How to Raise a Brighter Child: The Case for Early Learning

 
9780006365013: How to Raise a Brighter Child: The Case for Early Learning

THE LATEST STUDIES PROVE SOONER IS SMARTER

  • How much is a child capable of learning before the age of six?
  • What happens to a child's brain during the preschool years when the body is growing so rapidly?
  • How can working parents make sure their children are getting enough mental stimulation?
  • Should parents help a youngster learn to read before he or she starts the first grade?
  • How can parents safely use computers and the Internet as early learning tools?
  • Is a child's intelligence level actually fixed for life by inherited genes?
You'll find the answers to these and hundreds of other vital questions in this revised and updated edition of this classic parenting guide. How to Raise a Brighter Child incorporates groundbreaking scientific findings on brain development to help you boost your child's potential from birth. Discover specific early learning techniques to aid your child's development of his or her mind -- in his or her own personal style and at the appropriate speed. These are not formal lessons. Most are fascinating games. And they work!

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About the Author:

The late Joan Beck wrote the award-winning "You and Your Child" column for The Chicago Tribune for many years, in which she pioneered coverage of new research on brain development, the battle against birth defects, and the struggles of parents to balance family and careers -- all the while, raising two children herself. Later, she became the first woman member of the Tribune's editorial board and her twice-weekly op-ed columns were syndicated in hundreds of newspapers nationwide. A member of the Chicago Journalism Hall of Fame, Ms. Beck was also the author of four books: Best Beginnings, Effective Parenting, Is My Baby All Right? with Dr. Virginia Apgar, and How to Raise a Brighter Child, which has been translated into eight languages and published widely around the world.

Excerpt. Reprinted by permission. All rights reserved.:

Chapter One

Your Child's First and Best Teacher: You

How much is your child capable of learning before he's six years old and ready for first grade? What happens to his brain during these preschool years when his body is growing and changing so rapidly?

Is your youngster's intelligence level fixed for life by the genes she inherits? Or can it be raised by the way you care for her at home, long before she ever meets a teacher in a classroom?

As a parent, what can you do to give your child ample opportunity to grow in intelligence during these irreplaceable early years of life?

An explosion of new research into how the brain grows is yielding exciting answers to these questions. The discoveries add up to a larger, happier, and extremely important role for parents in fostering the mental development of their children before school age and to the promise of lifelong higher intelligence for these youngsters.

Most child-care books concentrate on helping parents learn how to raise children who are physically healthy and emotionally well adjusted. They have detailed directions about how to become a competent diaper changer, tantrum stopper, rash identifier, bathroom attendant, and referee between rival siblings. But parents receive almost no help or information or credit for their role as teacher and nurturer of their offspring's developing intelligence. Much more has been written about what should go into a baby's stomach than what should go into her growing mind. More emphasis has been put on teaching a child to use the bathroom than to use her brain.

Today, the evidence is overwhelming that the quantity and quality of learning experiences your baby has -- even before he is out of diapers -- can greatly influence how well his brain works all the rest of his life. Scientists have made astounding discoveries about how rapidly a baby's brain grows in the first few years of life -- forming trillions of connections every second that will later serve as the pathways of thought. Learning experiences and loving, one-on-one attention strengthen those connections, actually shaping the neurological structure of the brain. But scientists also know conclusively that without ample, appropriate stimulation, those neural connections will wither and die. In fact, the optimum time for many kinds of learning may already be past by the time a child reaches age six and enters first grade.

These findings provide important information for families trying to balance work and child care. More than half of mothers with young children now work outside the home and fear missing out on some of the best learning opportunities. Fathers increasingly want to play a bigger role in their children's development but face time pressures of their own. Yet helping enhance a child's mind often takes no more time than caring for her physical needs, as later chapters of this book show.

The new neurological discoveries have profound implications for national policy as well. Growing numbers of children are at serious risk of not getting proper stimulation that will help their brains grow. Today, nearly 3 million infants and toddlers under age three live in poverty. More than 25 percent are born to unwed mothers, many of whom are still adolescents themselves. Yet study after study has shown that early learning can go a long way toward making up for those early setbacks and help children of all socioeconomic levels grow up more intelligent and capable than they otherwise would have been.

Not surprisingly, these discoveries have infused new passion into the old political debates over day-care and family-leave policies. They have also attracted the attention of educators, philanthropists, and politicians who see a rare opportunity, and an urgent need, to help ensure that children grow to their full intellectual potential. Governors in several states have championed expanded preschool programs. First Lady Hillary Rodham Clinton sponsored a White House conference calling for greater investment in young children aged zero to three. Even the prestigious Carnegie Corporation of New York has focused its resources to call fresh attention to the critical years between birth and age three, calling for a "national investment" in the nation's youngest children to give all babies and toddlers the opportunity for optimal neurological development.

