Two unexpected standouts this month are books that made me excited about yelling (Sheila McCraith’s Yell Less, Love More) and the upcoming teen years (Rebecca Deurlein’s Teenagers 101). Both gave me a chuckle as well as some good advice. As my kids adjust to middle school (which I have decided is the equivalent of having seven bosses), I have a great appreciation for screaming-as-default and communicating and meeting with teachers (which I have decided is like speed dating in an arena).
The librarian’s gold standard of “the right book at the right time” hit home this month and reminded me that the readers’ advisory part of our profession is an invaluable form of triage that far exceeds pleasing story lines in fiction genres.
While the child rearing literature is often flush with redundancy and variations on the same, it is also constantly evolving with the times and can provide the tools or new approach that a baffled parent needs. We all know that parenting blogs and boards consume more than their fair share of space on the Internet, but the bottom line is that they can’t hold a candle to a finely tuned library collection. Here’s to skimming the cream.
Deurlein, Rebecca. Teenagers 101: What a Top Teacher Wishes You Knew About Helping Your Kid Succeed. AMACOM. Nov. 2014. 256p. ISBN 9780814434659. pap. $16; ebk. ISBN 9780814434666. CHILD REARING
Veteran educator Deurlein loves teenagers, and her enthusiasm for working with this dreaded age group shines like a beacon. Once youngsters reach high school, their teachers often spend more time with them than their parents; and, teachers, unlike individual families, have the experience of working with hundreds of kids over the years. There are no rose-colored glasses here, but rather a solid look at the challenges teens present coupled with practical strategies for growth and appreciation for kids and their parents. The author covers larger topics, such as motivating youth and encouraging perseverance, along with specific advice for scenarios that include attending conferences and deciding if your teen is ready for advanced placement courses. As such, the book works equally well in both the parenting and education sections. Deurlein’s style is direct and chatty: “Parents, whatever you do, do not commit the cardinal sin of…doing homework for your kids.” You tell your children they are incapable, and you tell your children’s teachers they are idiots who can’t tell the difference. VERDICT With her real-life examples, humorous dialog, zippy responses, and an overriding theme of hope, the author is the teacher all parents want their kid to have. Libraries should make room for this one.
Forrest, Bonny J. Will My Kid Grow Out of It? A Child Psychologist’s Guide to Understanding Worrisome Behavior. Chicago Review. 2014. 288p. ISBN 9781613747629. $18.95; ebk. ISBN 9781613747650. CHILD REARING
Pediatric neuropsychologist and lawyer Forrest (askdrforrest.com) offers a triage-style guide to some worrisome child behaviors, providing guidance on when to seek help, what to expect from the mental health profession, and tips for navigating a diagnosis, treatment, and beyond. Divided into three parts that cover normal behavior, common concerns and diagnoses, and supporting your child, the text delves into such topics as inattentiveness, picky eating, anxiety, and self-injury. The included case studies, bullet lists of symptoms, possible diagnoses, and the most up-to-date treatment methods will help parents who are on the fence about seeking treatment find solid advice on whether or not to move forward with professional help. VERDICT This is fairly dense reading for concerning behaviors. For a lighter read with a similar approach, librarians might recommend Is It a Big Problem or a Little Problem? by Amy Egan and others.
Gold, Jodi. Screen-Smart Parenting: How To Find Balance and Benefit in Your Child’s Use of Social Media, Apps, and Digital Devices. Guilford. Nov. 2014. 326p. ISBN 9781462515530. pap. $14.95; ebk. ISBN 9781462518791. CHILD REARING
Child and adolescent psychiatrist Gold (Weil Cornell Medical Coll.) seeks to place technology use into developmentally appropriate stages and into the context of a family’s “digital habitat.” The author recognizes that the “digital divide” is no longer the hot conversation, with usage trumping access concerns, and encourages parents to take a long, hard look at their parenting style, family culture, and own use of technology. Are you the one checking your phone at dinner? Do your kids have TVs in their rooms? While the adage “children live what they learn” is a large part of Gold’s proposed self-examination, she recognizes that technology has many rich benefits and is not, in fact, the sole catalyst for poor school performance or decreased social skills. Indeed, she notes, “overly restrictive parents are less likely to allow for the online mistakes and missteps that are critical to the development of resilience.” Moving into technology use by age groups, Gold presents recommendations and discusses pitfalls for kids as young as two up to young adulthood. VERDICT While Gold sometimes loses track of her audience with scientific reports (“When children are exposed to multiple and frequent video game stimuli, their neuronal pathways will adapt…”), she has a proactive approach to the topic and helps parents contextualize technology as both an appropriate and positive part of growing up. Recommended.
