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Published in Print: July 8, 1998, as Reinventing Childhood and Surviving Adolescence


Reinventing Childhood and Surviving Adolescence

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Reinventing Childhood: Raising and Teaching Children in a Changing World, by David Elkind (Modern Learning Press, 4 Hardscrabble Heights, Brewster, NY 10509; 204 pp., $19.95 hardcover). Like David Elkind's previous book, The Hurried Child, this latest work is about profound change and its far-reaching consequences for students, parents, and teachers. According to the author, the experiences of childhood are being altered by a combination of trends and new technologies--from the increase in the number of working mothers to the use of computers and videos in kindergarten. Thus, a child's language development, socialization, personality, intelligence, and special needs are far different from what they were a few decades ago. Reinventing Childhood devotes a chapter to each of these subjects, as Mr. Elkind provides detailed information and advice on related issues. The author, a professor of child development at Tufts University, treats a variety of timely topics, such as out-of-home child care, different methods of reading instruction, and the effects of television viewing.

Something Better for My Children: The History and People of Head Start, by Kay Mills (Dutton, 375 Hudson St., New York, NY 10014; 338 pp., $27.95 hardcover). Exploring one of the last surviving programs of President Lyndon B. Johnson's War on Poverty, Kay Mills mixes extensive observations at Head Start centers from the inner-city Watts neighborhood of Los Angeles to affluent Montgomery County, Md. The book also includes pointed summaries of the program's history, policies, and struggles to maintain its independence and community roots. What differentiates Head Start, which has now served more than 15 million children, from other preschool programs? According to the author, it is Head Start's emphasis on parent involvement as well as health and social services for children. A champion of the federally funded program, Ms. Mills brings readers into the classrooms and the homes, writing that Head Start's new goals should be quality control and a "war on the real causes of poverty."

The Youngest Minds: Parenting and Genes in the Development of Intellect and Emotion, by Dr. Ann B. Barnet and Richard J. Barnet (Simon & Schuster, 1230 Avenue of the Americas, New York, NY 10020; 352 pp., $26 hardcover). What does every parent need to know about what goes on in a child's brain during the first months and years of life? The Youngest Minds draws on recent findings in neuroscience and psychology to present what the authors see as a new understanding of how children learn language, establish emotional ties, and embrace moral values. Pediatric neurologist Dr. Ann Barnet and writer Richard Barnet show how genetic influences and early experiences constantly interact in learning and emotional development--actually organizing and reorganizing children's brains. The emotional climate in which early learning takes place, the authors argue, is even more important than the intellectual content of that learning. The book offers guidance to parents and caregivers by outlining the essential characteristics of healthy parent-child relationships and good child care, as well as showing how the effects of bad early experiences can be overcome later in life.


Reaching Up for Manhood: Transforming the Lives of Boys in America, by Geoffrey Canada (Beacon Press, 25 Beacon St., Boston, MA 02108-2892; 160 pp., $22 hardcover). With his latest book, Geoffrey Canada, the author of Fist Stick Knife Gun, furthers his pioneering role in providing mentorship and advancement opportunities to inner-city youngsters. American culture, according to the author, too often mistakes violence for manliness. Reaching Up for Manhood not only presents the problems facing urban boys but also provides practical ways to overcome them. Although rich in theory, the book also offers illuminating anecdotes stemming from Mr. Canada's work as the president of New York City's Rheedlen Centers for Children and Families. The book confronts both larger social and economic structures (a dearth of male role models, for example) and the poor work ethic and lack of commitment on the part of some inner-city boys. Mr. Canada's own upward climb in the South Bronx against drugs, alcohol, and violence help shed light on the author's recommendations.

On the Outside Looking In: A Year in an Inner-City High School, by Cristina Rathbone (Atlantic Monthly Press, 841 Broadway, New York, NY 10003; 400 pp., $26 hardcover). Journalist Cristina Rathbone spent a year among inner-city youths at New York City's West Side High School. The result is an account that works to get beyond the familiar stereotypes and one-dimensional images of an often-neglected segment of the population. Ms. Rathbone details an intricate patchwork of problems and circumstances facing these students, a phenomenon she describes as the "culture of despair." This is where the book finds its purpose and its strength--in observation and detail, not in offering solutions. West Side High is a last-chance institution for disruptive and troubled teenagers, and Ms. Rathbone, following these black and Latino students both in and out of school, records not only the tragedy in their lives but also their resilience. On the Outside Looking In also pays tribute to the generosity and tireless efforts of the school's principal and teachers.Safe Passage: Making It Through Adolescence in a Risky Society, by Joy G. Dryfoos (Oxford University Press, 198 Madison Ave., New York, NY 10016; 292 pp., $27.50 hardcover). In the face of daunting obstacles on adolescents' path to adulthood--failing schools, dangerous streets, drug abuse, teenage pregnancy--there is good news, child advocate Joy Dryfoos' book suggests. Many communitywide programs work, and Safe Passage helps locate them. The book examines hundreds of successful research-based and field-tested programs, such as the Turner Middle School in Philadelphia, a model of a "university assisted" community school. Safe Passage promotes the trend toward "full service" schools, initiatives that make the school the hub of the community, serving as a neighborhood safe haven and providing health and human services on site. Ms. Dryfoos' dissection of failed programs is equally valuable.


