Roberta Michnick Golinkoff holds the H. Rodney Sharp Chair in the School of Education at the University of Delaware and is also a member of the Departments of Psychology and Linguistics. She directs the Infant Language Project, whose goal it is to understand how children tackle the amazing feat of learning language. She has also started another line of research on the benefits of play. Although “play” has recently become a 4-letter word, the research suggests exactly the opposite: Children learn best through play and when their learning is embedded in a playful context.
She obtained her bachelor’s degree at Brooklyn College, her Ph.D. in Developmental Psychology at Cornell University, and had a postdoctoral fellowship at the University of Pittsburgh’s Learning Research and Development Center. The recipient of a prestigious John Simon Guggenheim Fellowship, and a James McKeen Cattell Sabbatical award, she is frequently quoted in newspapers and magazines as a scientific advocate for children. She has appeared on Good Morning America, CN8, many regional television morning shows, and hundreds of radio programs around the country.
Dr. Golinkoff has written dozens of journal articles, chapters, and academic books and presents at professional conferences and to lay groups all over the world. Her latest edited books are called Action Meets Word: How Children Learn Verbs (Oxford University Press) and PLAY = LEARNING: How Play Motivates and Enhances Children’s Cognitive and Social-Emotional Growth (Oxford University Press). In fact, that book’s mantra, “PLAY = LEARNING,” was the title of a research conference organized by Dr. Golinkoff (with Drs. Dorothy Singer and Kathy Hirsh-Pasek) at Yale University in June 2005.
Dr. Golinkoff is committed to disseminating the research labors of her field. Her popular press book How Babies Talk: The Magic and Mystery of Language in the First Three Years of Life (with Kathy Hirsh-Pasek) (Dutton/Penguin, 1999) invites parents and practitioners to understand language development along with the scholars. Renowned author and children’s expert T. Berry Brazelton called it “a great book” and “an important addition to any parent’s library.” Stephen Pinker, author of The Language Instinct and How the Mind Works commented, “This splendid book is a godsend.”
Her book Einstein Never Used Flash Cards: How Our Children Really Learn and Why They Need to Play More and Memorize Less(Rodale) (also with Kathy Hirsh-Pasek), attempts to liberate caring adults from the cult of achievement: Parents and teachers do not need to raise a generation of Einsteins. The research confirms what parents and teachers have long suspected: Play is the vehicle through which children maximize their development. The book was awarded the Multiple Sclerosis Society’s Books for a Better Life prize in the Psychology division in 2003.
Her latest book, A Mandate for Playful Learning in Preschool: Presenting the Evidence (with Kathy Hirsh-Pasek, Laura Berk, and Dorothy Singer), presents the scientific evidence in support of three points: 1) Children need both unstructured free play and playful learning under the gentle guidance of adults to best prepare them for entrance into formal school; 2) academic and social development are so inextricably intertwined that the former must not trump attention to the latter; and 3) learning and play are not incompatible; learning takes place best when children are engaged and enjoying themselves.
Dr. Golinkoff considers her finest achievement to be her two children: Allison (28) and Jordan (32).