Groundbreaking Initiative Teaches Essential Life Skills Through Popular Children's Books

Sep 12, 2013, 11:22 ET from First Book

First Book and 'Mind in the Making' author team up to bring research-based books and resources to educators serving children in need

WASHINGTON, Sept. 12, 2013 /PRNewswire-USNewswire/ -- Books and blogs abound with advice for raising children, little of it based in research and evidence. But Ellen Galinsky, president of the Families and Work Institute and a renowned expert in the field of work-family life and child development, has spent the past 13 years investigating the research on children's learning across academic disciplines, including neuroscience, cognitive science, child development studies; as well as studies on the development of content knowledge -- everything from literacy to STEM -- reviewing more than 1,000 studies and conducting in-depth interviews with close to 100 leading researchers.


The result of this investigation is Mind in the Making, a book as well as training and other materials that describe seven critical skills that children need to develop and how adults can promote them.

Working with First Book, a nonprofit social enterprise that provides new books and educational materials to children in need, Galinsky and the Mind in the Making team at Families and Work Institute compiled an unprecedented collection of children's books that teach how to promote the seven essential life skills.

The initiative includes a series of tip sheets compiled by the Institute as companion pieces to this collection of children's books. Educators and families can use the books and the tips sheets to promote life skills based on executive functions of the brain, such as focus and self control, as they read along with kids.

For example, Whistle for Willie by Ezra Jack Keats, provides many life skills learning opportunities:

You can ask your child: "What did Peter do to learn how to whistle?" When your child retells parts of the story, he or she is developing Focus and Self Control by paying attention and remembering.

"These skills are called executive function skills," Galinsky says, "because we use them to manage our attention, our emotions, and our behavior in order to achieve our goals. When we promote them, we help children learn how to learn. I honestly don't believe we will be able to address the problems we have in education today—such as the achievement and opportunity gap, without also promoting these skills."

Not only will the books and support materials be available to the classrooms and programs in First Book's national network, over $125,000 has been set aside in matching grants to ensure that more of the books are placed into the hands of children who need them most.

"Children from low-income families rarely have access to the same resources and advantages as other children," said Kyle Zimmer, president and CEO of First Book. "Thanks to Ellen's work, we're bringing the absolute best in educational opportunity to tens of thousands of children in need."

The collections features six books for each of the Seven Essential Life Skills. These skills are focus and self control; perspective taking; communicating; making connections; critical thinking; taking on challenges; and self-directed, engaged learning. For each skill, supplementary tips illustrate what the research shows and provide simple games and techniques parents and educators can use along with the book to strengthen that particular skill in children.

The six books and accompanying materials for each of the skills are further divided into two books for each of three age groups—children aged 0 to 2, 3 to 5, and 6 to 8. All are available now on the First Book Marketplace, an online store available exclusively for educators serving kids in need.

The grants and book collections were made possible thanks to the support of the Popplestone Foundation.

About First Book

First Book is a nonprofit social enterprise that has distributed more than 100 million books and educational resources to programs and schools serving children from low-income families throughout the United States and Canada.  By making new, high-quality books available on an ongoing basis, First Book is transforming the lives of children in need and elevating the quality of education. For more information, please visit us online or follow our latest news on Facebook and Twitter.

About Families and Work Institute

Families and Work Institute is a nonprofit, nonpartisan research organization that studies the changing workforce, family and community. As a preeminent think tank, FWI is known for being ahead of the curve, identifying emerging issues, and then conducting rigorous research that often challenges common wisdom and provides insight and knowledge. As an action tank, FWI conducts numerous studies that put its research into action and then evaluates the results. Its purpose is to create research to live by. For more information, visit, like us on and follow us on Twitter @MITM_FWI.

Brian Minter
First Book

Eve Tahmincioglu
Families and Work Institute

SOURCE First Book