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What Preschoolers Really Need from Grownups

by Erika Christakis

Pub Date: Feb. 2nd, 2016
ISBN: 978-0-525-42907-4
Publisher: Viking

An early childhood educator offers fresh advice on how parents and teachers should be interacting with preschool children to achieve better overall results.

Christakis, who teaches at Yale University’s Child Study Center, examines current early childhood education policies and practices and suggests what can and should be changed so preschoolers have the optimum learning experience. "I offer a straightforward roadmap for recognizing signs of powerful learning that can be hard to discern,” she writes, “and I provide concrete recommendations for nurturing young children's learning impulses wherever we find them." Christakis looks at the current practice of teaching preschoolers long vocabulary lists without necessarily emphasizing a true understanding of the words being taught and the overuse of creating a "print-rich environment," in which the classroom is filled to excess with "labels, vocabulary lists, calendars, graphs, classroom rules, alphabet lists, number charts and inspirational platitudes" that often overwhelm young students just learning to read and write. The author studies the need for arts and crafts time in school, which allows students to express themselves when they've yet to master reading and writing. Playtime is another focus, and Christakis stresses the benefits of letting children play outdoors with natural (and free) objects as opposed to continuous screen time. She points out how teaching to achieve mandated skill levels isn't working since it breaks unified tasks into small, often disconnected pieces. Among other issues, she voices thoughts on the expectations educators have on the reading and writing levels of preschoolers without taking into consideration each child's individual development level. Christakis points out the flaws in many of the nation's preschool programs and offers concrete steps for change in the classroom and in education policies.

A deep, provocative analysis of the current modes of teaching preschoolers and what should be changed to create a more effective learning environment for everyone.