Sunday, April 29, 2012

Puzzle Storage

Just found some new puzzles at a thrift store, plus J is now interested in "real" jigsaw puzzles, so it's time to rotate out our usual stack of peg puzzles. Here's a trick I learned at a nearby kids resale shop, Noodles:

The Saran Wrap clings to the puzzles nicely, which keeps the pieces from falling out all over the place, and unlike plastic bags, you don't have to fuss over matching sizes, you can just make the size you need. Last but not least, the plastic keeps the dust and grime from collecting on the actual puzzle if you're going to put it away for a while.

Thursday, April 26, 2012

Joe Kaufman's Big Book About the Human Body

As a special treat for any Vintage Children's Books My Kid Loves readers who might stop by today, here's a third Joe Kaufman Big science book, following on About How Things Work and About Earth and Science. I had this book as a child and I read it over and over and over again. I could have scanned something from nearly every page, but I mostly selected images that not only stuck with me all this time but were recalled with regularity during the intervening years.

In case anyone's counting, Joe Kaufman's Big Book About the Human Body is Golden Press publication 16843; it was originally published under the title Joe Kaufman's How We are Born, How We Grow, How Our Bodies Work, and How We Learn; and the LOC description reads: "Introduces the parts of the body and their functions and discussions relevant topics such as health, heredity, dreams, and food."

The introductory note on the table of contents page reads: "A NOTE TO PARENTS: This book has been designed to give children an understanding of their bodies--and to help parents answer the many questions they ask. It provides a basic introduction to all the body structures and their functions, and also covers a variety of related topics. The book is primarily for young readers from six to twelve, who will find ideas and concepts to fascinate them at every stage of their growth. The whole family, in fact, will enjoy reading and sharing the information offered here."

The topics listed in the table of contents are: Early ideas about the body, the newborn baby, a baby begins, the baby-to-be, heredity, growing up, cells, bones (including skull, rib cage, pelvis, spine, leg bones, arm bones), evolution, muscles (including chest, back, arm, leg, neck, foot, organ and face muscles), exercise, hands, organs, heart, blood, circulation, lungs, voice, mouth, stomach, intestines, liver, gall bladder, pancreas, spleen, kidneys, bladder, lymphatic system, food (including proteins, vitamins and minerals, carbohydrates and fats), ductless glands, nervous system, brain, learning, learning experiments, sleep and dreams, the senses, sight, hearing, balance, smell, taste, touch, pain, skin, skin color, hair, tooth care, keeping clean, body temperature, sickness, colds, fevers, earaches, rashes, toothaches, healing, discoveries in medicine, the future.

Germ cells, gendered hats, heredity, done.

1. THIS KID? One of the cutest ever. 2. What more information could a kid need to grasp how various traits passed through families?

Always loved how the kid was giving the brain cell the stink-eye. The green liver cell on the left reminds me of a giant squid. I don't think I ever had an image of cells that was more complex than this until well into AP Biology.

This sequence just seems like quintessential Kaufman humor to me.

It's the dog-food dog that really puts this one over the top.

I have a very clear memory of being on a plane and seeing a woman with very curly hair and telling my mom, "She has flat hair follicles!!"

Again, I was well into AP Biology before I had any more complex vision of the immune system than this. If fact, when I get a bloody paper cut, I still envision blood cells engaged in hand-to-hand combat.

I've never really gotten over the weirdness of the box bath, all these years later. (Kaufman illustrated the Hygiene section with a gallery of bathing styles through the ages.)

"In 1822, Dr. William Beaumont studied digestion by watching a patient's stomach through an unhealed wound." Like...WHAT?! I can't even deal, people. I can't even deal.

Does anybody want to see Mammals & Birds or Slimy, Creepy, Crawly Creatures? I'd say both are a notch slightly below his other three science books, quality-wise, but they still have a lot to offer. Let me know if there's interest and I'd be happy to scan pages from one or both.

Wednesday, April 25, 2012

Censorship vs. Sensitive Children: Whaling Boat Removed from "A Tale of Tails"

The Merrigold Press version of A Tale of Tails has the harpoon boat seen on the right; the 2008 Golden Treasures board book edition has replaced the whaling imagery with some PhotoShopped waves.

