I'm taking advantage of Baby Lipstick's naps this summer to read Mind in the Making by Ellen Galinsky. I'd heard that it was being pushed for administrators in our district and I wanted to see why. I started it earlier this week and have so far found that it's a surprisingly quick read considering the amount of research Galinsky uses to support her arguments. Although I started reading it as an educator it didn't take me long to feel like I was getting more out of it as a parent than I was as a teacher, not to say that I didn't appreciate it from an educator standpoint- it's just I have a bit of a different focus these days.
Galinsky lists "seven essential skills every child needs to know" and supports each one of these skills with research while sprinkling in some neuroscience and brain development. The skills include focus and self control, perspective taking, communicating, making connections, critical thinking, taking on challenges, and self-directed, engaged learning.
In the beginning I couldn't help but feel that I'd read the book before. Everything she writes about focus, self-control, perspective taking and communicating rings true with other research I've read. It fits in well with the Responsive Classroom philosophy and is also supported by the Patterns of Thinking method. Much of it was good to review as an educator and serves as an excellent reminder of those early skills that are so essential for building a secure foundation for learning.
So much of what she writes focuses on the early years and the skills that are developed at home. In some ways it is frustrating as an educator to read about what could be going on at home to lay the foundation for those basic kindergarten skills. So many of the homes that feed into the think-tank are not participating in those activities. Reading once again about the importance of children being read to at an early age, the importance of self-control and how it can be taught, the importance of being talked to throughout the day can be teeth grinding. Yeah, we know those things are important for our youngest ones, but if it doesn't happen then what do we do?
Once the frustration of having to read about how much good can be done in the younger years washed over me, the book served as an excellent reminder of the importance of these skills and why we need to embed them into our kindergarten curriculum. We can't just "drill and kill" the alphabet and the numbers as we desperately try to get our kids to pass the end of year kindergarten assessments- we also need to be filling in the cognitive gaps that are essential for our children in order for them to be successful later in life.
My biggest frustration with the book is that when she discusses research she'll use the term "child" or 'infant" without explicitly stating the ages. It can be difficult to keep up with whether or not she's talking about a three month infant or a nine month infant, a five year old or a twelve year old.
Other than that I highly recommend the book. I've found it to be one of the easier-to-read research-based books I've read and I've come away with a lot to think about as well as explicit activities that will support these essential skills both as a mother and a teacher.
More specific posts are coming... lots of thoughts floating around...