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Error rating book. Refresh and try again. Open Preview See a Problem? Details if other :. Thanks for telling us about the problem. Return to Book Page. Most parents today have accepted the message that the first three years of a baby's life determine whether or not the child will grow into a successful, thinking person. But is this powerful warning true? Do all the doors shut if baby's brain doesn't get just the right amount of stimulation during the first three years of life?

Have discoveries from the new brain science r Most parents today have accepted the message that the first three years of a baby's life determine whether or not the child will grow into a successful, thinking person. Have discoveries from the new brain science really proved that parents are wholly responsible for their child's intellectual successes and failures alike?

Are parents losing the "brain wars"? No, argues national expert John Bruer.

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In The Myth of the First Three Years he offers parents new hope by debunking our most popular beliefs about the all-or-nothing effects of early experience on a child's brain and development. Challenging the prevailing myth -- heralded by the national media, Head Start, and the White House -- that the most crucial brain development occurs between birth and age three, Bruer explains why relying on the zero to three standard threatens a child's mental and emotional well-being far more than missing a few sessions of toddler gymnastics.

Too many parents, educators, and government funding agencies, he says, see these years as our main opportunity to shape a child's future. Bruer agrees that valid scientific studies do support the existence of critical periods in brain development, but he painstakingly shows that these same brain studies prove that learning and cognitive development occur throughout childhood and, indeed, one's entire life. Making hard science comprehensible for all readers, Bruer marshals the neurological and psychological evidence to show that children and adults have been hardwired for lifelong learning.

Parents have been sold a bill of goods that is highly destructive because it overemphasizes infant and toddler nurturing to the detriment of long-term parental and educational responsibilities. The Myth of the First Three Years is a bold and controversial book because it urges parents and decision-makers alike to consider and debate for themselves the evidence for lifelong learning opportunities. But more than anything, this book spreads a message of hope: while there are no quick fixes, conscientious parents and committed educators can make a difference in every child's life, from infancy through childhood, and beyond.

The Myth of the First Three Years by John T. Bruer - Commentary

Get A Copy. Paperback , pages. Published April 5th by Free Press first published September 9th More Details Original Title.


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Other Editions 6. Friend Reviews. I think that the origins are more likely to be as old as parenthood. The book of Proverbs dates from around BC — the origins of the proverbs are likely to be much older. During this period, as Bruer points out, the study of the brain and the study of behaviour, despite being seen as complementary in the late 19th century, have followed largely independent paths. From the s onwards, fields such as education and child development began to co-opt findings from neuroscience into their own theoretical models. Bruer traces the way neuroscience has been interwoven with child development theories from, for example, the Clinical Infant Development Project that began in the s and developed into Zero to Three: The National Centre for Infants, Toddlers and Families.

And from the book Education and the Brain , through to the I Am Your Child campaign that began in the mids, and on into public policy.


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Bruer identifies three key areas of neuroscience research that underpin the first three years model; neural connections, critical periods and the effects of enriched or complex environments. Neural connections Neurons are the cells in the brain that transmit information. They are formed — around billion of them — by the second trimester of gestation, and soon after birth will have migrated to their final destinations in the brain.

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Neurons are nerve cells and in order to transmit information between each other, they need to be connected. In humans, synapse formation begins a couple of months before birth and peaks at years after birth, when the number of synapses is many times greater than it is in adults. At the same time, two other processes are going on — apoptosis and synaptic pruning. Apoptosis is cell death, and many neurons, like other cells in the body, do die off during normal development.

Between early childhood and puberty, the number of synapses in the brain gradually declines but remains above adult levels.

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Between puberty and adulthood, synaptic pruning increases rapidly. Critical periods In early research into the functioning of the visual cortex of the cat, Torsten Hubel and David Wiesel found that if kittens were deprived of visual input from one eye during the first few weeks of life, they remained blind in that eye. If cataract removal is delayed, vision may never be normal. We know that children can learn to speak a second language like a native if they acquire that language before their teens — if not, the language can still be learned, but with a noticeable accent.

So there are critical periods in child development when certain sensory input is necessary for typical development to take place. Enriched or complex environments Charles Darwin had noted that animals reared in the wild tended to have larger brains than their domesticated offspring. And experiments in the s conducted by Greenough and colleagues showed that rats reared in complex environments had a greater density of synapses than those raised in solitary conditions.

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It was clear that the environment has a significant impact on brain development. The model of the first three years has arisen partly because research findings have been misunderstood.

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Several factors need to be borne in mind before applying the findings to children. Many of the research findings relate to animals , notably rats and monkeys that are often used in research because they are small, easy to handle and have relatively short life-cycles. Rats and monkeys are also social, problem-solving mammals, which means they have a lot in common with humans. Although their brains are very likely to function in similar ways to human brains, there might be species-specific differences. One of the differences is that they develop at different rates; rats are sexually mature by about six weeks of age, and macaques at around five years, so extrapolating findings to humans relies on estimates for the ages at which children reach similar developmental stages.

Want more? Advanced embedding details, examples, and help! Includes bibliographical references p. But is this powerful warning true? Do all the doors shut if baby's brain doesn't get just the right amount of stimulation during the first three years of life? Have discoveries from the new brain science really proved that parents are wholly responsible for their child's intellectual successes and failures alike?

Are parents losing the "brain wars"?