The folowing book reviews were originally published in Child and Family MagazineTHE ORCHESTRA by Mark Rubin, Illustrated by Alan Daniel, Douglas & McIntyre, book and cassette
by Lex Thomas
Music education is a vital part of the curriculum for many children, but educators agree that it's difficult to instill a genuine love of music. A professional musician can teach the mechanics and techniques, but how do you teach appreciation?
That was the dilemma Mark Rubin faced when he searched for a primer to teach his young son about the instruments of the orchestra. Printed materials, recordings, and young people's concert series were geared to older children who already had a basic understanding of music and musical instruments.
Sensing he wasn't alone in his quest, Rubin, in conjunction with artist Alan Daniel, created a series appropriate both for use at home and in the classroom. To produce the sound recording, Rubin was able to persuade Peter Ustinov to narrate. The Toronto Philharmonia Orchestra recorded the sound track, arranged and orchestrated by composer Milan Kymlicka.
Musical selections, all standards in the classical repertory, include Grieg's 'Norwegian Dance No. 2', Rossini's 'William Tell Overture', and the opening of Beethoven's Fifth Symphony. Rubin chose music that reflects a variety of moods and features the instrumental families and solo instruments. A video adaptation of the book and soundtrack is available as part of a classroom learning kit.
The text of the book, portions of which are narrated on the recording, is colorful and imaginative. Particularly noteworthy are the explanations of how different instruments work and the laws of sound production. Daniel's illustrations are vivid and expressive, depicting the proper holding positions and stance for instrumentalists.
The series, used with parental guidance, simplifies and demystifies a subject that can be intimidating, even to those who want to introduce their children to one of the loveliest, most universal and enduring of art forms.
THE WOMAN WHO WORKS, THE PARENT WHO CARES by Sirgay Sanger, M.D., and John Kelly, Harper & Row, 245 pages
by Lex Thomas
Many modern mothers still feel a potent sense of guilt in trying to combine a career with child-raising. In 1982, child psychiatrist Dr. Sirgay Sanger initiated a program called 'Reality Attuned Parenting' (REAP) at the Early Care Centre in New York, which counsels working mothers to dispel their fears about inadequate parenting.
According to Sanger, a 'new type' of child is being raised in a new way, with different rules. These children, he contends, are entering the real world sooner and are socially and intellectually more adept at coping with real-life situations than are children raised traditionally.
Sanger and his researchers often use the word 'more' to describe these children-more skilled, more friendly, more adaptable to new situations. The lifestyle of the working mother provides a stimulating environment and helps break down the stereotypical concepts of masculine and feminine roles. Both parents are seen as equally sharing such household tasks as cooking or ironing.
His theory, however, lacks credibility even among Sanger's own case studies. Although a situation in which working parents share responsibilities at home may be ideal, many families are still dependent upon the mother as the primary homemaker. This can create additional stress for the mother, which in turn may be reflected in her children.
Another weakness is the author's assumption that the reader has attained a certain level of affluence, working by choice rather than from economic necessity.
His belief that a child whose mother works is better off than a child raised by a stay-at-home mom may provide reassurance to those already convinced, but there is considerable evidence to the contrary, doubts which this book does nothing to dispel.
LET'S GROW! 72 GARDENING ADVENTURES WITH CHILDREN by Linda Tilgner, Storey Communications, 208 pages
by Lex Thomas
Gardening is a pastime treasured by many but often considered off limits to the very young. After all, who wants to see hours of painstaking work trampled by a toddler? But according to Linda Tilgner, letting your youngster help out and even assigning a small area for his or her own personal garden is one way to make sure that a child will choose somewhere else to play. He is hardly likely to risk destroying the plants or vegetables he himself has planted.
Tilgner believes gardening gives children an appreciation and respect for nature particularly valuable for families living in urban centres. She recommends a variety of projects ranging from those suited to the very young to those a teenager will find both challenging and rewarding. Toddlers might enjoy picking strawberries or blueberries, a small pail tied around their waist, leaving the hands free for gathering and eating. Five- to seven-year-olds can learn to brew 'manure tea', a concoction that promotes vigorous growth to lettuce, tomatoes, pumpkins, cucumbers and other vegetables.
Several easy recipes are included, such as leek and potato soup, fresh fruit tarts, and steamed fiddleheads. All projects are listed in a handy index by age group and season.
Many of Tilgner's ideas are fairly obvious, and families with an interest in gardening will already be doing many of them. Many of her suggestions, however, will inspire those who have never considered gardening as an activity for the whole family to enjoy.
One particularly valuable chapter is devoted to gardening with handicapped children. Braille markers can help a blind child, and special attention is given to the sounds and aromas that are part of the experience of gardening.
Tilgner's book is visually appealing, with more than 100 photographs as well as diagrams of plants, cellular structures, sowing suggestions and recommended tools. A list of hazardous plants also makes it a useful choice for the kitchen bookshelf.
YOUR CHILD AT PLAY: THREE TO FIVE YEARS by Marilyn Segal and Don Adcock, Newmarket Press, 218 pages
by Lex Thomas
With so many books available offering often confusing and contradictory advice for parents on how to raise their children, it's refreshing to read this, the fourth volume in a series devoted to kids and play.
Co-authored by Marilyn Segal, Ph. D., a developmental psychologist, mother of five and director of the Family Center at Nova University in Florida, and Don Adcock, Ph. D., associate director of the Center, the series explores how parents can educate their children and increase their social and interpersonal skills using creative play. A fascinating aspect of this fourth volume is the authors' insights into the thought processes of preschool children. By introducing readers to the logic by which children reach their conclusions, the book teaches parents to formulate appropriate responses to children's questions, and to understand the source of both their confusion and their amazement.
As an example, children between the ages of three and five can be persistent in their questions about birth and death. Drs. Segal and Adcock provide answers parents can use to respond in a manner that's both calming and accurate.
Excellent suggestions are included for helping children develop reading, writing and counting skills, and to encourage creativity through storytelling. These techniques are geared toward giving kids added confidence once they start school.
By explaining the challenges parents often encounter in grasping our children's views of concepts such as time or distance, this book offers solid and reassuring guidance into understanding how a child thinks and how to assist his cognitive development.