Leave those kids alone

The idea that adults should be playing with their kids is a modern invention -- and not necessarily a good one (The Boston Globe, July 15, 2007)

By Christopher Shea

WHAT COULD BE more natural than a mother down on the rec-room floor, playing with her 3-year-old amid puzzles, finger-puppets, and Thomas the Tank Engine trains? Look -- now she's conducting a conversation between a stuffed shark and Nemo, the Pixar clown fish! Giggles all around. Not to mention that the tot is learning the joys of stories and narrative, setting him on a triumphal path toward school.

A "natural" scene? Actually, parent-child play of this sort has been virtually unheard of throughout human history, according to the anthropologist David Lancy. And three-fourths of the world's current population would still find that mother's behavior kind of dotty.American-style parent-child play is a distinct feature of wealthy developed countries -- a recent byproduct of the pressure to get kids ready for the information-age economy,

Lancy argues in a recent article in American Anthropologist, the field's flagship journal in the United States."Adults think it is silly to play with children" in most cultures, says Lancy, who teaches at Utah State University. Play is a cultural universal, he concedes, "but adults aren't part of the picture." Yet middle-class and upper-middle-class Americans -- abetted, he says, by psychologists -- are increasingly proclaiming the parents-on-all-fours style the One True Way to raise a smart, well-adjusted child.There is now a concerted effort to spread adult-child play beyond its stronghold in the upper- and middle-classes of wealthy countries. To this end, many cities and states support programs of some sort. Massachusetts will give the Parent-Child Home Program, which has 33 sites in the state, $3 million this year (up from $2 million last year). Through the program, staff members visit the homes of low-income residents and offer tips not just on good books for toddlers but also on "play activities" for parents and kids. Likewise, the eminent Yale psychologist Jerome Singer has partnered with a media company to devise imaginative parent-child games (examples: "My Magic Story Car" and "Puppets: Counting") that librarians and social workers can teach to low-income parents.

Lancy is concerned that specialists behind the movement -- psychologists, social workers, preschool teachers -- are too aggressively promoting this intense, interventionist parenting style to low-income parents, and that they are are too quick to claim that adult-child play is crucial for human development. He doesn't quite rule out that some interventions may improve literacy -- though the data are murkier than the psychologists admit, he insists. But the programs, with their premise (as he sees it) that a whole class of people is simply parenting badly, leave their advocates "open to charges of racism or cultural imperialism."

One inspiration for the article, Lancy says, was that he kept coming across accounts of parents who felt guilty that they did not enjoy playing with their children. The psychologist Daniel Kahneman and the economist Alan Krueger, both at Princeton, have found that parents routinely claim that playing with their kids is among their favorite activities, but when you ask them to record their state of mind, hour by hour, they rate time spent with their children as being about as much fun as housework.

In his article, Lancy draws on decades of ethnographic work to show how rare parent-child play has been in the world. The Harvard anthropologist Robert LeVine, for example, observed in a 2004 paper that among the Gusii people of Kenya, "mothers rarely looked at or spoke to their infants and toddlers, even when they were holding and breast-feeding them." (So much for the universality of peek-a-boo.) On Ifaluk Island, in the South Pacific, tribespeople believe that babies are "essentially brainless" before age 2, so there is no point in talking to them.

The goal of the Yucatec Maya is to keep babies in a "kind of benign coma," through bathing and swaddling, so that parents can leave them and get work done. As recently as 1914, the US Department of Labor's Child Bureau advised parents not to play with babies, for fear of overstimulating their little nervous systems.

If interactions with babies are rare in much of the world, "mother-toddler play is virtually nonexistent," Lancy writes.

To be sure, there are exceptions. Some African foraging tribes display striking examples of parental playfulness. And the Inuit make toys for their toddlers and get goofy -- but they're cooped up for months at a time in igloos, bored witless. Lancy suggests that the American milieu -- caregivers stuck, without a community, in oversized homes -- is not entirely dissimilar.

