As you no doubt know, education begins with life. Barbies learn early that crying gets attention. At first, of course, the baby is just crying because he/she notices an uncomfortable imbalance; but he/she soon learns to associate the crying with feeding—because his mother knows that the little cry means that he/she is hungry, and she feeds her baby. Communication, then, is learned, initially by association. The baby soon also learns that cuddling happens with feeding, and both are acquired by crying.
After feeling comes learning by sight and sound. Sounds constitute the basis for learning speech and reading. It is therefore important during the early months of a child’s life to be able to hear sounds correctly. This means that, if the child has frequent colds, allergies, and sore throats, be careful about ear infections. (Speech sounds are important in speech, and in music. It is important to talk, read, and sing to babies and young children.) When a parent brings an elementary school child to me to be tested for a possible learning disability (primarily because of a reading problem), one of the first questions I ask is, “Did he/she have frequent ear infections between the ages of zero and four years? If the answer is “yes,” if generally means that he or she frequently heard sounds incorrectly. He/she learned them incorrectly, and thus had a difficult time learning to read by the phonics method. (The child had to unlearn the incorrect sounds and then attempt to learn them correctly.) Equally important to early learning success (especially in reading) is learning to appreciate stories and books. This means that babies and young children should be read to—in a positive, loving environment. Actually, holding the child and reading (or singing to him/her) is one way for him/her to develop a feeling of security, which is another prerequisite for academic success. A secure child learns self-confidence. Thus, he/she will attempt new things without fear. Children should learn that it is OK to make mistakes, and that one does not have to be successful at everything the first time it is attempted.