As a general rule, censorship is bad. Still, I'm a little tiny bit grateful that editors selectively revise some children's books.

Not two days ago, we were reading the vintage Giant Golden Book Wheels, Sails & Wings when my sharp-eyed two-year-old son found page 31. (I'd noticed it, but I hadn't really noticed it, you know?) What's on page 31? Oh, that's the description of how, circa the 1950s, whalers have really upped their game by using automated harpoon guns and more violence--the whales die faster!--and gee willikers, these days they can remove the whale oil right there on the ship, whoo-hoo! My kid wasn't buying any of my desperate lies and apologies and misdirection, and he was absolutely wounded by what he was seeing. "Whale...hurt?" I'll probably never forget the shocked and upset look on his face.

Anyway, today, I was cleaning up a new old copy of A Tale of Tails that I found at the thrift shop (so that I can send our copy to one of Jackson's friends who just discovered her lack of a tail), and I realized that this older copy had a different whale page than our board book. In the older version, it becomes clear that the whale's shit-eating grin is because he's Moby Dick's cousin, mofos, and he thinks your puny harpoon boat is hilarious. In the board book, there's no harpoon boat, just a very cracked-out smirky whale.

Suffice it to say, I'm going to keep the old version in our collection, and some day we might have to discuss whaling again, and that's going to suck. Even though I'm going to use the unedited version of A Tale of Tails in our house, I would do a lot to be able to go back and remove page 31 from our copy of Wheels, Sails and Wings, so I hope that the edits to the newer versions of A Tale of Tails save some other mama from having to explain human cruelty to a two-year-old.

P.S. As an ameliorative measure, I'll probably turn to Ann McGovern's Little Whale from the 1970s, and try to explain to the kid that the international ban on whaling is one of the ways that we adults have tried to leave a better world for our kids. Sigh.

Tuesday, April 24, 2012

Engelmann's Give Your Child a Superior Mind

I can't say that I whole-heartedly recommend Give Your Child a Superior Mind: A Program for the Preschool Child, by Siegfried and Therese Engelmann, because I have quite a few reservations about it, not least of which is the old-timey racism*, but for what it's worth, the guy does actually offer a structured plan for early childhood academics, which is nearly impossible to find anywhere, outside of maybe Montessori's stuff.**

* Example, so that you might judge for yourself: "There are many environments within our culture. Each makes different demands; each manufactures a different product. The lower-class Italian environment does not expect much from the child (in terms of independent behavior, toilet training and language) and the lower-class Italian in America shows the effects of his passive environment. In fourteen studies cited in 1958 by Maslan, Sarason and Gladwin, 'Italians consistently fell near or at the low end of the continuum (sometimes below Negro groups selected for comparison).' "
** Richard Gentry's Raising Confident Readers: How to Teach Your Child to Read and Write--from Baby to Age 7 also seems to be scientific, sensitive and largely non-insane

Anyway, just so I could process this book a little, mentally, I outlined their "curriculum" recommendations beginning at 18 months. I skipped the detail on the reading because I think it's largely obsolete and/or better explained in Englemann's other, more famous (and still in print) book, Teach Your Child to Read in 100 Easy Lessons.

When I get a chance, I'll also compile a list of the Englemanns' multitude of declarative sentences about what "the child should know" by "age X." These statements are absolute anathema in contemporary early childhood education, so it's refreshing to encounter the Englemanns' wild and crazy standards of yesteryear.

