Just as is true for adults, a child with a goal will do better than a child who has no plan. Parents and teachers provide a great service to children when they encourage and guide them in their goal-setting endeavors. Learning how to set and reach a goal at an early age is a valuable tool that will be used throughout life. Setting goals takes practice and is more easily cultivated under the watchful eye of a caring parent or teacher.
Children who read five books over the summer generally show little decline in reading proficiency. Those who read three times a week, however, score in the top 25% in reading. Encouraging your child to set a goal for summer reading might be a good place to start.
What Constitutes a Goal?
A goal is specific and measurable. A child would not set a goal stating, “I am going to read this summer.” A well-defined objective would be, “I am going to read for thirty minutes four days a week during June, July and August.” The goal also needs to be realistic and within the child’s reach. Therefore, deciding to read for two hours per day, for example, might be too aggressive. The child will ultimately be overwhelmed. A finite time period needs to be set. Otherwise, procrastination can set in.
The child won’t work for a goal unless he buys into it. There needs to be a certain amount of energy around the goal. He needs to believe that he can accomplish his objective. The child should put the goal in writing. He should reflect on his plan, why it is important, and how he plans to achieve it. He should ponder whether or not he’ll need any help accomplishing the goal. Perhaps his mom will need to keep the younger children out of his room as he reads. He should think about the consequences of not reaching the goal and realize that much will be gained simply through the learning process.
The parent or teacher needs to demonstrate an active interest. Talk to the child about the purpose of his goal. Provide incentives and motivations along the way to help him stay on track. “My Reward Board” is a popular computerized motivational tool that can be used in lieu of a wall chart. Since kids today are computer savvy, they’ll likely relate to this motivational system. Parents should discuss long-term deadlines with the child. They should help him to identify the steps he’ll need to take. For example, make a list of desired books to read, go to the library, choose a quiet place to read, mark off successful days on a calendar. Mentors need to help the child break the task into small blocks of time. Follow up consistently; don’t just discuss a goal once with the child.
Children quickly realize the good feelings that follow when a goal has been reached. They understand that it’s not always easy, but the self-satisfaction is worth it. Their confidence levels naturally get a boost.
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