Helping kids succeed in first grade may have a lasting mental-health benefit: Lower risk for depression in seventh grade and beyond. That’s the conclusion University of Missouri researchers arrived at after tracking 474 boys and girls from grammar school to middle school.
It makes sense - and it’s just one more reason to help your learners do their best. “We found that students in the first grade who struggled academically with core subjects, including reading and math, later displayed negative self-perceptions and symptoms of depression in sixth and seventh grade, respectively,” said researcher Keith Herman, associate professor of education, school and counseling psychology in the MU College of Education. “Often, children with poor academic skills believe they have less influence on important outcomes in their life. Poor academic skills can influence how children view themselves as students and as social beings.”
The scientists quickly point out that not every child is an academic whiz kid - and it’s important for parents to recognize and let kids know they value all types of intelligence. “Children’s individual differences will always exist in basic academic skills, so it is necessary to explore and emphasize other assets in students, especially those with lower academic skill relative to their peers,” Herman said. “Along with reading and math, teachers and parents should honor skills in other areas, such as interpersonal skills, non-core academic areas, athletics and music.”
But this study, published in 2009, adds a little extra urgency to the job of helping kids get off to a great start in math and reading. And a handful of recent studies point parents toward ways to help with numbers: