There are two ways to deal with stress, FIGHT or FLIGHT. Students are committed to school, by law, for about eleven years of their life with no opportunity for fight or flight. When they can’t do either, they often lapse into a state of unawareness that results in failure, drop-out and even addiction and suicide.
The Kinark Child & Family Services in a nationwide survey, April, 2008, found that 7 out of 10 Canadian parents are concerned about the future well-being of their children. 49% of students are concerned about school problems and 34% fear disappointing their parents. These are leading causes of depression, stress and anxiety.
The local pharmacist, in my middle class neighborhood, told me that in the last year prescription drugs for depression had increased dramatically for children and adolescents.
It’s time that we consciously realized that our youth get only one chance to be young. We must stop viewing school as preparation for life and treat it like life itself. And all of us value happiness above everything else.
A mother came up to me with tears in her eyes after one of my talks about reading. She told me that her 13 year old daughter had attempted suicide because her inability to read. She felt inferior and shut out from her peers who were enjoying reading.
This letter I received from a parent is representative of many of the comments I hear.
“My son has taken me to the uttermost limits of frustration and I don’t know what to do. My 10 year old has struggled for the last 3 years in school. He hates to read even though we are a family that has always reads to our children. My husband and I have college degrees and literacy is an important part of our lives. He hates homework. It took him 3 hours to do 20 math sums. He has been punished and doesn’t care – grounding, taking away TV, Nintendo, bike, allowance – nothing works.”
What kind of a childhood is this boy having? What kind of relationship within the family is being fostered by this failure of their son to be happy with his school experience? Does he hate to read because, even though he can, it is too slow and painful?
In January/2005 the International Reading Association issued a position statement on adolescent reading:
“Adolescents entering the adult world in the 21st Century will read and write more than any other time in human history. Their ability to read well will be crucial. Early instruction is not enough. Guidance is needed for the increasing demands and complexity of reading material. They need support to learn unfamiliar vocabulary, manage new reading and writing styles, and engage in more complex material.”
As a teacher and consultant, I have always tried to make learning enjoyable and accessible. I believe 95% of children can learn to read if obstacles are not put in their way by too much labeling and teaching. My online course for reading coaches teaches a simple, effective way to remove the obstacles.