Tag Archives: non-fiction

For the First Five

My home state has a program called “First Five,” which is designed with the goal of ensuring the health, well-being, and kindergarten readiness of all children.  Emphasis is placed on the most formative years of a child’s life, the first five.

My own daughter will turn five in less than two weeks, and in my first five years as a mother, I’ve relied on various resources.  I’m sharing the following titles as a woman who previously had little to no experience with babies and toddlers, and I recommend all of them for other such parenting neophytes. 

Booklist:  For Parents of Children Ages 0-5

What to Expect the First Year

by Heidi Murkoff

Since I had no idea whatsoever to expect from my first year of motherhood, this book was a true lifesaver.  I can honestly say that in the first six months of my daughter’s life I probably referred to this book at least once a day.  (You should know that I’m a bit neurotic.  Normal people without my obsessive, perfectionist tendencies would probably only need to consult this book once a week or so).

The Nursing Mother’s Companion

by Kathleen Huggins 

The decision to breast or bottle feed is obviously an incredibly personal one.  For those who choose the former, true to its title, this book is a wonderful companion.  As I’ve indicated, I was clueless about all things baby related, so this book answered a host of questions I didn’t even think to ask.  Highly recommend this one.

Caring for your Baby and Young Child Birth to Age Five

American Academy of Pediatrics

After the first year, this book replaced What to Expect as my go-to reference (and I stopped consulting it daily some time before my daughter’s first birthday).  It has been especially useful when my husband’s Merck Manual is too much for me. 

The Happiest Toddler on the Block

by Harvey Karp

Now, I also read The Happiest Baby on the Block and was disappointed.  Someone gave me a copy while I was pregnant, and I was all set to swaddle my baby the way Karp recommends.  Then I actually met my baby and she let me know in no uncertain terms that there would be no swaddling.  So I wasn’t sure if Karp’s Toddler = Caveman ideas would be helpful.  To my happy surprise, the ideas in this book did help me through 18-24 months, which was the most challenging part of toddlerhood for my daughter and me.  This book is intended for one to four year olds, but I did not refer back to it after my daughter was two.

Child of Mine

by Ellyn Satter

This is an excellent resource on feeding and nutrition for babies and young children.  Satter emphasizes a division of responsibility in feeding:  adults are responsible for what, when and where children are fed; children are responsible for how much and whether they eat.  Between the problem of childhood obesity and the rise in increasingly bizarre diet and exercise programs for all ages, parents need to make it a priority for their children to develop healthy relationships with food.  Child of Mine can set families on the right track from the very beginning.

The above five titles are intended specifically for the first five years.  I’ve also read a number of other books that are applicable throughout childhood and into the teen years.  Here’s a list (with links but not annotations) of additional parenting titles that I recommend.  I’ll be revisiting these over the summer as I make the transition from parent of a young child to parent of an elementary-school child.

The Blessing of a Skinned Knee
Raising Self-Reliant Children in a Self-Indulgent World
Parenting With Love and Logic
The Five Love Languages of Children
Parenting from the Inside Out


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The Bully, the Bullied, and the Bystander

By Barbara Coloroso
:  Non-fiction
Genre:  Education/Parenting
Subjects:  Bullying, school violence

Summary:  Subtitled, “From Preschool to High School – How Parents and Teachers Can Help Break the Cycle of Violence,” this book offers a psychological profile of the three characters in a tragedy.  Coloroso explores the emotions and rationalizations experienced by the bully, the bullied, and the bystander.  She also discusses the three main types of bullying—physical, verbal and relational—that occur “in person,” and she explains the ways in which cyberbullying is an even more invasive and poisonous form of bullying.  Throughout the book, Coloroso emphasizes the need for parents and educators to take bullying seriously, so as to change the attitude that it is “part of growing up.”  Numerous cases of school violence from around the world are cited as examples. 

Notes:  Coloroso has created an invaluable resource for individual parents/families and educators.  The emphasis on reconciliation, healing, and on-going dialogue are sound.  While her suggestions regarding reconciliatory justice are idealistic, schools are in need of strong leadership on the issue bullying and school violence.   This book offers excellent guidance for navigating treacherous waters and for keeping kids safe and thriving at school.
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Booklist: Bullying

I’ve been following the case of Phoebe Prince, the 15 year-old Irish girl who committed suicide in January of this year after enduring a months-long bullying campaign staged by her Massachusetts high school peers.

Certainly there are numerous articles containing “tips” on how to identify, cope with and prevent bullying.  This booklist is intended to open up dialogue at various age levels on the subject.

