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In her debut essay collection, comedian and actor Natasha Leggero muses, often hilariously, about what it’s like to have a baby at 42 and find your way as a mom. “It’s hard raising a child with a man,” she writes in the opening essay of The World Deserves My Children. “One day I asked my husband to give the baby a bath. I came into the kitchen to find my daughter sitting in a sink full of dishes while my husband scrubbed her and a plate at the same time. Don’t use Dawn on her! She’s a baby not a duck after an oil spill. I would have to be very drunk to do any of that.” Leggero’s style is breezy, sometimes over-the-top, with punchline quips punctuating her anecdotes. She’s like the funny friend who’ll say anything after a cocktail or two.

Leggero details her grueling path to pregnancy and her first few years as a parent with humor and insight. She contrasts her own scrappy childhood in Rockford, Illinois, parented by a single mom who struggled to make ends meet, with the minute concerns of the uber-privileged Los Angeles parents she encounters as an adult. As in a stand-up routine, the essays digress, often charmingly, to memories of things like her dad’s family’s Italian Christmases. While some subjects will be familiar to parents—the difficulties of breastfeeding, the search for a preschool—the collection really hits its stride in the essays on discipline and fear. Leggero writes that, as a child, she was “pretty obnoxious and tended to say whatever popped into my head—sort of like a male comedian.” Unlike a male comedian, however, Leggero had to write “I will not disrespect my mother” a thousand times as punishment for “telling it like it is.” Noting the variety of permissive parenting styles she encounters in LA, Leggero says she strives for an approach to discipline that’s somewhere in the middle.

Near the collection’s end, Leggero includes a Q&A with her husband, Moshe Kasher, also a comedian. She asks him how they differ as parents and what he thinks of her as a mother, and his answers are funny and touching. The World Deserves My Children is a book with a lot of heart and even some wisdom, perfect for fans of Jessi Klein’s I’ll Show Myself Out.

In her debut essay collection, comedian and actor Natasha Leggero muses, often hilariously, about what it’s like to have a baby at 42.

Whether you’re a brand-new parent to an infant or a grizzled veteran trying to get your teens to actually talk to you, some days you can’t help but wonder if you’re doing it all wrong. These parenting books are here to help.

Good Inside

Good Inside by Becky Kennedy

Becky Kennedy’s Good Inside: A Guide to Becoming the Parent You Want to Be is the book I wish I’d had when my kids were little. Kennedy, a psychologist, argues for finding the good inside your child when they throw a tantrum or say they hate you. To start, we need a change in perspective, seeing our kids’ behavior as clues to what they need rather than who they are. Using anecdotes from clients and her own family, Kennedy decodes behaviors (lying, squabbling, perfectionism) and offers connection strategies for each. When a parent strengthens their relationship with their child, she writes, they’ll see improved behavior and cooperation. Kennedy also shows how parents can help kids name their emotions. “The wider the range of feelings we can regulate—if we can manage the frustration, disappointment, envy, and sadness—the more space we have to cultivate happiness,” she writes. It’s a warm, good-humored book.

How to Raise an Intuitive Eater

How to Raise an Intuitive Eater by Sumner Brooks and Amee Severson

Food is a common battleground for parents and kids at all stages. Sumner Brooks and Amee Severson’s How to Raise an Intuitive Eater: Raising the Next Generation With Food and Body Confidence link those family battles to diet culture, the messages about weight and appearance that we’re all bombarded with. They connect diet culture, including medical messaging, to shame, mental illness and negativity about food and the body. Eating disorders, the authors note, are among the mental illnesses that are hardest to treat. The good news is that kids are born intuitive eaters, their brains and bodies wired to know when and how much to eat. To build an intuitive eating family framework, the authors offer strategies such as their “add-in, pressure-off” approach: Instead of limiting foods, or labeling some foods bad and others good, focus on adding more variety. And instead of rules and commentary (“You must eat two bites!” “I can’t believe you’re not eating that!”), focus on providing the meal and letting the child decide how much to eat. Though sometimes dense, How to Raise an Intuitive Eater is a thoughtful and comprehensive resource.

The Teen Interpreter

The Teen Interpreter by Terri Apter

In The Teen Interpreter: A Guide to the Challenges and Joys of Raising Adolescents, England-based psychologist and researcher Terri Apter aims to help parents engage with their teens’ struggles. “Try to see what your teen is seeing; try to understand what your teen is feeling,” Apter writes. Drawing on 35 years of studying teens and families, Apter describes some of the biggest challenges for teens and parents through the lens of teen brain development. As the teen brain remodels itself, changing dramatically, so do teens’ relationships, behavior, sense of identity and emotional responses (outbursts, rudeness, grumpy silences). Sometimes it can be tough to decipher what’s normal teen behavior and what might be mental illness, Apter notes. Throughout, The Teen Interpreter threads together research and teens’ stories, along with exercises for parents to communicate better and build stronger relationships with their teens, which in turn can help teens build resiliency through the challenging teen years and into young adulthood. It’s a clear and reassuring guide.

The Sleep-Deprived Teen

The Sleep-Deprived Teen by Lisa L. Lewis

In The Sleep-Deprived Teen: Why Our Teenagers Are So Tired, and How Parents and Schools Can Help Them Thrive, journalist Lisa L. Lewis lays out why sleep matters to teens’ well-being: A lack of sleep affects their mental health, their ability to learn and play sports, and their behavior. But paradoxically, it’s tough for teens to get a good night’s sleep (8 to 10 hours) because their body clocks have shifted; they’re biologically primed to wake later in the morning and fall asleep later at night. The Sleep-Deprived Teen opens with the story of the first teen sleep studies at Stanford University, emphasizing how little experts knew about sleep and the teen brain until recently. As the parent of a teen, Lewis helped get the first law in the country passed requiring later school start times. Since then, studies have found that teens who start school later are more likely to show up at school and do better on standardized tests, and less likely to get into car crashes or trouble after school. The last chapters of Lewis’ book even offer a map for parents aiming to change school start times in their own districts.

Raising Antiracist Children

Raising Antiracist Children by Britt Hawthorne

Antiracist and anti-bias educator Britt Hawthorne is also a home-schooling mom of multiracial children, and she draws on research, teaching and her own family’s experiences in Raising Antiracist Children: A Practical Parenting Guide. “Instead of viewing antiracism as a destination,” Hawthorne writes, “see it as a consistent, active practice: a lifestyle.” Part primer, part workbook with activities for different age groups, Raising Antiracist Children breaks down concepts like bias and white immunity to help parents initiate, rather than avoid, conversations on race. If you’re the parent of a child of color, the book can help you encourage their self-confidence. If you’re a white parent, the book can help you see aspects of racism you might not have seen before (for instance, the way our culture assumes white skin is the default). The book’s principles reflect a broader parenting philosophy that includes setting healthy boundaries, building community and following your child’s desire to learn. “Embracing your children’s curiosity will support them in becoming open-minded, science-driven, and empathetic,” Hawthorne writes. “Differences do not divide us, it’s our fear and unfair treatment of differences that do.”