Alison Gopnik, a developmental psychologist at Berkeley, agrees with parts of Lancy's argument: In much of the world, parents are unlikely to be the main caregivers, and Americans go overboard with structured parent-child play which has explicit academic goals. But she says that Lancy vastly understates the interactions between parents and children. In many cultures, mothers hold their babies much, much more than American mothers do, and holding and cuddling a child can be as stimulating and playful as peek-a-boo, she says.

"The fact that non-Western parents do not interact with their babies like Western parents doesn't mean they aren't interacting with them," Gopnik says.

And if African children learn from older siblings how to use a bow-and-arrow in a playful way, she asks, how different is that from American parents (or nannies) playfully teaching kids practices useful in American culture, such as verbal agility?

Tribal practices aside, the real source of contention is what sort of child-rearing advice low-income Americans should be receiving from social workers, psychologists, and other people interested in improving the academic readiness of poor kids. Yale's Singer, co-author (with his wife, Dorothy) of "The House of Make-Believe: Children's Play and the Developing Imagination" (1990), says his data show that children who played versions of "My Magic Story Car," in which a parent pretends to drive with the kids to various locations, having adventures along the way (with a subtle vocab lesson or two thrown in), do better on literacy tests than their peers.

"I'm not clear what's bothering this guy," he says, referring to Lancy. "We are not talking about the parents playing all day long with the children. We're just saying that children need to play, and particular kinds of play -- imaginative play that has a storytelling element to it -- are very useful" in our culture.

Still, the proselytizing on behalf of playful middle-class approaches vexes many anthropologists. A crystallizing moment for their concern came with the publication of a lengthy article in The New York Times Magazine last November by Paul Tough, an editor at the magazine, on efforts by some educators to erase cultural differences between low-income and middle-class students.

Tough leaned on the work of the University of Maryland sociologist Annette Lareau, who has described the dominant middle- and upper-middle-class parenting style as one of "concerted cultivation": scheduled time, interactive banter and play, and the encouragement of the child to challenge the parent's opinions. In contrast, she summarizes the low-income parents' approach as "the accomplishment of natural growth": less direct involvement with the kids, more unsupervised play, and more enforcement of rules.

More controversial than the sociological work was Tough's summary -- that poor parents fail to deliver "everyday intellectual and emotional stimuli" or to impart "character," "self-control, adaptability, patience, and openness."

Mica Pollock, an associate professor at Harvard's Graduate School of Education, says it's one thing to encourage low-income parents to read to their kids or tell them stories. But "it's a huge and dangerous overstatement to say that low-income parents don't stimulate their children." In fact, some research, she says, suggests that the approach used by some low-income parents teaches virtues such as patience and adaptability better than more freewheeling parenting styles.

And let's not idealize middle-class kids: "Some of those children are being raised to be spoiled, demanding, requiring constant adult attention, and inclined to argue with their parents," Pollock says.

This debate is unlikely to sway the convictions of the pro-play crowd. Stevanne Auerbach, the author of "Smart Play, Smart Toys: How to Raise a Child with a High PQ" -- play quotient -- says her goal is to "encourage parents to understand that they are their children's first big toy." But for the parents not energized by the prospect of all those hours in the playroom -- parents who would rather be doing something else -- Lancy's article offers the solace that comes from knowing you're not alone, globally or historically. Goodbye Thomas the Tank Engine, hello sports pages?

El éxodo de la mujeres capacitadas y la marginación del varón en Alemania del Este

Visto desde Alemania, 13/07/07

Es asombrosa la conclusión a la que llega el estudio "Not am Mann" (faltan hombres) del Instituto de Población de Berlín, recientemente publicado y recogido en las portadas de la prensa, sobre el éxodo de la mujer en la Alemania del Este a pocos años del vigésimo aniversario de la reunificación alemana.

