The Importance of Being Little

The Importance of Being Little

What Preschoolers Really Need From Grownups

Book - 2016
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Little children come into the world hardwired to learn in virtually any setting and about any matter. Yet in today's preschool and kindergarten classrooms, learning has been reduced to scripted lessons and suspect metrics that too often undervalue a child's intelligence while overtaxing the child's growing brain. These mismatched expectations wreak havoc on the family: parents fear that if they choose the "wrong" program, their child won't get into the "right" college. But Yale early childhood expert Erika Christakis says our fears are wildly misplaced. She offers real-life solutions to real-life issues, with nuance and direction that takes us far beyond the usual prescriptions for fewer tests, more play. She looks at children's use of language, their artistic expressions, the way their imaginations grow, and how they build deep emotional bonds to stretch the boundaries of their small worlds. Rather than clutter their worlds with more and more stuff, sometimes the wisest course for us is to learn how to get out of their way.
Publisher: New York, New York : Viking, an imprint of Penguin Random House LLC, ©2016
ISBN: 9780525429074
Branch Call Number: 372.21 CHR 2016
Characteristics: xxii, 376 pages : illustrations ; 24 cm

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JCLChrisK Apr 14, 2016

Christakis begins with a very simple premise: that, for preschoolers, schooling and learning are often two different things. That young children are much more powerful and capable than we often give them credit for, that they primarily learn through relationships and play, and that the educational push to make their school experience more focused on "academic readiness" runs counter to their natural inclinations for learning.

She then spends nearly 400 pages comprehensively exploring that idea across the many dimensions and aspects of early childhood education. She has been a child, parent, teacher, and academic, and all perspectives figure into her considerations. At times she's a little too unnecessarily jargony with her educational and academic language; at other times she's a little too wistfully nostalgic for childhoods of times now past and reliant on her own version of common sense; but she is always thorough in her considerations. Whether you are already on board with her premise, are tentatively willing to be converted, or find it misguided and want to debate her, this is a book worth engaging. I highly recommend it for all educators and suggest it for all parents as well.

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