The Importance of Repetition - STEM Learning with Eddie the ElectroN
by Melissa Rooney
Author of Eddie the Electron and Eddie the Electron Moves Out
One of the most eye-opening things I experienced when I had children was the way their brains absorb everything—and I mean everything—from the minute they open their eyes. Babies and toddlers are most amazing—their brains are literally empty slates you can almost see filling with information. I've felt a great responsibility, because I know the space is limited and I certainly wouldn't want neural connections that might lead to solar-powered airplanes to instead record useless information or, worse, ideas of consumption, materialism, or violence.
I tried to engage my young children by spending time outdoors, going to free (or cheap) events at every opportunity and generally envisioning myself as Julie Andrews in The Sound of Music. As in the film, the kids were fortuitously down with it.
Having been benignly forced to take piano lessons throughout my childhood and concluding that it really was very good for me, I determined my children would each learn a musical instrument, which lead me to Shinichi Suzuki. Although many of my musically inclined friends warned me about this “cult-like” following that "teaches by ear" and "inhibits musical exposure," it looked a lot more fun than playing scales; and, hey, she was FIVE.
Turns out Suzuki has been a big influence on me as a parent and otherwise. Take these quotes, for example:
“It is necessary to be concerned about the importance of educating a really beautiful human spirit”
“Every child grows; everything depends on the teacher.”
“Talent is no accident of birth. In today’s society, a good many people seem to have the idea that if one is born without talent, there is nothing he can do about it; they simply resign themselves to what they consider to be their fate.”
“Knowledge is not skill. Knowledge plus ten thousand times is skill.”
“I am mentally preparing myself for the five-year-old mind. I want to come down to their physical limitations and up to their sense of wonder and awe.”
“Practice only on the days you eat”
In sync with Suzuki’s teaching philosophy, my daughter’s kindergarten teacher gave me a thank-you note at the end of the year that read:
"Children are great imitators. So give them something great to imitate.’ -Anonymous. Thank you for giving them something great to imitate.”
It made me cry, particularly because it supported what sense I’d made of raising children so far.
I wrote Eddie the Electron to show my Chemistry Ph.D. advisor, and myself, that I could do it. The first edition, which I read to local public school classrooms, contained very rudimentary digital illustrations compiled using PowerPoint; but the kids were just impressed that I’d done the illustrations ‘all by myself’. More importantly, they were interested and unafraid about discussing the book’s content. Even the ‘underperforming’ and behaviorally challenged kids, many of whom were low-income and had little exposure to scientific concepts or terminology, were truly interested in what we were doing together.
Repetition. Imitation. Like Suzuki and Anonymous, I’m convinced this is what is most important in brain development. The younger the brain, the more the impact.
I know Eddie’s books will interest the children of college graduates and upper middle-class families, but what’s important is that they get into the hands of children who have no books on their shelves and that an adult reads it to them more than once.
If I had the time and money, I’d give copies to every child in Durham and do the first readings myself. In the meantime, when my schedule allows, I am visiting schools, museums, libraries and sometimes providing childcare at community meetings.
If you purchase Eddie the Electron or Eddie the Electron Moves Out, please read it to your child(ren) at least once a week for a month. Don’t worry about whether you understand it well or not. Just answer their questions to the best of your abilities. Your time together is just as important as the information they glean from it.
Then, when your child agrees, give the book to a friend or classmate and ask them to do likewise.
If you are feeling more generous, purchase copies of Eddie’s books for your kids’ classrooms or school book donation programs, or ask that your PTA do so. And please contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org, as I will happily do the first reading in person if possible! (I also enjoy visiting schools during Book Fairs and Seuss celebrations.)
I am truly grateful for your support of Eddie’s and my mission. But, what’s most important is that you support the future of our Youth by whatever means is available to you.
Join Durham mom and writer, Melissa Rooney, at The Regulator Bookshop in Durham, NC at 11 AM on Saturday, June 17, for the launch of Eddie the Electron Moves Out (Ages 5-10), the second in her science picture book series with Amberjack Publishing. Then play with electronic snap circuits while discussing the concepts in the book. Afterward, follow Melissa next door to Francesca’s for ice-cream. The first ten families will receive $5 Francesca gift cards. [Find out more at www.melissarooneywriting.com.]