Reclaiming Childhood: Freedom and Play in an Age of Fear
New York: Routledge, 2009. Contents, afterword, bibliography, index. 205 pp. $31.95 paper. ISBN: 9780415477239
Helene Guldberg grew up in Norway playing outside in all kinds of weather. With siblings and friends, she played happily unsupervised until called to the family’s evening meal. Her later experience as a primary-school teacher, as well as her research as a Ph.D. candidate, underscored her commitment to the importance of unsupervised play in a child’s social, emotional, cognitive, and physical development. Guldberg urges parents to overcome the paralysis of the barrage of expert and media reports bemoaning the disastrous state of childhood today; she encourages readers not to take the doomsday findings and headlines at face value. She writes in her introduction: “Children need to be given space away from adults’ watchful eyes—in order to play, experiment, take risks (within a sensible framework provided by adults), test boundaries, have arguments, fight, and learn how to resolve conflicts.” In her concluding paragraphs, the author sensibly and clearly summarizes what many believe: “Adults need to allow children to grow and flourish, balancing sensible guidance with youthful independence.” She promotes an understanding of the methodology, validity of research, and the motive and objective of each source.