Children, Education and Learning

1. The ABC of it: why children’s books matter
Marcus, Leonard S. Minnesota, 2019

The ABC of It originated as a well-received 2013–14 exhibit at the New York Public Library. The staff of the University of Minnesota’s Kerlan Collection of Children’s Literature were so impressed with the exhibit that they sought and received permission to replicate it—supplementing it with materials from their collection—as a celebration of the 70th anniversary of the founding of the Kerlan Collection. Marcus, curator of the NYPL exhibit and an expert on children’s books and illustrations, curated the UMN exhibit and prepared this catalogue, working from the plans of his original exhibit and using materials from UMN. The catalogue is not a history of children’s literature but rather a review of how children’s books reflect the changing adult view of children.
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2. Love, money & parenting: how economics explains the way we raise our kids
Doepke, Matthias. by Matthias Doepke and Fabrizio Zilibotti Princeton, 2019

This volume examines parenting—a topic of great interest to many—in conjunction with a key economic issue today, income inequality. Economists Doepke (Northwestern) and Zilibotti (Yale) examine how economic factors affect parenting styles, arguing that with low inequality, parents can be permissive when raising children because the costs of not succeeding are low—their children have only slightly lower incomes as adults. However, when inequality is high and relative position is not determined by status at birth, there are more authoritative “helicopter parents” due to the greater costs of children not succeeding in school. The authors use a broad array of data sets to provide empirical support for their hypothesis, as well as to draw out policy implications of their analysis.
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3. Where teachers thrive: organizing schools for success
Johnson, Susan Moore. Harvard Education Press, 2019

Using her own research and supported by the research of others, Johnson (Harvard Univ.) explores the elements that lead to more effective schools, particularly those serving low income children. She contests the idea that the key to success is to only hire more qualified teachers. These teachers, as well as others, need a supportive environment. Studying different schools in Massachusetts, Johnson found that there were a variety of elements that worked to improve the schools. The school principal was a key factor, as was the degree to which teachers worked together cooperatively and had sufficient supplies and equipment. One solution does not necessarily fit all. Measuring success only by student results on standardized tests provides limited and misleading information in terms of educating children at each grade level.
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4. Homeschooling: the history and philosophy of a controversial practice
Dwyer, James G. by James G. Dwyer and Shawn F. Peters Chicago, 2019

Homeschooling, or “parent-directed learning in the home that substitutes … for attendance at a regular school,” is enjoying a resurgence in the US, though it remains controversial. While homeschooling might offer a superior substitute where quality public or private education is unavailable, it can also be used to hide abuse, neglect, or a complete lack of education. In this compelling book, Dwyer (College of William & Mary) and Peters (Univ. of Wisconsin, Madison) analyze arguments for and against homeschooling. Discarding their preconceived ideas about education, they pose an overlooked but essential question: homeschooling is fundamentally about parents’ rights to educate as they see fit, but who is looking after the rights of children? Analyses reveal that no state provides meaningful oversight of homeschooled children’s education or welfare. The authors conclude that homeschooling today, in most cases, inadequately meets children’s best interests, failing to prepare them to thrive in modern economic, social, or civic life.
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5. Literature’s children: the critical child and the art of idealization
Joy, Louise. Bloomsbury Academic, 2019

Joy’s valuable addition to the scholarship on children’s literature offers enough critical analysis and expertise to make the book seem like an edited collection from a range of experts. In each chapter of Literature’s Children, she unveils another element of her compelling argument for child as active critic. Joy’s claim, in the introduction, that “child readers are active, curious, independent, questioning thinkers” should not surprise anyone who has worked with young minds. The author does an excellent job of supporting her position that scholarship on children’s literature should cease viewing child readers as merely passive consumers of adult writers’ wisdom or indoctrinating oppression. As Joy demonstrates, children construct meaning in much more complex ways than the binary options much of children’s literature scholarship allows: innocence versus ignorance, popularity versus quality, didactic versus aesthetic.
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