Tuesday, June 9, 2015

NurtureShock: New Thinking About Children by Po Bronson, Ashley Merryman

Now that I have a grandson that is a toddler I find myself reading parenting books again like this one. I raised my daughter during what the authors call the “ 1980s self-esteem” craze. I was a “praise junkie” too and didn’t learn until I went into education that the focus needs to be on effort; otherwise, a child’s confidence is undermined. There are quite a few studies in education on reward systems and praise. The authors introduce basic concepts and while the title of the book makes this nonfiction text sound like it contains earth-shattering revelations, I think its just information that is repackaged in a way that is easy-to-read. It is not a dense academic piece and should generate good discussions.

Some of the studies quoted had me wondering as they oversimplify several topics such as cultural differences on raising kids between Chinese and American mothers. Like any well-written persuasive speech, the authors use data to support their claims even when the research seems obscure or a repackaging of different educational programs. So while the topics are interesting, keep in mind the book slants toward whatever bias the authors are trying to prove such as the program “Tools of the Mind” that uses sociodramatic in primary years. It is one of many good programs; however, the authors do not compared it to others good programs. It is compared to some poor practices in public school programs, but is not understood within the education field as a whole.

I did find the beginning of the book more helpful than the end. I also liked the chapter on “color-blindness” and how parents need to talk to children at a young age about diversity and races. The thinking is that this can be done later in life but children do in-group separation at an extremely young age. Race needs to be discussed so that the next generation can learn about tolerance. Recent literature encourages librarians to talk about race and diversity with children at a younger age and more picture books are allowing this with their content. I read "The Grudgekeeper," and it has a young white boy marrying a black girl. It triggered an interesting discussion about race with my grade 2 students, except we talked about mixed Asian marriages.

The chapter on how children lie is something teachers figure out pretty quickly. The 4-5 year-old students always tell me they returned their library books and my first inclination is to doubt them. But I've never really thought about it as lying. I just think of it as their development age and that they don't understand the library concept of returning their books. Maybe some do lie. I don't really know. I wasn't really sure about the phrasing of some things in this book. Can you tell? That's why it is good for discussion.

The writing in the book is easy-to-read. It is not a dense, academic book. It is also six years old and feels a bit dated or maybe it is the word "shock" in the title. It is not really shocking. The focus is more on private than public education and the authors sometimes are insensitive in tone toward public education. I don't think a balanced view of education is presented. The authors are trying to persuade specific points-of-view and the tone can be overly dramatic. It's interesting though and has some thought-provoking ideas. Just don't use it as a sole reference.

3 Smileys

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