Tuesday, January 31, 2017

A Day of Courage: Californians observe “Rosa Parks Day”

By Bill Cirone, Santa Barbara County Superintendent of Schools

As we celebrate Rosa Parks Day on Feb. 4, it’s important to note why the day is so important for all of us.

On Dec. 1, 1955, African American seamstress Rosa Parks was traveling on a city bus in Montgomery, Alabama when the bus driver asked her to leave her seat to make room for a white passenger. In mid-century racially segregated Alabama, the driver’s request was standard practice.

What was not standard, however, was Ms. Parks’ response: She refused to leave her seat, on the grounds of fairness, freedom, and equality.

No one could have known at the time the impact of that small but singular act of courage. After refusing to give up her seat, Rosa Parks was arrested and convicted of violating the “Jim Crow” laws of segregation. She appealed the conviction and formally challenged the legality of segregation.

While the appeal was underway, civil rights leaders, including Martin Luther King Jr., led boycotts of the Montgomery bus system, which catalyzed civil rights protests throughout the U.S. Buses were the primary form of transportation for most black citizens at the time, and the boycott severely impacted the financial footing of city transportation systems.

Almost one year after Rosa Parks’ refusal to give up her seat, the Supreme Court upheld a lower court ruling that Montgomery’s segregation laws were, in fact, unconstitutional. Civil rights leaders ended their transportation boycott 381 days after it had begun. The very next day, Rosa Parks, along with E.D. Nixon and Martin Luther King Jr., boarded a city bus. Proudly, Ms. Parks took her seat up front. The photograph that captured that moment is one of the more memorable images of the Civil Rights movement.

Over the years, the Rosa Parks bus has become a symbol of the fight for equal rights for all citizens. It has been fully restored and is now displayed in the Henry Ford Museum in Dearborn, Michigan. Rosa Parks Day on Feb. 4 is also known, fittingly, as the Day of Courage.

The day is designed to remind citizens of the importance of promoting equal opportunities, civil rights, and fairness across our communities. It is also a vivid symbol of the power that individual citizens can have when they stand up for their rights and refuse to along with a system that is patently unjust. Clergy, politicians, and community leaders unite in California to promote the day with a range of events and activities. Many schools have classroom activities that focus on Rose Parks’ struggles for equality and achievements against discrimination. The symbolism is particularly powerful in theses turbulent times.

Though our country has come a long way in the area of civil rights, it’s very clear that much work remains to be done. Locally, community and religious leaders and citizens throughout Santa Barbara County leverage their skill, caring, and compassion, to close whatever discriminatory divides arise. Nationally, we see continued efforts to ensure that the rights of all Americans are protected.

It is fitting that we honor the remarkable courage of Rosa Parks on Feb. 4 and also throughout the year. It is crucial to renew our efforts to be courageous in our collective efforts to strengthen our communities and improve the lives of all our citizens. “Stronger together” is not an empty slogan. It reminds us of our founding creed, “We the people.” Celebrating Rosa Parks Day provides an important reminder of how we must never lose sight or our country’s values of justice, equality, and freedom for all. These are the values that have always made our country great.

About averages

Radio Commentary

There is a tendency in the media to overuse the word “average” and misrepresent what it really means.
Take, for example, “average” test scores. As we all know, to get an average, you add up all the scores and then divide by the total number of scores. It is often the case that no individual score actually falls at the average.
An average isn’t a median or midpoint. It doesn’t mean that half the scores fall above and below that point. In fact, you could conceivably have a situation where ALL scores fall ABOVE the average, except for one score that is so very low, it pulls down the average.
This helps explain the seeming paradox with test scores. For many years the average SAT scores were down — but scores were up for every subgroup that took the test.
That included Hispanics, Asians, blacks, whites, etc. — and scores were up for every academic level represented — “A” students, “B” students, and “C” students.
If test scores rose for every academic level, how could the overall average be down?
It is because far more C students are now taking part. And even though scores rose for students who are still learning English, far more of those students have also been taking the test, too.
So when you disaggregate the tests and look at every group that took them, you see a success story. But when you aggregate the tests and look only at the overall average, the picture is very different.
This is a critical concept in assessing what needs to be “fixed” in our schools. Sadly, it is always easier to deal with simple rhetoric than with complicated facts.

