Early childhood has become my interest because I will be involved in this area right after finishing my study here at Flinders University. I choose two books to be reviewed since I hope I will use this book as a basic reference in teaching early childhood. We need a main reference book because early childhood is still relatively new in Indonesia. The special study for early childhood has just begun about a few years ago when our government required a special skill for those who want to teach in kindergarten.
There are two books will be reviewed. Both of them have the same theme that is early childhood. The first book is that “Exploring Early Childhood” by Loise Weihen. The second book is “Programming and Planning in Early Childhood Settings by five authors; Leonie Arthur, Bronwyn Beecher, Elizabeth Death, Sue Dockett and Sue Farmer. The aim of this books review is to give recommendation for our education department to use or not those books as main references of early childhood in the class. This review will provide some advantages and disadvantages of the books so that they can help us to decide if it is appropriate in Indonesian context.
A Putative Audience
The putative audience in this review would be the head of educational department who has an authority to determine the text book that we can use in classrooms. His decision would be based on the presentation of this review.
The question that would be answer in this review is “Which one of these two books should be used in the classroom for the main reference?”
I propose that the second book would be the appropriate since it uses the current theories and provides so many results of researches in early childhood contexts. This would be very helpful for our new program since we can use the newest issues in the field.
Book 1: Exploring early childhood
Reed International Books Australia Pty Ltd 2001
This book is as a practical text aimed at he students studying Early Childhood and Childcare throughout Australia. However, I believe most of the chapters can be fitted in other countries’ context. The author provides each chapter with some theories and practices. The author also provides some case studies with Australian context in early childhood. This book also accommodates the entire syllabus of early childhood education from all states in Australia which are different one another.
Weihen starts chapter 1 with discussion about pregnancy and childbirth. She argues that pregnancy and childbirth are very important times for parents to-be. She also says that pregnancy has a very big impact to family members including other children in the family if the parents already had ones. Then, the rest of the chapter Weihen talked more about the process of pregnancy and what a mother should do to make the childbirth well.
I believe that this chapter is not very close enough to the aim of this book. As the author mentions that this book is intended to be the text book for students studying early childhood and child care. I don’t see this chapter has something to do with early childhood and has benefit for students studying early childhood. Early childhood should talk more about the concepts of early childhood based on research from some experts in the field. Weihen also never mentions why talking about pregnancy and childbirth is worth for the students. This information should be addressed to parents to-be and should be published in magazines or newspapers.
The absence of researches about the basic theories of early childhood makes this book quite unreliable from academic point of view. However, Weihen does mention that the prenatal issues have an impact on development of children even though there is no further explanation. Probably, the reason why she puts the pregnancy in this book because in the curriculum of early childhood in some states in Australia there is a statement that prenatal period is very important on the children development later. I believe Weihen just tries to accommodate the curriculum in her book so that her book can be used as a reference for many states in Australia.
Chapter 2 of the book is about child growth and development. Weihen emphasizes the importance of developments of children in some major areas such as physical, social-emotional, cognitive and language. She also describes the factors that give some impacts to the growth and the development of young children. She explains each factor. However, the explanation is very short. For example, one of the factors is genetic. She explains by saying that genetic has a great influence and no one has the same genetic material except identical twins. I think she should provide with the reason why. Other factors are also explained very brief and do not provide examples. In addition she does not support her statement with the current researches.
When it comes to cognitive development, Weihen does mention the Piaget’s stages of cognitive development (p. 63). She also provides every stage with the examples of the babies’ activities when they are in a particular stage. In addition she gives some tasks for the students relates to Piaget’s theory. Then she asks the students to find the research by other experts in cognitive development and learning.
In this chapter the author also discusses about language development in children and the steps that they pass. Again, she explains each stage very briefly and does not give examples. There are no theories and researches provided. Another weakness in this chapter is that when she provide a half of page 69 with the picture of sign language of English alphabet. I believe that picture is not necessary since the focus of that chapter is only the development of children in cognitive and language.
In the last part of the chapter, Weihen puts an article from Herald Sun magazine. The article is about the childcare debate whether childcare is good for the babies’ development. The debate itself is quite interesting to give the students some points of view about the advantages and disadvantages of the childcare for children. The debate also provides the results from some researches about the impact of childcare on the children development. The article followed by some questions to be discussed by the students which are very good to give the students the opportunity to deliver their own opinions about the problem.
Chapter 3 is about positive behavior in young children. This chapter provides some positive and negative behavior at each stage of children development. Weihen explains how to examine the behaviors and promote the positive ones. She also explains the strategies that can be used to have positive interaction with young children. Interestingly, she encourages the students or readers to discuss some case studies and how to solve the problems on negative behavior in young children.
After finishing one particular issue, Weihen always asks the readers to apply the knowledge with some practical exercises of problem solving. Therefore, she would like the students to think critically rather than give the solution for the practical problems that might happen in real life. That is why she often provides some hot issues from magazines about particular topics in every chapter. Probably, she wants the students to be more reliable of themselves than just believe one hundred percent about what the experts say. After all, early childhood problems are more practical than just theories from researches.
