Learning Our Lessons about Early Learning

By Lewis, Anne C. | Phi Delta Kappan, April 1997 | Go to article overview

Learning Our Lessons about Early Learning


Lewis, Anne C., Phi Delta Kappan


Those crib mobiles with their dancing colors and those kaleidoscopic cloth book, s that are meant to be a baby s first are not what my very young grandchildren enjoy. For these babies, the world is like a television from the 1950s - strictly black and white.

What seems like a rather bland way to begin life (and a burdensome restriction on grandparents' gift buying) has been deliberately chosen by my highly educated (sometimes, perhaps, overly so) daughter, who reads the research about babies. "Black and white is what stimulates their coordination," she tells me emphatically.

Such nuggets of information, as reluctant as older generations may be to accept them, are evolving into momentous breakthroughs for parents, schools, and scientists in understanding how young children learn. By the end of this month, the whole country ought to know a lot more because of the events surrounding the broadcast of a documentary directed by award-winning filmmaker Rob Reiner.

Scheduled to be shown on the ABC network on April 28, Reiner's film takes advantage of both brain research and a growing number of national reports on the importance of the early years. If new research continues to build in the direction already outlined by previous studies, the impact on the use of resources and on education in general will be profound.

Reiner put the issue starkly in speaking to the National Governors' Association (NGA) at its winter meeting in Washington, D.C. By age 10, he told the governors, "your brain is cooked." In other words, the brain's elasticity, its capacity to put structure around the process of acquiring and using knowledge, is pretty well set before the elementary grades are over.

What's more, the period of greatest brain development comes very early. It is not third grade, when last-chance efforts to learn to read are what's most important. It is not even age 3. A more propitious time for learning is age 3 months. In light of this understanding, it should not have been surprising when the late Ernest Boyer reported in 1991 that almost all kindergarten teachers across the country (88%) believed the children entered their classrooms with moderate to serious problems related to the richness of their language. And 43% of the teachers believed that children were less ready to learn than their counterparts had been five years earlier.

Boyer's report, Ready to Learn, was followed in 1994 by the Carnegie Corporation's Starting Points, which focused especially on the first three years of life. It was the first national report accessible to a wide audience (i.e., not a researcher's tome) that explained clearly the nature of brain growth and the importance of early stimulation.

Brain cells are in place at birth, Starting Points says, but the interconnections between them have, by and large, not been made. These connections, or synapses, form the brain's physical "maps" that allow learning to happen. In the fast few months after birth, the synapses develop at a tremendous rate, a rate that slows down later. Reiner's reference to the "cooked" brain of a 10-year-old is a way of saying that the process of forming synapses has slowed considerably by then.

Scientists know that nutrition, both prenatal and immediately after birth, can significantly affect brain growth. In addition, they now have evidence that nurturing - the development of an infant's secure relationship with an adult - stimulates the brain to develop physically. Children who experience this nurturing and the corresponding changes in brain chemistry show "far less aggressive behavior later on," Dr. John Constantino of the Washington University School of Medicine told a recent seminar on early childhood learning, sponsored by the Education Writers Association (EWA).

This message was delivered even more dramatically to the NGA by Dr. …

The rest of this article is only available to active members of Questia

Already a member? Log in now.

Notes for this article

Add a new note
If you are trying to select text to create highlights or citations, remember that you must now click or tap on the first word, and then click or tap on the last word.
One moment ...
Default project is now your active project.
Project items

Items saved from this article

This article has been saved
Highlights (0)
Some of your highlights are legacy items.

Highlights saved before July 30, 2012 will not be displayed on their respective source pages.

You can easily re-create the highlights by opening the book page or article, selecting the text, and clicking “Highlight.”

Citations (0)
Some of your citations are legacy items.

Any citation created before July 30, 2012 will labeled as a “Cited page.” New citations will be saved as cited passages, pages or articles.

We also added the ability to view new citations from your projects or the book or article where you created them.

Notes (0)
Bookmarks (0)

You have no saved items from this article

Project items include:
  • Saved book/article
  • Highlights
  • Quotes/citations
  • Notes
  • Bookmarks
Notes
Cite this article

Cited article

Style
Citations are available only to our active members.
Buy instant access to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

(Einhorn, 1992, p. 25)

(Einhorn 25)

1. Lois J. Einhorn, Abraham Lincoln, the Orator: Penetrating the Lincoln Legend (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1992), 25, http://www.questia.com/read/27419298.

Cited article

Learning Our Lessons about Early Learning
Settings

Settings

Typeface
Text size Smaller Larger Reset View mode
Search within

Search within this article

Look up

Look up a word

  • Dictionary
  • Thesaurus
Please submit a word or phrase above.
Print this page

Print this page

Why can't I print more than one page at a time?

Help
Full screen

matching results for page

    Questia reader help

    How to highlight and cite specific passages

    1. Click or tap the first word you want to select.
    2. Click or tap the last word you want to select, and you’ll see everything in between get selected.
    3. You’ll then get a menu of options like creating a highlight or a citation from that passage of text.

    OK, got it!

    Cited passage

    Style
    Citations are available only to our active members.
    Buy instant access to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

    "Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn, 1992, p. 25).

    "Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn 25)

    "Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences."1

    1. Lois J. Einhorn, Abraham Lincoln, the Orator: Penetrating the Lincoln Legend (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1992), 25, http://www.questia.com/read/27419298.

    Cited passage

    Thanks for trying Questia!

    Please continue trying out our research tools, but please note, full functionality is available only to our active members.

    Your work will be lost once you leave this Web page.

    Buy instant access to save your work.

    Already a member? Log in now.

    Oops!

    An unknown error has occurred. Please click the button below to reload the page. If the problem persists, please try again in a little while.