‘We all want our children to succeed in life - do well at school, get the right jobs and be happy. But are we doing enough to get them there?’ Divided into eight chapters with a beautiful introduction, Matthew Raggett’s book opens with this important question. Raggett has penned down years of his experience as an educator, his earnest thoughts and honest insights in this magical book that will be known for its simplicity.
He throws a cautionary statement at his readers of the book not belonging to the category of self-help books or manifestos. His ‘simple view’ is that ‘we need to create children who love to learn, and the way to do this is to raise kids who are calm, curious and conscientious.’ Starting from the introduction, he convincingly elaborates on the craft of teaching reading, writing and speaking in children along with the importance of play in the development of personality traits. Raggett’s crystal vision is reflected in one of his statements ‘Creating the environment in which your child, or someone else’s child, can grow into the person you hope they will become is what education, in the broadest sense, is all about.’
The first three chapters remind one of Francis Bacon’s essay Of Studies where he says ‘Reading maketh a full man; conference a ready man; and writing an exact man.’ Using Purkal’s example, Raggett appreciates their work of ‘turning damaged frightened children into articulate and confident young men and women’ and reminds his readers of the power of education and the mere act of reading. He urges parents to read as well as it will lead to children modelling their behaviour. Describing the two components of speech, he explains why it is imperative for parents and educators to focus on their child’s diction and fluency as speaking influences the fluency of our thinking. He describes spoken word, music and movement as a powerful learning technique when combined.
Subsequently, the book is filled with references to poems, anecdotes, projects and views by edupreneurs such as Sugata Mitra, along with TED talks and other relevant videos. He urges parents to listen to Robert Munsch reading The Paper Bag and learn the art of reading stories to their little ones. A favourite has to be him quoting Kahlil Gibran’s The Prophet.
It’s worth noting that Raggett understands the world of educators, parents, and students separately and breaks down the process for each to see the cracks that prevent a child’s success in life. While pointing out the “millennial problem” of instant gratification through the world of internet, he also highlights the unrealistic expectations of parents from their children ‘to learn things earlier and earlier for them to be successful.’ He asks whether parents make ‘a pen, paper and a table accessible’ to their children as opposed to a screen. This reminds one of the several parents who have readily replaced play and natural surroundings and objects with the addictive screen. He also believes that ‘play, sports, games and crafting prepare the child for writing’ while pretend play is good for problem-solving and cognitive-linguistic development along with improving self-regulation and impulse control.
Further, he has advocated for conscientiousness, empathy, grit, and resilience as being the key to success; these are developed through rich relationships, vulnerability to obstacles and discomfort. Talking about the homework myth, the author questions the need for tuitions when both the child and his or her parents are clueless about what’s going on in the school.
The last two chapters are a bonus as the brilliant educator maps out the way for parents to find the right school for their child; the final chapter creatively describes the ABCs of Learning through fun and easy to remember adjectives that further simplifies the triangle between the child, the parents, and the teacher while focusing on the bridge between school and home.
Finally, The Doon School’s headmaster advocates for children getting the freedom to be children and learn from the beautiful journey of life. It is one of the most refreshing books to appear in a few years on education.