Kirkus Reviews QR Code
CHILDREN FIRST by Penelope Leach


by Penelope Leach

Pub Date: Feb. 25th, 1994
ISBN: 0-679-42133-5
Publisher: Knopf

 Branded with the emphatic subtitle ``What our society must do- -and is not doing--for our children today,'' this bridge-burning work by the author of such respected parenting titles as Your Baby & Child, Babyhood, and The First Six Months is radical and provocative in its outlook for family and state. The premise, like the title, is simple: make children's needs the priority in most or all instances of decision-making, from the personal to the political (let children go first in lines at public bathrooms; legislate direct public funding of daycare Ö la Sweden's model). Lively and ever-specific, Leach provides pertinent discourse on: a sweeping redirection of a capitalist system that requires people to commute long distances, an make other sacrifices, in the name of ``materialistic'' needs; the importance of breast-feeding in a primordially nurturing environment (Norway's working mothers are allowed flexible hours and days for this activity); the reinstitution of neighborhood meeting places and cafes to make the burgeoning work-at-home (near the children) force feel less isolated. Admirably comprehensive and apparently unwilling to hedge, Leach is prone to bald or oversimplified statements (particularly on grand-scale socioeconomic restructuring), but she is ultimately more friend than foe to parents and their children; her sympathetic tone soothes even while her call to change is alarming. Not for the underconfident: the dos and don'ts may paralyze some. Still, if only half the Clinton health-care revolution is realized, why can't ``children first'' be the next frontier? Leach either has bitten off more than she--or we--can chew, or is simply wise beyond our era. Mild reservations aside, this is valiant and worthy and should have quite a following. (First printing of 75,000)