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[Susan notes: Hoorah! This writer links children's need for play directly with NCLB.]

Published in New York Times

To the editor

Re Your Baby Is Smarter Than You Think, by Alison Gopnik (Op-Ed, Aug. 16):

For the last 70 years, my colleagues in child development and I have known that play is the way in which babies and young children learn. The government-run nursery schools of the 1930s were organized for play and health. Head Start, the famously successful government program founded in the 1960s, promoted play as preschool children’s mode of learning.

How did we get No Child Left Behind, in which preschool children’s free play is deemed far less important than reading and arithmetic? How did we get mechanized toys and babies’ TV programs?

Perhaps parents and teachers have not been told why young children learn through play. Even though we knew it was true, we did not know why.

Ms. Gopnik’s article tells why. It should be required reading for parents, teachers and politicians. She describes research that shows some unsuspected capabilities of infants, ways in which babies think differently from older children, and how the structure of infants’ brains enables them to understand probability and to explore possibilities. Thank you, Ms. Gopnik.

The writer is professor emerita of child development and family relations at the University of Rhode Island.

Mollie S. Smart

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