Children from low-income backgrounds may start at a disadvantage when they start school, according to various studies.
But they can rise above circumstance and parents can help, if children possess this one thing.
A new study published in the April journal of “Pediatric Research” found that, yes, children with lower socioeconomic status generally have lower achievement than peers.
Except students who possessed CURIOSITY
Those who were characterized as having curiosity performed similarly on reading and math tests as children from higher income families.
Researchers at the University of Michigan looked at the reading and math scores of 6,200 kindergartners in 2006 and 2007. Kids whose parents rated their children’s behavior as most curious did the best in school, regardless of socioeconomic status. The results were consistent for both boys and girls.
Parents can help bridge the achievement gap
Lead researcher Dr. Prachi Shah said the findings present an opportunity for parents to foster curiosity in their toddlers and young children:
“Curiosity is characterized by the joy of discovery and the desire for exploration and is characterized by the motivation to seek answers to the unknown. Promoting curiosity in children, especially those from environments of economic disadvantage may be an important, underrecognized way to address the achievement gap.”
Curiously, the study found that classroom efforts toward “effortful control,” or the ability to get children to stay focused, had little impact on whether a student fared well in math or reading.
In fact, the study found that even a student with low control but high curiosity, still possessed the academic advantage when it came to math and reading test scores.
How to encourage your child to be curious
Let them ask a hundred questions.
When they’re young, children ask a hundred questions before breakfast. Let them ask. Deborah Farmer Kris, a parenting expert on PBS.com, writes that parents should take that a step further and indulge a child’s curiosity by suggesting you look up the answer together, you seek an expert for the answer if possible, or go exploring with your curious child to find the answer.
You ask the questions.
Pam Schiller, author of “Seven Skills for School Success,” suggests in “Parenting” that you can stimulate the mind of your child by showing an interest in the things that they find fascinating by devising your own questions. How does that work? What are you working on? Show me how this is different than that over there?
Another Schiller idea: Re-write the endings of books together. What if ‘Little Red Riding Hood’ wasn’t hungry? How would the tale be different? You can try that with movies or TV shows, too.
Schedule new and challenging activities.
Too often we parents schedule activities that our children are good at and are easy for them. But Todd B. Kashdan, author of “Curious? Discover the Missing Ingredient to a Fulfilling Life” said sometimes kids need novelty and a challenge to stretch their skills and knowledge. He said in a story for the Huffington Post on raising stronger, more curious children:
“By repeatedly being curious, our children become more open to new experiences, more comfortable dealing with tension and anxiety, and more intelligent, wiser, and resilient.”
Be there now.
Dr. Gail Gross, a human behavior, parenting and education expert, said in a Huffington Post blog series on raising confident and curious kids that a parent’s presence is often overlooked as one of the most powerful influences.
Just by being there, parents can impact a child’s ability to succeed, she writes. “All that parents really need to do is take advantage of their child’s natural curiosity,” she writes. “Pay attention.”
Like All the Moms?