Directors for the MBCAL have recently become aware of some recent research that sheds new light on how we learn.
Starting from the very earliest age, children need the stimulation of hearing not only words, but many words, describing what something is, what color it is, what sound does it make, for example. Songs, nursery rhymes, storybooks, and just chitchat are more important to the child’s mental development than it might seem. The difference in a child’s brain development in a home that may be loving and caring but that does not provide this mental stimulation, particularly from birth to three years old, and a child’s brain in a home where people are always engaging the child is striking. “What Do All Babies Need, Yet Aren’t Getting Equally?” by Melissa Fay Greene, published in Reader’s Digest Magazine, October 2014.
By the time the child goes to the first day of school, those who are ready for the experience have already had books, colors, shapes, and basic numbers in their lives. Those who have not may already be behind.
The task of learning to read is aided by manually writing letters, specifically cursive letters. The motion of the arm in making a certain letter helps to fix that letter in the brain. Ipads may be good for many things, but hitting a keyboard key does not fix the letter in one’s memory the same way as writing it does. “Stay Healthy’s Write On!” in Parade Magazine of September 21, 2014, says that “In children, writing by hand helps improve letter recognition, which is the strongest predictor of reading success.” Writing by hand requires using regions of the brain not used in either typing or in letter tracing. Since no two written letters look exactly the same, variations may stimulate recognition of letters’ basic characteristics.
Actually, the research finds that even older students who take longhand notes remember the material better. “Apparently, the brain is engaged more completely when it has to deal with the hand/eye coordination necessary to imagine and form letters by hand….”
“A 2014 study reported that college students who took longhand notes answered conceptual questions about the material better than students who had typed their notes….”
“Brain Research and Cursive Writing” by Dr. David Sortino, a psychologist and current Director of Educational Strategies, a private consulting company catering to teachers, parents, and students.
Now, the MBCAL is not involved in the education of children. though it is in all our interests to have children reach their brain development potential. A significant part of that development is in the hands of parents and care-givers, and here we can help by making sure that the adults in children’s lives can themselves read, and we can provide to the parents books and other stimulation for the benefit of these growing brains.