The Importance of Being Little

The Importance of Being Little

What Preschoolers Really Need From Grownups

Book - 2016
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"Christakis . . . expertly weaves academic research, personal experience and anecdotal evidence into her book . . . a bracing and convincing case that early education has reached a point of crisis . . . her book is a rare thing: a serious work of research that also happens to be well-written and personal . . . engaging and important."
--Washington Post

"What kids need from grown-ups (but aren't getting)...an impassioned plea for educators and parents to put down the worksheets and flash cards, ditch the tired craft projects (yes, you, Thanksgiving Handprint Turkey) and exotic vocabulary lessons, and double-down on one, simple word: play."
--NPR.org

The New York Times bestseller that provides a bold challenge to the conventional wisdom about early childhood, with a pragmatic program to encourage parents and teachers to rethink how and where young children learn best by taking the child's eye view of the learning environment

To a four-year-old watching bulldozers at a construction site or chasing butterflies in flight, the world is awash with promise. 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. Our anxiety about preparing and safeguarding our children's future seems to have reached a fever pitch at a time when, ironically, science gives us more certainty than ever before that young children are exceptionally strong thinkers.
In her pathbreaking book, Christakis explains what it's like to be a young child in America today, in a world designed by and for adults, where we have confused schooling with learning. 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.
Christakis's message is energizing and reassuring: young children are inherently powerful, and they (and their parents) will flourish when we learn new ways of restoring the vital early learning environment to one that is best suited to the littlest learners. This bold and pragmatic challenge to the conventional wisdom peels back the mystery of childhood, revealing a place that's rich with possibility.
Publisher: New York, New York : Viking, c2016
ISBN: 9780525429074
0525429077
Branch Call Number: 372.21 Chri
Characteristics: xxii, 376 pages : illustration ; 24 cm
Contents: Little learners : the classroom called childhood
Goldilocks goes to daycare : finding the right zone for learning
Natural born artists : the creative powers of childhood
The search for intelligent life : un-standard learning
Just kidding : the fragmented generation
Played out : habitat loss and the extinction of play
Stuffed : navigating the material world
The secret lives of children : fear, fantasy and the emotional appetite
Use your words : hearing the language of childhood
Well connected : the roles grownups play
Hiding in plain sight : early learning and the American Dream

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mclarkmaine
Aug 25, 2017

All I can say is this was a total snooze fest. It was literally painful to read. I did pull a few pearls out but if I had to rewind I would skip this one over.

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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