Reading for Our Lives

Reading for Our Lives by Maya Payne Smart

The introduction to Maya Payne Smart’s Reading for Our Lives: A Literacy Action Plan From Birth to Six makes note of a quiet crisis: American basic literacy rates are weak compared to those in other industrialized nations. Parents want to raise readers, but they may not know what to do beyond reading aloud to their children before bed. Reading for Our Lives aims to change that. The book first maps out the milestones and skills—oral language, sound and print awareness, letter knowledge, phonics and spelling—that lead to reading. Smart then offers a range of strategies, games and play suggestions that help parents build those skills organically. For instance, with babies, parents can converse in a number of ways: talk, then pause to listen to their coos; ask them questions; label everyday objects for them. With older kids, parents can play “I spy” with sounds, not just colors. (“I spy something that rhymes with tike.”) Smart’s book is an empowering manual for readers and their kids.

Staying connected with your child makes a difference at every stage. These empowering guides show you how.

In this often hilarious and consistently stirring performance, comedian, actor and all-around celebrity Jamie Foxx dishes on his toughest role: being a father. Throughout Act Like You Got Some Sense: And Other Things My Daughters Taught Me (6 hours), Foxx brings honesty and heart to touching stories about his childhood—growing up with an absent mother and being raised by a loving and unyielding grandmother—and shows how these experiences guided him when he became a parent. Foxx’s impersonations of family members are dynamic and animated, as are his exasperated (and sometimes expletive-filled) responses to the trials and tribulations of parenthood. 

In an equally candid and heartwarming foreword, Foxx’s eldest daughter, Corinne, affirms that, despite some unconventional parenting, her father always showed up for her and her sister, and always conveyed his love for his family. Throughout his rise to fame, Foxx’s continual efforts to stay grounded and live by the values instilled in him by his grandmother shine through in the raising of his daughters. 

This inspiring, raucous and entertaining listening experience brims with attitude and positivity about embracing parenthood and the ups and downs of life. 

In this often hilarious and consistently stirring performance, comedian, actor and all-around celebrity Jamie Foxx dishes on his toughest role: being a father.
Behind the Book by

It doesn’t take a rocket scientist or a brain surgeon—or even a parenting author—to figure out how to raise a reader. All it takes is a cozy lap, a pair of loving arms, an open book and a few common-sense tips.

Read early. True, newborns don’t know a cat from a hat. And toddlers are more wiggle worms than bookworms. But there’s no better way to get a child in the reading habit than getting off to an early start. Build storytime into your little one’s routine right from the beginning.

Read often. Bedtime is the obvious time for storytime—and a particularly good one, too, especially if it comes after a soothing bath (a wound-down little one is more open to sitting down—and more receptive to listening). Plus, bedtime stories, especially when combined with cuddles, can quickly become a treasured ritual on both sides of the armchair—the perfectly relaxing end to your child’s busy day . . . and yours. Another good time to get a child hooked on books: wakeup time. By catching your bookworm early, while she’s still sleepy, you’ll minimize squirming and maximize attention. And then—there’s any time. Tote a book with you wherever you go and whatever you’re doing and reading will become your little one’s favorite go-to distraction.

Issue an all-access book pass. Keep stacks of books of every variety everywhere in your home—by your bed, on the coffee table, next to the armchair, in the kitchen, in the car and definitely in your child’s room. Don’t make any book (except, perhaps, a very valuable one) off-limits to your little one. Even a toddler who tends to devour literature (as in, bite on edges and chew paper) should be allowed supervised page-turning stints. When shelving your child’s books, keep them accessible on low, open shelves or in easy-to-reach bins.

Be a borrower (and maybe a lender, too). The best way to keep a fresh stash of reading material at the ready? Make a weekly trip to the library with your budding book buddy. Don’t have a library in your neighborhood? Set up your own book co-op with fellow playgroup or preschool parents.

Get ready to repeat. Most toddlers and preschoolers can’t get enough of a good thing—they find it comforting to hear the same book over and over, night after night, day after day. But there’s another reason why little ones benefit from the read-and-repeat approach to storytime: When you’re new to the language game, repetition helps you pick up skills faster. Being able to fill in the last word in a line or anticipate the so-familiar plot is also super-satisfying.

Do some editing—and editorializing. While you can definitely read a book to your tot straight through, don’t feel obligated to stick to the script verbatim. If too many hard-to-understand words are making your captive audience restless, edit them down or out. Paraphrase. Summarize. Simplify.

Make reading interactive. Even a child who doesn’t yet know an A from a Z can point to the doggy, the boy on the bicycle, the sun in the sky, the monkey in the zoo. Or answer simple reading comprehension questions (“What is the girl eating?” “Where is the mommy going?” “Is the boy happy or sad?”). Not only does interaction enhance learning but it boosts enjoyment and attention span, too.

Read to yourself. Children are master mimics—especially when it comes to their parents—and they’re always more likely to do what you do than what you say. So to raise a reader, be a reader. Never had the reading bug? Try contracting it. Join a book club. Check out reading lists online. And make sure your little one catches you reading often.

Power off. Even books that come with dials, flaps and pop-ups can’t compete with the light-and-sound show of computer games and TV. Wired toddlers and preschoolers—or those who spend too much time zoning out in front of a TV screen—may have a harder time sitting still for words and pictures on a page. In fact, research has shown a 10 percent increase in the risk of attention problems later on for every hour per day of TV a tyke watches now. So limit TV time (the American Academy of Pediatrics recommends no screen time at all for the two-and-under set) and computer time. Using the TV for background noise? Power that off, too.

Nurture that love of reading, but don’t push it. If you’ve been a parent for any amount of time you know this above all: Pushing will get you nowhere. Not when it comes to using the potty, not when it comes to eating—and definitely not when it comes to reading. Make reading a part of your family’s daily routine—but also don’t forget to make it fun.

Heidi Murkoff is the author of the What To Expect series of pregnancy and parenting guides that have sold more than 34 million copies. The latest book in the series is What to Expect the Second Year: From 12 to 24 Months. Murkoff lives in Southern California with her husband, Erik, and two children.

It doesn’t take a rocket scientist or a brain surgeon—or even a parenting author—to figure out how to raise a reader. All it takes is a cozy lap, a pair of loving arms, an open book and a few common-sense tips. Read early. True, newborns don’t know a cat from a hat. And toddlers are […]
Behind the Book by

In Sarah Sentilles’ memoir Stranger Care, she writes beautifully about risking love, vulnerability and loss by becoming a foster parent. With the same care and attention, she shares how to tend your creativity and help it feel safe enough to flourish.


