The Importance of Being Little: What Young Children Really Need from Grownups

The Importance of Being Little: What Young Children Really Need from Grownups

by Erika Christakis

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Overview

“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

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.

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9780143129981
Publisher: Penguin Publishing Group
Publication date: 02/07/2017
Pages: 400
Sales rank: 167,332
Product dimensions: 5.40(w) x 8.20(h) x 0.90(d)

About the Author

Erika Christakis is an early childhood educator and school consultant. She was a faculty member at the Yale Child Study Center and is a Massachusetts-certified teacher (pre-K through second grade) and licensed preschool director. An honors graduate of Harvard College, she has advanced degrees from Johns Hopkins University, the University of Pennsylvania, and Lesley University’s Graduate School of Education. She has written about children for The Atlantic, The Washington Post, The Boston Globe, TIME.com, and the New York Daily News. She lives in New Haven, Connecticut.

Table of Contents

Preface xiii

Chapter 1 Little Learners: The Classroom Called Childhood 1

Chapter 2 Goldilocks Goes to Daycare: Finding the Right Zone for Learning 32

Chapter 3 Natural Born Artists: The Creative Powers of Childhood 58

Chapter 4 The Search for Intelligent Life: Un-standard Learning 87

Chapter 5 Just Kidding: The Fragmented Generation 111

Chapter 6 Played Out: Habitat Loss and the Extinction of Play 138

Chapter 7 Stuffed: Navigating the Material World 167

Chapter 8 The Secret Lives of Children: Fear, Fantasy, and the Emotional Appetite 195

Chapter 9 Use Your Words: Hearing the Language of Childhood 224

Chapter 10 Well Connected: The Roles Grownups Play 256

Chapter 11 Hiding in Plain Sight: Early Learning and the American Dream 285

Acknowledgments 301

Notes 305

Bibliography 339

Index 365

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