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Thursday, August 3, 2017


Some teachers and parents think that participating in reading competitions, sports and so on in early elementary school is a good thing.   These competitions are often the idea of teachers and are supported by groups like Shriners and Kiwanis in their local area. In second grade, my daughter won the reading competition. She read The Little Princess, written by Frances Hodgson Burnett (published in 1905). The book was later made into a Shirley Temple movie in 1939 (my favorite). The book was also remade into a movie in 1995, starring Liesel Matthews.

After years as a performer, I knew how to coach my daughter to win. She chose the book. That particular book made her stand out because it wasn't Disney, American Girl, etc. which were contemporary. She dressed up, had a puppet and did part of a scene from the book, along with meeting the other requirements of the competition. I recall there were about fourteen students in the program, although I can't remember if their teachers chose them, their parents pushed them to enter, or they volunteered. They performed in front of the entire school, all the teachers, some of the parents and the principal and the school district superintendent. Not much pressure for a six-year-old right?

At any rate, my daughter won. But, of course, every other competitor, which included her best friends, looked sad. The other students looked unhappy and so did the parents. Although, I was glad my daughter won, I felt from years of teaching experience, that children's egos, all children's egos should be built up when they are young, not feel like losers. And in many school competitions there is only one winner and only one child who feels really good about themselves. I understand there are some people who think that children should get tough and be hard from the earliest ages, but I don't. 

Former teacher Karen Schwenker read Mother Goose rhymes
There should be a way for all children to win and gain confidence. You know how at birthday parties at that age end up with many of the guests and/or the birthday kid crying  No child cried at Julia's early birthday parties ever cried or felt unhappy, because they all won. They even heard the book the party was based on read by one of the book's characters. Think that made the kids unhappy? Too much like school? Wrong! They loved it. So if a birthday party can be a learning experience and all the guests win then why can't our schools figure out how to do the same things? 

Some children, do fall behind, but if they can be successful over and over again at school when they are young instead of failing over and over, then obviously children left behind might be able to catch up.

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