1. Set an intention

Before I begin a new writing project, I set an intention. My intention for Stranger Care was to write a love letter to our foster daughter, Coco, that would mother her when I’m no longer allowed to. I wanted to write a book that would help create a world where she’ll be safe and loved, no matter where she lands. Whenever I got scared while writing, whenever I wondered, What am I doing? What difference does it make?, I returned to my intention. And it grounded me, kept me going.

I learned this practice from my friend and teacher Juliana Jones-Munson. The intention should be personal and healing, she told me, not external or dependent on other people. Your intention should remind you why you write, and it should be powerful enough that everything else—what critics say, whether you sell it—pales in comparison.

2. Welcome first thoughts

During a writing workshop I took with Nick Flynn through Tin House, Nick had us do timed, constraint-based writing exercises by hand. This helped me learn to welcome first thoughts, my initial ideas, and helped me practice trusting myself. I took another workshop with Carolyn Forché, who was Nick’s teacher, too, and in that workshop at the Hedgebrook writing retreat center, she taught me to embrace generative writing.

Before that, I was an incessant reviser. I’d get stuck on the first paragraph or the first few pages of my manuscript, and every day I sat down to write, I would rework those. But Carolyn said, “Don’t revise. Don’t go back. Go forward.” She told me to write for three hours a day, to write whatever came to my mind. It didn’t matter. Just keep writing. And her directions unleashed a torrent of words.

Now when I start a new project, I write for three hours every day, for weeks and weeks and weeks. Only after that kind of generative writing do I begin to understand what I might be working on. And only then do my ideas begin to trust me to write them. Only then do they show themselves. I picture my ideas huddled in a cave in the back of my mind, and they send out scouts to see what will happen. “Let’s see how she treats this idea,” they whisper to one another, and then they push one forward. “Will she bludgeon it? Call it stupid? Think it’s garbage? Or will she write it down, put it on the page, tend it?” Your creativity is watching how you treat your ideas. It will only send more when it seems safe.


ALSO IN BOOKPAGE: Read our starred review of Stranger Care.


3. Be a magpie

When you’re working on something, whether it’s a memoir or a novel or a painting, act like a magpie and collect everything that shines. Or, to use another bird metaphor, be a bowerbird. Collect whatever helps you build a structure that will draw some future reader to you. In The Creative Habit, Twyla Tharp calls this “scratching.” She writes, “I’m digging through everything to find something. It’s like clawing at the side of the mountain to get a toehold, a grip, some sort of traction to keep moving upward and onward.”

Write down the lyric you can’t get out of your head. Take notes about the story you heard on the radio that you can’t stop thinking about. Collect the poems that make you cry. Everything is connected to what you’re working on, even if it seems unconnected. If you find yourself drawn to an article about whale song, write about it. If you keep thinking about the fact that birds are dinosaurs, write about it. One writer I work with told me her story was getting cramped, as if her writing room were shrinking, but when she gave herself permission to invite other ideas into her writing—how clouds form, the history of rice, how a bud knows when to bloom—she felt like she’d opened a window and let the world in.  

4. Writing is the remedy

My saboteur, the voice that tries to stop me from writing, is a wily shape-shifter. My saboteur will say anything to keep me away from the page—that I’m a fraud, that people will hate me if I write this book or that essay, that I’m wasting my time, that my ideas are boring and derivative. I’m writing fiction now, so my saboteur sounds different than she does when I’m writing nonfiction. She’s taking a new approach, insisting the plot idea I have is too dramatic, over the top, dumb. You don’t know what you’re doing, she says to me every morning when I sit down to write. Who do you think you are? But as soon as I recognize that voice for what it is, her power evaporates. As soon as I start to write, she’s gone. And the more regular my writing practice is, the quieter that sabotaging voice is. Not writing gives my saboteur an opening, but all I need to do to close that door is touch the page. 

“Your creativity is watching how you treat your ideas. It will only send more when it seems safe.”

5. You don’t know what you’re writing until you have a draft

You can’t know what’s garbage and what’s gold until you’ve written your way through a draft. You can’t know what belongs in a project and what doesn’t in the beginning either, because you don’t know what you’re writing yet. Be patient. Hold your story loosely. Wait for it to show you what it wants to be. Listen. Write down all your ideas. Save everything, all your strange little fragments and scenes. Editing won’t happen until later.

So many of my writing clients say they aren’t sure what they’re writing yet, but can I help them find an agent? This, too, is putting the cart before the horse. How can you find the right agent for your book if it isn’t written yet? For me, the goal is to write the best possible book you can write and then assemble the team that understands what you’re trying to do and can help you do it better. I’ve worked with so many people who sold a book proposal for one kind of book only to realize they were actually writing a very different book. They weren’t writing a commercial self-help book at all; they were writing an intimate memoir about their childhood. They weren’t writing a memoir; they were writing a page turner of a thriller. But they’re stuck with a team who wants the book they proposed, not this other thing that their art has become. Let your art lead the way. Wait for it. The timing will be right and perfect.

6. Keep your writing to yourself

When I first started writing, I wanted to show everyone every new thing I wrote, like right away. I’d write a paragraph and show it to someone, anyone, to see what they liked and what they hated. But now I don’t show anyone what I’m writing until I’ve taken it as far as I can on my own, which sometimes means I don’t show anyone my writing for years. And then, when I think it might be ready, I show my agent, Molly Friedrich. And that’s pretty much it until we think the book is ready to be sold.

At its heart, writing means learning to listen for your voice—or for the voice that wants to come through you. That voice is hard to hear when you’re letting other readers and critics chime in all the time. Be monogamous with your writing. Keep it to yourself.

 “Our ideas come from deep within, and they come from the stars. Treat these visitors with love.”

7. Your story chose you

It occurred to me recently that when we worry our story idea isn’t good enough, it’s disrespectful to the idea. Thinking we’re not good enough to write it is also impolite. Our ideas come from deep within, and they come from the stars. Treat these visitors with love. Tend them.

Draw Your Weapons took me 10 years to write, and during one of those years, I complained to a friend, the writer Alice Dark, about how sick I was of working on that project, how ready I was to be done with it. “Sometimes we have to become the person our book needs us to be before we can finish it,” she said. Sometimes that becoming happens fast. Sometimes it takes a long time. But your story idea chose you. (Elizabeth Gilbert writes powerfully about this in Big Magic.) That idea knows you have everything you need to become the writer it needs.

8. Write first thing

I do my best writing in the morning, first thing. I don’t check my email or social media, and I don’t look at the news until I’ve done my writing. Sometimes I “forget” and check my phone when I’m still in bed, and on those days, I might as well put my brain in a barrel and light it on fire.

