by Helene Guldberg (Routledge, £16.99, 0415477239)
Reviewed by Tim Gill, play consultant and former director of the Children's Play Council
The aim of reclaiming childhood is in fact to reclaim play, especially unsupervised play, in the face of growing adult anxieties. Guldberg agrees with my arguments in No Fear that our worries about issues like bullying, new technology and the threat from strangers end up hurting children rather than helping them.
She rails against 'parental determinism' - the view that parents mould their children's futures like putty. Rather, she tells parents to just chill out and give their kids a bit more freedom. Likewise, she holds that teachers should be free to teach; it is not their job to make children happy.
Guldberg lectures in child development, but it is her role as managing editor of the libertarian current affairs website Spiked that is to the fore. Charities, campaigners and 'experts' are all part of the problem, she claims. She has little time for guilt-inducing attachment theorists or 'the bullying bandwagon' (the book's most strident and controversial chapter). But government is to also blame because its tendency to meddle only serves to undermine trust and judgement.
Reclaiming Childhood mounts a courageous defence of children's capacity to learn and grow through their own experiences and efforts. At times the arguments rely too much on anecdote, and Guldberg is too dismissive in implying that any concern about the nation's children is an overreaction. However, these are minor quibbles; the book's strength is precisely that it is not dry scholarly text or a measured overview, but an impassioned, lively and thought-provoking polemic.
- Working with Parents of Children with Additional Needs
by Jackie Logue (Featherstone, £16.99, 978-14081-12533)
This readable slim book, just 62 pages, is part of the 'Including Children' series and complements the EYFS. It is aimed at early years practitioners, to give them a basic understanding of the varied issues that parents can face when they have a child with additional needs. The author herself has a child with severe complex needs. The book is full of practical tips and advice on issues from improving communication between your setting and parents to how to give parents timely support.
- The Value of Play
by Perry Else (Continuum, £19.99, 9780826495655)
The importance of play is well recognised by early years practitioners, and reflected in the EYFS focus on learning through play. This book, with chapters including What do we mean by play?, What gets in the way of children playing? and a play history will support reflective practice.