Dorothy Cohen has taught for many years at New York's Bank Street College of Education -- thus older cicerones of the progressive movement (Lucy Sprague Mitchell, for example) appear to balance out the more recently fashionable Piaget and Montessori. Her overall objective is to direct the child ""toward life in an open, plural society, where people take priority over things."" More specifically she discusses the younger child's learning capabilities within the present day cultural/ environmental context (not stressing, deliberately, inner city extremisms) and in relation to the content of the school program at various stages. Thus the five year-old, however cocky and curious about everything, is still not ready to read (the Rorschach, not the IQ tests, supports this) and the school day should center around blocks, crafts and discussion. By the primary years the youngster is more independent, egocentric, untruthful, group-minded and ready to learn. By ten to twelve, she is concerned, as well be the older child, with the larger questions -- moral, social, sexual. Ms. Cohen's book has a firm basis in theory as well as experience; much of the illustrative material -- out of the mouths of babes -- is enlivening; and it is a thoughtful work -- correlative rather than innovative, avoiding ""Procrustean beds"" and rigid sets while attempting to harmonize education and socialization.