In Deep Work, Cal Newport makes a compelling argument about the need for undistracted, focused time for thinking and writing and problem-solving. It doesn’t happen when we multitask, or check email, or look at Instagram or Facebook or Twitter or whatever social media platform sucks up your time. I’m addicted to this stuff, and I know it impedes my creativity. When I step away from this never-ending stream of distraction, I can feel my mind reset. I can feel my internal emotional life settle. My thoughts and my time belong to me again.

Writing first thing is also connected to boundary-setting. We tend to think of boundaries as selfish, but really they’re generous. When you close your studio door or say no to an obligation or block out time for your art, you give other people permission to protect their time and space to follow their creative dreams. And if you’re a parent, your boundaries give your children the freedom to set boundaries, too. It shows them they can protect what’s important to them.

9. To turn toward your writing is to turn toward the world—and change it

I’ve spent a lot of time and energy believing that if I pay attention to what’s happening in the world, my attention can somehow make terrible things not happen. But it turns out I don’t have much control over what politicians do. Or corporations. Or governments. Or viruses. Or courts. But I do have control over what I write and dream and imagine. I have control over what kinds of activism and resistance I engage in. And I have control over where I put my energy. I can choose to put my creativity toward the kind of world I want to help bring into being.

So, experiment. Stay away from the news and see what happens when you don’t absorb all that panic and fear. I’m not saying don’t pay attention at all—but I am saying choose a different kind of attention. In A Swim in the Pond in the Rain, George Saunders writes that the aim of art is to ask big questions: 

How are we supposed to be living down here? What were we put here to accomplish? What should we value? What is truth, anyway, and how might we recognize it? How can we feel at peace when some people have everything and others have nothing? How are we supposed to live with joy in a world that seems to want us to love other people but then roughly separates us from them in the end, no matter what?

“It turns out I don’t have much control over what politicians do. . . . But I do have control over what I write and dream and imagine.”

To write well is to care for the world and the beings we share it with. To write well is to learn to live in the world in more just and life-giving ways. Matthew Salesses puts it another way in Craft in the Real World. “Craft is never neutral,” he writes. “Craft is the cure or injury that can be done in our shared world when it isn’t acknowledged that there are different ways that world is felt.” He continues, “Craft is support for a certain worldview. . . . Revision must also be the revision of craft. To be a writer is to wield and be wielded by culture.” Writing is political work.

10. Write through the hard stuff, even while it’s happening

When it became clear that our foster daughter Coco would be reunified with her biological mother, and when we’d have hard days in court or with the social worker or just walking around with our broken hearts, my husband, Eric, would look at me and my puffy eyes and say, “Go write.”

“I can’t,” I’d say.

“Go write,” he’d say again and point to my desk. I’m grateful to him. I’m grateful for those raw pages. I wrote Stranger Care in real time, and working on it brought Coco close, even when she wasn’t. I felt so helpless—I feel helpless still—but I find some agency in arranging words on a page, even when those words are, “She is gone.”

11. Your project is well supported

We don’t write alone. We write for the generations who came before us, and we write for the generations who will follow. One of the women who participated in the WORD CAVE, a four-day virtual writing retreat I offer, told me, “I write because my grandmother couldn’t.” What more powerful reason could there be?

Read our starred review of Stranger Care here.

With care and attention, Sarah Sentilles shares how to tend your creativity and help it feel safe enough to flourish.

Mother’s Day is coming up, and these books are great for those who want to give or receive something more exciting than a greeting card. Memoirs about unconventional moms, artistic explorations of the mother-child bond and a new take on midlife make excellent food for thought—and crafting and design guides will inspire new creativity. These books celebrate motherhood in its many guises and, no matter what kind of mother you have (or are), offer something for everyone.

Ayelet Waldman, author of the Mommy-Track Mysteries series and two novels, is also known for her essays, including a New York Times piece in which she said she loved her husband more than her children. In a subsequent “Oprah” appearance, she emphasized that her love for husband Michael Chabon doesn’t negate her love for her children and that it’s OK to find motherhood frustrating and guilt-inducing. In Bad Mother: A Chronicle of Maternal Crimes, Minor Calamities, and Occasional Moments of Grace, Waldman calls for an end to unreasonable “supermom” expectations via well-written essays framed with political and historical context. While her style may be too over-the-top for some, she asks an important question: “Can’t we just try to give each other a break?”

Dreams from their mothers
In Not Becoming My Mother: And Other Things She Taught Me Along the Way, Ruth Reichl, memoirist and editor-in-chief of Gourmet magazine, reveals that, the year her late mother would’ve turned 100, she decided to open a box of her mother’s diaries and letters. Reichl felt she had to, as recompense for using oft-hilarious stories about her mother (so-called “Mim Tales”) in her books. The result is a finely crafted recounting of her mother’s struggles as a woman who, although smart and accomplished, felt marriage was the only road to being acceptable. Nonetheless, Reichl writes, “Mom showed me that it is never too late to find out how to [be happy].”

Hollywood agent Sam Haskell grew up in Mississippi, where his mother Mary’s guidance laid the foundation for his entertainment career. Promises I Made My Mother, with a foreword by Ray Romano (one of Haskell’s clients), includes chapters based on her advice, including “Always Seek Understanding” and “(Don’t Be Afraid to) Stand in the Light.” It worked: Haskell went from the mailroom to Worldwide Head of TV at William Morris and created the “Mississippi Rising” benefit for Hurricane Katrina survivors, building strong relationships all the while.

Here’s looking at her
From New Jersey to Mumbai, LIFE with Mother captures all sorts of moments in motherhood. This photographic tribute offers images of mothers and children at play, on the way to school, at milestone ceremonies and more. Famous moms (including Shirley MacLaine and Diana, Princess of Wales) share the pages with not-so-famous ones, and text and quotes add dimension. Readers will smile at the book’s final, hopeful image: Michelle Obama and daughter Sasha, exuberant, at the 2008 Democratic National Convention.

The Artist’s Mother: The Greatest Painters Pay Tribute to the Women Who Rocked Their Cradles takes a fine-art-inspired approach to the mother-child bond. National Book Award winner and New Yorker staff writer Judith Thurman notes in the introduction, “A mother’s gift is, ultimately, the example of steady, impartial discernment that each of us needs to create a self-portrait. And in whatever style they painted their mothers, the artists on these pages gratefully returned that deep gaze.” Indeed, these portraits—a museum-worthy collection including works by Constable, Picasso, Kahlo, Cassatt, Warhol, and, of course, Whistler—can only be the result of astute observation. Each entry includes insight about the painters’ and mothers’ lives, too.