Desde 1989 un total de 1,5 millones de jóvenes se han trasladado a la Alemania occidental, especialmente mujeres cualificadas, buscando un mejor futuro profesional y familiar. Este déficit de mujeres no tiene parangón en Europa, ni siquiera en las regiones frías del norte de Suecia y de Finlandia.

En muchas localidades deprimidas de la Alemania oriental este fenómeno migratorio se explica por el hecho de que las mujeres están mejor preparadas que los hombres. Sus expedientes académicos son mucho más brillantes que los de sus compañeros varones y, por este motivo, encuentran trabajo con más facilidad en otros lugares más desarrollados. Las consecuencias son, por un lado, un claro descenso de la natalidad y, por otro, la amenaza de una nueva capa social inferior que ha sido denominada "Prekariat" (precariado: véase su relación fonética con proletariado). Dicho segmento de la población lo forman varones que, por ser excluidos de los principales ámbitos de la sociedad (trabajo, formación, pareja...) pasan, a los ojos de la gente, a ser unos inútiles incapaces de mejorar de vida y que, además, se manifiestan más propensos a la violencia y a la participación en grupos radicales.

El quinto capítulo de este estudio merece especial atención al analizar si los varones de la Alemania del Este se encuentran en una crisis de educación y de formación. En 1960 el 37% de los bachilleres con acceso a la universidad eran chicas. Hoy el 54 % de la chicas alcanzan el acceso a la selectividad. Estas cifras –dice el informe– no son sólo el resultado del sistema escolar (la gran mayoría de los colegios son mixtos), sino que también en el proceso de admisión escolar ya se perciben claras diferencias entre chicos y chicas. El 60% de los no aceptados son chicos y las chicas sobrepasan la cifra de los que son aceptados anticipadamente. Los chicos, con comportamientos llamativos más frecuentes, repiten curso con mayor frecuencia. Los resultados de PISA de 2000 y 2003 manifiestan claramente la diferencia de rendimiento escolar: la chicas leen y escriben mejor que los chicos. Es ahora cuando comienza –continua el informe– el análisis sobre las causas de los retrasos de los chicos en el sistema escolar.

Durante mucho tiempo los sociólogos y los psicólogos opinaron que las diferencias biológicas entre los sexos no tenían una influencia significativa en su comportamiento sino que éste era consecuencia únicamente de la educación y del entorno social. Por el contrario, numerosos estudios de los últimos veinte años se manifiestan en otra dirección. El informe cita a Eleanor Maccoby, 2001: Psychologie der Geschlechter. Sexuelle Identität in den verschiedenen Lebensphasen, Stuttgart (Psicología de los sexos. Identidad sexual en la distintas fases de la vida). Estudios comparativos en países industriales, países en desarrollo y observaciones de campo transculturales en algunos pueblos indígenas muestran que la chicas en todo el mundo prefieren juegos inofesivos mientras que en los chicos dominan los juegos motóricos activos y de más interacción corporal. En situaciones de conflicto las chicas tienen una tendencia más proclive al compromiso y al entendimiento mutuo y los chicos se caracterizan por una tendencia al dominio, a la fomación de jerarquías y a conflictos corporales.

Los médicos y psicólogos aluden que los chicos obtienen peores resultados en el colegio porque se adaptan peor a éste y aprenden peor que las chicas. La causa –dice el informe– se encuentra en la anatomía y en el funcionamiento distinto del cerebro según el sexo. También las hormonas juegan un papel importante. La testosterona fomenta en los chicos la concentración en el resultado y no en el proceso, y por eso los chicos se pueden concentrar menos y tienden a comportamientos no razonados que pueden llevar a la violencia.

Las diferencias de chicos y chicas suponen distintas maneras de pensar, de aprender, de comunicar o de competir. Otros estudios atestiguan que los chicos tienen una mayor capacidad de abstracción y que las mujeres tienen una mejor capacidad de expresión y de comunicación. De este modo, las chicas parecen más adeptas al éxito en el colegio pues aquellas aptitudes que les son más necesarias, son precisamente las que tienen más desarrolladas.

