I've been asked what I was reading while I was nursing babies and everyone else was down at the beach. I'm afraid by telling you, I will also be revealing exactly how compulsive I actually am. I tend to get interested in something and am not satisfied until I have either completely mastered it (the board game Othello, for instance) or until I've read everything I can get my hands on. Recently my obsession has been child development and here's what I've read in the past week or two:
The House of Make-Believe: Play and the Developing Imagination by Dorothy and Jerome Singer
Last Child in the Woods: Saving our Children from Nature-Deficit Disorder by Richard Louv
Hothouse Kids: The Dilemma of the Gifted Child by Alissa Quart
The Power of Play: How Spontaneous, Imaginative Activities Lead to Happier, Healthier Children by David Elkind
and I'm currently halfway through:
Generation Me: Why Today's Young Americans are more Confident, Assertive, Entitled -- and more Miserable then Ever Before by Jean Twenge
There were also several mysteries thrown in there for fun. But since I read mysteries the way some people eat candy, (enjoyable while I'm reading but no substance) they're hardly worth mentioning.
There were some interesting themes and parallels between all of these books. Together they make a pretty convincing argument that children do not need a lot of organized activities; that lots of free time for unstructured, imaginative play is far healthier. Studies indicate that imaginative play (and the ability to do so) leads to children who are better at thinking ahead, calmer, more flexible, better able to get along with others, and better at dealing with difficult situations. (Most of the studies are listed and described in The House of Make-Believe, which was interesting, but pretty jargon-y and a bit of a slog.)
What they had to say about "gifted-ness" was also interesting. (I've done other reading on this subject and those books fall into line here as well.) I think (in my humble opinion) that a lot of the labelling of giftedness and gifted education is a bit of a sham. There seems to be a great difference between encouraging and expecting students to work up to their potential and gifted programs that treat the child as 'special'. Being treated as special is not good for anyone, and often leads to disappointments in adulthood. How can one live up to all that specialness? Plus, so many people are being labelled as 'gifted', really how special can it be? It was interesting to read about the childhoods of accomplished adults...those that we think of as the 'biggies': the Brontes, Goethe, T. Roosevelt, to name a few. They all describe the long, imaginary games and stories that were part of their childhood; a childhood which encompassed large spans of unstructured time. I know I'm stepping on a few toes here. But, frankly, my own experience with gifted programs wasn't so hot, and having seen it from the inside makes me leery of the whole thing. I asked my mother to pull me out, not because I couldn't handle the level of work, but because I was asked one too many times if I found it difficult to get along with others because I was smarter than they were. Really.
But, anyway, back to my reading list. The only problem with reading so voraciously on one topic is that I have no one to discuss the books I've read with. This is when taking a class would be helpful, if only to have people to discuss things with. (I don't really want to have to write papers...besides, I have a blog.) I've given up on trying to get others around me to keep up with me. J. will just have to continue to suffer as I have one-sided discussions at him.