For 4-8 year olds:

Hugo and the Bully Frogs
Written by Francesca Simon
Illustrated by Caroline Jean Church

Hugo is a little frog with a little croak.  He lives in a deep, muddy pond.  And he’s constantly tormented by Pop-Eyes, the biggest, meanest frog Hugo has ever met.  Pop-Eyes snatches Hugo’s toys, calls him names, and drops him head-first into the pond.  How will Hugo ever stand up to such a bully?
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The Recess Queen
Written by Alexis O’Neill
Illustrated by Laura Huliska-Beith

Mean Jean dominates the playground.  She goes first at swinging, bouncing and kicking, and no one risks challenging her.  Then a new kid arrives at school.  Katie Sue doesn’t know that Jean is the reigning recess queen.  So what will happen when Katie Sue decides to swing, bounce and kick first?
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For Ages 9+

Buddha Boy
by Kathe Koja

Jinsen, known around school as “Buddha Boy,” is increasingly targeted in mean-spirited, violent bullying by the popular crowd.  Read the full review here.
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For Ages 15+

by Laurie Halse Anderson

After years of being bullied, Tyler considers using violence to make himself heard.
Read the full review here.
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For Parents and Educators

The Bully, the Bullied, and the Bystander
by Barbara Coloroso

Coloroso discusses in depth the parts enacted in each incident of bullying (including cyberbullying):  the perpetrator, the victim, the bystander, the adults, and the community context.  This book emphasizes ways in which the cycle of bullying can be broken.  Read the full review here.
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For Deeper Reflection

Tikkun Passover Supplement 2010 (Click to link to the full text.)

“As we sit at the Seder table we need to discuss how ancient liberation for the Jews can inspire liberation today for all people.”  So begins the Passover supplement.

How are the Seder and Jewish liberation relevant for non-Jews?  Why is this Passover supplement included on a reading list about bullying?

This piece of reflection from Rabbi Michael Lerner calls the Jewish people—indeed, all people– to open “their eyes to the suffering of our brothers and sisters, the Palestinians,”  to “the ways in which we…have been acting as Pharoah to another people.”  Clearly, bullying is not a problem contained on school grounds.

In fact, bullying occurs on school grounds precisely because it happens on a larger scale in our communities.  Prosperous nations bully developing nations, and powerful companies bully smaller businesses.  Certain adults bully those weaker than themselves.

In all its manifestations, bullying is nothing less than a serious form of oppression.  And so discussion of liberation can move us forward, closer to “communal vision of what messianic redemption would look like,” no matter what our particular faith tradition might be.

As Rabbi Lerner writes, “Instead of relying on domination, we know both from our holy texts and from our real-world experience that it is generosity, kindness, compassion, and caring for others that will be the key to our success and survival.”


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Good to Great and the Social Sectors by Jim Collins

Classification:  Adult Non-fiction

Genre: Business

Subjects: Social entrepreneurs, business models, leadership, management

 “Greatness is not a function of circumstance.  Greatness, as it turns out, is largely a matter of conscious choice, and discipline.” ~ Jim Collins

Summary:  Adapting his “good to great” business model for the social sector, Collins discusses the factors that distinguish great organizations from good ones:  Defining Greatness, Level 5 Leadership, First Who, the Hedgehog Concept, and Turning the Flywheel .  These principles amount to creating a way to assess output results, establishing strong leadership that serves the mission of the organization, getting the right people involved, understanding the organization’s passions, strengths and resources, and building momentum for the organization to grow.  Examples of great social sector organizations include Tom Morris of the Cleveland Orchestra, Wendy Knopp of Teach for America, and Frances Hesselbein of Girl Scouts USA.  Throughout the treatise, Collins insists greatness transcends the differences between business and social, pointing out that great organizations, whether business or social, have much in common with each other, and less in common with mediocre organizations from the same sector.

Notes: I have not read Good to Great.  This monograph was recommended reading for a course on the management of non-profit information organizations.   I borrowed a copy from my local library, and at 35 pages it is such a short read that I highly recommend it to just about anyone in a leadership or management position.  Collins covers a diverse range of social organizations.  In addition to the examples mentioned above,  Collins discusses  former NYPD Commissioner William Bratton, high school physics teacher Roger Briggs, and several others.

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Click here for a recommendation for younger readers.

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The Five Love Languages by Gary Chapman

In some literature class long ago, I learned that love stories end with marriage or death, which is why those of us who crave insight into the day-to-day workings of a relationship need to look beyond narrative.  A friend recommended The Five Love Languages, which is a decent read.

According to Dr. Gary Chapman, we all speak a love language:  Words of Affirmation, Quality Time, Acts of Service, Gifts, or Physical Touch.  As Chapman says, “no one can be happy with an empty love tank,” so partners ought to know one another’s love languages so that they can express love in way the other will understand.  Many examples of couples and their love languages are cited in the text, as well as extensive profiles of each love language.  Christian scripture is incorporated in a non-offensive way.

The discussion of the love languages themselves is interesting, but I found Chapman’s most compelling points to lie in his distinction between the in-love obsession experienced at the beginning of a relationship and the rational, mature love that evolves over time.  Chapman insists that to love someone is a choice, and to love someone well requires the lover to make the conscious choice to speak the love language of the beloved.

I’m in love with the idea of reasonable love, love that can be understood intellectually.  As for this book, it’s a quick read, well-suited for travel or as a Valentine’s activity to do with an open-minded partner.  A “Personal Assessment Tool” is included.  Since the book’s original publication, Chapman has expanded the Love Languages into a series of books that includes The Five Love Languages of Children and numerous other titles.

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