Children have a lot of learning to do. Arguably, this is the purpose of childhood: to provide children with protected time so that they can focus on learning how to communicate, how the world around them works, what values their culture finds important, and so on. Given the massive amount of information that children need to absorb, it would seem prudent for them to spend as much of this protected time as possible engaged in the serious study of real-world issues and problems.
I arrived at this perspective after testing ways of teaching new words of vocabulary to preschoolers in the Head Start programmes, in hopes of combating the language deficit that exists between children from high and low socioeconomic backgrounds. To do the study, my team presented new words of vocabulary in the course of a shared book-reading activity, and then further reinforced the meanings of these words in adult-guided play sessions.
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