Monday, January 30, 2017

Six life messages

Radio Commentary

There are so many things we want our children to know and learn. Sometimes it’s hard to pare that list down into manageable chunks that are easy to digest and incorporate.
 Here are six critical messages that bear repeating for young people.
Every child should have these messages reinforced every day by a caring, trusted adult, because they form the basis for a feeling of self-worth.
They are deceptively simple, but surprisingly powerful:
Message Number One: “I believe in you.”
Two: “I trust in you.”
Three: “I know you can handle life’s ups and downs.”
Four: “I will listen to you.”
Five: “You are cared for.”
And Six: “You are important to me.”
It’s easy to see how a child who gets these messages on a regular basis, whether verbally, or through actions, will be well-equipped to handle life’s challenges and learn well in school.
When you think of it, anyone — of any age — would benefit from these messages.

Friday, January 27, 2017


Radio Commentary

Toddlers love to help around the house.  Older children become far less excited about doing chores. They have busy schedules of homework, extracurricular activities, and friends.
But chores are a good way to give young people responsibility for a needed task, and remind them that they are contributing members of the family.
Here are some tips for getting your children to chip in with family chores:
First, make sure the chores are age-appropriate. It’s not a good idea to send a young child to take the trash outside by herself, for example. You can do it together, though, and help her learn until she is ready to do it alone.
Also, start young. When a child is in preschool, give him easy chores to get him in the habit of helping out. 
A five-year-old can help clear the table, or put away his clean clothes.
Make sure certain children feel they were successful in completing their chores, especially given that the goal is to help them gain self-confidence.
Acknowledge when the chore is complete, and be sure to thank your child for the effort expended, every time. 
It also helps to make a family chore list to remind everyone of what is expected, and to let them have the satisfaction of checking off work that’s been done.
Mixing in a new chore can keep things interesting, along with rotating chores for different children. Everyone can help out and feel good about it.

Thursday, January 26, 2017


Radio Commentary

A very serious threat to the well-being of children is one that many parents still know too little about: cyber-bullying. Its effects can be devastating.
We have all read news reports of young suicide victims, bullied into believing life was no longer worth living because of relentless attacks over the Internet.
One can only imagine the ripple effect these tragedies have had on the victims’ families, and their communities, and even on the perpetrators.
Most young people who take part in cyber-bullying do it as a joke, and don’t pause to consider the impacts. Throughout human history, young people have shown they can be mean to each other, but the Internet has provided them with the tools to be truly cruel.
Many parents are simply not up to speed when it comes to social network sites or the online places their own children visit. New sites seem to emerge each day.
Add in the presence of text messages and video messages, and it all means that parenting in the age of cyber-crimes is more challenging than ever.
It might seem like a good idea to give a young child a cell phone with Internet access, but parents should consider the trade-offs they are making when they do so.
Yes, children will be able to stay in touch; but the risk is real, especially with young children whose judgment and decision-making skills are not yet fully developed.
Our office is working closely in partnership with District Attorney Joyce Dudley to address and reduce incidents of cyber-bullying. Parents need to be active partners in these efforts as well.

Wednesday, January 25, 2017

Detail skills

Radio Commentary

People generally talk about reading and writing together. Certainly, many of the skills that make children successful at one make them good at the other.
For example, one important reading skill that benefits from writing practice is identifying details.
Parents should encourage children to provide details in their own oral and written stories. This will help them become more aware of the way other authors use detail.
One writing exercise requiring details is to have children give directions. Ask them to write very specifically how to get from home to school, or how to make a peanut butter and jelly sandwich.
When children write thank-you notes to friends or relatives, have them describe in detail the item and how they will use it.
Children can also take the clipboard along on family outings. Ask them to describe the “prettiest” thing they see on the trip, or the most “unusual.” Then challenge them to list as many details as they can, including shapes, colors, textures, and impressions.
One way teachers measure improvement in young writers is to look at their use of details.The same is also true for improving reading comprehension: details matter.

Tuesday, January 24, 2017

PDK poll shows strong support for skills-based education, parent communication

By Bill Cirone, Santa Barbara County Superintendent of Schools

The annual Phi Delta Kappan poll of the public’s attitudes toward public schools is always filled with interesting and important information, made more compelling by the fact that PDK has been doing this now for 48 years. This year’s poll shows strong support for skills-based education and parent communication.

