Book reviews

Understand how teachers can tune into and encourage quieter pupils, why bereavement should be something that schools are equipped to deal with and what makes a fantastic mentor.

A Quiet Education

Published by Independent Thinking Press; £9.99

According to one academic reviewer, ‘A Quiet Education is a gentle antidote to the brash confidence, incessant sound and absurd place of modern schooling’.

As such it is a book which is clearly overdue.

Jamie Thom asks how schools can become places where quieter people can be heard, and offers tips and strategies to help introverted students and teachers achieve their potential in an extroverted world. At the same time he argues that introspective skills can help pupils to think more clearly, while also turning teachers into better educators.

In Chapter 11, ‘Taking Ownership of Teacher Improvement’, he explores how discovering a method of professional development that keeps you positive and motivated is essential for well-being. He purports that schools need to offer choice and be reflective about the differing needs of their staff – just as teachers should be for their students. This is followed with a look how quieter teachers can thrive in other interpersonal situations that arise in schools, such as being heard in meetings and speaking publicly.

This book is valuable for opening up a much needed dialogue about the need to recognise quiet virtues in schools and their importance for young people and their teachers. As a result schools could become more empathetic places.

It offers both food for thought and a wealth of practical strategies.

A Quiet Education

Published by John Catt; £15

Written by Ian Gilbert with his three children, this is a personal account of the way educational institutions tried and succeeded, tried and failed, and sometimes didn't try at all to help William, Olivia and Phoebe come to terms with the death of their mother.

They encourage educators to view bereavement as something that should be acknowledged and talked about in school, and offer clear guidelines that can make a difference to the way a school can support a bereaved child. This includes having a whole school policy on bereavement and sending staff on training provided by charities such as Winston's Wish. An important book for all schools to read.

Mentoring and Coaching in Early Childhood Education

Published by Bloomsbury Academic; £24.99

Inspired by practice the authors have witnessed as part of the National Professional Qualification in Integrated Centre Leadership, this aims to support those who dedicate their professional lives to nurturing children's – ‘natural capacities for curiosity, exploration, social and intellectual skills, so they may flourish’.

There are examples that stress the importance of mentors and coaches not only espousing, but embodying, the values, qualities and attitudes they seek to encourage among early years leaders, staff and trainees. Mentors and coaches must listen, empathise and appreciate the needs of each individual in order to fulfil their role.

Areas covered include discussion of the differences and similarities between mentoring, coaching and supervision, management and leadership, and safeguarding and child protection. Running alongside annotated case studies, each chapter also includes key points and questions for discussion.

With a focus on respectful relationships and active listening, this collection invites readers to consider new possibilities for their own situations, bringing theory and practice together.

Greta and the Giants By Zoe Tucker and Zoe Persico

Published by Frances Lincoln; £6.99

This is the story of Greta Thunberg, the 17 year-old environmental activist, fictionalised for very young readers.

Greta lives in a beautiful forest threatened by Giants. When they first came to the forest, they chopped down trees to make houses. Then they chopped down more trees and made even bigger homes. The houses grew into towns and the towns grew into cities, until there was hardly any forest left.

Alone, Greta stands up for the animals and she doesn't give up even when it feels as though nobody is listening. Eventually she is joined by one person who feels the same way, and soon a whole crowd stand beside her.

The story has a happy ending as the Giants finally listen and great changes are made. The real story is told separately at the back of the book which can be shared with children when appropriate.

Greta and the Giants is a must-have for every pre-school, nursery and school across the country. If you want to teach children about climate change in a positive and inspiring way, showing them that nobody is too small to make a difference then there is no better story to share. The general message that the small actions every person takes really do make a difference, is a valuable one for children to understand in any context.

‘There was once a girl who lived at the heart of a beautiful forest. Her name was Greta but the greedy giants had forgotten how wonderful the forest was. They chopped down trees to build their cities’

Stars Before Bedtime By Claire Grace and Dr Jessamy Hibberd; Illustrated by Hannah Tolson

Published by Wide Eyed; £11.99

The aim of Stars Before Bedtime is to help children to sleep at night through simple relaxation exercises. They can practise these exercises as they learn ancient myths behind night-sky constellations.

The simple, melodic text helps children to feel relaxed as they hear the story of Orion the Hunter, the Great Bear and more. The softly drawn illustrations show how the characters in Greek myths have been drawn from patterns in the stars.

Although primarily for reading at home this is a lovely book to share in the setting too. It's useful for children to learn relaxation techhiques from an early age in order that they have the tools to manage the stresses of modern living, especially as our fears about the stability of our world increase.

After sharing the book children might be inspired to make constellation pictures and to find out more about the night sky and one or two of the Greek myths introduced in the book.

Bunnies on the Bus By Philip Ardagh; illustrated by Ben Mantle

Published by Walker Books; £6.99

This chaotic and entertaining picture book is about what happens when a group of hopping mad bunnies take over a bus. The bus whizzes past all the stops, swerving around corners and knocking shopping all over the place. The story is told in rhyme and children might join in with the repeated phrases –

‘Bunnies on the bus! Bunnies on the bus!’ and ‘Bunnies in the aisle! Bunnies in the aisle!’

The illustrations are wacky, sweet and full of fun. Bunnies fly about everywhere and a sign on the back of the bus says ‘Am I driving well?’ There is so much detail that children will notice something new every time they look at the pictures. After reading they could tell their own versions of the story with adult help, choosing a different type of animal and vehicle and suggesting what might go wrong.

Humour is one of the most powerful ways to engage children with reading, and children will love this non-stop roller coaster adventure.

How Are You Feeling Today? Written by Molly Potter; illustrated by Sarah Jennings

Published by Featherstone; £7.99

Each page of this book is a coloured worksheet that a child can fill in to help them to identify and understand their emotions. There are also practical suggestions to help them to manage different emotions such as strategies for coping with shyness, and boredom-busting ideas. The characters in the worksheets are reminiscent of Lauren Child's Charlie and Lola and their charm and expression helps to motivate and engage a child with the activities.

The activities are about exploring feelings in a sensory way. One activity asks the child to match feelings with visual images, tastes and sounds. For example the child might match ‘excited’ with ‘tastes like sherbet if you could taste it’.

There are stickers at the back of the book which are used for some activities like matching faces to emotions. There are also drawing and puzzles activities, such as draw excitement/follow the tangled ball of string, to match thoughts to emotions.

Helping children to identify their emotions is an important step in supporting them to manage their feelings. This book is a useful source of practical ideas that can be replicated and built upon in the setting.

Keep up to date with Early Years!

Sign up for our newsletter and keep up to date with Early Years education, process and events! We promise we won't spam you!