Julie's Reviews > Bright From the Start: The Simple, Science-Backed Way to Nurture Your Child's Developing Mind from Birth to Age 3

Bright From the Start by Jill Stamm
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's review
Aug 07, 2011

really liked it

Jill Stamm's _Bright from the Start_ is excellent in so many unexpected ways. It operates in the same vein as John Medina's _Brain Rules for Baby_ -- synthesizing vast quantities of scientific research into simple precepts and offering suggestions for how parents can use that information to help their children's development. However, Stamm does not cover the same ground as Medina. They have chosen slightly different areas to emphasize, they offer significantly different kinds of help to parents, and they have vastly different styles.

In terms of topics, I appreciate Stamm's discussion of attention. Unlike some Goodreads reviewers, I would emphasize that she is not talking here about how much attention *parents* pay to children, but how to help *children* develop the ability to pay attention and focus in their learning. As the mother of a 10-month-old boy who has just learned to walk, I find myself often wondering if his constant wandering from toy to toy and room to room is healthy. Stamm explained concepts about how children develop attention that I haven't read anywhere else. (And I have now read quite a bit on the subject of infant brain development.) Her other 2 key topics -- bonding and communication -- were well-discussed, but both were better known to me. I am employing many of her suggestions: fostering direct eye contact, using the word "watch" to focus my son on something I want to show him, using an attention place mat to create a focused activity area space, etc. Thanks, Stamm, for talking about this important area of learning.

Topics aren't the only thing that set this book apart, however, from science synthesizers such as John Medina. Stamm's voice and style are drawn from both her personal experience and her professional experience as someone who does not work as an experimental scientist but as an educator and institute founder. Medina is a scientist and a wonk. Stamm is a practitioner in the field of child development. Indeed, she is a practitioner who entered the field because of her own experience with a severely challenged child. Her passion leads her to focus on improving the lives and outcomes of children, and she understands that parents need to know what they can do. Her ability to translate science for parents immediate use -- in a compassionate, nonjudgmental way -- is invaluable.

I wasn't sure at first about her routine references to her own struggles to raise her disabled daughter, Jenny. But ultimately, I felt that these discusrsions are effective. Perhaps she is trying to show us that she can *relate* to us as new parents. If so, it works. She does not come across as trying too hard, or condescending, in these very personal anecdotes. Rather, I think she taps into the emotional dynamics of parenting in a way that creates an empathetic space where readers feel that they are working in partnership with her to help children succeed in life. That's an unusual feat for an author to achieve.

One other thing sets this book apart. Specifics. Oh, thank you, Jill Stamm, for being so specific in an area where so many are confident in issuing general principles but uncomfortable suggesting very specific practices. Stamm routinely includes developmental charts devoted to parenting behaviors. Rather than offering charts that show parents where there children fit amidst other children, these charts help parents figure out what they should be doing, as parents, at different stages of development. Wow. Thanks! Yes, that's exactly what I was looking for! Stamm also includes specific games and activities that can help develop the skills she describes in the chapter. Again -- thanks! That's just what I wanted. Stamm's section on bonding is the only place where I've seen a specific discussion of child care providers. How should one evaluate a child care provider for children under age 3? Stamm provides a checklist. Based on her recommendations, we've decided to keep my son in the nanny share until age 2, rather than transitioning him to a more "educational" environment at 18 months. Maintaining the bond he has with the nannies is too important, Stamm says. Wow. Thanks! That's exactly what I wanted to know!

I highly recommend this book. Thanks, Jill Stamm, for being the mentor I needed.
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