Your Child’s Growing Mind book review

I recently finished reading Your Child’s Growing Mind: Brain Development and Learning from Birth to Adolescence by Jane Healy and I can’t recommend it enough to parents.  I’ve said before that I really enjoy reading about brain development but I what I especially liked about this book P1050895was that it wasn’t simply interesting facts but also useful information that you could apply to your children’s lives.  Healy explains clearly what is going on in your child’s brain at different stages and then gives practical ideas to support your child.

This book covered questions I didn’t even know I had–things like when to start music lessons, if counting on the figures is okay, how children learn new words.  But the book deals with far more than skill development.  Healy really focuses on emotional aspects of development.  I felt like the book gives you a huge pat on the back and shows that you aren’t ruining your child’s life but it also gave a huge list of ideas to help your child be successful in life.

Many books have lists of milestones or what your child should do at each age but these can simply become a checklist making it seem like every child should be able to do the same thing on the same day.  Here Healy explains more about what the brain is capable of at each stage.  She offers very broad ranges and tends to explain things more in the form of “By age six most children can…”  I felt like the book helped me to have realistic expectations for my children. And I really liked how Healy is able to deal with all different ends of the spectrum.  She addresses everyone from average children to gifted children to different learners.  I say different learners because Healy often points out strengths (and even causes sometimes) when discussing learning disabilities or delays.

backpackWhile I think all parents can benefit from this book, and those with little ones might be more drawn to it, I would especially recommend it to those whose children are getting ready to start school.  Having been in education for 30 years, Healy does a fabulous job explaining what you should expect from your school.  She explains what good schools do and recommends how you can go about getting the best for your child.  She offers tips for helping with homework, talking to teachers, studying with your child, and advocating for your student.  Even if you are schooling at home, like we are, the sections on schools will be useful.  When she says what to look for in a school or teacher, I just applied that to our own home and what we should be incorporating.  This truly is a book for everyone.

Brain TVI also appreciate the way Healy deals with technology.  She definitely discourages overuse and explains why.  For example, babies’ brains need live speakers and don’t process the electronic sounds the same way.  But she also makes suggestions for when to use technology and how to get the most of it.  She points out that math programs for early grades can be bad because it’s important to learn the concepts not just memorize the answers but software for older children can be great because it allows them to practice real world skills.

The first part of the book is all about brain development.  Recently I was at the park with the girls and while watching all the kids play I could actually see things she had described in the book.  The later parts of the book all deal with practical applications, specific things you can do based on the science.  While I must read a book front to back or it drives me crazy, this really is one book where you could jump to the section you want.  Just don’t tell me.

Alright, I now feel like I am president of the Jane Healy fan club.   I will stop singing her praises.  I just really think this is one parenting/development book that many, many people can appreciate.

Endangered Minds

Endangered MindsI recently finished reading Endangered Minds, Why Children Don’t Think–and What We Can Do About It by Jane M. Healy, Ph.D.  I’ll be honest, I’m a big nerd who loves reading books about brain research.  But even if you aren’t a nerd like me, I highly recommend this book to parents of young children, especially if you are concerned about the huge amount of technology in our children’s lives.

One of my favorite brain/parenting books for babies was Bright From the Start and I really feel like Endangered Minds picks up where that book leaves off.  Basically we want kids to be strong readers but often are shaping their brain the opposite way.

We have all heard how bad screentime is for children, but why?  Jane Healy really explains to the layperson what is happening in children’s brains as they are growing and how screentime, TV and computers, impacts the growing brain in such a way it is actually changing the landscape of children’s brains.  But what really made the book interesting to me was that she also explained how this all translates to the classroom and society as a whole.  Some of it comes as no surprise, such as how more children are having trouble paying attention and TV teaches them to tune out.  But Healy also explains how TV makes kids passive learners who expect to be entertained and have information spoonfed to them. This is something I have seen in my own classroom–students expecting the answers to be listed right on the page and either unwilling or unable to work to find answers.

I actually kept wishing that I had read this book sooner, while I was still teaching in the classroom since it explained so much about what I was seeing in my students.  But I also know it would have been very frustrating because the power to change really resides in the home with the parents.

Brain TVIt has already changed the behavior in our home.  We now put more emphasis on listening and focusing skills.  We are listening to more novels on tape as a family and discussing them together.  We have also included a strong phonics program as our children learn to read.  And obviously we are limiting screentime even more.

People have made the argument to me that if kids’ brains are changing due to the huge influx in technology then it could be a disadvantage to restrict screentime, computer use, etc. so that my children have an “old” style brain.  I strongly disagree.  As Jane Healy explains, we still have the same overall expectations in school and the workplace.  Students need to do a huge amount of reading in school but allowing them to watch large amounts of TV or play on a computer from an early age makes it harder for them to be good readers and good learners.  But it is more than just reading.  For our changing world, our children need to be able to think creatively, make connections, and draw conclusions.  In order to do this they need to be active learners able to focus and willing to work hard.

Endangered Minds is a little dated, but overall the message and information is true.  In fact, much has just been further confirmed since the book was first written.  It does focus on TV more than computers but all the arguments hold true for both.  The book also addresses issues such as the increase in ADHD and the decrease in test scores including the SATs and GRE.  Other issues she tackles might come as a surprise such as the problem with shows like Sesame Street.  If you are interested in brain and/or looking at how to give your children every advantage, I high recommend it.

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