Financing Schools for High Performance: Strategies for Improving the Use of Educational Resources, by Allan Odden and Carolyn Busch (Jossey-Bass, 350 Sansome St., Fifth Floor, San Francisco, CA 94104-1342; 256 pp., $31.95 hardcover).Financing Schools provides a road map for redirecting school funds in ways that the authors believe will dramatically improve student performance. Lead author Allan Odden, one of the nation's foremost scholars on school finance, and Carolyn Busch, an education adviser to Washington state Gov. Gary Locke, offer a vision of finance reform that holds school-based financing as the key to improving school performance. The book examines the inefficiencies in current education spending and considers various approaches to school-based financing to meet ambitious reform goals. Financing Schools is filled with examples of innovative ways of structuring finance (in the United States and abroad), actual school budgets, and proposals for making funding more equitable across districts. It is intended as a resource for state, district, and school-level administrators.

The Real Ebonics Debate: Power, Language, and the Education of African-American Children, edited by Theresa Perry and Lisa Delpit (Beacon Press, 25 Beacon St., Boston, MA 02108-2892; 192 pp., $12 original paperback). When the Oakland, Calif., school board issued a resolution in 1996 calling for schools to acknowledge the presence of black vernacular English in the classroom, a national outcry followed. The politicized debate about "ebonics" made headlines, then faded from public consciousness. But the essays collected in The Real Ebonics Debate argue that the question of how to engage the distinctive language of many African-American children remains urgent. Some leading educators, linguists, and writers examine the lessons of the ebonics controversy and offer an intriguing look at the political nature of language. Editors Theresa Perry and Lisa Delpit have arranged the collection into useful sections--"What Is Ebonics?" and "Classroom Implications," for example--and have included sections on terminology and suggested reading. For those less familiar with the Oakland debate, another section, "The Oakland Resolution," includes the district's original ebonics resolution, subsequent revisions, and Superintendent Carolyn Getridge's response to critics of the policy.

The Discipline of Hope: Learning from a Lifetime of Teaching, by Herbert Kohl (Simon & Schuster, 1230 Avenue of the Americas, New York, NY 10020; 350 pp., $24 hardcover). A retrospective account of four decades of teaching, The Discipline of Hope provides practical guideposts, powerful insights, and a wide variety of instructional approaches for even the most challenging classrooms. Herbert Kohl, the author of more than 40 books (including 36 Children, a classic chronicle of an inner-city school, published in 1967), grounds his latest mix of theory and autobiography squarely in the classroom. He describes a lifelong love affair with teaching that includes both triumphs and missteps. Mr. Kohl's accounts are set against the social events of the time, from the civil rights movement and the Vietnam War in the 1960s and '70s through what he sees as the abandonment of public schools in the 1980s. Examining education from kindergarten to graduate school, the book emphasizes the relationship between teacher and student, the mutuality between the two as they learn from each other. Central to the book--and to the art of teaching itself as Mr. Kohl sees it--is what he calls the "discipline of hope": "the refusal to accept limits on what your students can learn or on what you, as a teacher, can do to facilitate learning."


A Shining Thread of Hope: The History of Black Women in America, by Darlene Clark Hine and Kathleen Thompson (Broadway Books, 1540 Broadway, New York, NY 10036; 355 pp., $27.50 hardcover). Building on the groundwork laid by Paula Giddings' When and Where I Enter, Darlene Clark Hine and Kathleen Thompson have combined their talents to provide a comprehensive narrative history of black women in America. Ms. Hine, a professor of history, and Ms. Thompson, an award-winning writer on women's issues, pore through slave narratives, autobiographies, letters, oral histories, and statistical data to piece together the lives and contributions of black women--from their participation in American colonial communities to their status as landmark figures in arts and entertainment. Several chapters address distinct eras such as the Civil War, Reconstruction, and the Great Migration. A Shining Thread of Hope captures the hardships and triumphs of daily life, as well as the greater social, political, and legal ramifications of being a black woman in America. The diversity of black women--separated by time, place, and class--is an equally powerful theme in the authors' chronology.


Vol. 17, Issue 42, Page 42

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