Raising brilliant children means acknowledging and reimagining the aspects of the education system that don’t work. What’s less obvious is the need to change ourselves in order to be better educators, coaches, and parents. In Becoming Brilliant: What Science Tells Us About Raising Successful Children, Roberta Michnick Golinkoff and Kathy Hirsch-Pasek reject an education model in which children are treated as empty vessels to be filled with (and tested on) content. Unsurprisingly, such a model encourages passivity in both kids and their caretakers while driving up everyone’s stress levels as schools and parents compete for an outdated vision of success. “Business leaders … are looking for thinkers and problem solvers, not fact grinders,” Golinkoff and Hirsch-Pasek remind us. Read more
Voices of Teens is one of those books that make the reader want to laugh and cry simultaneously. Laugh because it is a case study in the power of one teacher to inspire a classroom of disadvantaged Philadelphia eighth-graders to become transformed by their writing, and cry because the content of their work can be so heartbreaking.Prompted by a visit from Erin Gruwell, author of The Freedom Writers Diary: How a Teacher and 150 Teens Used Writing to Change Themselves and the World Around Them, Michael Galbraith, a literacy teacher, and Robert Vogel, a teacher educator at LaSalle University, joined forces to bring the Freedom Writers program to eighth-graders at Grover Washington Jr. At a school assembly, Ms. Gruwell spoke about the lives of her students, many of whom faced challenges similar to those of her Philadelphia audience.
“This discovery of yours will create forgetfulness in the learners’ souls, because they will not use their memories.” These words from Plato’s Phaedrus are directed against the alphabet, which Socrates feared would lead to a decline in oral rhetoric and memory. But the warning could just as easily refer to today’s literacy tools. Children learning to read in the 21st century have access to a wealth of sophisticated resources, from apps and games to e-books with “hot spots” that encourage clicks. With kids aged 3 to 5 spending an average of four hours a day in front of screens, it’s only natural to worry, as Socrates did, that technology will negatively impact developing minds. Read more
As American social scientists go, few are more influential than Robert Putnam, the Harvard professor and author of the 2001 mega best seller Bowling Alone. When Putnam recently turned his attention to U.S. income inequality and children (in Our Kids: The American Dream in Crisis), mortals like me who care about children felt a surge of hope. Perhaps Putnam—not heretofore known as an expert on childhood in the U.S.—could direct greater attention to American children in need. Putnam’s book chronicles how a large number of U.S. children have been left behind in today’s gilded age. He builds his argument on data as well as close-in profiles showing how today’s impoverished families struggle to subsist without real opportunity to achieve the American dream. Read more
Most grandparents, on hearing the news of an impending new family member, are thrilled and excited, perhaps entertaining daydreams of fishing trips, sleepovers, cookie baking, and college graduations. But for some, those dreams are destined to undergo profound adjustment. In Revolutionary Grandparents: Generations Healing Autism with Love and Hope, collected by Helen Conroy and Lisa Joyce Goes (Skyhorse Publishing 2016) 19 grandparents describe the journeys they have shared with their families from the time of diagnosis to the present. Read more
With regard to our kids, words we hope never to hear or have to say include “cancer” and “death.” We hope to avoid these words altogether, and when they arise, there is a tendency to shower the children involved with charity, pretense, and diversion: visiting clowns, get-well toys, or, as a last resort, wishes-come-true through the Make-A-Wish Foundation or Kids Wish Network. Justin Bieber alone is said to have participated in some 250 wishes-come-true for children with life-threatening conditions. Read more