be “ready for school” if they are familiar with and know how to demonstrate the three R’s: reading, respect and responsibility. Besides the three R’s being a road success in school, they are the road to success in life!

— By Janice Beuschel, who can be contacted through her website:


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