Otra componente es que los chicos sufren, si son expuestos a los videojuegos, en sus resultados escolares mucho más que las chicas. El estudio también señala que muchos pedagogos son de la opinión de que en el crecimiento de los chicos los ejemplos de roles masculinos son de primordial importancia. Los padres, pero también los educadores y profesores, deben vivir de un modo varonil que les sirva a los chicos de orientación para su propio desarrollo, que les ponga límites. La realidad es que cada día crecen más chicos sin ejemplos masculinos. En el año 2005 existían en Alemania 2,6 millones de padres solteros y de éstos eran 2,2 millones de madres solteras. El porcentaje de padres solteros ha crecido entre 1996 y 2004 del 17 al 20%, especialmente en la Alemania del Este. A casi un millón de chicos les falta el padre como ejemplo. Cuando llegan al Kindergarten y al colegio apenas encuentran personal masculino y, por eso, se habla de la "faminización del sistema educativo". Desconozco los datos correspondientes en España pero intuyo que nos acercamos bastante a esta situación.

En Alemania el dominio de la mujer es especialmente llamativo en primaria, en la fase en la que los niños desarrollan especialmente sus capacidades cognitivas y fundamentan su futuro escolar y académico. El 86% de los profesores de primaria son mujeres. La preocupación de los pedagogos es que las maestras manifientan poca comprensión ante el comportamiento de los chicos porque, por su propia socialización, desconocen este comportamiento y se muestran poco propensas a sus modos de juego, lo cual aumenta el rechazo de las maestras hacia los chicos. Esto también resulta en que los chicos obtienen peores notas que las chicas. Hay estudios que demuestran que las notas en primaria se basan más en el comportamiento que en el rendimiento intelectual.

Por lo tanto, los padres están en pleno derecho de buscar alternativas a la educación mixta, de modo que se tengan mejor en cuenta las capacidades y cualidades específicas de cada sexo y las lleva a su pleno desarrollo.

NOT AM MANN: http://www.berlin-institut.org/pdfs/not_am_mann.pdf

NOTICIA: http://vistodesdealemania.blogspirit.com/archive/2007/07/13/el-exodo-de-la-mujeres-capacitadas-y-la-marginación-del-varó.html

Recruiting males teachers is a waste of time

By Maralyn Parker, (News.com.au, July 11, 2007)

TRYING to recruit more males into teaching may be worse than a waste of time. According to a new report some male teachers can be bad for boys.

The 140-page report from the education department in England, Gender and Education: The Evidence on Pupils in England, claims male teachers are more likely to treat boys harshly and can have lower academic expectations of boys. Female teachers are more likely to have equal expectations of boys and girls and are less likely to be harsh with boys just because they are boys.

Researchers also found there was little evidence boys and girls had different learning styles - a small bombshell that may prick the pomposity of some high-fee private schools marketing themselves as specialists in boy-style teaching. Researchers also soundly rejected the claim that girls need "less active, less structured, less interactive, less varied pedagogy" than boys. If you are already composing an email - yes there are different styles of learning such as visual, auditory and kinaesthetic (touching, feeling, using).

The report said there are benefits in talking about and using different styles in the classroom. And some students may prefer one style or different combinations. However to be successful learners children need to be able to use all the different styles at different times for different purposes. So any school favouring one style of learning is doing its students a serious disservice. It reminds me of the left brain-right brain fad. We were told we probably favour one or the other - and the associated but very different skills.

Then scientists found the brain did not work so simply, that we used both sides when doing things previously considered either right brain or left brain. It looks like the boy and girls styles of learning are now also debunked. As for single-sex schools and single-sex classes, research remains "inconsistent and inconclusive." Separating sexes for modern languages can be positive for boys and for science and maths, can be positive for girls. But researchers pointed out when a school sets up single-sex classes there is an increased emphasis on teaching which may improve the quality of that teaching.