This chapter is closed by providing the contemporary issues about promoting positive behavior in young children. Weihen puts an article from a newspaper about the current issue on young children behavior and ask the students to discuss about it. I believe this technique is very appropriate in dealing with studying the practical knowledge such as early childhood and childcare. The students will get more benefits in this technique than just show them the result of recent investigations from some experts. Some of the investigations are not applicable in all areas because of the different situations and cultures.
The chapter 4 is about childhood health, nutrition and safety. This chapter talks about the importance of healthy feeding practicing and immunization to protect young children. Weihen opens this chapter by talking about the benefits of breast feeding which I believe is not crucial for the purpose of this book. she even talks about how to breastfeed the babies and some other healthy issues relates to breastfeeding. She talks too deep about this issue. I think she forgot that this book is about early childhood in general not a specific heath problem. Her readers are students of early childhood not young mothers. Besides, her role in this book is as an educator not a doctor. She continues to the issue of formula milk and its effects on the children.
In this chapter, she also talks about feeding toddlers and young children. Mostly she emphasizes how to deal with the children who have feeding problems. Again, this topic I believe is more appropriate to the young mothers not to the students who studying early childhood. I strongly believe Weihen chooses this topic just to accommodate the curriculum that be stated in early childhood program of some states in Australia. She focuses more on the curriculum than the needs of students who studying early childhood and childcare.
She closes the chapter by addressing the care of children on food safety, personal routines and sick children. These themes are very important in childcare and becoming the very hot issue nationally. One part of this chapter gives a practical way to give first aid for common injuries. I suppose this part is not necessary because it is not useful enough for early childhood students. This practical procedure is more appropriate for nursing students. The last part of the chapter is one article about the current issue and followed by an exercise of problem solving. The way she closes each chapter is very powerful in encouraging the students to think critically. She does not provide the right answers so that students can develop their problem solving skill.
In the chapter 5 the author starts to explore the world of children by talking about play and the developing child. Weihen investigates the change of play as children grow and some factors that influence the children play. Toys and material that used in play also becomes subject discussed in this chapter. Unlike the previous chapters, this chapter provides some studies relate to the role of play in the development of young children. Weihen mentions some theories of play from five different experts.
However, the five theories that are considered very influential in the field are the old theories. The studies from the theories are conducted before 1950’s which I believe are no longer relevant to the current time. The development of technology is not accommodated by those theories. The existence of computer games for example as a play media is not taken into account by Weihen. To close the chapter, the author puts an article about the safety of Children’s toys and followed by some questions to be discussed.
Chapter 6 is actually the continuing of the previous chapter. This chapter discusses children and entertainment. The author explains the effects of some traditional and modern entertainments on the children development. There are some areas of entertainment that discussed by the author. They are reading, poetry, art, craft, music, parties, television and computers. The areas are explained by providing some advantages of the entertainments and the range of ages that are appropriate for a particular entertainment.
Just like most of the chapters of this book, in this chapter the author does not support his claim with some researches. For example, Weihen claims that children’s musical skill increases dramatically during these years (p. 225). However, there is no evidence that she provides to support the claim. In addition, she also forgets to mention the disadvantages of each entertainment activities.
Chapter 7 is about the history of childhood in Australia and the changing experiences of childhood over generations. I cannot see the benefits of this chapter to the purpose of this book except that a part of this chapter talks about the cultural differences in Australia and how it influences the children’s development. In chapter 8, the author talks about some issues in childhood. The areas that are discussed by the author are starting school, curriculum, children’s rights, family, teachers, and children with special needs. The areas mentioned in this chapter are too many to be explained in one chapter only. As a result, the author explains each area with only at a glance. There is no deep discussion like in the previous chapters. The author just gives some short points in every area.
The last chapter is about children’s services. This chapter explains the Australian Federal Government funding for childcare and how it applies. The author also mentions some regulations on children’s services and the types of services that can be accessed by parents. Since there are many areas in this chapter, the author can only give a very brief explanation for each area. However, at the end of this chapter the author provides the websites that can be accessed to get more information on children’s services.
Considering the Evidence
This book has some advantages if we use it as a reference in a classroom of early childhood. Firstly, this book clearly states the purpose of the learning a particular chapter at the beginning. Secondly, early childhood students will get benefits from the case studies and the current articles that appear in almost each chapter. By doing so, the students get information about what hot issues is in the early childhood. Case studies will also help students practice their own critical thinking in solving problems of early childhood. The author does not give the answer but leave it to the students’ discussion.
The weaknesses of this book are not significant. There are at least two chapters that cannot be fitted in our context. Chapter 1 about pregnancy and chapter 7 about the history of childhood in Australia can be omitted if I want to use it in my context. Another weakness is that there is no current research which supports the author’s claims. This can be a weakness if we see from the academic point of view.
Book 2: Programming and planning in early childhood
Authors: Leonie Arthur, Bronwyn Beecher, Elizabeth Death, Sue Dockett and Sue
Farmer. 2005. Nelson Australia Pty Limited. 379 pages.