  1. Naming objects
    1. Names for parts of the body
    2. Common objects
    3. Learning names of animals
    4. Names of uppercase letters
    5. Names of lowercase letters
  2. Qualities, actions, geometric shapes, and relations
    1. Color
    2. Light and dark
    3. Hot and cold
    4. Action words
    5. Action words of the senses
      1. Sight
      2. Hearing
      3. Touch
      4. Smell
    6. Geometric shapes: Triangle, circle, square, rectangle
    7. Position relations
      1. In
      2. On
      3. Next to
      4. Behind
      5. Over
      6. Under
      7. Around
      8. Between
      9. Others: Against, through, in front of
    8. Comparative words
      1. Big-little
      2. Fast-slow
      3. Tall-short
  3. Counting
  4. Introducing right-left
  5. Stories
  6. Music
  7. How Things Work: Vacuum cleaner, kitchen range, washer-dryer, typewriter, piano, light bulbs, beaters, toasters, coffee-maker, knife sharpeners, can openers, et al.
  1. Reading
  2. Arithmetic
    1. Counting objects
    2. Picking up blocks as they are counted
    3. Counting out a specified number of objects
    4. Counting to thirty
    5. Counting backward from ten to zero
    6. Number symbols through 10
    7. What number comes next?
      1. Counting every other number
      2. What comes after any given number
      3. Skipping pattern
      4. Backward pattern
  3. Facts and statements about the world
    1. Facts about the child's formal relations with others
      1. Name, address, phone number
      2. Familial relationships
    2. Time concepts
      1. Tomorrow, today, yesterday
      2. Days of the week
      3. Months of the year
  4. Qualities, actions, geometric patterns, and relations
    1. Before and after
    2. First and second
    3. New and old
    4. Same and different
    5. Because
    6. Patterns
    7. Visual inferences
    8. Right and left
    9. Right and left turns
  5. Identifying the planets
  6. Identifying dinosaurs
  7. How things work
  8. Objects
  1. Reading
  2. Mathematics
    1. Algebra problems
    2. If-then propositions
    3. Multiplication
    4. Area of rectangles
    5. Telling time
    6. Fractions
    7. Division
    8. Money
    9. Column addition
    10. Column subtraction
    11. More about the relationship between the terms of a problem
    12. Multiplication and division
  3. Spatial Relations, Inferences, and Practices
    1. Spatial relations
      1. Playing spatial games
        1. Fascination checkers
        2. Regular checkers
        3. Tic-tac-toe
        4. Three-dimensional tic-tac-toe
        5. Chess
      2. Judging distances
      3. Directions
      4. Interpreting maps
    2. Inferences from statements
    3. Practice in skills already mastered
    4. Factual knowledge
      1. Mandatory: Human body
      2. Optional: Child's interests

Further reading: What Your Toddler/Preschooler Should or Could Know, According to Engelmann's Give Your Child a Superior Mind

Tuesday, April 17, 2012

Over in the Meadow & Way Out in the Desert

Growing up in Southern California, where the climate and environment are more like Australia than England, makes for hard going for the impressionable young bookworm. You're never going to know what a moor is, there's no snow, and a hedgehog might as well be a hippopotamus. It's dry here and so different from the rest of America, much less Europe, so all the children's books end up seeming a little foreign, or it seems a little like you have a peculiar life.

Imagine my joy, then, when I found this author's note in Way Out in the Desert, a recent used bookstore find:
Your mom and dad may have sung "Over in the Meadow" when they were children--and probably your grandma and grandpa did, too! It was written more than one hundred years ago by Olive A. Wadsworth. 
Here in the Sonoran Desert, we would have to go a long way to find a meadow. We decided to write new words to the tune of "Over in the Meadow" so we could sing about the plants and animals in our own backyards. We hope you enjoy learning all about them!
Ah! Someone who understands the odd predicament of the Far West child, not to mention someone who understands the infinite appeal of "Over in the Meadow." We love love love the John Langstaff-Feodor Rojankovsky version, which I picked up at a library book sale a few months ago, and "Way Out in the Desert" is just as fun. Among other things, I have learned to properly pronounce ocotillo, Gila, saguaro (sa-WAR-oh) and javelina, thanks to a glossary in the back of the book. If you see either of these books, grab them if you can. They're both totally lyrical, beautiful and great for teaching numbers.

Note the "5" shape hidden in scales of the mama Gila monster.

