Parenting Short Takes: Homework, Health, and Good Nutrition

Winner, winner, chicken dinner! The parenting titles this month offer unique additions to any parenting collection. They include creative approaches to homework, communication strategies for autistic children, a handy guide to pediatrician visits during a baby’s first year, and a comprehensive (if frightful) look at germs. They are joined by some solid offerings in more standard topics: play, nutrition, and the toddler years. Libraries can’t go wrong with any title reviewed this month and some are not to be missed‚ 2012 is off to a strong start!

Green, Harriet Hope. Ad/Hd Homework Challenges Transformed! Creative Ways To Achieve Focus and Attention by Building on Ad/Hd Traits. Jessica Kingsley. Feb. 2012. 128p. ISBN 9781849058803. pap. $16.95. CHILD REARING
Veteran educator Green offers some sound ideas for creatively approaching that dreaded nightly task called homework‚ a task made exponentially more difficult with an ADHD child. Designed for children in grades K-8, each activity is designed to engage, enable, enrich, and encourage the ADHD child by leveraging the traits associated with the disorder. From answering multiplication problems by jumping the correct number of times to learning spelling words by using a variety of writing tools (e.g., finger in air, glitter pens, computer keyboard), Green addresses everything from preparing the external environment to tools for dealing with ADHD-specific challenges and provides tips for individual subject areas such as writing, spelling, and math. VERDICT Her overriding philosophy is that parents “cannot bestow enough positives.” Green’s creative and empowering tools will become go-to strategies for many families and teachers. Enthusiastically recommended.

Jones, Sandy. The Toddler Years: Everything You Need to Know About Your 1- To 3-Year-Old. Sterling. (Great Expectations.) 2011. 296p. ISBN 9781402758164. pap. $14.95. CHILD REARING
The Great Expectations series is popular with parents because of its comprehensive yet practical approach, and this entry is no exception. Covering the obvious topics, such as sleep, eating, and safety, Jones (coauthor, Great Expectations: Your All-in-One Resource for Pregnancy & Childbirth) also addresses less common subjects such as handling challenging behaviors, night terrors, the pros and cons of spanking, considering a vegetarian diet, and choosing a day care, amongst many other issues. The presentation makes this resource easy to consult; its layout includes many sidebars, tables, Q&As, and bullet lists. VERDICT Parents of toddlers will turn to this book frequently as a ready reference. Recommended for all parenting collections.

Kourtis, Athena P. Keeping Your Child Healthy in a Germ-filled World: A Guide for Parents. Johns Hopkins. 2011. 272p. ISBN 9781421402123. pap. $19.95 CHILD REARING
With the return of whooping cough, the swine flu pandemic, and the threat of staph bacteria on gym equipment, it may seem like germs are getting the best of us. Pediatrician Kourtis (senior service fellow, Center for Disease Control) here instructs parents through what is practically an undergraduate degree in germs. In Part 1, she describes how best to protect children from common infections such as food-borne bacteria, viruses, and parasites, as well as those germs found in common settings such as day care and sports settings. In Part 2, Kourtis addresses the defenses available against germs: i.e., vaccines, antibiotics, and herbal supplements. The information targets children of all ages (e.g., RSV in day care for toddlers, piercing infections for teens) and each chapter ends with a concise bullet list of main points. If parents do nothing else, the book instructs, they should breastfeed, vaccinate, and‚ can we say it enough?‚ wash their hands with warm, soapy water. Oh, and that study about shopping carts being dirtier than public toilets? Probably true. Wash your hands! VERDICT Recommended for all parenting collections.

Leiderman, Roni Cohen and Wendy S. Masi. Let’s Play and Learn Together: Fill Your Baby’s Day with Creative Activities That Are Fun and Enhance Development. Fair Winds Press. 2012. 176p. ISBN 9781592334957. pap. $18.99. CHILD REARING
Developmental psychologists and frequent coauthors Leiderman and Masi (Baby Play) offer a visually beautiful and engaging book on play activities for young children. The chapters are divided into coverage of nourishing specific skills‚ e.g., imagination, scientific thinking, making friends, and humor‚ and then further into activities appropriate for infants, toddlers, and preschoolers. All of the activities use common, everyday objects found in the home and are developmentally stimulating and fun. From disappearing cheerios to sock puppets to shadow play, the “low-tech, high-fun” ideas presented here will be appreciated by parents. VERDICT For other winners on play, look to Bobbi Conner’s 2007 Unplugged Play: No Batteries, No Plugs, Pure Fun (Conner, 2007) for the older set and David Elkind’s 2007 The Power of Play: How Spontaneous, Imaginative Activities Lead to Happier, Healthier Children, which addresses its developmental importance. All are worth their weight in gold. Let the games begin!