Also schools will often select their best teachers to take these classes, especially the all-boy classes, which will also affect outcomes. But probably the most significant finding is that the biggest gaps in achievement at school are not between boys and girls but between social classes and ethnic groups. Poor children and black children are the biggest losers. And researchers say that is what the English Government should really be worried about if it wants a clever future.

All I can say is ditto to all of that for Australia.

Gender and education: the evidence on pupils in England

Department for Education and Skills, 2007. (134 pages)


This topic paper draws together a range of evidence on gender and education.
It summarises current statistics on the participation and attainment of boys and girls from the Reception Year to the Sixth Form, placing the findings in an historical context where this is possible. Performance data from international research complement the historical data and strengthen the conclusions on overall trends. Subject choice and attainment are the main foci of the paper but gender differences in areas such as special educational needs, school
exclusions, attendance and bullying are also covered.

A large number of research papers have been written on the gender gap in attainment and this topic paper refers to a selection of these. We ask why there are differences in boys’ and girls’ participation and achievement and examine what strategies are effective in tackling boys’ lower attainment levels.

The paper focuses primarily on gender differences of school-aged pupils. In order to understand gender differences for this age group, it is important to draw on the literature on early childhood, biological and cognitive differences. However, it is beyond the scope of this paper to examine this in any detail. Equally what happens at school then determines higher education and career choices but this is not covered here.

An important objective of this paper is to put the gender debate in context by examining the extent of the gender gap and discussing the role of gender in education alongside the role of other pupil characteristics, particularly social class and ethnicity. In addition, the focus is not solely on the concepts of the “gender gap” and “boys’ underachievement” but also acknowledges that, on the one hand, many boys are high attainers and, on the other, that many girls face significant challenges.

Conference puts spotlight on boys' education

1233 ABC Newcastle, July 4, 2007

University academics from across the world have gathered in Newcastle for a two-day conference aimed at improving educational outcomes for boys.

The Working with Boys, Building Fine Men conference starts today, and will discuss a range of initiatives, including mentoring programs.

Guest speaker John Andriunas says he will highlight the success of his program which tries to get fathers more involved in their sons' schooling.

"Mums have been the care givers throughout the history of our children and they look after the kids right from birth right through preschool and school," he said.

"We don't want to take anything away from the mothers, but we have found that the educational outcomes, social outcomes for children if their fathers are involved are a lot higher."

The New Gender Gap

Business Week, MAY 26, 2003

From kindergarten to grad school, boys are becoming the second sex.

Lawrence High is the usual fortress of manila-brick blandness and boxy 1960s architecture. At lunch, the metalheads saunter out to the smokers' park, while the AP types get pizzas at Marinara's, where they talk about -- what else? -- other people. The hallways are filled with lip-glossed divas in designer clothes and packs of girls in midriff-baring track tops. The guys run the gamut, too: skate punks, rich boys in Armani, and saggy-panted crews with their Eminem swaggers. In other words, they look pretty much as you'd expect...

But when the leaders of the Class of 2003 assemble in the Long Island high school's fluorescent-lit meeting rooms, most of these boys are nowhere to be seen. The senior class president? A girl. The vice-president? Girl. Head of student government? Girl. Captain of the math team, chief of the yearbook, and editor of the newspaper? Girls...


Education bias favours females

Jamaica Gleaner, Wednesday July 4, 2007

Failing Education (IV) - Education bias favours females

Peter Espeut (Peter Espeut is a sociologist and executive director of an environment and development NGO)

education system favours females; the systematic bias against men pushes them down and elevates women. Feminists are not comfortable with this thesis, for their instincts demand that in every sphere they are oppressed. But we have to be guided by facts: our education system is designed to fail the Jamaican male.

The first naked fact is that there are more high school places for girls than for boys, therefore more girls will pass the GSAT than boys. Check it out:there are seven
high schools for boys only, while there are 14 high schools for girls only - twice as many! The average boys' high school is smaller than the average girls' school and co-educational high schools admit many more girls than boys, sometimes two-thirds girls to one-third boys. So, more Jamaican girls will get to high school than boys.