Thursday, April 12, 2012

Mental Bookmarks from Muriel Beadle's "A Child's Mind"

This book, A Child's Mind: How Children Learn During the Critical Years from Birth to Age Five (1970), by Muriel Beadle, is too archaic and too shallow a survey to warrant a long-term residency on my bookshelf, but there were several pages I dog-earred for follow-up. Hereby:
  • For terrifying statistics on the significance of early childhood in overall human development, see Benjamin S. Bloom's Stability and Change in Human Characteristics. I will not repeat Beadle's summaries here of Bloom's findings here, because they are terrifying and I can't stand the pressure, man. OK fine, here's a more general summary from a latter-day report on Bloom's life and influence: "He found that it was possible to predict with considerable accuracy—around .8—the probable location, in a distribution of measured achievement, of the position of individuals from data on their performance obtained years earlier. By the second grade or at about the age of 7, the academic position of a student or students when they reached early adolescence could be predicted." To this, I can only respond with (a) AAAAAAAAAUGH, and (b) in the words of the great revolutionary Sarah Connor: "No fate but what we make."
  • Broad conclusions about childhood language development (p. 171): 
    1. Girls are ahead of boys by about a year--until around age eight.
    2. Children from upper class homes are ahead of children from lower class homes--at all ages.
    3. By the time children go to kindergarten most have mastered the basics of language. Templin found that about half the remarks of three-year-olds are grammatically correct, and McCarthy noted that "the development of the sentence is practically complete by age five." The school years, in short, are used for polishing and perfecting rather than for building linguistic structure itself.
  • Team Nature (p. 196): "On the 1962 Merit Scholarship tests, the ratio of fraternal twins whose scores were alike was .64 (boys) and .66 (girls). For identical twins, however, the comparable figures were .90 (boys) and .91 (girls). Environment makes a difference...but within the normal range of a single cultural pattern, the larger factor is the inherited one."
  • Team Nurture (pp. 211-212): "Harold Skeels and several University of Iowa colleagues reported on a project which they had undertaken as a result of an 'unbelievable' event witnessed by Skeels. He was then a consulting psychologist to two State institutions, an orphanage and a nearby hospital for the mentally retarded. Among the youngsters admitted to the orphanage in the early 1930s were two little girls, 13 months old and 16 months old respectively, but in developmental age only 6 and 7 months. In fact, they gave such overwhelming evidence of retardation that they were almost immediately bundled off to the mental hospital. | About six months later, when making his rounds there, Skeels spotted two alert, smiling, apparently normal toddlers--and could not believe that these were his two hopeless cases. He gave them intelligence tests and found them well within the normal range; but he couldn't believe that this improvement was real, so he left them in the hospital. He tested then twice again, at approximately 12-month intervals, and their rating of normal intelligence held steady. What had happened? The only circumstance that distinguished their lives before and after admission to the hospital, he found, was that the women inmates at the mental hospital had adored the babies, had cuddled them, played with them, and provided for them an intense one-to-one adult-child relationship. | So he and three colleagues then set up an experimental project involving the transfer of more orphans--they were called 'house guests'--to the mental hospital. There were 13 children in this experimental group, ranging in age from 7 to 40 months, with an average IQ of 64 (which was the main reason Skeels could withdraw them from the orphanage--they were considered unadoptable). At the same time, a contrast group of 12 children were chosen. They were matched to the others insofar as possible in age, sex, medical histories and family background. However, their IQs were higher; the average of 87. As potentially adoptable children, they remained at the orphanage. | The 'house guests' lived in the mental hospital from six months to over four years, and at various intervals were returned to the orphanage. Eleven of the 13 were subsequently adopted, the other two grew up in the hospital. Two and a half years after their first transfer back to the orphanage, the children were given intelligence tests--and it was found that the group's average IQ had risen to 96. (And that of the 11 who had been adopted rose to 101!) The reverse happened in the case of the contrast group, the children who had never left the orphanage: the average IQ of these youngsters had dropped to 66. | [Paragraph on how American Psych Assoc basically blew a gasket over the results and Skeels was a pariah of sorts for years because intelligence was considered inherited and that was that.] | Anyway, beginning in 1961, Skeels--now with the National Institutes of Health in Bethesda, Maryland--began an attempt to trace the children on whom he reported in 1938. Astoundingly, he managed to find all 13 of the children in the experimental group and the surviving 12 in the contrast group, who by then were between 25 and 35 years old. | [For various reasons, the experimental group that went to the mental hospital for one-on-one 'parenting' appeared to have been much more successful in life than the control group that stayed in the group-care orphanage, and...] The experimental group averaged 29 IQ points above their initial scores of 30 years earlier, and the contrast group averaged 26 points below their childhood scores." See also: Environment as threshold variable for intelligence.
  • "Enriched environments can boost the IQs of lower-class children by amounts inversely proportional to their age." (p. 215)
