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Help children develop stronger study habits

By Linda Breazeale

MISSISSIPPI STATE -- The new school year provides parents with an opportunity to help their children establish sound study habits to improve chances for academic success.

Louise Davis, child and family development specialist with Mississippi State University's Extension Service, said good study habits are best learned early in a child's academic career. Older students also may benefit from parental encouragement before encountering problems in their schoolwork.

"Young children need guidance to learn effective ways to study at home," Davis said. "Older students who do not have good study skills may need guidance from school counselors or outside tutors, and ideally that assistance will come early in the school year."

Davis said age is an factor in determining children's attention spans, and this impacts the amount of effective study time. Fifteen to 20 minutes may be best for younger children, while older children and teens will need to spend longer periods in study. Timely breaks can prevent students from wasting time with wandering thoughts or ineffective study efforts. The most difficult subjects should be studied first while the mind is most alert.

"Parents should always help their children by taking an interest in their schoolwork, encouraging them to study and providing a supportive environment," Davis said. "They need to establish an open and communicative relationship with the teachers involved."

Micki Smith, area child and family development agent for MSU's Extension Service in Madison County, said young students need assistance in learning the best times and places for doing their homework.

"Help children find a regular time and place for doing homework. Don't wait until the child is too tired or hungry, and select a place without too many distractions," Smith said. "Provide all the supplies needed for completing the homework and be available to assist or guide the student in the task assigned."

Smith said parents can set a good example for their children by reading books, writing letters, balancing a checkbook and working on other parental "homework" tasks.

"Communication is an important key between the parent and child. Ask your child to review lessons learned at school each day, even if there is no homework," she said. "Check work completed by your child each evening and remember to look for notes from the teacher."

Parents need to monitor the amount of time children spend watching television and playing video games compared to working on their schoolwork.

"First work out a schedule for doing homework, and then consider how much TV and what programs your child can watch," Smith said. "Television can be a good learning tool when the programs relate to what your child is studying in school. Watch for educational shows or videos that can complement the subjects being studied."

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Released: July 22, 2004
Contact: Dr. Louise Davis, (662) 325-3083

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