Early Childhood Education

Read, Katherine (1904-1991)

 

Katherine Haskell Read influenced the field of early childhood education worldwide for over half a century. In 1950, she wrote the first textbook for college students preparing to teach young children, The Nursery School: A Human Relationships Laboratory. The ninth edition, coauthored with Pat Gardner and Barbara Child Mahler, was published in 1993 using an updated title, Early Childhood Programs: Human Relationships and Learning. Various editions of her text were translated into Danish, Hebrew, Italian, Japanese, Swedish, German, and Norwegian.

Katherine Haskell was born in Omaha, Nebraska, on April 10, 1904. After graduating from Mills College, Phi Beta Kappa, with a BA in political science in 1925, she worked as a psychologist at the Institute for Juvenile Research in Chicago from 1926 to 1928. She married George Read, who died several years after their daughter, Anne, was born in 1933. From 1929 to 1931 she taught nursery school at Purdue. After doing graduate work at the University of Chicago and Purdue, she received an MS from Purdue in 1938. She served as an instructor at Purdue from 1935 to 1940 and as supervisor of WPA nursery schools in Indiana in 1938. In 1941 she became an assistant professor of Household Administration at Oregon State University, attaining full professorship in 1948. During World War II she worked in the Kaiser Shipyards’ famous Lanham Act child care facilities. She became professor of Child Development at Oregon State and headed the Department of Family Life and Home Administration from 1952 to 1965.

Throughout her life, Katherine embraced the perspectives of British psychoanalysts Anna Freud and David Winnicott, focusing—during the learning process—on the feelings and attitudes of children, of parents, and of adults who work with young children. She believed that self-understanding on the part of teachers was critical for helping young children to understand themselves. Her “Guides to Speech and Action” have endured and most are regarded as useful and appropriate today as they were fifty years ago (e.g., “State suggestions or directions in a positive rather than negative form,” and “Give the child a choice only when you intend to leave the choice up to him”). Katherine was a major supporter of the National Association for the Education of Young Children (NAEYC), which published her articles and books. Katherine Read retired in 1965, married G. Maurice Baker, and moved to England. She died in 1991.

Further Readings: Baker, Katherine Read (1966). Let’s play outdoors. Washington, DC: National Association for the Education of Young Children; Baker, Katherine Read (1972). Ideas that work with young children. Washington, DC: National Association for the Education of Young Children; National Association for the Education of Young Children (1992). In memoriam: Katherine Read Baker. Young Children 47(3), 33; Zavitkovsky, Docia, Katherine R. Baker, Jean R. Berlfein, and Millie Almy (1986). Listen to the children. Washington, DC: National Association for the Education of Young Children.

Carol S. Huntsinger