Stuff and new stuff
Resources for teachers and administrators—and children’s picture books about dads
Managing Legal Risks in Early Childhood Programs: How to Prevent Flare-ups from Becoming Lawsuits
Written by Holly Elissa Bruno and Tom Copeland. Teachers College Press and Redleaf Press, 2012. ($25.95)
The ever-present threat of a lawsuit hangs like a storm cloud over the heads of program owners, administrators, board members, and teachers. Few have legal backgrounds and few line item an attorney in the annual budget. All, however, make daily decisions with potential legal impact. And all need the guidance this tidy book provides for making routine and extraordinary legal and ethical decisions.
Each of the 10 chapters focuses on active decision making and policy planning, and each offers examples, case studies, and checklists to help prevent and manage problems with legal consequences. Chapters cover issues including policy development, contracts, payment schedules and enforcement, safety and risk management, minority rights and religious differences, hiring practices and supervision, insurance coverage, and confidentiality.
While the book invites a reliance on precise, dry, legalese, it is easy to read, thought provoking, and grounded in actual early care and education practice. The vignettes and examples are powerful and explanatory. For example, how do you respond legally and ethically when you discover that a parent of one of the children in your program is a convicted sex offender? Or how do you handle the ingestion of nuts by a child with a severe food allergy? And how do you respond when your program’s reputation is attacked on the Internet?
A thorough bibliography and an appendix of helpful websites round out this comprehensive guide to program management and risk reduction. It deserves a place in every program library and would be a worthy textbook addition in university early childhood administration classes.
Rethinking Nutrition: Connecting Science and Practice in Early Childhood Settings
Written by Susan Nitzke, Dave Riley, Ann Ramminger, and Georgine Jacobs. Redleaf Press, 2010. ($27.95)
At a time when we are surrounded by news stories about childhood obesity, food deserts (geographic areas where it’s hard to find affordable and nutritious food), poverty, GMOs (genetically modified organisms), and food-borne pathogens, Rethinking Nutrition brings early care and education professionals back to the basics. It is a practical guide, grounded in current research, to best practices on food planning and preparation for infants, toddlers, and preschoolers.
Chapters reinforce the concept of food as a tool for nurturing as well as nourishing children. The consistent focus is on food safety—in preparation and consumption—while addressing topical concerns like organic food production, food struggles, prepackaged prepared foods, socialization at the meal table, gardening, and food science. One valuable section explores state early learning standards and nutritional programs as well as federal nutrition regulations and programs.
By producing a book rich with learning activities, tips for best practices and promising/emerging practices, and templates for letters to families, the authors emphasize the importance of good nutrition to the long-term health—social, emotional, cognitive, and physical—of young children.
Teaching STEM in the Early Years: Activities for Integrating Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics
Written by Sally Moonmaw. Redleaf Press, 2013. ($39.95)
Over the past decade, STEM education has gained significant attention in U.S. education. It has been spurred on by the continuing learning deficits in science and math of American children against international peers, coupled with the concern that children aren’t being adequately prepared for a technological future. As a result, the National Science Foundation has developed education-related programs integrating the fields of science, technology, engineering, and math. While much STEM focus has been on middle and high school curricula, the foundations are established in preschool classrooms.
In her newest resource for early care and education professionals, Moonmaw offers a foundation for teaching STEM disciplines in preschool classrooms. She provides ideas and guidance for hands-on learning activities in common activity centers both indoors and on the playground.
Moonmaw establishes four effective (and essential) teaching practices: intentional teaching, teaching for understanding, encouraging inquiry, and providing real-world contexts. With those practices, she offers guidelines for designing STEM curriculum, activities, and field trips.
Passion for math and science is evident in the richly composed learning activities. Each integrates at least two of the STEM components, identifies reflective questions to discuss with children, and alerts teachers to common misconceptions and factual updates about the subject. For example, an activity on simple machines—a wheel and axle—directs children to discover whether it’s easier to lift a bucket of water by turning a big wheel or a smaller one. Her misconception alert points out that not every wheel mounted to a rod constitutes a wheel and axle. In the authentic machine, the rod and wheel are firmly attached so that when one rotates, the other does too.
After a period of intense focus on literacy development, attention is shifting to include the concepts and authentic tools of everyday life—what we sense, explore, discover, and learn—in science, technology, engineering, and math.
How to Cheer Up Dad
Written and illustrated by Fred Koehler. Dial Books for Young Readers, 2014. ($16.99)
A delightful series of common parent-child confrontations (interpreted through a 2-year-old elephant and his dad) result in a trunk-to-trunk standoff. As Dad’s mood worsens, Little Jumbo suggests that Dad needs a time-out. Little Jumbo gets one instead. With a bit of time to consider, Little Jumbo guides his dad in some of his favorite things.
Children will relish discovering—and discussing—who really benefits from the game of catch, the ice cream cone, the fishing trip, the bedtime story, and the night-time snuggle.
Large format, simple, and clear illustrations make this book easy to share with a group of children—or just one who needs cheering up.
Nelly Gnu and Daddy Too
Written and illustrated by Anna Dewdney. Viking Books, 2014. ($17.99)
The acclaimed author and illustrator of the Llama Llama books has shifted focus to the Gnu family—Nelly and her dad—and the construction of Nelly’s playhouse. The simple rhyme, Dewdney’s hallmark, works with the animated illustrations to tell a solid, loving story.
When Nelly and Daddy Gnu head out shopping for playhouse accessories, the story takes a turn: Nelly’s doll gets lost and she does too. But the witty, reassuring resolution will leave young listeners satisfied.
Every night and every day,
Daddy makes it all OK.
He always knows just what to do…
Nelly’s Daddy, Daddy Gnu.
Following Papa’s Song
Written and illustrated by Gianna Marino. Viking Books, 2014. ($16.99)
This third interpretation of a father-child relationship is quiet, peaceful, and almost spiritual. In it Little Blue, a young humpback whale, prepares for a long migratory journey with his father. Little Blue’s questions reflect his fear and anxiety about his first long journey, but Papa’s patient answers provide reassurance and calm.
Exquisite blue-green-purple background color invites readers into the deep sea, even into the magical world of dark, cold silence. Little Blue panics and calls, but his “small voice was lost in the darkness.” In a sudden resolution that will comfort the youngest listeners, Little Blue remembers Papa’s words: “If you listen closely, you will always hear my song.” Reunited, the two “…soar into the light and sing Papa’s song across the evening sea.”
Be prepared to read this book again and again. It’s lyrical and heartwarming without being sappy or trite. Consider using a recording of whale songs to accompany your reading.