Khetarpal, Roma. The “Perfect” Parent: 5 Tools for Using Your Inner Perfection To Connect with Your Kids. Greenleaf. 2014. 224p. ISBN 9781626341036. pap. $15.95. ebk. available. CHILD REARING
Don’t be alarmed by this irritating title, which is a spin-off of the author’s (encouraging!) belief that your children would choose you over any other possible parent. Begun as a series of parenting classes founded by Khetarpal in 2008 called Tools of Growth, this book takes a calming Deepak Chopra–like view of the journey of child rearing and gives readers a new perspective on the larger themes of why we do what we do. Similar in approach to mindfulness, Khetarpal argues that while we might be around our kids a lot and doing things for them, we are not necessarily connected, and “repetitive questions of doubt and guilt signal us to get off the multitasking highway and slow down.” After all, our kids will remember the time we spent with them more than the hours we took rushing them around. VERDICT Complete with affirmation reminders and “quick takeaways” at the end of each chapter, Khetarpal’s work has some wise words for finding joy amid the chaos and keeping relationships the primary focus of our daily interactions. Enthusiastically recommended.
McCraith, Sheila. Yell Less, Love More: How the Orange Rhino Mom Stopped Yelling at Her Kids—and How You Can Too! Fair Winds: Quarto. 2014. 208p. photos. ISBN . pap. $21.99; ebk. ISBN 9781627881777. CHILD REARING
This reviewer doubts there’s a parent among us who didn’t wish she yelled less, but here’s one who actually learned how. Blogger McCraith (The Orange Rhino Challenge, theorangerhino.com), horrified at being “caught” by her handyman screaming at her four young sons, embarked on a challenge to go 365 days without yelling. In this title that combines personal story and everyday parenting tips, the author shares how she reached her goal and offers readers a 30-day condensed version for doing the same. “Orange Rhinos” (“determined and energetic people who choose not to charge with words”) have many options here, including easing into change, gaining awareness, and practicing trigger management. Each day contains tips for mood awareness and specific actions depending on if you’re feeling cool, warm, or hot, such as screaming into the toilet and flushing away the rage and squeezing Play-Doh to a pulp in lieu of yelling. VERDICT Beautifully designed, with slick, heavy-duty paper and full-color photos and sidebars throughout. McCraith offers a practical, mom-to-mom approach to curbing the anger-guilt cycle that will likely resonate with readers more than the typical psychological examination of emotional regulation.
Newman, Nancy. Raising Passionate Readers: 5 Easy Steps to Success in School and Life. Tribeca View Pr. 2014. 222p. ISBN 9780615847542. pap. $16.95. CHILD REARING
Teacher, parenting educator, and novelist Newman (Disturbing the Peace) offers an update to the reading literature with considerations for today’s classroom and the use of technology. Aimed at parents with the youngest of children, tips include frequent talking with toddlers, reading aloud, and making reading a fun, family-oriented experience. While there’s no silver bullet here, the author’s enthusiastic philosophy is worth every parent’s consideration: “Reading difficulties can cause an avalanche of emotional and academic complications that are costly in a multitude of ways. It will be infinitely less time consuming to help your young child get on the right track in reading in the first place than it will be to help her get back on track if she falls off the academic rails in the upper grades.” VERDICT While the subject literature has not changed much over the years, it is still widely accepted that reading is the greatest indicator of future academic success. Recommended for collections needing an update on the topic.
Ostyn, Mary. Forever Mom: What To Expect When You’re Adopting. Thomas Nelson. 2014. 256p. ISBN 9781400206230. pap. $16.99; ebk. ISBN 9781400206247. CHILD REARING
According to the publisher, “every year more than 7,000 American families welcome an adopted child into their home.” Blogger and speaker Ostyn (owlhaven.net)and her husband adopted six of their ten children; four daughters born in Ethiopia and two sons born in South Korea. Here Ostyn shares her experience as well as tips for the prospective adoptive family. Recognizing that “Adoptive moms need a bigger army of supports than most,” the author gives readers a realistic look at some of the challenges ahead, providing insight and support for what might feel like a personal colossal failure: “Older-adopted children are likely to be grieving the second they walk through our door. At times their overwhelming emotion spills over into interactions with us. Even a child who never talks about his past may have moments when his loss will be huge in the room. We may not be the mom who caused their pain, but if we’re the mom in the room, we’re likely to be the target of their unhappiness.” VERDICT Ostyn relies heavily on her faith and feels that adoption is a calling from God. Her viewpoint will be both a turn off to some and a support for others. This community of parents, however, shares much in common, and the author’s experience and true love of the journey will be of value to any potential forever parent.
White, Dana Angelo. First Bites: Superfoods for Babies and Toddlers. Perigee. Feb. 2015. 192p. index. ISBN 9780399172465. pap. $14.95. CHILD REARING
Gone are the days of opening up a jar of pureed ham and peas. Parents today are highly attuned to food and nutrition, with organic, whole foods being the status quo even for the youngest munchers. Dietician and childhood culinary nutrition specialist White presents parents with a concise look at nutrition along with 75 recipes, complete with nutrition profiles, for babies and toddlers to explore and enjoy. With brief entries on meal planning, kitchen equipment, and storage tips, the author’s superfood recipes (“vibrant and exploding with flavor and nutrition”) include such creations as white bean sandwich spread, blueberry Greek yogurt minimuffins, and zucchini flatbread. Not all is brown rice and oatmeal, however. White also features such crowd-pleasers as chocolate dipped pretzels and banana chocolate chip bread. VERDICT Most parents eventually conclude that little ones can eat whatever healthy dish you are enjoying (just smash up or blend), but White’s focus on the known 50 superfoods will get everyone off to a great start. Bon Appetit!