Like a new woman
“Are you really going out like that?” is a question no one enjoys hearing. Longtime stylist Sherrie Mathieson is here to help with Steal This Style: Mothers and Daughters Swap Wardrobe Secrets. The “Never Cool” images are groan-inducing, but the “Forever Cool” photos depict women who look stylish and comfortable. Mathieson’s voice is friendly and respectful, and she honors the women’s taste by, say, preserving a jacket-shape but recommending a different color. This is a useful guide for women who want a clothing makeover.

For a full life makeover, Suzanne Braun Levine recommends setting new goals and enjoying one’s “second adulthood” in 50 is the New Fifty: 10 Life Lessons for Women in Second Adulthood. As the first managing editor of Ms. and a contributing editor to More, Levine knows her topic. She writes of the Fertile Void (a sort of emotional menopause) and Horizontal Role Models (women who have been there, done that) as important aspects of this exciting time. These terms explain commonalities among women, and the 10 lessons provide ways to consider and change individual situations. 50 is the New Fifty is an illuminating read for women of all ages.

Hi, Mom!
Doree Shafrir and Jessica Grose saw comedy in maternal email and text messages and started PostcardsFromYoMomma.com; two weeks later, the site had 100,000 unique visitors. The site is going strong, and now there’s a book based on the concept. Love, Mom: Poignant, Goofy, Brilliant Messages From Home contains 200 missives in categories like “I Do Actually Like Your Hair!” and “I Hope You Have a Hat With Ears.” The emails are a hoot, ranging from sex-related revelations to musings on recipes. A fun read for mom-email recipients and those who send them.

For designing mothers
The latest book from the Martha Stewart Living team is a DIYer’s delight. From beading to tin-punching, Martha Stewart’s Encyclopedia of Crafts: An A-Z Guide with Detailed Instructions and Endless Inspiration means readers will never again want for a project. Each topic (e.g., Botanical Pressing) includes a history of the craft, descriptions of tools and supplies, and projects (autumn-leaf curtain, pansy coasters, seaweed cards). Photos offer inspiration, and mini-tutorials should help prevent missteps. A crafting-table must-have.
Mothers-to-be can harness the nesting instinct with the aptly named Feathering the Nest: Tracy Hutson’s Earth-Friendly Guide to Decorating Your Baby’s Room by “Extreme Makeover: Home Edition” design star Tracy Hutson. Mouth-watering photos of wonderfully appointed rooms are accompanied by expert advice on everything from refinishing furniture to choosing a mattress. There are how-tos, color palettes and sourcing details for four styles (vintage, contemporary, traditional and international). Eco-friendly options are on-point, and the final chapter—featuring the nursery in Hutson’s home—demonstrates that her book will help readers create a space that’s both kind to the Earth and welcoming to baby.

Linda M. Castellitto writes from North Carolina.

Mother’s Day is coming up, and these books are great for those who want to give or receive something more exciting than a greeting card. Memoirs about unconventional moms, artistic explorations of the mother-child bond and a new take on midlife make excellent food for thought—and crafting and design guides will inspire new creativity. These […]
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Fatherhood is fascinating, frustrating, frightening and funny—and the wise man appreciates all four aspects. As another Father’s Day rolls around, five books offer insight and interest for fathers of all ages—as well as mothers, sons and daughters, too.

Fathers, sons and the game of golf
At the same time that boys turn into young men, their fathers often reach their own turning points. The boy of 16 is learning what sort of man he may become; the father in his 40s is discovering the difference between the man he thought he’d be and the man he is. In his latest book, A Son of the Game: A Story of Golf, Going Home, and Sharing Life’s Lessons, golf writer and journalist James Dodson weaves together both these journeys, wrapped in a story of homecoming and the love of an ancient game. The tale begins as Dodson, disillusioned with golf journalism, returns to Pinehurst, North Carolina, “the home of golf in America,” to bid goodbye to a dying friend. Set amid the pine-covered sand hills between the mountains and the sea, Pinehurst is a home of sorts to Dodson, a place where he first learned the game of golf from his own father. When an opportunity to join a small regional newspaper arises, Dodson ponders it as a cure for his jaded soul—but worries how his family will respond, in particular his teenage son, Jack. There is conflict for both, but as father and son build a connection on the golf course, the “Pinehurst cure” leads them to a better understanding of themselves and each other. A Son of the Game is a magical memoir of midlife crisis, teenage uncertainty and the power of a legacy gently handed down. Whether you love the game of golf or can’t tell a sand wedge from a six iron, Dodson’s book will put the spell of Pinehurst on your heart—a spell that is simply the call of home.

From one dad to another
Children do not become teenagers overnight, and dads are not 40 in an instant. Fatherhood stretches for many years, and is experienced by men in many different ways. The Book of Dads: Essays on the Joys, Perils and Humiliations of Fatherhood, edited by Ben George, collects essays and memories about fatherhood from an assortment of writers, including Clyde Edgerton and Rick Bragg. Some of the accounts are pure humor, others are poignant, but all offer a fascinating record of ideas, attitudes and approaches to fatherhood. One wishes the collection were somewhat broader—the authors seem to share similar ideologies, with very little diversity in their views—but the essays themselves are well written and fascinating to read.

Lessons for survival
A consistent theme in the previous books is how fathers prepare their children to survive in life. Norman Ollestad’s Crazy for the Storm: A Memoir of Survival recounts the author’s experience of his own father’s unconventional approach to parenting, and how it led to the boy’s ability to survive in a situation his father had not planned—the crash of their chartered Cessna into a mountainside. Ollestad cuts back and forth between his travels with his surfer father, his life with his mother and her abusive boyfriend, and his fight for life as the lone survivor of the plane crash. It is a story of both a father’s successes and his failures, and is as much about surviving the actions of child-like adults as about the dangerous descent down the ice-covered mountain. At times beautiful, at times heart-wrenching, Crazy for the Storm is a commanding read—a tale that proves the power of the human spirit can rise against any challenge, and a father’s legacy can be larger than he imagines.

Norman Ollestad didn’t have Hawke’s Green Beret Survival Manual during his mountain ordeal, but he lived the most important part of it: “Never quit!” It is Myke Hawke’s first rule of survival, and his book tells how to apply it in the worst possible situations. Hawke served as a Green Beret for 25 years, rising from enlisted man to officer. His specialty: survival. Hawke’s book is full of techniques and instructions on everything from building shelters to identifying edible plants. And his advice covers situations from surviving the wilderness to dangerous urban environments—including gangs, riots, even a nuclear aftermath—and includes a strong dose of expert philosophy on the nature of survival. Hawke doesn’t just study survival, he has lived it, both as a soldier and as a 14-year-old boy abandoned to the winter streets of urban Virginia. Hawke is a survivor—and if you take his advice, when worse comes to worse, you can be too.

