Kelly Devinney, MA
Research Assistant to Aaron T. Beck
Elaine Clanton Harpine’s latest book, After School Prevention Program for At Risk Students, utilizes her own reading program, Reading Orienting Club, as a model for prevention programs for children and adolescents. This text is scholarly yet reader-friendly. It is written without jargon and addresses major issues which arise while working with an at risk population. Additionally, it effectively addresses multiple facets of group cohesion, cultural needs, multiple teaching strategies, along with many problems solving skills.
Utilizing her 41 years of experience, the text showcases innovative strategies for both learning and mental health. Her book is jam packed with interactive techniques to foster learning and education, which directly affects a child’s self-esteem and self-efficacy. She states “this is a real-world learning laboratory” and provides detailed descriptions indicating how to mimic this style. “After school prevention program for at risk students” stresses the importance of group cohesion while appropriately addressing the need to divide the group when a small sub group is misbehaving. Overall, the author details the need to tailor the group to meet the needs of each child. Whether it be cultural, gender, or social economic status adaptation this program remains enjoyable yet focuses on learning.
Each chapter begins with a case example and concludes with a real world application and troubleshooting checklist to help parse through complicated issues that may arise while planning an after school prevention program. She poses questions to consider prior to engaging in group work and this book can act as a “how-to” model for such programs. As a result of her vast experience in group prevention programs with all age groups this book is also helpful for experienced professionals who may want to adapt their current program to a more hands-on approach. Additionally, she provides enough vivid examples where this type of prevention program can be modified to fit many type of programs, not just reading programs. This book is especially helpful for the new professional or those just beginning to work in group settings.
One controversial issue discussed in this book is whether a child should be extrinsically rewarded for good behavior (Eg: prizes, candy, stickers). The author indicates all motivation should be intrinsic so the child learns to motivate themselves. Although research is present to support both sides, evidence indicates teaching consequences for behavior is imperative in producing durable change. When a child is reprimanded for poor behavior, being rewarded for positive behavior is sensible and teaches the behavior consequence model. In at risk populations it is essential to teach consequences for actions at an early age. Many of the children in this population have parents with inconsistent parenting styles where positive behavior is not reinforced, but negative behavior is punished. By creating a system in group where the child is rewarded for positive and reprimanded for negative it creates the link between behavior and consequence which can be the first step to eliciting intrinsic motivation.
Overall, Clanton Harpine’s book is research based, conceptually sound, and packed with rich examples. It is helpful for any professional attempting to create a group prevention program for students.
Kelly Devinney is a Clinical Research Coordinator at the Aaron T. Beck Psychopathology Research Center at the University of Pennsylvania.