Thursday, August 17, 2017

Book Review: 'The Importance of Being Little' by Erika Christakis

A wise, comforting book. Children generally do not present problems to be solved or blank slates to be filled. They are just small people who are eager to learn the game of being human.

What they need most of all is kindness and support. There are moments when it may be necessary to instruct them from a position of authority, such as telling them not to cross the street without holding hands. Learning the alphabet, numbers and so on should generally not require that kind of pushing. Kids will learn when they are ready. It is more important that they want to learn than exactly what and when they learn.

Christakis is kind to preschool professionals. They have a hard job. Their young charges cannot articulate what they want – the teacher has to guess. Administrators and parents want to see concrete results – paper Thanksgiving turkeys are a classic example – but mass producing such banal stuff is likely to be boring to both the student and the teacher. It can also be frustrating. Some kids don't have the attention span, fine-motor control or even the interest. Even if everybody gets a gold star and a pat on the head, they know that Debbie's turkey looks better than Janny's. Kids aren't dumb.

What I take out of this, as a retired guy who spends full time with his four-year-old, is that giving them a lot of time and attention Is the main thing. The materials, even curriculum are not terribly important. If the kid is talking, asking questions, seeing new things, and telling you about his life, you are doing the right stuff.

Editor's note: This review has been published with the permission of Graham H. Seibert. Like what you read? Subscribe to the SFRB's free daily email notice so you can be up-to-date on our latest articles. Scroll up this page to the sign-up field on your right. 

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