Academic’s book on child brain makes mark in China 

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Associate Professor Michael Nagel

A USC researcher who has for years helped parents and teachers use the latest scientific findings on children’s brain development to improve education methods will have his popular textbook In the Beginning: The Brain, Early Development and Learning published in China.

Associate Professor of Education Michael Nagel, who has authored more than a dozen books on educational psychology and child development, said his Australian publisher had been approached by a Chinese publisher seeking to translate the 2012 text for sale and reference by universities in China.

“Few books like this on neurodevelopment have been translated for China, but I’m told that China is increasingly tapping into western countries’ use of research and theories to understand child development,” Dr Nagel said.

He said the book was written as a framework for parents and teachers, showing how the brain changes in the first few years of life and how those changes connect to all aspects of a person’s development.

One of its key findings was that the brain had its own neurological timetable from birth, and this could not be artificially accelerated by early enrichment programs or ‘educational’ toys.

“My book clearly identifies that there is no way, as yet, to hyper-stimulate educational development ahead of a child’s own neurological development,” Dr Nagel said.

“Healthy, safe, supportive and loving environments usually provide the stimulation expected by the brain for normal learning.”

He said this conclusion resonated as much in the world in 2020 as when he first wrote it.

“I believe one of the reasons so many four-year-olds have anxiety issues or get into trouble in Prep is because they are required to do things their brains are simply not able to do,” he said.

“What will help healthy brain development in children are regular routines and consistency, opportunities to consolidate learning through repetition, hands-on activities, novel ways to learn through exploration and experimentation, exposure to interactive language and positive relationships.”
 

 
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