Book Review: Praise for Ring the Alarm by Nikolai Pizarro

Finally! For years, academics and researchers, educators and policymakers have failed to bridge the gap between theory and practice when it comes to explaining the relationship between brain development and parenting practices to people who are actually parenting. For those who have managed to communicate this information outside of their own circles, the information has never been geared specifically towards low-income Black and Latino caregivers.

Ring the Alarm: A Parenting Guide for Low-income Black and Latino Caregivers is the long-awaited missing link.

Nikolai Pizarro takes complex information about brain development and explains it in clear, understandable language. It walks parents (who do not possess a degree in child development or early childhood education) through a “crash course” in brain research and then, more importantly, explains how it all relates to each and every decision they will make as parents, starting with pregnancy.

Ring the Alarm explores brain research and parenting practices in a culturally relevant context by acknowledging the history of racism, classism and sexism that has contributed to the reproduction of cycles of pain and oppression in low-income Black and Latino communities. It explores the idea that caregivers are powerful- more powerful than they probably ever realized. This book asks low-income Black and Latino caregivers to reflect on their own lives and upbringings- to look around their communities and question some of the negative things they see.

Why are so many Black and Latino men incarcerated?

Why is the teen pregnancy rate so high?

Why do so many of our children drop out of high school?

There are many complex reasons for these statistics.

Once Pizarro poses these questions and more, she provides facts that help readers make connections between early childhood experiences and later success in life.

But in this book she walks us through very simple “solutions” to what feels like very complex problems. Truthfully, some of the solutions are simple:

Start building complex brain connections and create a language-rich environment when children are born and throughout their first five years.

By doing this, you have begun to eliminate many of the issues that consistently relegate many low-income Black and Latino children to the “deficit” side of conversations about academic achievement and our educational system. The vocabulary gap comes to mind as an example. Research has shown that children in low-income households have 30 million fewer words in their vocabulary than their middle class counterparts. If low-income parents had access to this fact, with ideas about how to address it in their homes, this gap would, no doubt, be smaller.

There is a saying that once you “know better, you do better.” Some have argued that low-income Black and Latino parents make unhealthy choices for their children because they simply don’t know what the latest research says. With this book, it appears that Pizarro is expanding that saying and challenging us: “Once you know better, you deeply understand, and here’s how you can do better. This is what ’better’ looks like. Acknowledge your power.”

Ring the Alarm is an incredibly important gift to caregivers and children who live in and grow up with little to inspire hope for future life success. By reading this book and applying the knowledge directly to their own lives, caregivers can re-connect to their sense of hope and take a first step to ensure that this generation truly begins to break the cycle of poverty.

Recently I had the pleasure of organizing a few book talks with different communities and I was blown away. Teachers, preschool directors, low income parents, middle income parents, administrators from various social service organizations and early childhood education professors were excited to learn about the information in Ring the Alarm, and to think about how it could be applied to their own personal and professional lives.

If you would like to order a copy of Ring the Alarm, you may do so at amazon.com
For wholesale pricing, and more information about the book and her work, please visit Nikolai’s website

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