When Dr. Sally Goldberg, PhD, sat down to make some educational toys for her daughter more than 30 years ago, she had no idea that particular activity would lead to a professional career dedicated to understanding the science behind childhood education and then sharing those lessons with the world.
Known to most as “Dr. Sally,” Goldberg’s latest book, “Fun Baby Learning Games: Activities to Support Development in Infants, Todlers and Two-Year-Olds,” was published this past June by Gryphon House.
It’s her seventh book and just the latest bullet point on a career that includes being a professor of education and an instructor of early childhood education on the adjunct faculties of Nova Southeastern University, Barry University and the University of Phoenix. She’s presented at national conferences, appeared on TV and radio and earned her bachelor’s and master’s degrees from Corneel University. Her PhD was obtained from the University of Miami.
All of that began, though, because she wanted to come up with some creative ways to help her own daughter learn.
Fun and games
Goldberg’s first book, “Teaching with Toys,” was published in 1981.
“This book was the product of some exciting teaching I did with my first daughter,” Goldberg explained. “She was born with a disability and, at the time, I was a first grade teacher.
“My daughter was born in ‘76 and I wanted to figure out how to give her a head start, so to speak. So I used my beginning education skills and thought, maybe the beginning is at birth, rather than at first grade.”
That idea led Goldberg to focus on colors, letters, numbers, shapes and reading; teaching her daughter with homemade toys and games at an age that, at the time, was not typically considered important for education.
“By the time she was two she knew all of the numbers, shapes and colors and was reading over 100 words,” Goldberg said. “She attracted the attention of neighbors who said, ‘Look, our kids are older and aren’t in the situation she’s in, but they don’t know half of what she knows. How did you teach her?’”
Eventually, one of the mothers offered to get a group of other parents together so Goldberg could show them how she taught her own daughter. Goldberg developed six workshops which eventually became the foundation of her first book.
This process continued for the duration of her daughter’s younger years of learning, with Goldberg continuing to apply her newfound knowledge to new methods of teaching, which eventually led to new books on the topics.
Goldberg’s methods started to catch on and, eventually, a professor from the University of Miami asked to drop in on a session to see Goldberg’s process firsthand.
“At the end of the session she asked if I would be willing to study at the University of Miami for my PhD,” Goldberg said, which led to an assistantship at the university, more learning on her own behalf, more teaching and, of course, more books.
“I wanted to know more,” Goldberg said. “So I learned more and began teaching professionally on these topics.”
Her third book was called “Parent Involvement Begins at Birth,” and she describes it as a landmark book on the topic of early childhood education. These methods are considered common practice these days, putting Goldberg on the forefront of the field.
Goldberg’s most recent book, “Fun Baby Learning Games,” is the evolution of her writing, circling back to the concepts of her very first book and applying decades’ worth of new information, ideas and the science behind why her methods work so well. It reads like a fun yet digestible textbook for parents, broken into sections based on age groups leading up to three years of age.
“The book started out to be a guide for parents about the ages and stages of development and how to provide optimal guidance during that time through a balance of activities in all five areas of development,” Goldberg said. “Not only is it a guideline for early development, but it’s also about having parents connect with their children in a positive way during these early years. That’s proven to be more important than anything else. We’re in a world now that needs to know this in a big way.
“I created a mission with this book to spread the word about how important these early childhood relationships are.”
All of Dr. Sally’s books can be found on Amazon, with the latest retailing for $25.
Goldberg recently attended a meditation class at the Fountain Hills Community Center led by Virginia Ray.
After speaking with Ray, Goldberg decided it would be a good idea to come full circle and offer her own class through the Community Center with her new book serving as a framework.
She said the goal of her class is to serve “as a model for what is called ‘universal parenting education’ for all parents as soon as their baby is born and even before.”
Like her book, these sessions will focus on child development through age three, and they will be hosted on Thursdays from Oct. 25 through Nov. 15, from 10 to 11 a.m. The course number is #3856, and interested parties can learn more and register at fh.az.gov/recreation. The cost of the class is $45 with a $5 material fee, and a copy of the new book is included.
Goldberg and Ray will be partnering for a new class that combines their expertise in January, with more details to be provided in the coming months.
“It’s super exciting,” Goldberg said. “It’s a whole new generation of parents…Birth to three is considered the most important years for education. If a child is well developed by age three, it is predictive they will be productive in school at age six. The tools they can learn to utilize from birth to three creates a foundation for education the rest of their life.”