by Ellen Galinsky, New York, NY, HarperCollins Publishers, 2010, 382 pp, Paperback, $16.99.
Ellen Galinsky has compiled the findings of hundreds of studies about typical child development and learning into an extremely readable contemporary guide for promoting the optimal acquisition of 7 “essential life skills” during childhood. She begins by listing the tenets she holds true for these skills: (1) both children and adults need these skills (and we adults must practice them in order to support them in children), (2) teaching these skills does not require fancy materials but rather can use everyday (often fun!) opportunities, and (3) it is never too late for children to learn these skills.
Following the brief introduction, each subsequent chapter is dedicated to a separate life skill: focus and self-control; perspective taking; communicating; making connections; critical thinking; taking on challenges; and self-directed, engaged learning. Every chapter begins with a thorough explanation of the particular skill that is covered. Each section is shaped by a comprehensible description and interpretation of seminal research studies interspersed with others' “Perspectives” and relevant anecdotes about Ms. Galinsky's 2 children. Simple thought-provoking reflection “Exercises” are also offered to the reader intermittently.
This patchwork style enables Ms. Galinsky to minimize text density and maximize reader interest, although it sometimes presents as a bit haphazard and compromises flow. At the end of each chapter, several pages are dedicated to many expansive practical “Suggestions” for incorporating the particular skill into everyday life while nurturing children.
Ms. Galinsky aims to help, rather than guilt, caregivers of children, because she emphasizes the support of each skill across the continuum of childhood (as well as adulthood). She writes realistically, in a relatable style. Her manner is engaging and enthusiastic but not overwhelming.
Via an accessible approach, her text highlights a multitude of experts in the field of normative child development, including Tronick, Shonkoff, Mischel, Meltzoff, Hart and Risley, Gopnik, Chess and Thomas, Canada, Campos, Brazelton, and Als. Ms. Galinsky explains psychological constructs including inhibitory control, attributional retraining, familiarization procedure, autonomic nervous system, and visual cliff scenario. Culling the conclusions of researchers, Ms. Galinsky justifies the importance of children engaging in pretend play and being imaginative, reading books, doing puzzles, playing board games, participating in strong arts programs, as being involved in very valuable endeavors. Examples of “Suggestions” include “View teaching children to be with others as equally important to teaching them independence,” “Select early childhood programs where communication skills are emphasized,” “Give children many opportunities to see connections in fun and playful ways,” and “Don't shield your child from everyday stresses.”
This authoritative book is both an academically informative text as well as an exhaustive guidebook of skills to benefit optimal nurturance of typical child development. It would be an excellent and inspirational resource for both new and experienced parents as well as training and seasoned providers of care to children in both education and medicine.
Sarah Schlegel, MD
Division of Developmental-Behavioral Pediatrics
University of Connecticut School of Medicine and Connecticut Children's Medical Center
Farmington, Hartford, CT