Nutrition: What Every Parent Needs to Know. American Academy of Pediatrics. 2011. 300p. ISBN 9781581103212. ed by William H. Dietz & Loraine Stern. pap. $14.95. CHILD REARING
In this revised edition from the American Academy of Pediatrics, parents and educators will find every circumstance, growth chart, philosophy, approach, and recommended food swap related to childhood nutrition. It emphasizes a parent’s role as the provider of healthy food rather than the food police, summarized as “Offer Wholesome Choices, Then Stand Aside.” Designed to be consulted throughout childhood, this reference is the gold-standard of nutrition, and is what every other author of titles on food and eating consults. VERDICT Like Kourtis’s title on germs (see above), this book is essential for all core parenting collections based on its authoritative comprehensiveness. Covering topics from allergies to countering media influences to choking to supplements, the second edition, which uses the new USDA “MyPlate” guidelines (replacing the old food pyramid), should be purchased by all libraries with parenting collections. Unequivocally recommended.

Richel, Peter L. Happy and Healthy: A Wellness Journal of Baby’s First Year. Lyons Press. 2011. 232p. ISBN 9780762773763. pap. $14.95. CHILD REARING
Richel (chief of pediatrics, Northern Westchester Hosp., Mount Kisco, NY) offers a concise and agreeable guide to the many wellness visits a baby will undergo during the first year of life. Beginning with considerations for choosing a pediatrician, he then addresses in detail each wellness visit and includes information on what will be examined, the schedule of vaccines, important questions to ask, and upcoming developmental milestones for parents to look for and encourage in their child. Each chapter includes room for notes, as well as space for recording weight, length, and head circumference. He also advises parents on questions to ask during sick visits, and includes entire chapters on vaccines, common infections, and developmental concerns. VERDICT Richel has a pleasant and reassuring style that will appeal to parents, and the book’s attractive layout includes sidebars and shout-outs throughout. A handy and helpful guide to a baby’s first year, this is highly recommended for parents, libraries, and waiting rooms.

Schiltz, Karen L. & others. Beyond the Label: A Guide to Unlocking a Child’s Educational Potential. Oxford Univ. 2011. ISBN 9780199747054. 256p. pap. $24.95. CHILD REARING
Pediatric neuropsychologist Schiltz (Semel Inst. for Neuroscience & Behavior, Univ.of California, Los Angeles) has spent over 25 years assessing children with educational difficulties. She and her equally qualified coauthors here give parents advice on evaluating a struggling child, reviewing the warning signs, accommodating young people with special needs, and the steps to take in school and beyond based on educational laws and the right to learn. Whether the issue is attention, executive functioning, or social skills, each chapter begins with a case study illustrating the problem from the child’s perspective and the parent’s perspective. They present common symptoms of children who warrant further evaluation and empower parents to become their child’s advocate. Each chapter ends with a synopsis from both the child’s viewpoint and the parent’s viewpoint seen in retrospect several years later. VERDICT Like Amy Egan’s 2007 Is It a Big Problem or a Little Problem for younger children, this title will be of value to parents and educators alike.

Weiss, Mary Jane & Valbona Demiri. Jumpstarting Communication Skills in Children with Autism: A Parent’s Guide to Applied Verbal Behavior. Woodbine House. 2011. ISBN 9781890627706. 200p. pap. $21.95. CHILD REARING
Impaired communication is a hallmark of children affected by autism, and coauthors Weiss (Practical Solutions for Educating Children with High-Functioning Autism and Asperger Syndrome) and Demiri (assistant director, outreach services, Douglass Developmental Disabilities Ctr., Rutgers) focus on improving both verbal and nonverbal communication in children on the spectrum from 15 months to ten years old, especially those moderately or severely affected by autism. Using Applied Verbal Behavior (or ABV, more commonly associated with applied behavior analysis), they outline necessary team members, the customization of the program, strategies involved, and techniques used for aiding auditory, sensory, visual, and tactile development. They include case studies, outcomes, and detailed references throughout. AVB is a powerful tool in communication therapy for autistic children and many see it as the treatment method of choice. VERDICT Though a bit jargony (using terms like prosody, perseverative speech, echolalia, etc.), this extremely detailed text will be of immense value to health care and child development professionals who work with autistic children. Highly recommended.

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