Parent Nation: Unlocking Every Child’s Potential, Fulfilling Society’s Promise

Dutton. Apr. 2022. 320p. ISBN 9780593185605. $28. CHILD REARING
Suskind (director, TMW Ctr. for Early Learning and Public Health at Univ. of Chicago) is familiar with the experience of parenting from power failure. She became a widow when her husband drowned; then she raised three children as a single parent while working as a cochlear implant surgeon. In this book, billed as a follow-up to Suskind’s Thirty Million Words: Building a Child’s Brain, she again looks at early childhood from a neuroscientific perspective that also deals in policies and parenting strategies. She argues that parents are their children’s first brain architects, but variables outside of an individual’s control can also impact kids’ development; unlocking children’s full potential demands systemic solutions like family-friendly workplace policies, improved access to and quality of childcare for low-income families, and creating safe places for kids to learn. Early experiences have a profound effect on a child’s brain, Suskind writes, and there is an invisible academic gap for children born in poverty. Race also plays a role; Suskind cites studies showing that in school, Black boys with ADHD are often pushed onto a track of remedial classes, discipline, and expulsion, which puts opportunity out of reach. The strength of Suskind’s book is in addressing not only individual solutions for parents but also large-scale social policies that can lessen the opportunity gap between kids, and she ably convinces readers of the urgency of these actions.
VERDICT Steeped in research, this is a needed exploration of early-childhood inequities that also guides readers in taking the first steps towards correcting them.
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