Over the nearly five decades of PDK polling, one fact has remained constant: While people give low grades to the nation’s public schools, they give mostly As and Bs to the local schools that their own children attend, where they see first-hand what is happening. Interestingly, the grades for the nation’s public schools are higher than they have been for many years, while the grades for local schools remain where they always have been, meaning that the gap has narrowed significantly.

Another interesting finding was the disparity in beliefs about the main goal of a public school education. While 45 percent of respondents said the purpose is to prepare students academically, 26 percent chose “Prepares students to be good citizens,” and 25 percent chose “Prepares student for work.”

School improvement priorities were also important. Some 68 percent of respondents preferred that their school offer more career-technical or skills-based classes while 21 percent said they preferred more honors classes.

With this strong support for skills-based education, it’s good to know that schools both nationally and locally are focusing on these types of programs. For example, a new Career Technical school will be built in Santa Maria in the next few years, and Santa Ynez Valley, Carpinteria, and Santa Barbara high schools all offer robust Career and Technical Education courses and academies. The public acknowledges a large role for public education in all these areas — academics, citizenship, and career education — and it’s important that public schools continue to rise to those expectations.

Parental involvement and engagement with schools has always been critical to student success and is gaining momentum with California’s statewide accountability system, which requires meaningful engagement with parents and school communities. The PDK poll shows that communication is essential to parent support. The largest gap in how parents graded their local schools correlated almost precisely with the extent to which parents were satisfied with the school’s efforts to keep them informed about their child’s progress.

Nearly as critical was the extent to which a school offered ample chances for parents to provide input in return. Parents who felt they were given opportunities for input were 29 percent more likely to give their school an A or B than those without as much opportunity for feedback. Similarly, higher marks were received from parents who were frequently invited to visit their school and from those who felt their child’s school was very interested in what they have to say. These are important findings for educators, and meshes with efforts throughout our state and county to focus on parental involvement.

The largest gap in the survey came in response to a question about when a public school has been failing perennially whether the best response is to keep the school open and try to improve it, or close it altogether. Respondents preferred keeping it open by a two-to-one margin. Asked their priorities for using increased funding, 34 percent chose to use it for teachers, 17 percent chose supplies, another 17 percent chose classes and extracurriculars, eight percent chose infrastructure and new schools, and six percent chose learning specialists and counselors.

We are a large and diverse country. Phi Delta Kappan provides an important service to families and policymakers by continuing to poll the public on its opinions regarding public schools, the glue that binds our democracy and the foundation for all that follows. We turn to PDK, once again, for taking the pulse of our country, and providing critical insights into the perceptions of the public we all serve.

Math tips

Radio Commentary

Here are some good math homework tips for parents:
It can be helpful to encourage children to use a daily math assignment book, even if one is not provided at school. Follow the progress your child is making, and check with your child every day about math homework.
Engage in frequent talks with your child’s teacher, especially if you don’t understand the math assignments. Terminology and techniques have evolved over the years, and it’s common for parents to be unfamiliar with the format of a question.
Ask your child’s teacher whether your child is working at grade level and, if not, what can be done at home to help.
If your child needs help, request after-school math support. Sometimes peer tutoring is the most effective, as children often enjoy learning from peers even more than from teachers.
Try to become familiar with how your child is being taught math skills, and resist the temptation to teach strategies or shortcuts that conflict with the approach the teacher is using. Ask your child’s teacher if there are online resources you could use at home.
Math is an essential skill for almost every human endeavor, and parents can be very helpful in enabling their children to master these critical skills. When in doubt, check with the teacher. That’s the best advice of all.

Monday, January 23, 2017

Activities for literacy

Radio Commentary

To help encourage literacy, ask your young child to draw a picture and tell you what the picture is about. Match pictures with written words. Write words or help your child cut out a word from a magazine.
Encourage writing skills, even scribbling, at an early age.
To help develop strong language skills, practice clapping out the sounds in words, saying letters, and sounding out words.
Use songs, poems, games, rhymes, repetition, and patterns to help develop your child’s language skills.
Teach your child new words, explaining the meaning in simple terms. Over time, this really helps.
Simple conversation also helps encourage literacy in children, so talk to your child about the colors, sounds, and images in your home and surroundings.
Talk to your child about daily activities — for example, name the clothing as you dress your child, or locations as you drive.
Ask your child questions and encourage your child to ask you questions.
Speak in whole sentences and use a variety of words when talking to your child.
Encourage your children to tell you about experiences and ideas that are important to them.  It’s fun and educational.