  • "If, in countless ways and every day from birth onward, a child is not responded to, he will come to school age with over two thousand days of that kind of learning behind him and no one should be very surprised if a teacher's effort to 'give individual attention to each child' isn't a huge success with that particular one." (p. 70)
  • "...the establishment of good affective relations is of signal importance to good cognitive development..." (p. 489)
  • Marcelle Geber study of Ugandan mother-child pairs: "Babies remain with their mothers day and night. They are talked to, cuddled, and stroked; they are fed whenever they wish to eat; and they are watched for cues as to what they want to do--sit up, for instance--and are then helped to do it. The Uganda mother is wholly child-centered...At 7 weeks, for example, [the Ugandan child] can sit up unaided and watch himself in a mirror; at 7 months, for another example, he can walk to a box and look inside it for toys. These accomplishments occur in our children at 4 months and 15 months, respectively." (pp. 59-60)
  • Team Crazy Grandiosity (p. 84): "The dominant historical figure in behaviorism was, of course, John B. Watson, a contemporary of Thorndike. It was Watson who said, 'Give me a dozen healthy infants, well-formed, and my own specified world to bring them up in and I'll guarantee to take any one at random and train him to become any type of specialist I might select--doctor, lawyer, artist, merchant-chief, and yes, even beggarman and thief, regardless of his talents, penchants, tendencies, abilities, vocations, and race of his ancestors.'...(Watson, incidentally, left academic life in the mid-1920s and wound up in the advertising business.)" See crazy Pepsodent guy from Power of Habit.
  • "Robert B. Livingston of the University of California at La Jolla has a nice last word on motivation. He says, 'Feelings provide the 'go/no go' switch for all behavior.' " (p. 107)
  • "In other words, parents having had a college education or their possession of a high income do not necessarily promote the growth of intelligence in their children; it's overall emphasis within the home on intellectual activities that matters." Some stuff that matters for building brains, besides class and money: 
    • Emphasis on use of language in a variety of situations
    • Emphasis on correctness of usage
    • Quality of language models available
    • Availability of books
    • Availability of other learning supplies
    • Nature of intellectual expectations of the child
    • Nature of intellectual aspirations for the child
    • Amount of information possessed by parent about the child's intellectual progress
    • Nature of rewards given for intellectual accomplishment
    • Opportunities provided for learning in the home
    • Opportunities provided for learning away from home (excluding school)
    • Nature and amount of help provided for the mastery of intellectual tasks... (pp. 223-224)
  • Psycholinguist Basil Bernstein of University College, London believes "that the language modes characteristically used by the upper and lower classes initiate then reinforce different patterns of behavior and personality...1. A person who habitually uses the simpler and less individualized mode of language will tend to ignore small and subtle differences among objects, persons, and situations, and thus the perceptual relationships that he forms will stabilize rather early. Of the twin processes of differentiation and abstraction must occur together, a child whose discrimination powers are low will have trouble with higher-order abstractions...2. It will be difficult for the speaker of such language to make his wishes or feelings explicitly enough either to identify them to himself or to convey to others...3. He will become relatively insensitive to emotions in other people, and to individual differences in general. He will find his personal identity within a group of children...and will categorize other people on the basis of their status in life rather than on the basis of individual qualities. For example, he will consider it proper to obey the boss because he is the boss, and not because the boss is an admirable person or a good leader...All this from the way one talks? Yes, if one agrees with Bernstein that 'language marks out what is relevant, and experience is transformed by that which is made relevant.' Once a group has chosen to stress one rather than another of the different possibilities inherent in language use, the resulting linguistic form will mold its members' ways of thinking and feeling. Bernstein says, 'As the child learns his speech, so will he learn his social structure; and the latter will become the substratum of his innermost experience.' " (pp. 244-245)
  • "'The predominant effect of parent behavior upon the preschool child is to raise or lower his willingness and ability to behave actively toward the environment,' [Alfred L. Baldwin] concluded. To parents of four-year-olds, he offered little hope that they can have it both ways: a quiet, obedient, unaggressive child who at the same time is full of zest for living and learning." (p. 247)
  • "Imagine, for instance, a 'real' situation familiar to every mother: the telephone ringing while a child of about two is entertaining himself by banging two pot lids together. In going to answer the ring, the mother might say, 'Be quiet'; or she might say, 'Billy, will you be quiet for a minute. I want to talk on the phone.' In comparing these two sentences, Hess says, 'The first message is simple and uncomplicated; it requires no response from the child other than compliance. The second message, however, asks the child to relate his behavior to a time dimension and to consider the effect of his behavior upon another person--all in all, a much more difficult task because it requires reflection and mental discrimination. Given these two kinds of communication networks within the family, repeated thousands of times in many different situations in the preschool years, children from the two kids of families can hardly fail to enter school with quite different capabilities for receiving and processing information...for defining the world, understanding it, or developing strategies for ordering it.' " (p. 251)


