[kids-lib] In the News: what happens during middle childhood

Katie Anderson katie.anderson at state.or.us
Tue Jun 26 09:29:00 PDT 2012

Hi! I finally got around to reading The Hormone Surge of Middle Childhood<http://www.nytimes.com/2011/12/27/science/now-we-are-six-the-hormone-surge-of-middle-childhood.html?_r=2&nl=todaysheadlines&emc=tha210> by Natalie Angier, an interesting article in The New York Times several months ago on middle childhood (beginning at 5-6 years old, ending at the beginning of the teen years).

Here are a few direct quotes I took away from the article:

*         [middle childhood] is a time of great cognitive creativity and ambition, when the brain has pretty much reached its adult size and can focus on threading together its private intranet service - on forging, organizing, amplifying and annotating the tens of billions of synaptic connections that allow brain cells and brain domains to communicate.

*         In middle childhood, the brain is at its peak for learning, organized enough to attempt mastery yet still fluid, elastic, neuronally gymnastic.

*         Middle childhood is the time to make sense and make friends. "This is the period when kids move out of the family context and into the neighborhood context," Dr. Campbell said.

*         children become obsessed with social groups and divide along gender lines, girls playing with girls, boys with boys. They have an avid appetite for learning the local social rules, whether of games, slang, style or behavior. They are keenly attuned to questions of fairness and justice and instantly notice those grabbing more than their share.

*         Evidence also suggests that the adrenal hormones divert glucose in the brain to foster the maturation of the insula and anterior cingulate cortex, brain regions vital to interpreting social and emotional cues.

*         In middle childhood, the brain is open for suggestions. What do I need to know? What do I want to know? Well, you could take up piano, chess or juggling, learn another language or how to ski. Or you could go outside and play with your friends. If you learn to play fair, friends will always be there.

How might this relate to the public library?

*         Improve non-fiction collections. Weed out the crud that's out-of-date, damaged, or just not circulating anymore to make room for bight-shiny new non-fiction materials that will attract these young brains that are at "a time of great cognitive creativity and ambition", at the "peak for learning", and are "open for suggestions". Non-fiction should be in a variety of formats too-books, magazines, audio books, DVDs, and even graphic novels!

*         Promote non-fiction as much as fiction! Are non-fiction materials displayed prominently and attractively in the library at all times? These kids are ripe to learn how to use the library, but they may not have the skills yet... draw them in with displays that make it easy for them to find materials that spark their "cognitive creativity and ambition".

*         Once the kids are in the library, what programs and services does the library offer to teach them how to use the library? Does the library offer programs such as computer or database classes that teach kids how to explore possible answers to their questions "What do I need to know? What do I want to know? Well, you could take up piano, chess or juggling, learn another language or how to ski" or how to use the catalog to explore "social rules, whether of games, slang, style or behavior" through literature, magazine, etc.?

*         Middle childhood is also a time for making friends, developing social groups, and learning social rules. How are fun programs like Lego Clubs fostering social development? Can we improve how these programs are implemented to increase social learning? The 40 Developmental Assets for teens are well known, but are libraries referring to the 40 Developmental Assets for Grades K-3 and Middle Childhood when planning programs for the elementary school set? (Don't know what I'm talking about? That's okay! Here's a link to more about the 40 Developmental Assets with age-group lists to download and print: http://www.search-institute.org/developmental-assets/lists).

Hopefully this will get you thinking as much as it got me thinking!

If your library is already working on applying this research to improve services to elementary school kids, please share what you're doing with the rest of us!

If this article sparked more questions than ideas, hit 'reply all' and ask the group... perhaps we can answer your questions together.

Katie Anderson, Library Development Services
* Youth Services Consultant * Oregon Center for the Book Coordinator *
Oregon State Library, 250 Winter St. NE, Salem, OR 97301
katie.anderson at state.or.us<mailto:katie.anderson at state.or.us>, 503-378-2528

If the hyperlinks don't work, try copying and pasting these URLs into your browser.

*         The article: http://www.nytimes.com/2011/12/27/science/now-we-are-six-the-hormone-surge-of-middle-childhood.html?_r=2&nl=todaysheadlines&emc=tha210

*         Developmental Assets: http://www.search-institute.org/developmental-assets/lists

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