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Lighting the Fire: A Review of Raising Lifelong Learners

As we celebrate Literacy Month and the transformative power of reading, one book that deserves a spotlight is educator Lucy Calkins' insightful work “Raising Lifelong Learners: A Parents’ Guide”, published in 1997 but still highly relevant today. For families at progressive schools like Keys School Manila that prioritize nurturing children's natural love of learning, Calkins' philosophy is remarkably aligned.

In this influential work, the renowned literacy expert provides a comprehensive roadmap for parents seeking to propel their children toward becoming joyful, self-directed learners. Drawing upon her decades of experience in education and child development, Calkins offers a wealth of practical, age-appropriate strategies that parents can implement from their child's earliest years through adolescence.

Her central philosophy is that children are born explorers, eager to discover and make sense of the world around them. As parents and educators, our role is not to furiously impart knowledge, but rather to create an environment that stokes their fire of inquiry and equips them with the tools to learn independently—a tenet Keys embraces through its progressive, student-centered approach.

One of the book's major strengths is its emphasis on reading as the fundamental gateway skill for lifelong learning - making it particularly relevant during Literacy Month. Calkins underscores the importance of reading aloud to children daily, even once they become skilled readers themselves. She shows how this simple act builds warm associations with books, expands vocabulary, and models the deep cognitive work good readers engage in. Her suggestions for making reading an interactive, mind-opening exchange instead of a mindless activity are invaluable.

Beyond reading, the book explores how to inspire writing, mathematics, science and other subjects through hands-on projects, field trips, limited TV/screen time, and engaging children in the stuff of real life. The message is that learning should be an organic outgrowth of a child's experiences and interests, not drudgery committed to memory.

What is most impactful, however, is Calkins' guidance on changing the way we talk to and interact with children. She makes a powerful case that we must resist the urge to constantly pour information into their minds, and instead ask thought-provoking questions that prompt them to observe closely, theorize, analyze, and arrive at their own insights. This Socratic approach, contends Calkins, teaches children to be self-reliant thinkers and problem-solvers.

Overall, “Raising Lifelong Learners” A Parents’ Guide” is a vastly enriching resource that rightly emphasizes the lifelong aspect as much as the learning component. Calkins makes a convincing case that the seeds of intellectual vitality, adaptability, and personal growth are planted in those earliest years—an invaluable perspective for any parent. For nurturing the habits and mindset that will serve our kids indefinitely, this book is a powerful ally.

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