This book comprises eleven chapters with various ranges of areas in early childhood. The purpose of this book is to provide the students studying early childhood of what an authentic curriculum for young children might look like and how to record children’s learning in ways that promote reflective and collaborative learning.
This book is very different from the previous one because this book uses a number of theories as the basic approach of early childhood learning. In every explanation the authors use some recent researches relate to the area that is being discussed. Some examples are also provided throughout the book for every different context of childhood settings.
The first chapter starts with the issue of the dynamic and complex early childhood contexts. This issue is caused by the greater demand of childhood learning as the range diversity in family. The importance of early years in children’s learning has lead to the greater attention of public on young children. The author provides the first chapter with some contemporary perspectives on children learning. The theories cover most of the issues in early childhood learning. The theories also challenged the traditional assumptions of the ‘universal child’ in children development.
This chapter gives the students studying early childhood a new perspective of looking at children as an individual. This chapter describes the two different opinions of experts on how to see children as a part of the most important age in human development. Traditional approach sees children as a good or bad character individual. The modern one sees children as a preparation age to enter adult world. As a book, this chapter full of references from other authors who already conducted the researches on a particular subject. Almost everything that authors claim is followed by references. This is very different from the previous book which is almost none of the part followed by resources.
Chapter 2 of this book talks about children, families and communities. The explanation of this chapter is similar with chapter 8 on Exploring Early Childhood (EEC). The difference is that this book is supported by the results of some researches from some experts. However, this book does not provide the students with a framework of critical thinking by giving some current problems in childhood contexts and ask the students to find the solution. Even though the authors give some case studies, the solutions of the case studies are provided by the authors themselves by giving some experts’ opinions. Therefore, students are not encouraged to use their critical thinking in solving some practical problems in childhood contexts.
Chapter 3 talks about contemporary perspectives on children’s play, learning and development. This is also discussed by EEC on one of its chapter. However, this book is just like a compilation of many theories from many experts in this field. The weakness of this book I think is there is no practical exercise provided to accommodate students’ needs. All of the information is just based on theories by some experts without considering the context of the problem. It seems to me that the authors collect the current theories of early childhood. Of course the students will still get benefit from reading it.
Chapter 4 talks about reflection and evaluation. The authors discuss how to design an evaluation system in early childhood setting. It seems quite weird to me because I believe this chapter should be placed in the last part of the book not in the middle of it. The authors offer some methods in evaluation by providing some experts’ works on evaluation. I think this is a very good resource because the authors mention all the aspects that we should consider in evaluation.
In chapter 5 the authors discuss the importance of philosophies in early childhood settings. What they mean by philosophies is that the vision that bring educators in educating young children. The absence of this factor can lead the early childhood education into nowhere. This is an interesting point since many educational institutions lost their philosophy and as a consequence, they just follow the trends in early childhood. A good example is when many kindergartens in our country teach the young children writing, reading, math even English without knowing the philosophy of the teaching those lessons for young children.
The rest of the chapters focus on how to record children’s learning and use it as a tool for their development. The authors also talk about some approaches to curriculum for children’s learning. Just like the previous chapters the authors always refer their theories to the recent researches. Therefore, this book is very suitable for additional materials of early childhood education in many contexts because the authors do not mention any specific context where the approaches can be applied. I believe this is probably the good point for my background since my colleagues and I plan to arrange a curriculum for a new childhood program in our province.
Considering the Evidence
The strength of this book is that the author always shows the results of the current studies from experts in early childhood. This will help students understand what is going on in early childhood study. This book also gives various perspectives about what aspects should we put more attention in early childhood education. However, the absence of practical case studies make this book is just like a list of theories in childhood without encouraging students to think critically. There is no space for students to give their contribution in problem solving.
As an academic reading, this is very important so that we can look what the experts have done on a particular issue in early childhood context. However, I am not sure if the references are very helpful if I use this book as a main reference in my classroom because our access to researches is very limited. Too many theories in a text book can be a problem since all we need actually is a practical ways in dealing with early childhood education. For this purpose, this book is less practical then the previous one.
Conclusion and Recommendation
After reading the two books, I can conclude that the two books have their own strengths and weaknesses in term of the benefits for our new program in early childhood education. Exploring Early Childhood (EEC) gives me a practical materials that can we use in our own context in Indonesia. The two chapters that we think does not belong to this book can be omitted in our context. The chapters are chapter 1 about the pregnancy and chapter 7 about the history of early childhood in Australia. The weakness of EEC which is the absence of the current theories about childhood can be accommodated by the other book, PAP.
Programming and Planning (PAP) can be a main reference for the latest theories that are very helpful. PAP will also give a significant contribution relates to the things that we should consider in arranging a new curriculum. There is a lot of information in PAP that can be used. The good thing is that the authors do not mention a specific context for the curriculum so that we can apply in various situations.
Therefore, I would recommend that our education department can use the two books by fitting them into our context and situation. However, EEC will be the main reference in a class since it gives a clear guide in a class context. On the other hand, PAP will be the main reference for the curriculum because it provides so many resources which are very helpful in giving a guideline of arranging curriculum. This means that I reject my proposition before. I believe the use of the two books will have many benefits because the two books can complement each other.