The best of ESPN
Lastly, fatherhood isn’t all about seriousness or survival. It’s also about having fun. And if your father is the type for whom “fun” means “sports,” you could do worse than to give him The ESPN Mighty Book of Sports Knowledgeedited by Steve Wulf. Instead of a collection of stats, this book is a delightful hodgepodge of trivia, essays and tips—like how to throw a Whiffle ball and strategies for winning Rock, Paper, Scissors. There are also accounts of great sports moments, lists of best (and worst) sports movies, and such essential items as a tour of Donovan McNabb’s locker. The contributors range from athletes to coaches, and the stories stretch from the poignant to the peculiar (like the time a lacrosse team fielded a six-foot-five-inch, 600-pound goalie). Fathers and kids (and like-minded mothers) will enjoy this crazy little mix of knowledge. After all, where else can you learn legendary basketball coach John Wooden’s rules for putting on socks? That’s the sort of stuff a father loves to pass on—especially if it drives a kid nuts.

Howard Shirley is a writer who is surviving fatherhood in Franklin, Tennessee.

Fatherhood is fascinating, frustrating, frightening and funny—and the wise man appreciates all four aspects. As another Father’s Day rolls around, five books offer insight and interest for fathers of all ages—as well as mothers, sons and daughters, too. Fathers, sons and the game of golf At the same time that boys turn into young men, […]
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Meet some of the best parenting books of the year so far, culled from the gravid shelves at BookPage. Selected on individual merit, this disparate grouping nonetheless suggests a pattern: truth. These new books seem to concern themselves with rooting out truth no matter how entrenched the myth, how muddled the syndrome, how white the lie, and all entirely to our favor. Truth can be shocking. For example, what we thought was OK for kid’s health is bad, and what we thought was bad is actually OK. Or, we learn our ideals of the “good” mother and the “good” girl must be radically redefined. Or, we find the real nitty-gritty coming home with a newborn is not quite what we expected. Still, these books are just what the doctor should order: a frank, fearless and sometimes very funny heads-up. Of course, the ultimate parenting truth is that we all want to succeed, and with selections like these, we have a pretty good chance.

Myth-busters
How often have you heard these health facts: burns are best treated with ice, wounds should “air out” at night, spinach is a good source of iron, and teething can cause high fever? Guess what? These facts are fiction: baby myths, if you will. Pediatrician Andrew Adesman heard these and hundreds of other baby myths so often, he felt duty-bound to write a book: Babyfacts: the Truth About Your Child’s Health From Newborn Through Preschool. How about: raw carrots improve vision, green mucous always indicates a bacterial infection and cupcakes make kids hyper? Again, not true. If you are surprised, you aren’t alone: a pilot study showed a shocking number of pediatricians are just as credulous about these pervasive myths as the rest of us. Adesman deftly debunks the most common nuggets of misinformation in an easy-to-use, absorbing reference.

Open in case of emergency
The next book debunks myths too, but it specializes in how to distinguish a real emergency from a routine situation or a false alarm. Emergency room pediatrician Lara Zibners has the street cred to teach parents when a trip to the ER is a must, a maybe or a wait-and-see, and ditto for a regular acute office visit. In If Your Kid Eats This Book, Everything Will Still Be Okay, Dr. Zibners covers every category likely to be a concern at some point: newborn issues, skin, guts, “plumbing,” allergies, wounds, fever, head injuries and so on. The range is immense (and realistic): swallowed fish-tank gravel, super-glued body parts, high fevers or major trauma, she’s been there. A nice touch is the author’s overriding assertion that parents should always trust intuition: we know our own children best. Keep a copy in the medicine cabinet for quick, straightforward advice when you need it most.

In the trenches
Former war photojournalist Deborah Copaken Kogan is back with more stories from the family front. Picking up where her best-selling memoir Shutterbabe left off, Kogan weaves past and present into a wry portrait of real life at home. In Hell Is Other Parents: and Other Tales of Maternal Combustion the author confronts family challenges that make covering carnage in Afghanistan (which she has done) seem easy by comparison. Her frank take on Mommy & Me classes, life as a reluctant stage mother and encounters with parents who espouse decidedly different childrearing philosophies (i.e. helicopter parents) is delightful. So too are her flashbacks to younger and wilder days: days before she and her family of five must squeeze into a two-bedroom Manhattan apartment and get by on a freelancer’s pittance. Above all, do not miss the chapter about sharing a room in the maternity ward with the world’s rudest postpartum teenager.

Instruction manual
New moms and moms-to-be, meet your new best friend. Claudine Wolk, author of It Gets Easier! And Other Lies We Tell New Mothers, tells it (and all of it) like it really is: pregnancy, childbirth and those first, foggy baby months. Never mind all the other advice that will inevitably bombard the pregnant and postpartum: listen to her. Wolk, a mother of three, interviewed hundreds of women to find the real deal: the most helpful tips, most urgent issues and most practical solutions for the transition to motherhood. The three big common concerns—sleep, schedule and guilt—are covered in great detail, but each chapter is packed with invaluable, uncensored advice on absolutely everything. This book is precisely what the subtitle claims: “a fun, practical guide to becoming a mom.” Where, oh where was it when my two kids were new? A must for baby shower and new mom gifts.

The confident parent
Parents who have made it past the baby stage are ready for Jen Singer, award-winning mommy blogger and author of You’re a Good Mom. Singer’s new series began this spring with the publication of Stop Second-Guessing Yourself: The Toddler Years, and continues with the September release of Stop Second-Guessing Yourself: The Preschool Years. Singer’s cheery, no-nonsense style helps parents navigate the challenges unique to the three- to five-year-old set (or, as she calls them, “tiny teens in light-up sneakers”). Combining her own experiences with those of veteran moms from her website, MommaSaid.net, she gives the support, advice and insights most of us desperately need. Note the reassuring reader-contributed “It Worked for Me” and “Okay, I Admit It” boxes sprinkled throughout.

Giving girls voice
Rachel Simmons broke new ground with Odd Girl Out, the best-selling exploration of bullying among girls. With The Curse of the Good Girl: Raising Authentic Girls With Courage and Confidence she turns her lens to the insidious myth of the Good Girl: a narrow and unrealistic model of female perfection. Far too many girls equate self-esteem with being “good”: thinking and acting only in modest, polite, conscientious and selfless ways. Such a limited repertoire of acceptable feelings limits the healthy development of real self esteem, body image and overall confidence, and prevents girls from cultivating potential. The pattern can start in early childhood and expand throughout life, affecting choices in education, career, relationships and family life, as well as a sense of purpose and worth. Simmons presents case studies and research to illustrate the complexities of the Good Girl syndrome, as well as numerous strategies we can all undertake to encourage the authentic inner—and ultimately outer—voice of girls.

Joanna Brichetto objects to the word “parent” used as a verb, but she parents a teen and a toddler, anyway.

