Thursday, April 12, 2012

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!

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