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The Arts in Children's Lives: Aesthetic Education in Early Childhood.

The authors of The Arts in Children's Lives describe the book as a text for both beginning and experienced early childhood teachers taking a course on the topic, and indeed it is. This book contains plenty of figures to illustrate educational concepts, and begins each chapter with a section titled "Theory into Practice."

The authors assert that the arts are important for all children. "The arts" are defined as not simply arts-and-craft projects, but music, movement, dramatics, puppetry, and any other imaginable creative experience. The authors express a fondness for the Reggio Emilia method, in which the arts are at the heart of the curriculum, and they often describe how this method exemplifies their philosophy.

Curriculum is a topic handled exceptionally well. Chapter 6 explains developmentally appropriate practice for young children, and the emphasis here is on process, not product. No patterns will be found at the end of the book, the authors note, for this would suggest cookie-cutter art and not creativity.

Although the authors value multiculturalism, their views on this issue are less clear. They also stress the importance of the family's role in the arts, specifically its responsibility for introducing young children to the arts. The authors note that the arts forge connections between a child's ongoing experiences and aesthetic ones. Although this is a promising venture for middle-class children, who come to preschool classrooms with rich experiential backgrounds in the arts, others with more limited adventures might have trouble making aesthetic connections.

Similarly, Jalongo and Stamp encourage an awareness of the difference between process and product at an early age by having young children express their thoughts on different concepts in words. How, then, do those children for whom communication is a longer or slower process arrive at a fuller understanding of what the arts are all about?

The authors do an excellent job in defining an integrated arts curriculum. It is well presented in the context of high curriculum standards and as part of a curriculum-evaluation process, clearly achieving best practice recommendations. Evaluation is thoroughly discussed, as well, with alternative suggestions provided for appraisal, such as an art portfolio. The book contains excellent references and a carefully selected appendix.

The Arts in Children's Lives would make an excellent textbook, especially for students who are preparing to teach children who come to school ready to embrace the arts as the authors so passionately do. The book is a laudable effort and its merit is recognized. Reviewed by Billi L. Bromer, Early Childhood Special Educator, Richmond County Schools, Augusta, GA
COPYRIGHT 1998 Association for Childhood Education International
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Copyright 1998, Gale Group. All rights reserved. Gale Group is a Thomson Corporation Company.

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Author:Bromer, Billi L.
Publication:Childhood Education
Article Type:Book Review
Date:Mar 22, 1998
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