Men at the bottom of the ladder

So women will predominate at our
universities, and men generally will become marginalised. Family life will be affected; women will complain of a shortage of marriageable men; and they will be right! There will be more men at the bottom of the economic ladder than women. And more men involved in crime.

This is not an accident; our educational policies after slavery were designed to protect plantation labour supply, which is why sugar areas like Trelawny, St. Thomas and Vere, and banana areas like St. Mary had no high school admitting boys until relatively recently. If too many boys go to high school, who would cut cane or weed bananas? So it is not so much that the system favours girls as it disadvantages boys.

The two political parties will be quick to say that they did not create this imbalance, partially true since none of the single-sex schools were established by government; it is mostly churches who are to blame; e.g. the Roman Catholic Church today has only one boys' high school but has all of five high schools for girls only! The parties have had all of 45 years to redress the gender imbalance, and they have not!

The gender bias is even more profound! In primary schools boys are often put to sit at the back; the students in front get more attention from the (usually female) teacher. The GSAT takes place at age eleven, when girls are psychologically more developed that boys. If it was a straight competition for high school places based on performance, girls have a big (and unfair) advantage over boys. And in co-educational schools, boys and girls of the same age are put in the same class, which means that girls will always do better, which has negative psychological impact on boys.

In my opinion, for best results, high schools should all be single sex! And then those of each gender can progress at their optimal pace.

So much is wrong with Jamaica's education system, and yet the best the two parties can do in this election campaign is make promises that the low quality education they are offering will be free.

Why don't they promise that they will put in place a system that can teach our children to read properly? Why don't they promise they will create a system where all Jamaican schoolchildren will get a good secondary education up to Grade 11?

Political baptism

Both JLP and PNP have rebaptised 'new secondary schools' into 'high schools', and there is great pretence that the new 'high schools' are of equal standard to 'traditional' high schools. The apartheid continues!

Why don't the parties promise that all secondary schools will be of equal standard? Why don't they promise gender equality? Why don't they promise that high schools will be neighbourhood-based, so students don't have to travel 30-40 miles per day just to get to a 'good' high school? All they should have to do is go down the street! Both parties are to blame for our failing education system, and it doesn't look like it will get better anytime soon.

Raising Boys' Achievement


In this programme two schools attempt to break through the range of barriers to boys' learning.

Matthew Arnold School, a mixed comprehensive in Surrey, is trying a step-by-step change methodology to test strategies that can be practically introduced.

St Aloysius RC College in north London is working with its local football club, Arsenal, to develop achievement raising strategies.

It appears that there are no quick fixes to raising boys' achievement, and this programme acknowledges the wider social and cultural barriers that cannot be overcome by schooling alone.


'Dangerous Book for Boys'

The Wall Street Journal, May 18, 2007

First, there was the question of the title: "The Dangerous Book for Boys." HarperCollins Publishers' Chief Executive Jane Friedman just didn't understand what it meant. Sure, the book had been a hit in England and Australia, but that didn't mean it would work in the U.S.

But the sales staff urged her to stick with it, and in just two weeks, "Dangerous" has become the breakout hit of the season. The
News Corp. unit initially ordered up 91,000 copies. There are now 405,000 copies in print. One senior HarperCollins executive, extrapolating from overseas sales and population data, projects that "Dangerous," which lists for $24.95, could sell as many as four million in the U.S.

The book, by English brothers Conn and Hal Iggulden, purports to aim itself at a particularly inscrutable and un-book-friendly audience: boys around the age of 10. It tries to answer the question: What do boys need to know?
So here are instructions on how to skip stones, fold a paper hat, make a battery, and hunt and cook a rabbit. It includes a description of the Battle of Thermopylae, but also how to play Texas Hold 'Em poker, and use the phrases "Carpe diem" and "Curriculum vitae."

