This publication almost seems to jump off the shelf and is possessed of all the charm, colour, and clarity that those who work with young people have come to expect from Dorling Kindersley publications. All children are born with amazing hidden capabilities and this book directs parents in how to preserve and nurture these invisible capacities in a way which enables every child to grow towards becoming the best possible version of him/herself. It achieves this in a way which is both classical and original, both scholarly and anecdotal, and which is – above all – highly accessible. This is a trademark that we have come to expect from Tim Seldin whose previous publications include The Montessori Way (co-authored by Dr. Paul Epstein) which is, in the reviewer’s opinion, the best general introduction to contemporary Montessori education available.

Although Tim’s book is based on the scientific approach pioneered by Maria Montessori, which research over the last century has consistently shown to aid development in all domains[1], it consists of accessible and relevant information which is useful and appropriate for all loving parents. Much of what Tim writes is based on classic works in the field of child development including Silvana Quattrocchi Montanaro[2], Paula Polk Lillard[3], and Susan Stephenson[4] (to whom he pays special homage in his acknowledgements[5]), however unlike these excellent - and often encyclopedic - reference books How to Raise an Amazing Child can be easily used by any parent from any background.

 

Rather than painting broad strokes in the language of principle or waxing lyrical on the finer points of philosophy Tim has adopted a style which is clear and grounded whilst remaining comprehensive in its detail. The colorful photographs by the incredibly gifted Vanessa Davies are used to great effect in taking the reader step by step through a number of important exercises in preparing the environment for the young child and presenting and creating learning materials in the home. This creates a sense of rapport and clarity that makes you feel as though you are consulting with the author in person. It is noteworthy that Mr. Seldin has clearly made every attempt to avoid jargon and when he has used more specialized language he has made it not only comprehensible but also relevant. However, what is even more exceptional is that he achieves this while still being able to uphold - and indeed pay homage to - the integrity and purity of Montessori’s vision.

 

A book of this sort is not without its difficulties, especially considering the diverse readership which it is likely to attract. It concerns me that some of the activities presented here may be misinterpreted and used in a contrived way by people who are not initiated in an ethic of following the child. Ultimately like any handbook of this sort its usefulness is dependant upon the consistency of its use. If the reader attempts to simply glean handy hints from this book (and there are many hidden between its pages) they will find their presentations of the activities somewhat less successful than if they had taken the time to understand the straightforward principles and  pervasive ethos upon which the book is based.

For instance, the three period lesson introduced on p 167 of the text is a superb method for teaching basic vocabulary, however this kind of activity would prove to be of limited value if children were compelled to take part in these lessons against their will (see for e.g. pp 108 ff in the text) or if they were coerced into doing it through the threat of punishment (see for e.g. pp 118 ff, especially at p 121).  Along this line - and I believe Mr. Seldin would agree with me in this regard - there is an increasing need for texts, which possess the clarity and accessibility of this book, and are aimed more specifically at engendering an ethos of peace, respect, and partnership in parent-child relationships.

In summary, I believe that How to Raise an Amazing Child is one of those rare books (in a field assailed with drivel) which every person involved with early childhood development would do well to get their hands on. It attempts to take a philosophy and method which, despite a century of unparalleled accomplishment, has remained obscure in the eyes of the public and make it not only accessible but also practicable in the home of every parent who cares enough to listen. In the reviewer’s opinion the author and publisher succeed admirably. At the very least Tim Seldin has created a highly practical handbook that makes being child-friendly parent-friendly and, as far as I’m concerned, that in itself makes this a book of exceptional distinction.

 


[1] See for example: Angeline Stoll Lillard, Montessori: the science behind the genius (2005).

[2] E.g. Understanding the Human Being: the importance of the first three years of life (1991)

[3] E.g. Montessori from the Start: the child at home from birth to age three (2003)

[4] Of the Michael Olaf Company who authored Child of the World and Joyful Child

[5] At page 192.

Last Updated (Wednesday, 18 August 2010 10:22)

 

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