Optimistic Stories Of Real Hope For Families With Little Children

Non-Fiction - Education
140 Pages
Reviewed on 09/15/2017
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Author Biography

Monica Taylor is an urban teacher educator, social justice advocate, and parent activist. She is currently a professor and deputy chair of the Department of Secondary and Special Education at Montclair State University. Over the past 27 years, she has taught in an alternative middle school in NYC, worked with adolescent women Crips as they negotiated their multiple identities, parented two sons, and more recently co-led the math/science cohort of the Newark Montclair Urban Teacher Residency. She is co-PI of the Wipro Science Education Fellows grant which supports science teacher leaders in five districts in New Jersey.
She has several publications on teaching for social justice, urban teacher education, and the self-study of teacher education practices. Her most recent book, co-written with Emily J. Klein, is A year in the life of a third space urban teacher residency: Using inquiry to re-invent teacher education. Her commitments to social justice manifest in all aspects of her life. She advocates for her own children as well as New Jersey students as an organizer for Save Our Schools NJ. She also deeply values the work of the many teachers with whom she is in contact.

    Book Review

Reviewed by K.J. Simmill for Readers' Favorite

Playhouse is a cooperative pre-school, but it is so much more. It is a community, a place where parents too can learn. There is so much more to early years education and the effects on the child that a holistic approach is essential. Children can learn, and adults can understand their options and structure. The book, named after this school for obvious reasons, discusses the school philosophy, the experiences of the people running it and what influences them, and how they apply what they have learnt through life for the betterment of those under their own care.

As Monica Taylor reminds us, Pete Seeger once said, "The key to the future of the world is finding the optimistic stories and letting them be known." And this book contains a number of such stories from the lives of those involved with this school. It contains several chapters of information, intermingled with real life experience stories written from the perspective of Monica, a teacher and parent. Whether your child is already in pre-school or not, this book is worth a read. The knowledge within can be applied and considered throughout the whole parenting journey. Yes, it is a book about the school, but most of what is included has more applications. It is only as you read this book that you come to understand its diversity. It is not about selling the school to people who are looking, but about bringing important considerations to the forefront of their minds.

Playhouse starts by telling the reader a lot about the school, how it was formed, why it became what it is etc. Playhouse offers insights into what questions should be asked and what considerations should be given. The chapters continue to discuss the school's mission, ethics and principles, the importance of their curriculum, and ways of nurturing a child and helping them to grow, even how some teachers' own experiences and observations had an effect on how they themselves teach and interact. My own son has just started Reception (Pre-Kindergarten in the US structure), and this book has certainly opened my eyes. This school is obviously not an option for me, given my geographic location, but regardless of this, I am so glad I picked this book up. The insights and information into applications of learning, support etc will help me to become a better parent. After all, every parent is a teacher to their own child, and some of the information within is valuable indeed. It's a great piece to promote the school, but an even better one to remind us of the importance and responsibilities of being a parent, and how what we do directly impacts our child.

Samantha Dewitt (Rivera)

Playhouse: Optimistic Stories Of Real Hope For Families With Little Children is more than just a school for your child. It’s actually a place for your children and you to grow and become even better members of society. The program itself is designed to bring parents into the equation, but also to bring the child into the equation rather than simply forcing a set of predefined lessons on them. The story isn’t just about the process of how the school works, (though that’s part of it) but also about how those processes work for children and families. With the ability to really step out of the background and be in charge of their own education, it’s possible for children to learn better and become stronger with Playhouse by Monica Taylor.

Each child is different and that means their education should be slightly different. Rather than teaching to the test, this program seems to provide a more balanced and well-rounded alternative. It’s a great book for describing this method of teaching and how it has actually worked for children and the teachers and parents who all work towards it. You can understand why it’s a great method and what it’s going to do to help everyone. I really liked the way that the author spoke about her experiences as a teacher and a mother because it really helped to see what was so great about the program for everyone. It sounds fun and intriguing for the whole family and the author manages to explain well why anyone should be looking for a similar program with Playhouse by Monica Taylor.

Romuald Dzemo

Playhouse: Optimistic Stories of Real Hope for Families with Little Children by Monica Taylor is a slim book that is a precious gem for educators and parents who are keen on bringing a wonderful world to children. The author brings to readers her experiences and those of others at Playhouse, a cooperative pre-school founded in 1951. In these stories, she brilliantly offers insightful thoughts, advice, and shares a progressive and democratic schooling pedagogy that can change the way parents make choices when it comes to choosing the best schooling programs for children. This is a book that teaches parents what they need to do and how they can become part of their children’s education. In this book, readers will learn about the birth of Playhouse and get to know its educational philosophy and why it has been one of the best testaments of democratic and progressive schooling for children.

Monica Taylor has the wonderful gift of injecting life into her writing by weaving into it vivid and compelling episodes from her own life. She writes with the authority of someone who knows what she is talking about and who possesses facts to corroborate her statements. The prose is polished and reads flawlessly. I enjoyed the narrative, which is very accessible, and the author’s unique phraseology. Playhouse: Optimistic Stories of Real Hope for Families with Little Children is packed with powerful messages and information that parents need to know when it comes to choosing the best options for their kid’s education. I found this book to be both entertaining and highly informative.

Jack Magnus

Playhouse: Optimistic Stories Of Real Hope For Families With Little Children is a nonfiction book on early childhood education written by Monica Taylor. Taylor describes herself as “an urban teacher, social justice advocate, and parent activist.” She has experience teaching middle school and is currently a professor and the deputy chair of the Department of Secondary and Special Education at Montclair State University. Taylor had envisioned raising her family in New York City, after having grown up there herself. Her father’s business had given her the opportunities to spend time in other countries as well, and she wanted her children to live and learn in a diverse environment as she had. Taylor’s husband was not quite convinced about living in the city. They were thus thrilled to learn about Playhouse, a preschool that embodied many of the things she believed in and went a step or two further. Playhouse was founded in 1951 through the leadership of Jeanne Ginsberg and other concerned parents and educators. They wanted a progressive, affirming environment where children could grow into their strengths, explore their world and become confident, caring individuals. It would be a cooperative effort where parents would be involved to the extent possible; where parents could learn more about the intricacies and challenges of parenting through the onsite interaction of children, teachers and parents and where sliding scale fees and scholarships would ensure accessibility to all. Sixty-five years later, Playhouse is still thriving, and Playhouse families find the experience to be one that has stayed with them for life. Taylor’s two sons, Michael and Griffin, both attended Playschool, and she describes the effect that experience had on their early development. She includes an extensive list of references for those who wish to read further on the subject.

Monica Taylor’s nonfiction book on early childhood education, while geared for parents of young children, offers hope for anyone who’s concerned about the current state of education in this country. Every day one hears of dedicated, beloved teachers who leave the profession in despair at the emphasis placed on strict curricula and endless standardized testing. As someone who went to a school where children were required to sit motionless, with their hands folded, at all times, I found reading about Playhouse to be a marvelous and liberating experience. It was especially heartening to know that as early as the 1950s, there were educators who had a different vision of how children should learn, thrive and grow. Taylor’s book highlights the school, how it works and how those in charge are able to keep true to their vision, and she discusses how those techniques can be used by other parents and educators in their schools. Her stories about Michael and Griffin’s experiences at Playhouse are especially valuable as first-hand accounts of how children fare in primary and secondary school after their preschool years at Playhouse. There are other voices and non-traditional educational resources out there, and this book discusses one with a track record of excellence at providing kids with the tools they need to become empathetic, caring, committed and motivated individuals. Playhouse: Optimistic Stories Of Real Hope For Families With Little Children is most highly recommended.