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  • Print publication year: 2006
  • Online publication date: June 2012

7 - A Whole Child Approach: The Importance of Social and Emotional Development


We are witnessing a renewed emphasis on teaching the basic skills of reading, writing and arithmetic. No one can deny the importance of a literate population – one in which everyone can read, compute and communicate. The introduction of departmentalization of reading, math and language specialists earlier and earlier in schooling and the emphasis on reading and math in kindergarten may seem commonsensible approaches. But this press for basics overlooks the time-continuity, the self-organization and the basic responsiveness and rhythm patterns of the child. We can teach a three-year old to read, but what do the displacement of time demanded and the shift from other experiences do to the long-term development of the child?

(Gordon, 1976, p. 126)

It may surprise some readers to learn that this statement was written some 30 years ago. It could easily have been written today. Literacy has become the buzzword not only in educational circles but in the halls of the United States Congress. In kindergartens and first-grade classrooms across the nation, arts and crafts and even recess are “out.” Practice with writing and all things related to words and spelling are “in.” After-school time that was once free for play and favorite activities is now occupied by homework for children as young as five and six years old. “Educational” toys and DVDs occupy increasing space on store shelves.

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