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Ready to Learn: How To Help Your Preschooler Succeed    by Stan Goldberg order for
Ready to Learn
by Stan Goldberg
Order:  USA  Can
Oxford University, 2005 (2005)
* * *   Reviewed by Hilary Williamson

On reading the many examples of interactions between the author of Ready to Learn, Dr. Stan Goldberg, and children, my reaction was to wish he could be cloned to make his creative, engaging approaches available to all the kids who need help. But at least we have the book. Goldberg recommends it for parents of children five and under, but indicates that most of the material is relevant for kids in elementary school. His suggestions are based on twenty-five years as university professor, researcher, clinician, and parent.

The author believes that 'parents know best' and advises them to consider their job of helping kids learn 'a marathon, not a sprint race.' His book is divided into three parts - The Basics to understand how learning takes place, and the role of a teaching parent; Learning Differences, Problems and Solutions with intervention strategies to eliminate or minimize problems; and Family and Friends, addressing the emotional well-being of all involved. We are advised that 'Research shows that at least six million children learn in ways that don't match' teaching methods - a worrying number. Some kids do well with visual information, some listen well, some get the big picture, some retain lots of disconnected facts. Traditional teaching methods don't always work. Brain imaging shows a neurological cause of many learning problems, but the good news is that it's possible to train new brain circuitry.

Goldberg describes in some detail how kids process information - involving Attention, Understanding, Storing Information, Retrieving Information, and Usage pragmatics - and how learning differences can cause problems in the process. His examples make clear that the problem does not usually lie with the child. He advises parents not to leave the situation to schools, especially given the impact on different learners of creeping increases in elementary class sizes. He explains the difficulty of finding the appropriate professional to help. He also addresses the challenge of avoiding emotional problems (that can persist for a lifetime) associated with constant failure, but reminds us that 'success is infectious'. He emphasizes that parents are 'giant billboards' to our children, telling us to watch the nonverbals we communicate.

The second part of the book explains learning strategies. Goldberg details examples, from teaching a girl to write her name to training a boy to ride a bike, illustrating helpful materials like a reinforcement schedule and cue cards. In subsequent chapters, he discusses the complexity of problems with Attention, Understanding, and Storage, Retrieval and Usage, offering specific strategies to deal with them. Finally, in part three, he discusses how 'to enlist the help of family, friends, and teachers' and the impact of a child's learning problems on the entire family. He gives examples of effective dialogs, and of written instructions to give others. And he explains the importance of looking after yourself emotionally, and of growing through problems (I love the Zen Buddhist saying quoted - 'Barn's burnt down - now I can see the moon.')

This is a wonderful resource for parents of young children, but particularly for those whose kids have learning differences, and for the professionals who work with them. Dr. Stan Goldberg tells us that all parents worry but 'it's how you worry and what you do about it that can make the difference'. In Ready to Learn, he provides clearly explained tools to help parents 'frolic with their children down the path of learning, rather than having to pull them along, kicking and screaming.'

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