New Books By and About John Holt
Where did May go?
The Alternatives to Compulsory Education conference ended April with a bang for me, putting me in a proper frame of mind throughout May to complete the editing, lay out, and design for the print versions of two new books I’m publishing. The first, Escape From Childhood: The Needs and Rights of Children by John Holt, was my first digital publication (Kindle) for HoltGWS LLC. It appeared in the Kindle store in January 21, 2013, and is doing well: it is rated #3 in the Kindle Store category nonfiction/Child Advocacy and has garnered 21 unsolicited customer reviews, with an average of 4.3 out of 5 stars. Two reviewers made similar statements to M. Fletcher’s about Escape From Childhood: “This book will open your eyes to the damage we are doing to our beloved kids when we accept the cultural, standard way of parenting.”
As these readers learned, Escape From Childhood is so much more than a rational discussion about children’s rights; I would say more than half the book is devoted to understanding the changing relationships of children and adults and how those changes affect our relationships today. To get a taste of this writing, read Holt’s essays “The Cuteness Syndrome, Kitchie-Kitchie Koo, and Other Problems” and “Free the Children, They Need Room to Grow.”
Escape From Childhood also contains Holt’s incisive thoughts about free schools, children’s attitudes towards work and play, the competence of children, the burden of having children, what the role of the state should be regarding everyone’s rights, and so on. Holt writes about specific things parents or interested adults can do to help children feel welcome and useful in the real world, and these ideas are as useful today as they were in 1974. (FYI: Amazon lists a hardcover edition of Escape From Childhood at $459.70 and used paperbacks at $35.43! I am pricing the Kindle version at $2.99 and the new print edition at $10.99.)
Creating a print publication from the Kindle version proved to be more labor intensive than anticipated for me, which is why Escape wasn’t ready to be published in mid-May as I hoped. I’ve learned it is much easier to create a Kindle version from a print publication than vice-versa, and am doing so with my next book, The Legacy of John Holt: A Man Who Genuinely Understood, Trusted, and Respected Children, edited by me and my Canadian colleague, Carlo Ricci.
I believe this is the first original work about John Holt’s life and ideas since Roland Meighan’s book, John Holt (Continuum, 2007) and I’m proud of the high quality and deep range of thought all the contributors made to The Legacy of John Holt. Advance reviews and the official press release for The Legacy of John Holt are now available, and subscribers to this site’s newsletter receive a special preview of Legacy this week (I'll open it up to the general public later).
Both books, in different ways, show how children and adults can reintegrate themselves into meaningful relationships that are based on sharing joy and responsibilities rather than on parental control and educational directives.
I hope both books will spur interest and discussion about children and their role in society so we stop viewing children's “job” or “work” as “going to school” and instead view them as young people seeking meaning and experience from life, and who, like all of us, need many avenues and chances to find our places in the world as we continue to grow and the world changes.