The unapologetic message is that boys need a certain amount of danger and risk in their lives, and that there are certain lessons that need to be passed down from father to son, man to man. The implication is that in contemporary society basic rules of maleness aren't being handed off as they used to be.

The book aims to correct that. It does so with a pretelevision, prevideogame sensibility, and also by embracing a view of gender that has been unfashionable in recent decades: that frogs and snails and puppy dogs' tails are more than lines in a nursery rhyme, and that boys are by nature hard-wired differently than girls.

But "The Dangerous Book for Boys" is also aimed at boomer dads, who nostalgically yearn for a lost boyhood of fixing lawn mowers and catching snakes with their fathers -- even if that didn't really happen as often as they think it did.

Insects, juggling are among topics in 'The Dangerous Book for Boys.'
The gender-exclusive nature of "Dangerous" bothers some women. In a posting on the livejournal.com Web site, one woman, addressing the book and boys in general, wrote: "Here's a tip, kiddies: maybe the girls want to have the same kind of fun you do, instead of sitting around the house and learning how to be a servant." (Matthew Benjamin, a senior editor at the Collins imprint, which published the book, says, "There hasn't been any organized protest.")
On the back of the book's cover -- retro red cloth with oversized gold lettering -- the come-on is "Recapture Sunday afternoons and long summer days." Inside are odd-sized color illustrations of fish, trilobites, and an example of marbled paper. Some have compared it to Daniel Carter Beard's "The American Boy's Handy Book," originally published in 1882.

So is this a book that Dad brings home and that then gathers dust in Junior's room, forgotten behind the iPods and laptops?

Paul Bogaards, an executive for rival publisher Bertelsmann AG's Alfred A. Knopf, says he took a copy home to his eight-year-old son, Michael, whom he describes as "junked up on Nick, Disney and Club Penguin," a Web site. Mr. Bogaards says Michael took to it immediately, demanding that his dad test paper airplanes into the night, even missing "American Idol." He adds: "That's the good news. The bad news is that he now expects me to build him a treehouse." He concludes: "Million-copy-plus seller easy, with the shelf life of Hormel Spam."

"We initially thought that men nostalgic for their boyhoods would be the buyers, but people are also buying it for 12-year-old boys," says Mr. Benjamin. "This book teaches them its OK to play and explore."

Concerned that the book would seem too British, Collins asked the authors to adapt parts of it for U.S. readers. A section about royalty was replaced by the 50 states, American mountains and the Declaration of Independence. Baseball's most valuable players and "How to Play Stickball" supplants the chapter on cricket. But rugby made the cut: it was tough, dangerous and better-known in the U.S. A "Navajo Code Talkers' Dictionary" superseded Britain's patron saints.
The book's cover emphasizes the text's retro feel.

Unchanged for the U.S. market were the two pages on the subject of girls. The first bit of advice: "It is important to listen."

"Dangerous" ranks No. 5 in sales on
Amazon.com Inc.'s Web site, which provides an adjacent diagram explaining how to tie some knots. A video, provided by the publisher, shows how a father and son can use the book outdoors, including a scene where Dad gives his son's gravity-powered go-cart a push downhill.
Barnes & Noble Inc., the country's largest book retailer, likes the title so much that it has already stacked it on its Father's Day table and says it will give the book its own additional table later this month. Mike Ferrari, a director of merchandising, says the retailer has classified "Dangerous" as a reference book, and is stocking it in the front of the store.

Mr. Ferrari notes that some reference titles from the United Kingdom have done particularly well in the U.S., including Lynne Truss's "Eats, Shoots & Leaves: The Zero Tolerance Approach to Punctuation," published by Pearson PLC's Gotham imprint in 2004. Today there are nearly 1.6 million hardcover and paperback copies in print.

HarperCollins says it doesn't have any immediate plans to publish a girl's version. HarperCollins's Ms. Friedman, who has two sons and two stepsons, explains: "Boys are very different."

Write to Jeffrey A.Trachtenberg at