Education books

4th June 1999 at 01:00
Those of us who interview students wanting to be teachers, or teachers seeking promotion, have lost count of the number of candidates who manage to talk for half an hour about education without ever mentioning children. Education books are a bit like that - they are about management, pedagogy, systems, control. To set things straight, here are five which have "children" in the title.

Teaching Young Children by Tricia David (Paul Chapman pound;15.99) is a collection of papers from the Centre for International Studies in Early Childhood at Canterbury Christ Church College. It covers the full range of classroom activity with chapters on, for example, language, the arts, mathematics, physical education and design technology.

Thankfully, though, David starts the book off with a commitment to the importance of relationships. "The impact of emotional aspects of a school or nursery situation has long been neglected in the UK, as is amply demonstrated by the list of criteria for judging the quality of teaching drawn from OFTSED criteria."

Amen to that. I dread the thought that one day my lively grandson may go eagerly to school only to find himself being yelled at by an insensitive harridan. Should this happen, I will take David's book down to school and lay about the teacher with it.

The companion volume to Teaching Young Children is Young Children Learning, also edited by Tricia David (Paul Chapman pound;15.99) I found this one the more interesting, perhaps because, rightly or wrongly, I feel that early years education is more about learning than teaching. I particularly enjoyed Judith Roden's chapter "Young Children are Natural Scientists", especially her thoughts on children's drawings, which puncture some popular assumptions.

Vivian Gussin Paley's The Kindness of Children (Harvard University Press pound;11.95) is the kind of book that once occupied a place on student teachers' shelves, where now you find only textbooks about the mechanics of the craft. It starts with an encounter in a London nursery between the children and a visiting child who has a severe disability. They display astonishing kindness, not so say inventiveness, in the way they include him in their play.

Through the rest of the book the author tells how she went from town to town in Britain and the US, telling this story and receiving a host of interesting and moving reactions. This is one for half-term; a re-charger of spiritual batteries.

Divorce is so common now that teachers routinely deal with children in its aftermath - and are likely to have coped with it in their own lives. So how does divorce affect children? How can they make a relationship with a new adult in their lives? Heather Smith, author of Children, Feelings and Divorce (Free Association Books pound;15.95) is a clinical social worker with a quarter of a century's experience of these problems. The section headings - "Loving a violent dad", for example, or "Guilt" - demonstrate the straightforwardness of her style, and are baldly effective in pinpointing the challenges that lie in wait when marriages fall apart.

Finally, Doing Research with Children by Anne Greig and Jayne Taylor (Sage Publications pound;42.50 hbk pound;13.99 pbk) is exactly what the title says - a handbook about how to construct effective research with very young children. The effect can be incongruous - a picture of some jolly stuffed toys is said to show "some of the toys which are widely available and easily used or adapted for doing research with very young children."

Still, the purpose is serious, even though I did most of my nodding in agreement at the sentence: "A significant amount of what we know about children is gained by well designed and conducted interviews of adults who know them well - parents, teachers, carers, case workers, health visitors and peers being a few examples." Well, yes.

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