Meet some of the best parenting books of the year so far, culled from the gravid shelves at BookPage. Selected on individual merit, this disparate grouping nonetheless suggests a pattern: truth. These new books seem to concern themselves with rooting out truth no matter how entrenched the myth, how muddled the syndrome, how white the […]
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For many students across the nation, back to school means more than shopping for new pencils, backpacks and clothes. It’s time to start searching for the right college or preparing for the first year away from home. While either experience can be daunting for teens and parents alike, several new books guide readers through the college selection process, the transition to college and even adventurous alternatives to the traditional university route.

“No future decision will carry as much social visibility as the college choice,” contends college advisor and author Joyce Slayton Mitchell. In her accessible 8 First Choices: An Expert’s Strategies for Getting into College, she eases high school students’ pressure by walking them step by step through the college admissions process—from testing, researching universities and selecting eight first choices to how financial aid works and how to nail the college essay, application and interview. In an age where college applications are at an all-time high and still on the rise, she shows the specifics deans are looking for, with tips from some of the most selective universities. Mitchell also describes how to demonstrate diversity, personalize the college selection process and stand out among thousands of applications, even if you’re an overrepresented applicant. Above all, she encourages high school students to take ownership of the decisions that will direct their future. In a concluding chapter to parents, she addresses their concerns while gently reminding them to foster their children’s independence in this character-building experience.

Temptation Island
For young women who’ve earned a spot in college (hopefully, one of their eight first choices), U Chic: The College Girl’s Guide to Everything offers hip yet down-to-earth suggestions on all areas of campus life. More than 30 women who’ve recently graduated from universities across the country give an insider’s scoop on getting along with roommates, dorm decorating, sororities, college perks and thriving when in the minority. While they touch upon studying and other ways to succeed in class, deciding on a major, campus safety, budgets, exercise and nutrition, the majority of this guide is dedicated to topics that parents tend to avoid. As one contributor writes, “College is the ultimate Temptation Island.” Whether it’s ditching the dorm and getting more involved on campus, “tech etiquette for a Facebook Age,” the dating scene, sex ed, “dormcest,” partying responsibly, depression or eating disorders, the authors dish it out with frank advice on surviving the newfound freedoms and temptations.

Letting go
Teenagers may think they know everything, but they can always use some help making the switch from high school to college. So can parents. Marie Pinak Carr’s Sending Your Child to College: The Prepared Parent’s Operational Manual provides myriad tips for parents’ new role and for preparing their children for the next big step in their lives. Kicking off with the mountains of required paperwork and making sure they aren’t billed twice for insurance, this chatty guide also reminds parents about checking accounts, budgets, laundry, campus safety, alcohol and drug use and other important topics they need to discuss with their fledgling collegiates. While some chapters focus on more serious matters, such as navigating campus, travel arrangements, health care and car emergencies, other chapters on furnishing a dorm room and thematic care packages remember the fun side of college. For parents who really want to stay connected, there’s even a quick chapter on volunteer possibilities, whether near or far from campus. But it’s the extensive checklists and forms throughout that are reasons enough to purchase this useful manual.

While the book above touches on the practical side of college, Marjorie Savage’s You’re On Your Own (But I’m Here if You Need Me): Mentoring Your Child Through the College Years focuses on the emotional transition—for students and parents—and makes an excellent companion guide. For parents who want to give their children space but also want to know how soon they can call after settling them into their dorms, this comprehensive book explains the change from primary caregiver to proud mentor and supporter. It addresses how college affects the entire family, from students’ range of emotions, especially in their first six weeks away from home, to ways parents can avoid empty nest feelings. Always encouraging parents to help and not “helicopter,” the author does let them know when their insights are important to share in such matters as finances, health, safety and the social scene. Each chapter concludes with a list of “Quick Tips for Students” for parents to pass along to their children. And just when parents are starting to grasp their new relationships with their children, they come home again. Luckily, there’s a section that covers this adjustment, too!

Going global
If all the talk of standardized tests, college applications and high tuition rates are causing extreme dizziness and heart palpitations, then the “anti-college prep handbook” The New Global Student: Skip the SAT, Save Thousands on Tuition, and Get a Truly International Education may be the best guide yet. In the summer of 2005, author Maya Frost, her husband and four teenage daughters left their suburban life in Oregon to live around the world. Whether parents are considering sending their high school- or college-age children to study abroad or the “full-family deal,” a short stay or total immersion, Frost describes how all of these options focus on children’s total development rather than just on their education and help prepare them for a global workplace. While packing up the family and moving to a foreign country may seem scary or like a glamorous never-ending vacation, the author also explains how to let go of fear, numerous expat misconceptions and key qualities for making the experience a success. A plethora of first-hand statements from experienced travelers reveals invaluable insight and the inspiration to get up and go—abroad.

Angela Leeper is the Director of the Curriculum Materials Center at the University of Richmond.

For many students across the nation, back to school means more than shopping for new pencils, backpacks and clothes. It’s time to start searching for the right college or preparing for the first year away from home. While either experience can be daunting for teens and parents alike, several new books guide readers through the […]
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At the start of the 21st century, parents are understandably worried about how to help children navigate a world characterized by economic uncertainty and academic pressure, cyber-distractions and omnipresent media. These books offer advice for every stage of the parenting journey.

In recent years, scientists and psychologists have gained dramatic new insights into the brains and behavior of babies and young children. Among other things, they have discovered that babies are aware of language, numbers and feelings at just a few months old, and that the executive functions of the brain, which help us organize our lives and behavior, are critical to achievement. Ellen Galinsky draws upon these insights in Mind in the Making, an overview of the seven “learning skills”—like “Focus and Self Control” and “Critical Thinking”—that, she argues, help children succeed in life.

Galinsky references her own experiences, brief parenting anecdotes and the research and opinions of experts as she first details the importance of each “essential life skill” and then provides suggestions for how parents can stimulate that skill. The suggestions are as specific as games to play and questions to ask, and as broad as reducing parental stress. While Mind in the Making offers much food for thought, its breadth can be overwhelming; just trying to follow the 19 suggestions for promoting focus could drive a parent to distraction.

HELPING CHILDREN LEARN
Like Galinsky, Jane Healy focuses on the brain; while Galinsky addresses the basic skills that underlie success in all aspects of life, Healy—an educational psychologist, teacher and brain expert—specifically tackles learning problems, and her approach is both more focused and more comprehensive. In Different Learners, she makes a persuasive case for attending carefully to both genetic and environmental causes of learning problems.

While learning problems often originate in the brain, Healy argues that they can be dramatically exacerbated by a child’s “home, school, community, and culture.” Carefully laying out the workings of the brain, along with the causes and consequences of different kinds of learning issues, she argues that paying close attention to a child’s specific needs and making changes in their environment and behavior can make medication unnecessary.

