Wednesday, January 11, 2012

Decoding Kids

Nurture Shock
New Thinking About Children
by Po Bronson & Ashley Merryman

As a first-grade teacher, my mom often tells me about articles and books she runs across dealing with child development. Now that I am a parent myself, some of that information is sinking in and hitting home more. Over the course of a few weeks, she relayed parts of Nurture Shock to me and I kept thinking, "I've got to read that." When I got my hands on it, I sent her a text saying, "This book is blowing my mind."

Nurture Shock addresses ten different topics dealing with the development of children and upends conventional thinking on how, and especially when, children develop. Subjects such as discussing race, testing for school gifted programs, and teenage lying are examined in meticulous detail, referencing studies and quoting experts at every turn.

The most intriguing chapter for me was about language development in infants. As Bert continues to babble and make new sounds, I can't help but wonder what he's trying to say. Nurture Shock delves into the science of why some babies and toddlers have such large vocabularies and others lag behind. I'll give you a hint: it's not Baby Einstein DVDs. It's instinctual to talk to your baby, holding up what often feels like a one-sided conversation, but the science shows that talking to and even more importantly, responding to, your baby can make all the difference in how he or she processes language early on.

Nurture Shock deals with ten specific areas of study, but the overall lesson is that as adults, we assume that children, from infants to teenagers, are processing and decoding the world around them the same way we do. But they are not, and there is science to prove it. The brain develops so differently over the course of childhood and adolescence and as parents, we have to recognize that and learn to work within the constructs of our children's understanding. I have a feeling that by the time I figure out how to do that, Bert will have moved out of the house. But at least this book gives me a fighting chance.

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