Category : Recommended Resources

Recommended Resources

How Children Learn. Book 2 by Linda Pound


As the title suggests this is the follow on book from How Children Learn by Linda Pound and is laid out in the same style, with key dates in the side margins and good, clear headings. The references are many and varied, and, more importantly, easy to find!

The major difference with this book is the depth of the content. As well as an overview Linda goes into more detail about the development of each theory, how they build on each other and they differ. I found the way that phonics, in various forms, has been in and out of fashion since the middle of the nineteeth century fascinating – there is a particularly good table which compares analytic phonics with synthetic phonics in the chapter about how children learn to read and write.

In the chapter about intelligence there are some mind blowing facts:

  • The first series of tests for children, to see if they would benefit with mainstream schooling, were devised in 1905 (Simon-Binet tests). And I thought SATS were a modern demon!
  • In 1967 Joy Paul Guilford suggested there are 120 elements which make up human intelligence.
  • Scores in intelligence tests have been rising ever since they started (the Flynn Effect) – no-one is totally sure why.

Creativity is explored in the long view, from Freud to Pinker to Csikszentmihalyi, and then applied to the educational approaches. I found that this really made me think about what creativity is and why it is so important – and also why we don’t foster it more in our practitioners.

Conversely when Linda discusses progressive twentieth century theorists I felt that I had seen it somewhere before “individuality, freedom and growth”,”learning rather than teaching” and “a child’s life under his own direction is conducted all in play, whatever else we want to interst him in should be carried on in that medium”. The EYFS, maybe? No, progressive thinkers before the second world war.

The book ends on an overview of how children learn to talk including a very useful section on early years research.

Overall I would thoroughly recommend this book, especially if you have a particular interest in literacy, linguistics and intelligence or even if you have ever just thought ‘why do we do it like this?’.

Unlike book one, which I enjoyed as an interesting and informative read, I found this one really had me thinking and questioning my assumptions on phonics, creativity and intelligence. Linda deals with complex subjects and interwoven threads of theories comprehensively but clearly. It has inspired me to revisit theorists with a new outlook, particularly Gardner and Csikszentmihalyi, and has made me realise there is very little which is brand new in education!

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Young Children’s Personal, Social and Emotional Development by Marion Dowling


This is the second edition of a book first published in 2000. What a lot has happened since then, with the Laming report, Every Child Matters and the EYFS. Despite this I think Marion Dowling has written an incredibly relevant book with the bonus of being in an easy to read format.

In this book she deals in detail with topics you would expect to find, such as confident children, becoming independent and emotional well being, as well as a refreshingly large chapter on outdoors and how this promotes all round personal, social and emotional development. All the chapters are well referenced and grounded in real experience of nurseries and early years settings. Each chapter concludes with a short summary, practical suggestions and professional questions. It is the latter which I found the most thought provoking. Some typical examples are: what aspects of my behaviour offer a positive role model for young children? How do I help all my children to adopt mastery patterns of behaviour? And what do I do to take care of my own spiritual life?

This last question comes from Chapter 7, entitled Young Children’s Spirituality. I was initially concerned when I saw this chapter that it would be about the deep and troubled waters of religion, but in fact it investigates “appreciating the journey through life in the deepest sense, particularly special moments and recognising our own inner resources to help us cope with the journey”. Something we could probably all do with from time to time! She explores feelings of transcendence; search for meaning and purpose; creativity and a sense of awe, wonder and mystery, with perception and conciseness.

The concluding chapter, however, is the one which raises this book from the ordinary to the extraordinary. Entitled Some Important Ingredients, the first half is about “powerful ways of supporting children’s personal development through book, storytelling and fantasy play”.

The second half of this chapter is simply entitled Yourselves. Most literature and research agrees that the practitioner is the most valuable resource, but how often are the qualities of this ‘resource’ discussed and detailed? Marion Dowling has been able to do this sensitively and realistically, discussing qualities such as flexibility, empathy and optimism. Anyone who has worked in early years settings will recognise the situations she discusses and what is required of the practitioner in these circumstances. For example, under ’emotional maturity’ she raises the issue of family break-up – “Natural  responses are to feel disturbed, upset, angry and frustrated. It is not easy to handle these emotions but practitioners need to learn the importance of remaining outwardly calm and in control, being able to cope with complexity”. Good advice indeed!

In this book Marion Dowling has captured the essence of what a good quality childcare provider should be doing to foster a child’s personal, social and emotional development. It is a well researched book which covers theory and then puts it into practice. The professional questions are thought provoking and captures the current move towards professionalism in early years. However, for me the most outstanding parts of this book are the chapters on spirituality and the qualities of a high quality practitioner, which makes this book essential reading for practitioners and those employing them.

** NOTE: Look out for the new, 4th Edition, published August 2014, reviewed here**

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How Children Learn Book 1 by Linda Pound and Kathy Hughes

This is an amazing reference book – clear, concise and very enjoyable to read. I actually took my copy as holiday reading and thoroughly enjoyed it!

It is a book about educational theorists who have shaped the way we view children’s learning over the years, compiled in chronological order. The reader can appreciate how one theorist has built on, or disputed, the works of previous theorists. So we can see how Chris Astley has built on Piaget’s work on schema, for example.

If that sounds as dull as it comes – don’t worry, it isn’t! The authors have written in an easy to read format with plenty of cross references and further reading for when you want to find out in depth about a particular theorist.

I think this book would be excellent if you are just starting on a course and need to know about who the educational theorists are and their areas of interest. Unusually I would also recommend this book to any experienced practitioner who just needs to brush up on their knowledge – or rekindle the flame that first inspired them to find out about how children do learn.

You can get more information from Practical Pre-school.

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Nobody, Nowhere by Donna Williams

This book will almost certainly make you think about autism in a totally new way. Donna Williams had a very difficult childhood which she has documented with extreme frankness. It is written in separated paragraphs which I initially found broke the flow of the writing, but as I got used to it, and read the content, I realised that this is possibly how the author actually compartmentalises her life. Similarly there are huge sections written about minutiae and a few lines about massive events.

Importantly this book gave me an insight into how a child with autism might view the world, consequently making me empathise more when working with children. Behaviour that, at first glance, seemed irrational or combative made more sense when armed with the knowledge from this book.

 

This excellent book is available from Amazon

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The Jumbled Jigsaw by Donna Williams

This is the second book I have read by Donna Williams and I am just as impressed, though for different reasons.

The first book I read was Nobody, Nowhere and is her autobiography (see earlier article) whereas this one is a text book which covers the very many and varied aspects of autism and its manifestations. I found this immensely thought provoking, particularly the parallels and differences between autism and aspergers.

It has been a book which I have dipped into and out of, not least because there is an awful lot of medical references which I have had to go and look up! None the less it is extremely informative and an excellent addition to the bookshelf for anyone interested in this area of child development.

It is available from Amazon

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