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Logging into the latest findings about kids


The latest findings on children’s early development – from aggression and language acquisition to tobacco, pregnancy and parenting skills – are now available on-line in a unique new “virtual” encyclopedia written by a consortium of Canadian experts.

Five years in the making, the encyclopedia is co-edited by Ray Peters, a Queen’s University emeritus professor of Psychology. It has been produced by the Centre of Excellence for Early Childhood Development (CEECD), with funding from the Public Health Agency of Canada.

Dr. Peters, Director of the Queen’s-based Better Beginnings, Better Futures Research Unit, is enthusiastic about the results. “On any particular topic, several pages of reading will summarize all the thinking that current research in the area is able to demonstrate and support, as well as questions yet to be answered,” he says. “We have attempted to summarize the research in a way that’s easy to access and that people will understand.”

More than 270 authors from 11 countries have contributed to the free, on-line resource, which can be viewed in English at: and in French at: Originally designed for people who work with the parents of young children (early childhood educators, daycare workers, service providers and policy makers), the encyclopedia may also be used effectively as a resource by parents.

An advisory committee composed of representatives from both non-governmental organizations and provincial, territorial and federal government departments provides feedback from the “front lines” on topics to be addressed, says Dr. Peters, one of the founding members of CEECD. And since authors are asked to update their entries on a regular basis, the information remains current.

“Typically it takes about seven years from the time that this type of research is done, to its publication in a major text book,” he notes. “That means that generally speaking, we are often teaching from [printed] materials that are up to 10 years out of date!”

In a virtual encyclopedia, on the other hand, authors’ changes can be posted immediately. University students are among the most frequent users to date, Dr. Peters continues. “Although the encyclopedia is not designed as a primary instructional tool for courses in child development, a large number of undergraduate and graduate students are using it now as a reference source,” he says.

Based at the Université de Montréal under director Richard E. Tremblay, the Centre of Excellence for Early Childhood Development is a consortium of Canadian organizations that promote the best knowledge on early childhood development among the public, professionals and policymakers to help them have a positive impact on children’s development. The group produces bulletins summarizing topics for parents and early childhood professionals, and also hosts international research conferences, including one planned on “Best Practices in Early Childhood Learning” to be chaired by Dr. Peters in Banff, Alberta in March 2008 .


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