A review of Including One, Including All: A Guide to Relationship-Based Early Childhood Inclusion by Leslie Roffman and Todd Wanerman with Cassandra Britton
Parents are their children's first and most important teachers - so the saying goes. And yet, how often do we take ourselves seriously as teachers? Seriously enough, say, to read a book addressed to teachers?
If you are wondering where even to begin, let us recommend a book written by the director and teachers at one of the most highly-regarded preschools we know, The Little School in San Francisco. In their new book Including One, Including All, these educators show us how building strong relationships with children and families allows them to create an effective, inclusive learning environment for all children, whatever their strengths and needs. Parents of children with identified challenges will find this an incredibly helpful guide to best practices in preschool settings. Indeed, any parent looking for a preschool can learn a lot about what to look for in a school. And for all parents, the book offers both ways of thinking and concrete techniques for bringing out the best in our children and ourselves.
The truth is that parents face many of the same challenges as early childhood classroom teachers, but seven days a week instead of five. We hear many of our fellow parents worry, for example, that "my child is not developing as we expected," or "I am having a lot of trouble with certain basic routines," or "my kids are so different from one another that it causes conflicts," or "I wish I knew how to handle a child in our playgroup who seems out of sync with her peers." In this book, highly experienced and caring teachers address these and many other concerns in a clear and highly readable format. They offer stories and pictures as well as principles and techniques to help "anyone who wants to improve their skills in supporting small children." That's us!
There are scores of ideas here that are as useful at home as at school. On a practical note, for example, having a "calming corner" and a "calming box" that includes a few toys and activities can be wonderful way for a child to take a break, and learn to regulate his own emotions. More broadly, it's encouraging to know that any teacher or parent can learn the "language of acceptance" that is so vital to making children feel included and inclusive toward others. It is also helpful to be reminded that challenges in raising and educating our kids "can be viewed as sources of connection rather than division."
Families are inclusive by their very nature. We do not know what kinds of gifts, challenges, quirks and inclinations our children will be born with, yet we are bound to love, care and teach them just the same. With wise educators like these by our side, we feel confident that we can engage, learn, adapt and, in the process, become the parents our ever-changing children need us to be.
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