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Birth to teens, all you need to know

READY TO LEARN: from birth to school readiness. By Martyn Rawson and Michael Rose. Hawthorn. Press pound;9.99.

HELPING CHILDREN GET THE MOST FROM SCHOOL By Sarah Lawson. Sheldon Press. pound;6.99.

EDUCATING YOUR CHILD AT HOME. By Janet Lowe and Alan Thomas. Continuum. pound;14.99.

POSITIVE PARENTING: managing your 13 to 16-year-old. By Sharon Lissaman. QED. pound;2.95.

THE TERRIBLE TEENS: what every parent needs to know. By Kate Figes. Viking. pound;9.99.

ENDANGERED: your child in a hostile world. By Johann Cristoph Arnold. Plough Publishing. pound;7.

Young children are often praised and rewarded for being "sensible" in school, and it's not difficult to see why quiet compliance is important in a busy classroom with lots to get through. All the same, you long for some recognition for the sort of children who drink the paint and spend whole days in character as creatures of the tropical rainforest.

In Ready to Learn, Martyn Rawson and Michael Rose remind us that: "Little children love to chatter and run about and sing and dance and have fantasies, because all of these experiences are not simply pleasurable but are also developing of human life skills. It may prove extremely exhausting for an adult to be involved in such activity - but it is no less exhausting, and far less relevant, for a little child to be involved in adult activities like sitting still for long periods and thinking about things."

In our anxiety to push small children into formal learning before they are ready, they write, we "clip the wings of both genius and joy, when body and spirit are still so full of potential and at the same time so vulnerable".

This is a book to strengthen the instincts of teachers, parents and grandparents of all those under-sevens who are finding it difficult to play the game called school.

That the rules and conventions of this game are subtle is evident from the existence of so many books that aim to help parents understand them. Sarah Lawson's Helping Children Get the Most from School is a good example of the genre - clear, unpatronising and potentially helpful to teachers in the way that it highlights the typical concerns of parents. She, too, points out the difficulties that can arise when a child moves too early from nursery or playgroup into the formal classroom. She suggests that concerned parents should look at the alternative of home schooling.

Much more detail on home schooling is provided in Educating Your Child at Home by Janet Lowe and Alan Thomas. All that's needed is courage and confidence, and here's a book to provide encouragement. "Home educators everywhere," they write, "have shown for years that learning at home is a viable optionI we have come across hardly anyone who has regretted having educated children at home whether in the short or in the long term."

Whether they stay at home or go to school, all children hit the teenage years, at which point all other problems fade into insignificance. Two books - a short one and a long one - aim to give parents help with teenagers.

Positive Parenting: managing your 13 to 16-year-old packs a lot of sense into 28 pages, summed up perhaps as: "Listen to them; negotiate, don't confront; provide clear boundaries; give support."

The Terrible Teens says more or less the same things, but at 400 or so pages, 10 chapters, three appendices and a bibliography, it is more of a sit-down read, and that's no bad thing for those parents who need reassurance that what they are going through isn't unusual. Kate Figes deals in greater depth with the crises all parents fear - drugs, alcohol, relationship traumas.

What I'd have liked both books to say is that if you love your children unconditionally, reassuring them that whatever happens you will welcome them home, they'll eventually become loving, funny and supportive friends.

Love is the central theme of Endangered. Reciting the terrible statistics of child homelessness, murder, and abuse worldwide, Johann Christoph Arnold calls us to our duty of care and love to our own children. "As long as we have children entrusted to our care, we cannot forget that the demands they make on us must be answered in the present. For the sake of the child, are we ready to drop everything - not begrudgingly, but with joy?"

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