1. I started reading Peter Spier's The Fox Went Out on a Chilly Night to Jackson but couldn't figure out the proper tune for the lyrics. While searching YouTube for a version we could study, I found this gem from Jake Gyllenhaal. You're welcome, ladies.

2. If you're spending the day with some little people (children, not midgets) and you're looking for some excellent tunes, I give my highest recommendation to the Burl Ives children's music channel on Pandora. Great music, great voices, not too twee or chirpy.

Random Advice in re Teaching Left & Right

Photo by RetroRugrats via Flickr
One day, when I was peering at the cover of Teach Your Child to Read in 100 Easy Lessons on Amazon, I noticed that it said it was by Siegfried Englemann, "author of Give Your Child a Superior Mind: A Program for the Preschool Child." And then, not a day later, I noticed a specific admonition in the Gessell Institute's Your Two-Year-Old: Terrible or Tender book, "Do not follow any program designed to give your child a 'superior mind.' " interesting that this program had made enough noise in the 1960s and 1970s that it earned a direct slam from the likes of Gessell! Ignoring the wisdom of Gessell, because I'm stubborn, obstinate, a bad listener and an advocate of very early childhood education, I noodled around online some more and found this free downloadable PDF of the first chapters of Give Your Child a Superior Mind, which makes a fairly strong case in favor of an enriched early environment. I don't think anyone's really opposed to that idea, but just the same, his mid-century educational experience in the area is interesting.

Interested in the specific program outlined in the rest of the actual book, but not included in the PDF, I dug around further (since this book is out-of-print and fairly expensive in used form) and found that there was one lone copy of this book in the Compton branch of the County of Los Angeles Library. I ordered, and a few weeks later it arrived. This book is very interesting, overall, and while I'm not sure I agree with it all, I enjoy reading the ideas of anyone who thinks young children are highly capable and deserve to be given credit for that.

ANYWAY, I'll explore this wacky old book more in later posts, but one thing that I implemented immediately is this advice: "When teaching the difference between right and left, always squeeze your child's right hand when you say 'right' and do not squeeze his left hand when you say 'left.' "

There's no double-blind study cited in the book that unequivocally proves this works, but since starting sign language with Jackson I've become more and more convinced of the importance of the mind-body connection in education. As such, I've started practicing this behavior and while I doubt J would pass a direct test of right-left at this stage, it certainly has caught his attention. He stands on the sidewalk saying "look left, look right" (as we discuss when crossing the street) over and over again, and he does seem to swing his body in the right direction. And he was in his car seat yesterday and he specifically asked me to show him right and left.

Something's going on in there!