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Museums and Libraries: Be a Part of our Brain Building Journey

November 21, 2014 ET

By Ellen Galinsky
President and Co-Founder of Families and Work Institute

We are starting an exciting new endeavor, and want you to join us!

In our studies at Families and Work Institute (FWI), we often ask people to come up with a word that describes life today. Again and again, the words that people select reflect feelings of too much to do and not enough time—words like “busy,” “overwhelmed,” “complex,” and “rushed.” Even in our studies of children, we find that almost one in two children feel rushed much of the time.

As the world continues to move faster, museums and libraries have taken on a new role that can best be described by the word “hub.” They are places where families come to be together and to do things with each other. They are sanctuaries—albeit ones that are filled with exciting things to do—that connect children and parents and community members from across neighborhoods. They are also hubs that translate research on “the science of learning” into practice in ways that bring joy and engagement to all involved, young and old.

The report, Growing Young Minds: How Museums and Libraries Create Lifelong Learners captures many of the innovative approaches and programs currently in place. Now, libraries and museums are being recognized for the important roles they play, and they are part of an exciting new initiative that we are launching at the Families and Work Institute.

Following the publication of my book, Mind in the Making: The Seven Essential Life Skills Every Child Needs, we began building a network of experts in communities across the country to increase understanding of these Seven Life Skills, also called Executive Function (EF) skills, and the science of brain development that supports it. The book has served as a catalyst for bringing together professionals working across multiple child- and family-serving institutions who are now incorporating these skills into their daily work with families and children.

With this new project, we intend to tap the knowledge, expertise, and resources of libraries and museums. Our goal is to engage museums and libraries as key partners in the work to disseminate information and build capacity for children, families, and practitioners. An understanding of the science of brain development is something that parents and families are hungry for, and museums and libraries provide a unique opportunity to provide that information.

We believe many are already developing innovative approaches to increasing understanding of brain development and how to build life skills in children.  With support from School Readiness Consulting, we are now in the process of gathering information on best practices and innovative approaches being used in libraries and museums across the country. Results will be used to create a national report on how museums and libraries are engaged and contributing to the work.

The report will be released in early 2015 and will include examples and case studies of innovative and effective programs and approaches.

If you work in a museum or library, please visit our website ( to learn more about this initiative, and share information on work you are doing in this area by filling out a brief survey by November 28, 2014.

UPDATE: The survey deadline has been extended to December 22, 2014

Ellen Galinsky, President and Co-Founder of Families and Work Institute, helped establish the field of work and family life at Bank Street College of Education, where she was on the faculty for twenty-five years. Her more than forty books and reports include Ask The Children, the now-classic The Six Stages of Parenthood, and the bestselling Mind in the Making, published by HarperStudio in April 2010.