Friday, January 20, 2017

Concentration skills

Radio Commentary

Young children’s minds are full of information. This can make their attention span very short.
You can help build their attention span through activities that develop concentration.
You want them to learn how to pick one piece of information from the brain and focus on it. Concentration is key.
First, help your child pay attention to what you say by being very clear and focused when you talk. Look your child in the eye and use simple, direct sentences. Repeat important points several times.
Talk about what happened on a given day. Ask children questions that will help them focus on a specific event.
Have them talk about the event as long as they are able. At first this may be for just a few seconds.
It also helps to read together. Many children will sit to hear a book read aloud even when they won’t sit still for anything else.
When a story is over, ask children questions that will help them concentrate on specific characters or actions.
Finally, use pictures or props to focus a child’s attention. A child will be more interested in talking about a neighbor’s new kitten if you are both looking at a picture of a kitten while you talk.
The most important behavior you can demonstrate during these conversations is patience. Concentration skills can take years to fully develop, but it’s worth the effort.

Thursday, January 19, 2017

Signs of stress

Radio Commentary

Stress can be positive or negative, and children experience both kinds.
Positive stress can motivate children and cause them to explore new things—like the excitement of trying out for a sports team or going on a trip.
Negative stress may make children feel overwhelmed. It may cause problems unless children learn ways to cope with it.
Causes of negative stress in children can include difficult events, such as death or divorce.  But even positive events, such as a new sibling or new home, can cause children to feel overwhelmed. 
Stress can also be caused by children’s everyday, ordinary activities.
These might include interacting with peers, taking tests, or going through physical and emotional changes.
Parents should watch children for signs of stress. These may include:
  Not getting along well with other people, especially in the child’s age group.
  A drastic drop in grades.
  A serious change in behavior — if a cheerful, happy child becomes sullen or withdrawn.
  Physical symptoms — such as chronic headaches or stomachaches, a racing heartbeat, nightmares, bedwetting, nail-biting, or poor eating.
A child who shows more than one of these signs may need help. Recognizing stress in children is an important first step in reducing its impact.

Wednesday, January 18, 2017

Local Leaders with Bill Cirone (Lance Orozco)

Lance Orozco

Talking with Teachers with Bill Cirone (Katelyn Standerfer)

Katelyn Standerfer
San Marcos High School

Innovations in Education - Feb. 2017

Crystal Apple Winners

Birmingham Pledge

Radio Commentary

Dr. Martin Luther King had a dream that one day human beings would be judged not by the color of their skin but by the content of their character.
That dream is not yet a reality. But we can all help bring it closer by giving our children the tools that will help them grow up as tolerant adults who embrace and celebrate America's great diversity.
One of those tools is the Birmingham Pledge, an effort which aims to recognize the dignity and worth of every individual.
The pledge is a personal, daily commitment to remove prejudice from our lives, and to treat all people with respect.
The pledge states:
I believe that every person has worth as an individual and is entitled to dignity and respect, regardless of race or color.
I believe that every thought and every act of racial prejudice is harmful; if it is my thought or act, then it is harmful to me as well as to others.
Therefore, from this day forward I will strive daily to eliminate racial prejudice from my thoughts and actions.
I will discourage racial prejudice by others at every opportunity. I will treat all people with dignity and respect; and I will strive daily to honor this pledge, knowing that the world will be a better place because of my effort.
It’s a pledge we can all make.

Tuesday, January 17, 2017

Test de-stress

Radio Commentary

Does your child get stressed about tests?
Follow these steps to help your child cope with test anxiety:
• Get the facts: Find out the exact dates your child will be tested and which tests he will take.
• Talk to your child: Find out whether your child is feeling nervous and if so, why.
Often children feel better when they voice their fears instead of shutting them up inside. If your child is afraid of doing poorly, your reassurances will help him feel less frightened.
Help your child practice: If your child is familiar with the format of the test, he’ll feel more prepared.
Ask his teacher for some sample questions or materials that can help him get acquainted with how the test works.
Take care of the basics: See that your child gets a good night’s sleep the night before the test and eats breakfast that morning.
It’s a well-worn but still accurate notion that the brain can’t work if the stomach is empty.
Keep your cool: While tests have increasing importance, they are just one measure of student learning, so try to keep the process in perspective.
If you can find a way not to take things too seriously, your child will probably feel calmer too.

