Library Centers: What French Parents Taught Me

Do you ever read something that makes you stop and reflect on why you do what you do? Yesterday (2/4/12) I read an article in The Wall Street Journal called “Why French Parents are Superior” that really made me stop and think.

The basic premise of the article is that American parents typically give their children what they want, when they want it, and feel guilty if they can’t. In contrast, French parents teach their children to wait, to delay gratification. French parents don’t allow children to interrupt adult conversations. Their children are calmer, more resilient, better at concentration and reasoning.

And,  oddly enough, that made me think about one of the benefits of learning centers. We show students how to do something, then give them time to practice on their own. We expect them to be able to complete the activity successfully without us hovering over them. And this is good practice for life! It’s not just the specific academic skill that we are teaching–it’s also the life skill of being able to work on your own. I like that!

I was not as happy when I thought about my tendency to give students too much help (I think) when they’re looking for a book. I want to get a book in their hands as quickly as possible. I need to remember the long-term priority of helping them to be self-sufficient in the library, to prepare them for middle school, high school, and college. They can wait for the book. They can wait until we look it up on the computer, find the correct shelf, and look for the book. I need to stop contributing to a generation that expects instant gratification.

So…what do you think?

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    1. This post really rang true for me. I am sometimes guilty of just running and getting the book for them that they want…it’s so much easier! 🙂 Even on days that our computers seem to be running slowly, I need to be more aware and say,”Let’s look it up!” Thank you, Cari.

      1. That’s EXACTLY what I do. I think I’m “helping” by getting the book quickly, but this article made me realize that I’m giving instant gratification instead of education for life.
        Thanks for commenting, Elizabeth. It’s good to know I’m not the only one!

      2. I have had a similar problem in the past. Now I use the “5 Finger Rule”. If students cannot read the first 5 words from a book they choose in the library, then they pick another book. They still have freedom to choose a book while learning to make appropriate book choices.

        k/1 teacher

      3. Exactly, anonymous friend! We are not doing the first grader any favors by letting him scamper merrily out the door with Harry Potter, are we? I need to remind myself that even though the student is sad for a few moments because he doesn’t get the book he desires, it is better for him in the long run!

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