As the story of Ben Carson shows, when parents are engaged, great things can happen.
He grew up in extreme poverty. His parents divorced after his mother, who had married at age 13, found out that her husband was a bigamist who had another wife and children. He grew up an African-American in Detroit; his mother only had a third-grade level education. His name is Dr. Benjamin Carson, a graduate of Yale, a world-renowned (and now retired) neurosurgeon honored by a medal from President George Bush, the recipient of more than 60 honorary doctorates, a respected speaker, and a successful author.
Dr. Ben Carson’s story is one that has inspired many people. His book, Gifted Hands was turned into a movie starring Cuba Gooding Jr. Ben Carson contributes a great deal of his success to his mother, Sonya. Sonya was a woman of faith and she passed that faith along to her sons. In addition, Ben’s mother helped cultivate a love of learning in Ben. Each week, she would limit the amount of TV her sons were allowed to watch and required them to read two books of their choosing from the library and write book reports for each book. Sonya would then make marks with a red pen and hand the reports back to her sons. It wasn’t till Ben was much older that he realized that his mother didn’t know how to read.
Despite the odds, Ben went from being an angry and unmotivated student whose classmates called him “dummy” to being a successful and respected scholar who is now being talked about as a potential presidential candidate. In many ways, Ben Carson is the poster child for advocates of parental engagement in education: his story profoundly illustrates the power of an engaged parent in the life and education of a child. Ben’s mother didn’t even know how to read but she knew the importance of reading; she may not have had a top-notch education, but she knew enough to realize the importance of education. It was her dedication and love for her children that allowed Ben to persevere through adversity to become a man of great character and intellect.
Our kids need us to interact with them and guide them in their education. As parents, we know our children better than anyone else and this allows us to interact freely and naturally with them as we encourage their continual learning and growth.
Part one of a four part series on parental engagement.