Early Learning Webinar Series: Key Takeaways

Early learning is an essential stage of change for young children, whose brains are developing rapidly.

A recent HMH webinar series explored this topic from several angles—everything from the development of literacy skills to the role of play in child development. Here are some key takeaways!

Keri Travis, an HMH implementation specialist, hosted “Developing Math Concepts,” which detailed how math prepares young children to become successful life-long learners. It’s important, Travis said, for teachers to provide rich math learning opportunities throughout the typical school day—through daily routines such as calendar and attendance activities. Consider ways to add elements of language development, Travis suggested, to make math activities richer, more engaging, and more challenging. And it’s a good idea for families to practice math with their children at home. 

Francie Alexander, the chief research officer at HMH, held the webinar “Using Books to Promote Social-Emotional Development.It focused mainly on how teachers can use books to encourage kindness, empathy, self-regulation, and other positive behaviors. Books, she said, can teach young children valuable life lessons.

“Books help us make connections and establish relationships—adult to child, child to adult, and child to child,” Alexander said.

Meanwhile, Dr. Anne Cunningham, a professor and leading researcher in child development and literacy, hosted “Collaborating for Success: Fostering Family Engagement in Early Literacy.” The webinar explored home-school literacy partnerships and ways educators can collaborate with parents to encourage children to embrace reading.

Cunningham said that the most effective childhood education programs also include early parenthood education—family involvement leads to greater student achievement, better attendance, and reduced dropout rates. And Cunningham delved into the benefits of shared reading, an interactive activity involving active participation from the parent and child.

Another topic covered in the series was play. Dr. Julie Washington—a professor in the Department of Educational Psychology, Special Education, and Communication Disorders in the College of Education and Human Development at Georgia State University—hosted “Play Is Work: The Role of Play in a Child’s Life.”

Washington examined how children—from birth through age 5—can gain important life and critical thinking skills play. Play is work for children, and symbolic play can serve as a precursor to oral language development.

“A lot of skills that kids, young children have—they’re not taught directly,” Washington said. “They’re taught through interaction with adults, but more importantly they’re taught by interaction with their peers.”