Sep 012012

In the typical school system from very early on, we as learners, get used to parents, teachers, etc holding our hand through the learning process. Over time, what results is learning WHAT to think, instead of ideally, learning HOW to think. Thankfully educators are learning that the latter is what students need to be successful. Reading is a natural form of “de-hand-holding” because it forces the learner to gather information and then extract meanings independently which is the best type of learning and what we teachers refer to as “metacognition”- or knowing HOW to think. Metacognition involves a lot of self-reflection, not only on how content is being “uploaded”. It’s knowing how, as a learner, I best acquire new information. Reading books, and extracting what you choose is metacognition in its simplest form and it begins as early as a child begins to read.

How Does Your Child Think?

Children are the most fascinating “meta-cognators”, as I like to call them because, metacognition is happening continuously as they naturally learn and complete tasks in the most efficient and simplest way they know how, otherwise known as PLAY. By helping children learn to understand how they learn and/or what kind of learner they are you as a parent can establish a strong foundation for learning success. We all are busy, with the typical family consisting of one to two working parents/guardians and children spending the majority of the day in school or child care it can be a challenge to sit down and get that one-on-one time with your child. Despite this, it as we may forget sometimes, is absolutely vital to not only their academic success but social, emotional, and physical development. Children are the masters of mimicry, so in order for them to be good readers, students, people, they need to see good examples often. Here are some ideas to get the reading/learning ball rolling…

  • Thinking Cap: Next time you are reading to/with your child and they come to a word they don’t know, instead of telling them what it is, instead ask them how they think they can figure it out on their own. As they articulate their preferred process, guide them through it until they solve the unknown word. You’ll discover and be fascinated at how your “meta-cognator” manages to arrive at the solution.
  • World of Words: Use the opportunity to point out words in everyday life (ie. Street signs, billboards, building signs, store signs, food ingredient list, etc) to get your child to learn new vocabulary and how words are used.
  • Action words: While reading to/with your child when you come to an adjective instead of simply reading it, act it out and let your child figure out what the word is.
  • Priceless pictures: Before reading a book to your child, let them explore the book, pages, and illustrations to see if they can figure out what the story is about. Then repeat for each page by encouraging your child to use picture clues to figure out what the text says.
  • Once Upon a Library: The Library is a vault that holds tons and tons of gems, otherwise known as books. Make going to the library an exciting (end-of-the-week) event. Instead of a movie night, make it a book night. Help your child set up a sheet tent in the living room, wearing their favourite Pj’s, curled up with lots of stuffed friends, in reach of yummy snacks and with a magic mountain of books to last until the last piece of licorice.

It’s really not about WHAT you do, but HOW you do it (no pun intended). Associate positive feelings with the action of reading and learning and your child will naturally begin to love learning.


I found very helpful information on What vs. How to Think at the Ministry of Education, Ontario. 2009. ABC 123 Reach Every Child. Retrieved from .

Mary Elizabeth Fam