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This book was so fantastic, and there’s so much I’d like to say about it, but I don’t have the time!  I do encourage parents and those who are about to become parents to read this book.  I’ve read a lot about children and parenting–discipline, sleep schedules, feeding, health, etc.  But I never considered the importance of reading a marketing book until now.  This book has changed the way I watch TV, stroll through Target and make any type of purchase decision for my children.

A few highlights:

  • “A marketer who establishes ‘educational credit’ can get away with anything.” p. 3
  • “Baby Einstein offers bright, shiny chaos…[the researcher] speculated that babies seemed riveted by these videos because they were sucked into a loop from which they couldn’t escape.  Every time they tried to process what they were seeing, to make sense of an object or action, the scene would shift to something different.” p. 104
  • “Good marketers realize that [young children] see characters and figures right away, and they want kids to recognize the product, and the best way to do that is through characters.” p. 125
  • Regarding books based on licensed characters, according to an author of such books: “These books are not sold on the writing…These books are sold on concept and cover design.  Buyers for a Wal-Mart or a Barnes & Noble don’t say, ‘Let me see how well-written the stories are.’  The writing–and even the pictures–are, unfortunately, not that important.” p. 178
  • Regarding free “curriculum” that Scholastic and Disney give away to thousands of preschools and daycares nationwide:  “…most teachers keep the video of the TV show to pop in the VCR…and even more important, put up the poster featuring the TV-show characters in a place where the children can clearly see it every day.”  “They’re getting exposure to the character and the idea that it’s educational.  That’s really the goal, as far as marketing goes.”  p. 204

Wondering how Baby Einstein changed everything about marketing to parents and children?  Ever considered the crazy success of Thomas & Friends?  How about the “Disney Princess” family?  And then there’s Elmo’s World, Nickelodeon, Leap Frog, Playhouse Disney, Sesame Street…

How is a parent to combat the constant barrage of marketing?  Susan Thomas’ simple conclusion:

To vaccinate against the baby genius virus…may require participating in something many of us are uncomfortable with: doing Nothing…Doing Nothing means that adults and their young children have periods of unstructured time when they can see what just unfolds.  Doing Nothing isn’t mediated by television, classes, computers, or educational toys…Whatever else, doing Nothing isn’t overthinking; it’s just hanging out.  To adults, this may not seem like much, but to babies and toddlers, it is the foundation of life [emphasis mine].  p. 227

Since I am a San Diego native who frequented Sea World as a child, a book with Shamu on the cover will always catch my eye.  Of course, when you think “Shamu” you don’t usually also think “love and marriage.”  But that’s exactly what Sutherland did when she wrote a column for the New York Times about how the lessons she learned while observing at an animal training school helped improve her marriage.  She got such a response, that she turned the article into a book.  It’s interesting, funny and full of techniques you can use to improve all types of relationships.

Somebody Else's KidsThis was the first book I ever read by Hayden. I read it first years ago, loved it, but forgot about it. Then, when I was at my mom’s house last summer, she had another Hayden book, One Child, which I read. That reminded me of this book, so I read it over again.

As do most of her books, this one chronicles one school year with Hayden and her classroom. This time, she’s teaching as a resource room teacher, but also is given the responsibility of teaching 4 children who don’t fit in anywhere else. My favorite storyline involves Lori, a first grade student who just can’t learn how to read, no matter what anybody tries. Eventually, Hayden comes to realize that for Lori, there are more important things than reading. Because this story takes place early in Hayden’s career, she has a hard time summoning the courage to stand up to school officials and fighting for Lori.

Twilight Children by Torey Hayden

12th September 2005

Hayden is working at a children’s psychiatric ward when she meets Cassandra, who is recovering from an abusive kidnapping situation, and Drake, who is a charming 4 year old who won’t say a word. Hayden works to make a break through with Cassandra, and tries to unravel the mystery of why Drake won’t speak. Although Hayden usually works only with children, she begins meeting with Gerda, a lonely, depressed, 82 year old stroke victim who is refusing to communicate.

Sometimes reading Hayden’s books just make me tired! Where does she get the mental energy to help these people who are so desperate, and then to write a book about it all?Twilight Children : Three Voices No One Heard Until a Therapist Listened

Murphy's BoyHayden is now working as a research psychologist, specializing in elective mutism. She is asked to work with a boy named Kevin, nicknamed “Zoo-Boy.” Kevin doesn’t speak, creates cages under tables to hide in, and fears water so much that he refuses to bathe. When Hayden helps Kevin overcome his fear of speaking, she begins to unravel his terrible history of abuse and violence. While revealing more and more about his past, Kevin’s anger towards his abusers spirals out of control.

This was a hard book to read. The abuse that Kevin suffered was shocking, and the difficulties that Hayden went through to help Kevin were also disturbing. The events in this book took place during the same time period as those in The Tiger’s Child. It is mind-boggling to me how Hayden is able to invest herself so deeply into one child’s life, let alone more than one at the same time.