To be an effective educator, I need to be constantly learning, so an important part of ‘what I do’ is reading. People often ask me for book recommendations, and I like to be able to help out here – we are all busy people, if I can help people short-cut the path to some fabulous resources, then that makes me happy.
I have recently read an wonderful book by an inspiring Australian woman, Danielle Miller. Miller’s passion is “to empower girls to grow into the bright, shiny adults they have the potential to be”. She is the founder of Enlighten Education, an organisation that offers workshops to girls in New Zealand and Australia promoting self-awareness, esteem, communication and acceptance.
So much media attention is directed towards the downfall of youth today and the pressures and dangers present in the lives of our children. In moments of rage directed at soul-destroying music or childhood-ruining marketing, I have been heard to announce, “Right, that’s it. We’re running away to an isolated commune with no access to all this!”. But I don’t run away: I fight. (In the most positive non-aggressive way of fighting!). These moments of rage are why I am doing what I am doing. But I know that as a parent, it is easy to become despondent. And that’s exactly why I love Miller’s new book, 'The Butterfly Effect'. It brings me back to how we can all make a stand against the sexualised, commercialised, celebrity-focussed, fake barrage of images and noise thrust at our children.
‘The Butterfly Effect’ is a captivating book, offering a positive approach to raising girls. The challenges and pressures faced by girls and their parents are explained and backed up with research as well as Miller’s own extensive experience. But far from adopting an ‘end of the world’ approach, Miller breaks down the different aspects of raising girls, and provides realistic solutions and advice. The book emphasises the impact of women as role models – particularly with regards to body image and diet. With the prevalence of eating disorders amongst our girls increasing at a disturbing rate, this is something that all women need to consider. How can your daughters/nieces/granddaughters learn to accept their bodies when the women in their lives are constantly dieting and are so critical of their own?
Miller’s approach to raising happy and empowered girls is based on forging deeper, more loving relationships – in Miller’s words: “When working with teenagers, it is important to engage them emotionally; if you can capture their hearts, their minds will follow.”
I thoroughly enjoyed reading this book, a book that kept me up far too late at night because I didn’t want to put it down. If you have girls, this is a book you simply must read.
Rachel is a writer and educator whose fields of interest include sexuality education, gender, feminism and youth development.