TYO Recommends: Friday, May 18, 2012

This week, TYO dives into the methodology behind play, better ways to read, improvements in poverty and maternal health, and disturbing child abuse allegations in homes for the mentally and behaviorally challenged.

No play? NO WAY! A disturbing trend has taken hold in schools around America. As they race to comply with improved math and reading scores thanks to initiatives like No Child Left Behind and Race to the Top, many are finding ways to cut back on seemingly superfluous activities during the school day. One of the first activities to go? RECESS, of course! Education Week cautions against the hasty excise made by 30% of U.S. schools (as of 2009) and 40% who significantly reduced recreation time citing the myriad benefits to improved test scores for children who are granted time to relax and recharge.

Play on. Following the close of a fifteen year longitudinal study published in Family Science and recent updates in Psychology Today, researchers reveal the mechanisms behind learning through PLAY. Examining 229 low-income children in the U.S. Early Head Start Research and Evaluation Project, parent-toddler interactions in imaginative play at age 2 were examined against child outcomes at age 3 and in the fifth grade. Discoveries include increases in language usage, self-regulation, social skills, and cognitive flexibility. So what can parents and teachers do to support this essential development process? Talk! Read! And, most importantly, PLAY! with your children.

Raising the Bar on Reading. New findings reveal that how you read may have as great an impact as what you READ to small children. Studying a group of over 500 four-year-olds, comparative research demonstrated that groups who focused on the text itself—tracing letters as they read or talking about the material and discussing the concepts of words—created more conducive absorption and learning environments for children than those who adhered to the classic style of reading the text alone.

No Place Like Home. Many have lauded relatively high numbers of children’s HOMES for the mentally and behaviorally challenged in Jordan, however alarming exposés and interviews of parents and caretakers involved in the system have unveiled a web of systematic abuses brought on by primary caretakers and hospice administration. Further disturbing still, despite regulations on the books to curb such abuse and maltreatment that parents pay upwards of 1,000 Jordanian dinars ($1,400) per month for, the BBC investigates scandals that persist in a system where the qualifications to receive a license “are only about the building—such as the height of rooms and the size of the water tank.”

When DECLINING never felt so UPLIFTING! Great news for children in developing countries around the world! The pace of declining poverty has been accelerating, and for the first time, according to a recent USAID Impact report showing the results of a World Bank survey, between 2005 and 2008 the absolute number of people living in extreme POVERTY declined in all major developing regions! And if that wasn’t enough, the NY Times reports discoveries by the UN and the University of Washington in an independent study sponsored by the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation demonstrating the notable DECLINE of maternal deaths, particularly in childbirth, over the last two decades. Healthy moms make for healthy babies and a healthier child population overall!