Reclaiming Childhood Letting Children Be Children in Our Achievement-Oriented Society

William Crain

Holt Paperbacks



Trade Paperback

288 Pages



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Across the country, children are being pushed harder than ever to perform so that they will one day "make the grade" in the adult world. From overscheduled playtime and standardized tests to academic preschools and early emphasis on getting into the best colleges, the new pressures on children to achieve are enormous. But something critical is being lost. We are robbing our children of the most important cornerstone of their intellectual and emotional development—time to be children.

In Reclaiming Childhood, child-development expert William Crain argues that the greatest gifts that we can bestow on our children include a strong sense of self, an enthusiasm for learning, the ability to think independently and creatively, and the confidence to explore the world. Rather than trying to control and direct children's learning, we should give them opportunities to develop their natural artistic, poetic, dramatic, and linguistic capacities, and to form deep bonds with the natural world. Their accomplishments in these realms are frequently superior to those of adults.

Building on the work and tradition of such thinkers as Jean Piaget and Maria Montessori, Crain makes a powerful case for a child-centered approach to parenting that takes its cues from children's spontaneous interests and allows them to make their own discoveries. If our presence in the lives of children is patient and unobtrusive, we will give children the freedom to explore the environment on their own.

Informed by a wealth of child-development research and social insight, Reclaiming Childhood is essential reading for all who want the best for our children. It offers helpful advice and much-needed indicators of the child's natural development, along with descriptions of how schools can promote a natural love of learning. Reclaiming Childhood provides an important antidote to the excessive pressures on children today.


Praise for Reclaiming Childhood

"In an age when high-stakes testing and high-stress lives dominate the headlines, William Crain reminds us evocatively of a precious, irreplaceable time—the 100,000 hours of childhood."—Howard Gardner

"This delightful book offers powerful support for children. Like a wise, kindly, and experienced neighbor, William Crain draws us gently but firmly into the currents of child development, sharing his thoughtful reflections on both the nature of childhood and our contemporary and counterproductive obsessions with speed, the future, standards and testing, and the tendency to overorganize and overschedule our children's lives. His arguments for giving children time to be children—the chance to actualize their natural emerging powers—could hardly be more convincing."—Joy Turner, editor, Montessori Life

"Crain has given us a vitally important book. Reclaiming Childhood asks us to stop and consider how the obsession with standards and testing in schools actually harms children at the most fundamental level—their development as human beings, who, by the course of living and growing up, would naturally come to love learning and school, if adults would only let them."—Peter Sacks, author of Standardized Minds: The High Price of America's Testing Culture and What We Can Do to Change It

"Reclaiming Childhood addresses one of the most pressing—and ignored—problems in our modern society, namely, the disappearance of childhood. Dr. Crain skillfully describes the problem and offers convincing, sensible solutions. This is a superb book, one that all who care about children should read right away."—Edward Hallowell, M.D., author of Driven to Distraction and The Childhood Roots of Adult Happiness, and instructor at Harvard Medical School

"This is a thoughtful plea to focus on the quality of life that children can have now rather than on their future achievements."—Publishers Weekly

"Crain takes a proactive stance, offering numerous helpful strategies to foster children's developmental needs."—Library Journal

"A thoughtful and valuable resource for teachers looking for alternative approaches to education."—Kirkus Reviews

Reviews from Goodreads



Read an Excerpt

Reclaiming Childhood
CHAPTER 1Following Nature's Plan: Child-Centered Parenting in the Early YearsNEW PARENTS face many uncertainties. This is especially true in the United States and other nations that emphasize progress and change. Unlike parents in more stable, traditional societies, U.S. parents do not always feel they can turn to their own parents and grandparents for child-care advice. Instead, today's parents search for newer and better ways, looking for the latest scientific findings and approaches. But the experts aren't always in agreement, and parents can easily become confused and
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  • William Crain

  • William Crain, Ph.D., is a developmental psychologist, author, and social activist. A professor of psychology at the City College of New York, he is the author of a major textbook in the field, Theories of Development: Concepts and Applications. He and his wife, Ellen F. Crain, a pediatrician, have three grown children.