Asian-Americans comprise only 4 percent of the United States' population, yet they make up 20 percent of the Ivy League. The daughters of Korean immigrants and authors of "Top of the Class: How Asian Parents Raise High Achievers -- and How You Can Too" (Berkley), Dr. Soo Kim Abboud and Jane Kim, say their parents raised them to be successful. Abboud is a clinical assistant professor at the University of Pennsylvania, and Jane Kim is a lawyer who specializes in immigration issues.
In their book, the sisters share the methods they say many Asian parents use to get their children to achieve in school.
"I think they made sure that we always embraced ... learning," Abboud said.
The Kim parents came from humble beginnings. They came to the United States with only $200. Mr. Kim worked as a janitor and his wife worked as a seamstress. Their techniques for putting school first were simple. They limited the girl's television time to one hour during the week and used candy as a reward for reading a book.
Grades were considered a family affair. Kim said they went over report cards together.
"Everybody got to put their 2 cents in," she said.
When it came to teachers, the Kim parents treated them with the utmost respect.
"Our parents really deferred to teachers," Kim said. "In the Asian culture, teachers are revered."
Most importantly, their parents taught the authors that academic success can lead to happiness.
"You have to do what makes you happy," Abboud said. "If you can't pay the bills you are not going to be happy -- but you have to be passionate about what you do."
You can read an excerpt from "Top of the Class" below.
Instill a Love and Need for Learning and Education
The most important thing parents can give to their children is love -- but a desire and love for learning and education comes in as a close second. Many parents find it difficult to instill this passion for learning in their kids. Not surprisingly, years later these parents find themselves wondering why their son or daughter has no interest in going to college, much less to graduate school. It's never too early to start encouraging a love of learning in your child. In fact, early childhood is the best time to start, as young minds have an incredible capacity to absorb information and establish the necessary values that set the stage for future success.
But before we begin discussing how to get your child to love learning, let us first explain the major reason parents today find it difficult to pass this love on: very few adults today actually love to learn. We live in a society that seeks comfort and leisure above all else; the "American dream" typically includes a home complete with a big-screen TV and state-of-the-art grill. Many working parents today punch in and punch out, in a hurry to get home to sit in front of the TV. They view the process of learning and education as part of their thankfully distant past -- for the majority of us Americans, learning and education stopped after high school and college. After all, hitting the books for more than a decade is enough for any lifetime, isn't it?