Monday, January 16, 2017

Planning and structuring

Radio Commentary

The toughest time for parents to communicate with their children is during the young adolescent years. Thinking ahead about your own standards, and helping children structure their tasks, can be a great help.
In fact, one of the best tools for parents is being prepared.
In the middle school years, get ready for some conflicts. Before any issue reaches a boiling point, think carefully about what is truly important to you.
Know ahead of time what areas you are willing to negotiate and which are absolute for you.
Here’s another tip. When young people are feeling overwhelmed, help them organize their goals and tasks clearly.
Think about it: A disastrous bedroom, 12 overdue math assignments, a long-term project that’s “suddenly” due in a few days or hours. All of these combined can make a preteen decide to give up, rather than get started.
Help your child break those chores into smaller parts. For example: clean off the bed, get five assignments done tonight, and assemble materials for the project.
This will help them structure the tasks so that they seem more approachable and doable.

Friday, January 13, 2017

Growing up at risk

Radio Commentary

Peter Benson’s book, “The Troubled Journey,” paints a portrait of youth from sixth through twelfth grade.
In it, he made an interesting observation. 
He wrote: “It is not clear whether growing up now is riskier business than it once was, or whether we are simply doing a better job naming and counting problems that have always existed.
“It doesn’t really matter,” he wrote. “What matters is that there are too many casualties, too many wounded, too many close calls.”
Looking around our community, it is clear that he is correct.
His recommendation is one we can all agree with. He wrote: “Our highest national priority should be to mobilize our collective energy, commitment, and ingenuity to ensure a bright future for each and every child.”
It is hard to argue with that worthy goal.
The good news is that efforts are underway locally to help in that battle, particularly through various nonprofit and government organizations, and through our local school districts.
We should not, and cannot, rest until we make sure we’ve given every child an equal chance to succeed, in a safe and supportive environment.

Thursday, January 12, 2017

Children and crises

Radio Commentary

Whether it's a hurricane, tornado, or earthquake far away, or a fire or shooting closer to home, parents and other caregivers must meet the challenge of reassuring children during times of crisis.
The way caregivers respond has a huge impact on how children will react. 
To help, a booklet from the American Academy of Pediatrics and the Johnson & Johnson Pediatric Institute, called When Terrible Things Happen: A Parent’s Guide to Talking with Their Children, offers some good advice.
For example, infants and toddlers, age zero to three, can’t understand how a crisis or a loss has changed their environment. 
But they can recognize and respond to changes in adult behavior. 
The best way to help infants and toddlers is to keep a routine and resume normal activities as soon as possible. 
Pre-school children, age three to five, may not talk about their feelings openly. Talking while playing games or drawing pictures can help children of this age group express their thoughts more easily. 
School-aged children, age five to 12, have more understanding of how and why things happen and will want to ask questions. Parents can help by talking, listening and answering their questions directly and honestly.
We cannot control a crisis or a catastrophe. We can only control how we react to them, especially with our children.

Wednesday, January 11, 2017

Empathy important

Radio Commentary

Understanding others begins with empathy. It is the act of putting yourself in another’s shoes.
Often teenagers can have difficulty in this area because their own problems seem to loom so large in their minds. The teenage years are the period when it is hardest to genuinely feel the emotional plight of others.
To help develop empathy, it is important to be a really good listener. When your children are speaking to you, regardless of the topic at hand, always listen to them with respect.
React to your teenager as you would to an adult friend. Make a real effort to listen as much as you talk.
When you have information to convey on an important topic, speak for half a minute or so, and then stop and let your child have a chance to react.
Accept the fact that most teens will complain sometimes. Let them air their grievances fully and completely. Try not to interrupt while they are expressing their feelings.
Most importantly, take time to have relaxed conversations alone with each of your children on a regular basis.
Frequent talks will help you spot difficulties before they become real problems.
It’s important that all involved be encouraged to talk AND to listen.

Tuesday, January 10, 2017

National Mentoring Month

By Bill Cirone, Santa Barbara County Superintendent of Schools

“If you can dream it, you can do it,” Walt Disney once said.

