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About the book
  • Published: 1 April 2016
  • ISBN: 9780525429074
  • Imprint: Viking
  • Format: Hardback
  • Pages: 400
  • RRP: $49.99
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The Importance of Being Little: What Preschoolers Really Need from Grownups


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Christakis's message is energizing and reassuring: young children are inherently powerful, and they (and their parents) will flourish when we learn new ways of restoring the vital early learning environment to one that is best suited to the littlest learners. This bold and pragmatic challenge to the conventional wisdom peels back the mystery of childhood, revealing a place that's rich with possibility.

To a four-year-old watching bulldozers at a construction site or chasing butterflies in flight, the world is awash with promise. Little children come into the world hardwired to learn in virtually any setting and about any matter. Yet in today's preschool and kindergarten classrooms, learning has been reduced to scripted lessons and suspect metrics that too often undervalue a child's intelligence while overtaxing the child's growing brain. These mismatched expectations wreak havoc on the family: parents fear that if they choose the 'wrong' program, their child won't get into the 'right' college. But Yale early childhood expert Erika Christakis says our fears are wildly misplaced. Our anxiety about preparing and safeguarding our children's future seems to have reached a fever pitch at a time when, ironically, science gives us more certainty than ever before that young children are exceptionally strong thinkers. 

In her pathbreaking book, Christakis explains what it's like to be a young child in America today, in a world designed by and for adults, where we have confused schooling with learning. She offers real-life solutions to real-life issues, with nuance and direction that takes us far beyond the usual prescriptions for fewer tests, more play. She looks at children's use of language, their artistic expressions, the way their imaginations grow, and how they build deep emotional bonds to stretch the boundaries of their small worlds. Rather than clutter their worlds with more and more stuff, sometimes the wisest course for us is to learn how to get out of their way. 

Christakis's message is energizing and reassuring: young children are inherently powerful, and they (and their parents) will flourish when we learn new ways of restoring the vital early learning environment to one that is best suited to the littlest learners. This bold and pragmatic challenge to the conventional wisdom peels back the mystery of childhood, revealing a place that's rich with possibility.

Advance Praise for The Importance of Being Little

'Teach your children well. It's easier to sing than do. Erika Christakis wants to foment a revolution in early childhood education, and with this deeply insightful, scientifically grounded, and utterly original book, she may just get her way.' Dan Gilbert, author of Stumbling on Happiness

'If only adults observed little children with half the energetic curiosity that little children bring to their scrutiny of adults! That, Erika Christakis argues in her wonderful book, is the key to making preschools the exciting and interesting places kids really need. For a guide to keen-eyed appreciation of preschoolers' amazing powers, you can't find a better one than Christakis. Read The Importance of Being Little and you won't look at kids, or classrooms, the same way again.' Ann Hulbert, author of Raising America: Experts, Parents, and a Century of Advice About Children
 
'Drawing on a wealth of research and clinical experience, Christakis deftly diagnoses one of the most urgent problems of our times and offers concrete recommendations for dealing with it, at the heart of which is the startlingly humane recognition that children are usually far more intelligent and perceptive than we assume, and possess hidden powers of imagination, sociability, and self-discovery. Learned, balanced, and hopeful, this compellingly argued and engagingly written work will not only take its place as a standard reference on early childhood education but, because 'we are all someone's child,' will be of great interest to everyone concerned with the future of our nation and democratic culture.' Orlando Patterson, John Cowles Professor of Sociology, Harvard, and author of Slavery and Social Death

'A brilliant, altogether original, impeccably researched but also deeply heartfelt call to action. Just as our environment is in grave danger, so is what Christakis calls 'the habitat of childhood.' Her advice—practical, authoritative, but offered with the loving, personal concern of the mother and teacher that she is—soars beyond sensible into the realm of wise, disruptive, and irresistible. A tour de force.' Edward Hallowell, M.D., author of The Childhood Roots of Adult Happiness and Driven to Distraction
 
'Teach your children well. It's easier to sing than to do. Erika Christakis wants to foment a revolution in early childhood education, and with this deeply insightful, scientifically grounded, and utterly original book, she just may get her way.' Daniel Gilbert, author of Stumbling on Happiness
 
'As the experts have bombarded parents with contradictory and ever more demanding advice, childrearing has become more confusing than ever, and the children themselves seem to have been left out of the picture. Parents, caregivers, teachers, and policy makers could have no surer guide through this morass than Erika Christakis. With scientific acumen, irreverent good sense, and a novelist's eye for human detail, Christakis offers us a judicious view of the new and old realities of bringing up children.' Steven Pinker, Johnstone Family Professor of Psychology, Harvard University, and the author of The Language Instinct and The Blank Slate

  • Pub date: 1 April 2016
  • ISBN: 9780525429074
  • Imprint: Viking
  • Format: Hardback
  • Pages: 400
  • RRP: $49.99

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