Healy is persuasive, thoughtful and, above all, sympathetic to the challenges and fears parents face, providing many useful tips and strategies for how they can help their children.

GETTING IT RIGHT FOR GIRLS
In Girls on the Edge, Dr. Leonard Sax, author of Boys Adrift, now turns his attention to the opposite sex. Sax believes that contemporary culture, with its focus on appearance and performing for others, is preventing girls from developing an “authentic sense of self.” In the first part of the book, he targets early sexualization, the Internet and environmental toxins as primary causes of this absence, and obsessions (from anorexia and alcohol abuse to perfectionism) as one of its signal manifestations.

Sax, a strong public advocate for single-sex education, believes that boys and girls are innately different and should be taught and coached in different ways. In the book’s second half, he outlines some of these differences and offers advice on how to help girls flourish.

Some of Sax’s suggestions are common sense: limiting and supervising computer time, making sure your daughter gets enough sleep, being a “Just Right” parent (“firm but not rigid, loving but not permissive”) instead of “Too Hard” or “Too Soft.” His focus on gender difference and single-sex environments may be more controversial, but will ring true for some parents.

ONE MOTHER’S TEENAGER
While Sax takes a big-picture look at today’s teenage girls, in My Teenage Werewolf, author and mom Lauren Kessler focuses on one girl: her preteen daughter, Lizzie, with whom she increasingly finds herself “completely immersed in mutual hostility.” Seeking to understand Lizzie, and to prevent the semi-estrangement that characterized her post-adolescent relationship with her own mother, Kessler sets out to explore the world of contemporary teenagers.

She begins with research, learning about strategies for communicating with teens, the hormonal and brain changes that make teenagers so erratic and impulsive, and the stresses they face today. She joins Lizzie at school, camp and wrestling practice, becoming a “cultural anthropologist” of “the world of the twenty-first-century teen girl.”

In the two years she spends immersed in Lizzie’s life, Kessler discovers that her daughter is not a raging, sulking beast determined to make her mother’s life miserable, but a strong, thoughtful individual. Acknowledging Lizzie’s autonomy, and letting go of her own need to control her daughter, Kessler finds her way to the mother-daughter relationship she seeks—a relationship that was really there all along.

At the start of the 21st century, parents are understandably worried about how to help children navigate a world characterized by economic uncertainty and academic pressure, cyber-distractions and omnipresent media. These books offer advice for every stage of the parenting journey. In recent years, scientists and psychologists have gained dramatic new insights into the brains […]
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All four of these featured books take their philosophical cue from the title of Bob Dylan’s album Bringing It All Back Home. The best way to help your kids have fun learning at school is to make your home a place where what happens at school really matters. In the process, you’ll also be helping school become a place where what happens at home—love and support, study habits and simple values—really matters.

WHICH SCHOOL?

We all want our kids to go the best school. The question is, what does “best” mean? Turns out, despite the fact that today’s parents are more educated, motivated and informed than ever, we are short on the skills needed to evaluate the quality of our children’s schools. The Good School: How Smart Parents Get Their Kids the Education They Deserve can change this. Peg Tyre, author of the best-selling The Trouble with Boys, gives parents a crash course in what to look for. She focuses on “seven essential domains of education” we need to know in order to help preschool, elementary and middle school children. These include test scores, class size, teacher quality and the best practices in teaching reading and math. Each chapter investigates a topic starting with a bit of history, details of current practices (good and bad), a checklist of questions for each school and a handy list of “take aways,” thoughts to keep in mind as you investigate. The checklists in particular make it easy for even the most overwhelmed (or clueless) parent to become “a more sophisticated member of your child’s learning community.”

LIVING TO WRITE

Literacy expert Pam Allyn has already written the definitive book for parents on reading, What to Read When. Now she turns her attention to writing with Your Child’s Writing Life. Why do kids need a “writing life?” Allyn give three research-based reasons: Writing “fosters a child’s emotional growth,” “helps develop critical thinking skills” and “leads to a guaranteed improvement in academic achievement.” Plus, a love of writing is a gift that can last a lifetime.

Parents can unlock a child’s potential with “Five Keys” embedded in the acronym WRITE: word power, ritual, independence, time, environment. These can be tailored to each child’s “personal comfort and unique learning style” and energized with easy, creative prompts. A chapter on the stages of writing development helps parents understand a child’s changing capabilities and enthusiasms. Allyn gives tips on creating an appropriate environment for each stage from birth up, including recommendations for books, activities, toys or materials, plus a list of “writing elements” a child might exhibit. Chapters on common challenges (like fear and frustration), great books to inspire writing and cures for writer’s block (by age group) round out a groundbreaking resource.

BE THE CHANGE

The End of Molasses Classes teaches that home and school should and can “support each other in the education of all children.” Ron Clark, named “America’s Educator,” author of the best-selling The Essential 55 and founder of a revolutionary teaching academy, knows firsthand how a few basic changes can transform a classroom, a school and a child’s entire life. Clark shares 101 strategies, some for teachers, some for parents, all aimed at helping kids succeed, in the best and widest sense of the word.

For example, parents can cultivate drama-free mornings so the school day can start right, read all the communication sent home from school, get to know other school parents, use car time to talk about what children are learning and stop rewarding kids for doing a mediocre job.Examples for any adult include: “set the tone for a love of learning,” “define your expectations and then raise the bar,” “uplift those who help raise your children,” “listen,” “provide students with a chance to shine” and simply “have fun.” Clark will help parents keep molasses un-metaphorical and right where it belongs: on cornbread and biscuits, not in classrooms.

TIMELESS TEACHINGS

When a report card from the year 1915 turned up among a beloved uncle’s effects, authors and family educators Barbara C. Unell and Bob Unell noticed a “Home Report” section completed by parents and returned to the teacher. It included topics like “things made,” “books read,” “money earned,” “manners” and “hours worked,” and, by its very presence, made the assumption that the best education comes from an active partnership between school and home. The discovery inspired Uncle Dan’s Report Card: From Toddlers to Teenagers, Helping Our Children Build Strength of Character with Healthy Habits and Values Every Day. The authors argue that student learning and development is not just about academic achievement, but about the whole child. To succeed in school and in life, all kids “need structure, rules, routines and boundaries to feel calm and secure.” Parents, on the other end, need to know what to teach and how to teach it. The book gives the timeless tools and tips that can inspire kids to want to learn good habits, follow a “commonsense code of conduct” and become more self-sufficient. Everyone wins: parents, teachers, kids and the community.

All four of these featured books take their philosophical cue from the title of Bob Dylan’s album Bringing It All Back Home. The best way to help your kids have fun learning at school is to make your home a place where what happens at school really matters. In the process, you’ll also be helping […]

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