A senior executive with the Gallup polling organization recently summarized for educational and legislative policy makers the key ingredient that enables students to become dreamers and to succeed in school and in life. In a powerful address, he emphasized that the research was conclusive that “behind every student success story was a caring adult who provided hope.” That caring adult, in the words of one student surveyed, is “someone who encourages and believes in me.”

Clearly, mentoring is a critical component of student success, and January marks National Mentoring Month. Mentoring.org, which sponsors the initiative, notes that “Mentoring, at its core, guarantees young people that there is someone who cares about them, assures them they are not alone in dealing with day to-day challenges, and makes them feel like they matter.” As youngsters navigate an increasingly complex and complicated world, the idea of offering them mentoring is as important as it has ever been.

The data underscores this importance: vulnerable young adults who had a mentor are 55% more likely to enroll in college. They are 78% more likely to volunteer regularly. 90% are interested in becoming a mentor, and 130% more likely to hold leadership positions.

Beyond the educational impacts, however, are the positive impacts mentoring has on the daily lives of young people: youth who meet regularly with their mentors are 46% less likely than their peers to start using illegal drugs and 27% less likely to start drinking. Young adults who face an opportunity gap but have a mentor are 81% more likely to participate regularly in sports or extracurricular activities than those who do not.

A study showed that the strongest benefit from mentoring, and most consistent across risk groups, was a reduction in depressive symptoms. This is a particularly noteworthy finding, given that almost one in four youth reported troubling levels of these symptoms at baseline.

Mentors can also prepare their mentees for professional careers and assist with their workplace skills. They can help them set career goals, and can offer helpful suggestions as to the steps necessary to realize those goals. They can also learn at a young age the power of networking: they can develop personal contacts which can introduce young people to industry professionals, find internships, polish skills for seeking a job, interviewing for a job, and keeping a job.

“Light is the task” Homer once said, “where many share the toil.” Thankfully, there are many organizations throughout Santa Barbara County that “share the toil.” Fighting Back, Partners in Education, the Boys and Girls clubs, to name just a few, all place would-be mentors with local students.

Chelsea Duffy, executive director of Partners in Education, which since 1977 has been serving as a switching station that connects businesses and individuals with schools and youth-serving nonprofit organizations, sums it up best: “What we and classroom teachers all across Santa Barbara County have found,” she says, “is that it only takes one volunteer to encourage, to inspire and to reveal something new, opening the door of possibility.”

We are grateful to the hundreds of volunteers throughout Santa Barbara County who recognize the important work of mentoring tomorrow’s leaders. And for those who have been looking for a way to provide mentorship to youngsters, let National Mentoring Month be the occasion that launches your efforts.

If you have a sincere desire to be involved with a young person, active listening skills, and an ability to see solutions and opportunities, contact one of the organizations above today to get connected with a school or organization in your area that sponsors mentors.

In the words of a Buddhist proverb, ”If you light a lamp for someone it will brighten your own path.” There’s a young person eager to meet you, and the introduction will brighten your path as well.

Charting success

Radio Commentary

It can be fun for children to create a “success chart” by designing a bar graph or a line graph to show progress on various tasks.
Be sure to keep the goals realistic. You might want to coordinate the plan with your child’s teacher, factoring in school effort or improvement.
Start out with small goals so your child can gain some positive momentum that can lead to larger successes. Talk with your child to increase their understanding and buy-in.
Building in incentives can be an important part of this activity.
Figure out what types of items work best in your family.
Rewards like a family activity, movie, or a computer game rental might be the right way to go.
Monetary rewards for reaching a goal might be appropriate if children learn to save it for something they really want, or use it to support an important cause.
Though positive reinforcement is an effective tool in changing behavior, everyone reacts differently. What is right for one child might not work well for another, so work with each child individually.
Allowing your children to chart their own progress is a great way for them to see and experience results.
And seeing improvement in such a graphic fashion can show them that their efforts do actually pay off. The hope is that they will see that hard work yields graphic results.

Monday, January 9, 2017

Enjoying reading

Radio Commentary

It is important that children read well, and also that they like reading.
Experts say the best way parents can encourage this is to read to children often and show how much they enjoy reading themselves.
Start reading when children are very young. Take time to find interesting books. Nursery rhymes and fairy tales are good starters.
Some television shows can be helpful by introducing children to letters and words. However, TV programs generally use sentence structures that are not very complex, which isn’t as useful for learning language patterns.
That is why it’s important to read good literature to children. Children whose parents read to them will often try to read a little on their own or sound out words.
Remember:  There is no precise time or age when children should begin to read on their own.
For most children, reading readiness is a gradual process. It starts when they develop an awareness of print — like print on cereal boxes or store signs. Children want to read when it becomes important to them.
Most children will be more eager to read if they see it is something you enjoy. So set aside time for your own reading and become a good role model for your children.

