Thursday, February 15, 2007

New study suggests praise hurts your child's development.

Oh you're so smart! You're so talented!

A gold star for you! We all love to hear praise. It is the main staple of our egos and we certainly don't hold back feeding our kids a daily diet of “your so wonderful.” But a new study suggests that praise is more junk food than food for thought. So why do we feed our children praise? Ostensibly, we praise them so they will keep on trying and approach challenges in life with confidence. Makes sense, right? Wrong, according to a study by psychologist Carol Dweck. The study found labeling your child “smart” actually causes them to try less!

In this study conducted at a dozen New York schools, two groups of 5th grade students were given the same nonverbal test, but each group was rewarded with very different types of praise. The first group was told, “You must be smart at this.” The second group was told, “You must have worked really hard.” Researchers then challenged both groups to take another test in which the students could choose either a harder or an easier test. 90% of the group that was praised for their effort chose the harder test. The kids who had already been labeled smart took the easier route. According to Dweck the reason is simple. Dwecks says, “emphasizing effort gives a child a variable that they can control. Emphasizing natural intelligence takes it out of the child's control, and it provides no good recipe for responding to a failure.” Read more.

I was really encouraged to read this study because it ties directly into the theme of my language arts presentations that I am giving at schools in April - June. I have my box of tricks prepared to created mnemonic devices for all the tough vocabulary in my book. I have also planned silly drawings of the brain and its many nerve endings. My goal is to show how vocabulary is built by making connections in the brain and not something that you are born with. It was only until fairly recently that scientists discovered that we really do grow our brains.

New study suggests praise hurts kids’ development.

When I was a teen, I asked my father why I had to go to college. (I was going through this artsy ego-centric phase where I believed I was plenty smart enough.) My father replied in two words, “Mental Gymnastics”. Use it or lose it was my dad's wisdom and I always liked to be challenged. Kids need to understand that they are in control of becoming stronger readers. And just like building the muscles in your biceps, or playing a sport, building vocabulary can be fun if you make it into a game. It's a brain game. But it does require some hard work and a lot of heavy lifting.

To book an author visit at your school. Contact Carlyn's booking agent, Susan Katz at KatzConnects.

Monday, February 05, 2007

PROJECT CICERO needs books!

Can you imagine growing up without books? I certainly can't. Books were my escape from the world around me. So please support Project CICERO this month.

PROJECT CICERO ( is a partnership of independent, public, and parochial schools, private and public organizations and corporations whose primary goal is to supplement or create classroom and school libraries for children in under-resourced New York City public schools through an annual citywide book drive. PROJECT CICERO also puts books into homeless shelters, juvenile detention facilities, community centers, and wherever else there is a need. This past year, its sixth year of operation, PROJECT CICERO distributed 125,000 books. To date, PROJECT CICERO has placed 800,000 books into 4,500 classrooms and school libraries reaching 150,000 children in under-resourced schools in New York City.

PROJECT CICERO collects new and gently used books for children and young adults. Books must be in new or excellent condition. Most needed are early readers through teenage fiction and all non-fiction (including biographies and science), both hardcover and paperback. Picture books are also welcome. Non–fiction and reference materials should not be more than five years old. PROJECT CICERO does not accept discards from school libraries, textbooks or books for adults.

Books can be sent to this address:
53 East 79th Street
New York, NY 10021