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March 1999

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Reviewed by Laurie Goodman

As a parent and a teacher, I find resources useful and worth buying if they are topical, informative, creative and organized. The three books under discussion all get four stars, as each one addresses different aspects of the early learners’ needs.

The Pam Schiller and Kay Hastings guide, The Complete Resource Book: An Early Childhood Curriculum, is primarily a teacher resource, as it covers how to set up your class with learning centres and breaks down your days for the whole school year. However, a parent would certainly benefit from over 2,000 activities and ideas for young children as well. wpe13.jpg (5757 bytes)
The Complete Resource Book: An Early Childhood Curriculum
Pam Schiller and Kay Hastings

Hastings and Schiller have written a book that is extensive yet easy to follow. Each theme unit is set up with a title, philosophy, and overview of the unit and the unit itself. The units are relevant and appropriate for the different stages of development of children aged three to five. Some of the interesting themes are The Forest Comes To Us, Creepy Crawlies, and Wheels and Wings.

Each day plan includes a list of materials needed, circle time discussion topics, a suggestion for a story to read and an appropriate song or musical game. This is followed by an easy- to-read chart of six learning centre activities. The appendix at the back of the book has supplementary materials that support the day plans – appropriate songs, chants, finger plays, games, recipes, drawings and more. The layout of the book makes it very easy to integrate into your current plan, or focus on specific themes that your students or children have interests in. This is a well-rounded, all-in-one resource book that you could get much use out of both at school and at home.

If you are someone who does not know where to begin about teaching young children music and lack confidence in your singing abilities, Jackie Silberg may have the answer for you. Silberg is an authority on child development and the author of six earlier books, as well as the owner of the Miss Jackie Music Company.

The title, The I Can’t Sing Book for Grownups Who Can’t Carry A Tune in a Paper Bag…But Want to Do Music with Young Children, says it all. This book is appropriate for children aged one to five. It is also appropriate for anyone who likes the idea of using commonly known songs and poetic verse to teach musical concepts to young children.

Silberg believes that everyone can be successful in music and her book’s content and organization make that belief a reality for her readers. The reader does not have to worry about notes and difficult musical terms. Instead, she puts together easy rhythm patterns, poetic wording and high and low sounds to create an easy way to teach and learn about music. Silberg’s activities allow adults and children to learn how music is rhythm, sound, movement, language, singing, instruments, classical, fun, and for everyone. wpe16.jpg (6408 bytes)
The I Can’t Sing Book for Grownups Who Can’t Carry a Tune in a Paper Bag… But Want to Do Music with Young Children
Jackie Silberg

Each activity contains a title, an age group, an objective and easy-to-follow steps.

I really appreciated how Silberg encouraged adult-child interaction and always left room for creativity. Her ideas are simple, inspiring and fun to do. I learned a lot!

Teachers and parents have a lot to organize at school and at home. Lists are a tool that many of us use to keep everything on track. Judy Fujawa, an early childhood educator for over 20 years, has compiled a book of lists that enhances the home-school connection by promoting a positive learning experience for young children.

(Almost) Everything You Need to Know About Early Childhood Education is for both parents and teachers. The author has many ideas about how and where her book can be used. Fujawa suggests using the lists as a daily reflection, reading one list per day, like Creative Gift Ideas, Supplies or Materials That Encourage Children to Be Creative, and Warm and Wonderful Ways to Build Memories With Children. wpe14.jpg (6162 bytes)
(Almost) Everything
You Need to Know About Early Childhood Education
Judy Fujawa

I found the book to be informative, insightful and funny. Fujawa’s thoughts, ideas and philosophies get to the heart of young children’s true needs, wants and desires.

These three books are ones that I am happy to have in my library. Each one will help to contribute in a unique way to my professional and personal development as a teacher and a mom. The activities and ideas are relevant to the early learner. The books are easy to use and understand. And most importantly, the authors find a way to help the adult reader see into the world of young children so that we can better guide them to be successful in their learning.

Laurie Goodman is an occasional teacher with the York Region District School Board.


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Real Boys:
Rescuing Our Sons from the Myths of Boyhood
William Pollack
New York; Random House, 1998

Reviewed by Michael Reist

In Real Boys, Harvard psychologist William Pollack attempts to do for boys what Mary Pipher did for girls in Reviving Ophelia – give a hearing to the voices of the "real boys" behind the masks they wear.

Beneath the cool facade boys put on in public seethe intense emotions – love, fear, anger, excitement, passion – emotions that girls are permitted to express, but that boys feel they must suppress precisely because they have come to be associated with that which is feminine.

As any teacher or parent of a boy knows, the greatest putdown a boy can dish out or receive is being called gay — a code word for having let the armour slip and letting the feminine tendencies show.

While women have come to be permitted a broader range of behaviour than in the past, Pollack shows how boys (and men) continue to suffer within a very confining "gender-straightjacket."

Pollack blames what he calls the "shame-based hardening process" that begins with boys from birth. The young boy is prompted to toughen up, to cut the apron strings. There is little tolerance for feelings of fear or insecurity in boys. This adjustment usually occurs, says Pollack, at the expense of the boy’s expressive life.

Pollack exposes many of the unconscious assumptions we have about the innate characteristics of boys – many of which are not only false, but destructive. He talks, for example, about the myth of the "toxic boy" – the notion that boys are naturally loud, aggressive, rambunctious and destructive of institutional decorum. Boys somehow need to be reigned in, tamed or civilized.

Pollack devotes a whole chapter to the implications of this attitude for schools. He cites the astronomical rise in the use of Ritalin among boys and the huge disproportion in the number of boys in special education and behavioural classes. Do these "diagnoses" tell us about boys or do they tell us more about our attitudes toward boys? Is the school environment hospitable to the needs of boys? Do our prophecies about anti-social male behaviour become self-fulfilling?

"From elementary grades through high school, boys receive lower grades than girls. Eighth-grade boys are held back 50 per cent more often than girls. By high school, boys account for two-thirds of the students in special education classes. Fewer boys than girls now attend and graduate from college." Dedication to aggressive sports is valued; dedication to academics or any kind of interior pursuits is mocked within the peer group – a blatant violation of the boy code.

Pollack exposes the inner life of our boys. What is revealed is much suffering, but also much beauty and sensitivity. This book is essential reading for all teachers and the parents of boys. It contains many practical suggestions about how to break through the armour or prevent it from being put on in the first place. If our boys are to achieve their full potential, they must be rescued from the myths of boyhood found in contemporary culture – myths that keep them locked in a cool suit of armour.

Michael Reist is the head of English at Robert F. Hall Catholic Secondary School in Caledon East.