Awakening Children's Minds: How Parents and Teachers Can Make a Difference

Awakening Children's Minds: How Parents and Teachers Can Make a Difference

Awakening Children's Minds: How Parents and Teachers Can Make a Difference

Awakening Children's Minds: How Parents and Teachers Can Make a Difference

Synopsis

Parents and teachers today face a swirl of conflicting theories about child rearing and educational practice. Indeed, current guides are contradictory, oversimplified, and at odds with current scientific knowledge. Now, in Awakening Children's Minds, Laura Berk cuts through the confusion of competing theories, offering a new way of thinking about the roles of parents and teachers and how they can make a difference in children's lives. This is the first book to bring to a general audience, in lucid prose richly laced with examples, truly state-of-the-art thinking about child rearing and early education. Berk's central message is that parents and teachers contribute profoundly to the development of competent, caring, well-adjusted children. In particular, she argues that adult-child communication in shared activities is the wellspring of psychological development. These dialogues enhance language skills, reasoning ability, problem-solving strategies, the capacity to bring action under the control of thought, and the child's cultural and moral values. Berk explains how children weave the voices of more expert cultural members into dialogues with themselves. When puzzling, difficult, or stressful circumstances arise, children call on this private speech to guide and control their thinking and behavior. In addition to providing clear roles for parents and teachers, Berk also offers concrete suggestions for creating and evaluating quality educational environments--at home, in child care, in preschool, and in primary school--and addresses the unique challenges of helping children with special needs. Parents, Berk writes, need a consistent way of thinking about their role in children's lives, one that can guide them in making effective child-rearing decisions. Awakening Children's Minds gives us the basic guidance we need to raise caring, thoughtful, intelligent children.

Excerpt

I decided to write this book for parents and teachers of young children for several reasons. First, I was dissatisfied with the American parenting-advice literature. As I examined it, I found it to be contradictory, riddled with oversimplified messages, and often unrelated to or at odds with current scientific knowledge. Second, I felt certain after many years as a professor, researcher, and author of textbooks on child development, that contemporary scientific theory and research contain many vital, practical messages—ones crucial for parents and teachers to understand if they are to help children develop at their best. Finally, on countless occasions, parents have tapped me on the shoulder or written to me with questions and concerns. They appeared uncertain, uneasy, and sometimes highly frustrated in the face of a wide array of child rearing issues, from how to choose a child-care center to whether to make their children clean up their rooms. I became convinced that parents need a consistent way of thinking about their role in children's lives—one that can guide them in making effective child-rearing decisions.

It's little wonder that American parents are perplexed and conflicted about what course to steer in child rearing. They live in a world that makes parenting exceedingly challenging. The majority of mothers of preschool children are in the labor force, yet the United States stands out among industrialized nations in providing few supports to help employed parents in their child-rearing roles. At the same time, American parents complain that they are busier than ever, that the growing demands of their work lives leave them little time for their children. A nation of pressured, preoccupied parents has emerged in an era of grave public concern about the well-being of American youth, who are achieving less . . .

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