Friday, January 6, 2017

47th Annual Author-Go-Round slated Jan. 23 through Jan. 27

News release

For the 47th year, upper elementary and junior high school students from schools throughout Santa Barbara County will have the chance to meet and talk with authors and illustrators of books for young people.

The occasion is the annual Author-Go-Round sponsored by the Santa Barbara County Education Office. Santa Barbara County students will attend the event Jan. 23 through Jan. 27 at the County Education Office Auditorium, 4400 Cathedral Oaks Road, Santa Barbara. The sessions will last from 9 a.m. to 12:30 p.m. each day.

Each day, approximately 130 students will have an opportunity to listen to four presentations and then spend 15 minutes asking questions and interacting with the authors while seated on carpets in small groups. At a music signal, they will rotate on to the next author.

Participating authors and illustrators include Caroline Arnold, Kristen Kitscher, Lee Wardlaw, and Eugene Yelchin.

The day is further highlighted with colorful carousel decorations and activities with prizes. Each day, one student will be chosen as best overall winner in the four activities categories and will receive a custom-made t-shirt commemorating the event and signed by the four authors and illustrators.

Students who participate will meet authors of books written specifically for young people, explore avenues of creative writing and illustrating with successful people in the field of literature, and read and discuss in-depth literary works by well-known authors.

Participating districts include Ballard, Blochman, Buellton, Carpinteria, College, Cuyama, Goleta, Guadalupe, Hope, Lompoc, Los Olivos, Montecito, Orcutt, Santa Barbara, Santa Maria-Bonita, Solvang, and Vista del Mar.

“This annual event pays tribute to the reading and writing of children’s literature,” said County Superintendent of Schools William J. Cirone, whose office coordinates the annual event. “The students come away with a sense that they have been involved with a real ‘literary happening.’ ”

Further information is available from Rose Koller, educational technology services, at 964-4710, ext. 5222.

Middle schoolers

Radio Commentary

Middle school students need to know their parents are interested in their academic success, even if the students act as though they don’t care.
They might not tell you — but they do want their parents to offer support and protection, especially when problems arise.
Try these time-tested techniques:
• Talk with your child every day about what happened at school. Find ways to get even a short conversation going about classroom experiences.
• Spend time together. Relax and share a meal or snack. Tell your children often what their strengths are. Most teens need this reinforcement.
• Listen to your child’s worries. Try to point out and emphasize the positive. Support what you think is good about school. If there are concerns, offer to talk with school officials about practices you don’t think are good for your child.
• Don’t scold and argue when your child brings home bad news. Instead, listen to your child’s reasoning and help brainstorm ways to improve the situation.
Always let your children know you believe they can be successful. Such confidence can be contagious.
• Show that you value education by encouraging homework, and reading, above everything else.
Help your children pick a good time and place to study. Make sure they have everything they need — materials and your unconditional support.

Thursday, January 5, 2017


Radio Commentary

It may seem obvious, but it is very important to talk with your children — really talk with them.
In this fast-paced world, it is easy to fall into conversational patterns like, “Hi, how are you?” or “How was your day?” But it’s well worth the extra effort to stay more connected to your family.
One of the most powerful conversation blockers is television. During meals, make “no TV” a priority. That way you can have a family conversation when all your schedules allow everyone to be present.
Children might complain if they have to miss their favorite shows, but make sure they understand that keeping up with other people’s lives, feelings, and concerns is important in every family.
In fact, mealtime conversation can prove enlightening for all involved. You can provide direct attention, support, and advice.
Lively discussions about current events might prevail. Whatever the topic, getting input from all family members succeeds in bringing you all closer together. Real interaction helps prevent misconceptions and misunderstandings.
It’s doubtful that anyone will miss the witty dialogue of a sit-com later in life, but they may well regret not knowing their children or parents as well as they could.
Start when the children are really young and it will be easier. Whatever the ages of your children, remember that interacting with them is always worth the effort.