"The risks are clearer than ever before: an adverse environment can compromise a young child's brain function and overall development, placing him or her at greater risk of developing a variety of cognitive, behavioral, and physical difficulties," a Carnegie task force concluded. "In some cases these effects may be irreversible. But the opportunities are equally dramatic: a good start in life can do more to promote learning and prevent damage than we ever imagined."

What is perhaps most exciting in these discoveries is the critical role that you, as a parent, can play as your child's first and most important teacher. You have the unique opportunity to boost your youngster's intelligence when it is most subject to change, to teach her individually, at her own pace and by what means she is most likely to learn, to shape your relationship with her in ways that can actually help her become brighter. It's time you got more help in this vital role. That is the purpose of this book.

Parents who have tried using early-learning techniques with preschool children often report delightedly about the results. Some cases in point:

  • In a small town in Indiana, Jeanne Jenkins is giving a birthday party for her four-year-old daughter and six friends. Toward the end of the party, Ms. Jenkins leaves the young guests alone in the living room while she dips up the ice cream and lights the candles on the cake. From the kitchen, she hears nothing but a worrisome quiet. Anxiously, she peeks into the living room and sees that one of the guests has pulled a Smokey the Bear book from the shelf and is reading with great delight to the other children, who are fascinated by the story.

    After the party, Ms. Jenkins telephones the small guest's mother. "Oh yes, Meagan learned to read last summer," replies the four-year-old's parent. "No, she'd never read a Smokey the Bear book before. But she does read everything she can get her hands on."

  • In a New York City park, 22-month-old Emily is exploring a large bronze statue of Alice in Wonderland. She announces to her baby-sitter a surprisingly complex thought for someone still in diapers: "I'm going to climb up on mushroom and say hello to mouse."

  • In suburban Connecticut, Andrea, age five, scrambles into her father's desk chair, switches on the family computer, and uses her own password to sign onto the Internet. In the space for key word, she types in dogs and is soon clicking through Web page after Web page, printing out color pictures of the breeds that catch her eye. "This is the one I want!" she triumphantly tells her father.

  • In Ann Arbor, Michigan, a third-generation Armenian couple -- she a grade-school teacher on extended maternity leave and he a teaching assistant finishing work on his Ph.D. -- want their son, Jack, to appreciate and profit from his Armenian heritage. So they have spoken only Armenian to him since his birth. Outside his home, Jack hears -- and learns -- English effortlessly. Now, at age four, he is happily fluent in both languages and switches from one to the other when it is appropriate.

  • In a nursery school outside Los Angeles, Danny, four, walks purposefully over to a supply cupboard and pulls out a box of beads and numbered cards. Sprawling on a little rug on the floor, he arranges a set of the numbers in order from 0 to 9. Beside each he places a little glass dish and into each he drops a corresponding number of beads.

    Next, Danny puts another set of numbers in "tens place" making his figures read 11 to 99. With ready-made chains of 10 beads each, he lays out matching rows of 10 to 90 beads beside the tiny dishes. Then he adds a third set of numbers in "hundreds place" and the right number for 100-bead units. When he finishes, he has correctly created and labeled rows for 111, 222, 333, 444, 555, 666, 777, 888, and 999 -- and, with obvious satisfaction, taught himself a major lesson in number concepts.

None of these children was born a genius. But because someone who loved each youngster knew about the importance of early learning experiences, each had the opportunity to learn more than most children usually do at the age when their fast-growing minds could absorb knowledge readily. All of them appear to be developing above-average intelligence and a joyous love of learning as a result.

Meagan's mother taught her to read for fun, using a series of phonetic games and cartoons published by a Chicago newspaper. "We had no idea a four-year-old could learn so fast or enjoy reading so much," she wrote to the newspaper's editor.

Emily's attentive baby-sitter -- and her busy parents, both professionals -- made a point of conversing with her as much as possible and expressing their delight whenever she learned new words and put them to use in sentences.

Andrea has played games on the family computer since she was three and watched her older sister use the Internet for research. Her parents let her set up her own password and watched -- at a safe distance -- as she explored the Internet on her own.

Jack's parents are deliberately using early-learning principles to preserve an ethnic heritage that is important in their own lives and that they want to pass on, with all its cultural richness, to their children.

Danny attends a Montessori school, where he can choose freely from a wealth of early-learning materials.

Interest in early learning and research about it are coming from many different scientific fields and forging exciting new connections among them. Neuroscientists are using new imaging technology to actually watch the brain in action, and they are finding neurological explanations for what pioneering educators had long noticed about how eagerly...

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Joan Beck
Published by Fontana Press (1985)
ISBN 10: 0006365019 ISBN 13: 9780006365013
New Hardcover Quantity Available: 1
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Irish Booksellers
(Rumford, ME, U.S.A.)
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