Thursday, March 29, 2018

Book Nook: PRESCHOOL CLUES: Raising Smart, Inspired, and Engaged Kids in a Screen-Filled World

We’ve all heard warnings about watching too much TV and compulsively checking our phones. Looking at children we love, we wonder about screen-time and its effects on their development. Some parents are consumed by guilt—but should they be? Like eating, media diets can be healthy or unhealthy. But unlike labeled groceries, most media content is not so easy to categorize as good-for-us whole foods or the equivalent of empty calories.  

In her engaging, new book PRESCHOOL CLUES: Raising Smart, Inspired, and Engaged Kids in a Screen-Filled World (April 3, 2018; Touchstone; Trade Paperback Original; $16.99; 978-1-5011-7433-9)ANGELA C. SANTOMERO, M.A.—award-winning co-creator of Blue’s Clues and creator of Daniel Tiger’s NeighborhoodSuper Why!, and more—takes us behind the scenes of children’s television to teach parents how to choose healthy, research-based media and use the theories behind each show to help preschoolers flourish academically, socially, and emotionally. Along the way, she shares how excellent educational media empowers, challenges, and builds the self-worth of children, all while making them laugh. 

In this passionate, practical parenting guide, Angela distills the latest research in child development and translates her tried-and-tested learning philosophy beyond her award-winning shows, straight into easy, actionable advice and exercises for parents and educators. Angela’s eleven ‘clues’ can be used in everyday scenarios: 
  • Clue #1: Play: Through co-play, parents help children understand their thoughts, feelings, and the world around them.
  • Clue #2: Pause: An intentional four-beat pause after a question enables a preschooler to find her voice.
  • Clue #3: Repeat: Preschoolers instinctively know that watching something repeatedly leads to learning and mastery.
  • Clue #4: Think: Practicing higher-order thinking helps little ones see possibilities as opposed to obstacles.
  • Clue #5: Resolve: Parents can teach preschoolers how to use play, empathy, books, and art to solve problems.
  • Clue #6: Respect: Respectfully communicating by using rich, expressive language builds a child’s self-worth.
  • Clue #7: Help: Honing in on a toddler’s desire to help will teach him to prioritize kindness for the rest of his life.
  • Clue #8: Model: Kids depend on adults to model concepts as simple as eating healthy or as complex as independence.
  • Clue #9: Observe: Finding the extraordinary in the ordinary can spark our preschooler’s passion.
  • Clue #10: Enjoy: Songs and humor are educational tools every parent can has the creativity to use.
  • Clue #11: Celebrate: Celebrating the small things grows a preschooler’s sense of optimism and intrinsic motivation.

Filled with examples of day-to-day interactions with little ones, PRESCHOOL CLUES is an invaluable guide to how quality media helps children learn—and explains how everyone can extend Angela’s successful learning techniques when the show is over.

Called a “modern-day Fred Rogers” by his wife, ANGELA C. SANTOMERO, M.A., is the cocreator of Blue’s Clues and the creator of  Daniel Tiger’s NeighborhoodCreative GalaxySuper Why!, and Wishenproof. Her work has been cited in numerous publications including Malcolm Gladwell’s bestseller, The Tipping Point. She lives in New York with her husband, daughters, and their two dogs. Preschool Clues is her first book.

I had a chance to interview Angela to learn more
1.     Why did you decide to write this book?
I’m a child advocate at heart, and there are so many details that I put inside each and every one of my shows that no one really knows about! I always say that our shows are like 7 layer cakes—so many layers and ingredients, but all anyone really knows is how great it tastes! Preschool Clues cracks open the clues in each of my shows, so we can end the guilt associated with letting our kids watch good, quality media!  

2.     Why is it so important to focus on inspired and engaged kids?
We want our kids to be self-motivated to learn. The more they are engaged and inspired, the more they lean in when they learn something new. When they lean in, they want to participate, and when they participate—by talking to the screens, interacting with a science experiment, or making dinner—their learning skyrockets. 

3.     What sets this book apart from other parenting books?
This book talks about 11 Universal Truths of Preschoolers that I call “clues” that we can all use, every day, in simple small ways that add up to a lot. These clues are inside all of my shows. The more we know about them and the more we use them, the more inspired, engaged, and empowered our kids will be. 

4.     Why did you decide to focus on preschool?
I think preschoolers are the smartest people on the planet. They are brilliant, interesting, and inherently learn by doing. We can learn a lot from preschoolers!

5.     How can shifts be made if parents and children have already been misusing screen time?
Talking about screen time—any screen time—helps our kids learn what we believe in and what our morals and values are. Having the conversation about our kids’ favorite characters and shows helps them to take away key lessons that we want. Do we like the characters in their favorite shows? Would we want them over for dinner? Are they helping our kids to learn something new or be sparked to play?  

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