Book Recommendations

This book is a wonderful tool for helping to prepare children to succeed in life. Every child—and many adults—can learn something from its valuable principles.
—Marian Wright Edelman, President, Children’s Defense Fund

Jon Oliver’s extraordinary insight into children is invaluable. He recognizes the importance of understanding child development in order to prepare today’s children for tomorrow’s world. Lesson One: The ABCs of Life is accessible and an excellent guide for parents, educators, and all who work with children.
—James P. Comer, M.D., Maurice Falk Professor of Child Psychiatry, Yale Child Study Center, Associate Dean, Yale School of Medicine

These ‘basics’ of personal success should be part of every child’s life, but they are too often lacking in today’s stressed environments. Jon Oliver’s upbeat book offers clear and practical steps to help parents and teachers fill this critical gap.
—Jane M. Healy, Ph.D. Educational Psychologist and Author, Your Child’s Growing Mind: Brain Development and Learning from Birth to Adolescence

Lesson One is chock full of easy-to-follow recipes for bringing up happy, healthy children. With real-life stories and creative games this valuable guide for parents and teachers describes coping skills that work for both children and adults. A particularly nifty exercise in self-control worked for me even before I finished reading Jon Oliver’s user-friendly book.
—Peggy Charren, Founder, Action for Children’s Television

To me, ‘Lesson one’, is a truly magical key chain. Each brilliantly researched chapter is a key that opens a new door to a successful and fulfilling life. It is an indispensable tool for parents, educators, and any one who is guiding young children toward a positive, happy lifestyle.
—Richard M. Sherman, Composer/Lyricist, Mary Poppins, Chitty Chitty Bang Bang, and other classics

When my older two children were quite young, I was often at a loss for how to help them learn important new life skills. Then, on a vacation, I had a great good fortune to see my children learning tennis from a marvelous instructor. Since then, I’ve modeled almost everything I’ve done with children on the methods of that instructor. That experience was a turning point in my life.

I felt a similar epiphany when I read Lesson One: The ABCs of Life. Mr. Oliver and Mr. Ryan have beautifully captured many of the essential elements that allow a child to grow into an effective, caring adult. The book not only explains the concepts, it reinforces the concepts in a kind of teacher’s guide with examples, exercises and materials that anyone can use. I can’t miss being a terrific grandfather with this material at my fingertips!

From the book, adults work with children to introduce key concepts, the meaning of the concepts, examples of applying the concepts and skills in employing the concepts as well. The adults learn everything they need to know, from what tone of voice and inflections to use . . . to what stories to tell about their own mistakes. The concepts are ones that anyone will approve of, and the ideas are presented in a loving, nonjudgmental way.

The book begins by explaining how to work with children . . . explaining many of the skills I learned from observing the tennis instructor. The material quickly shifts to the Lesson One Pledge for Success (a pledge that children make to themselves to help themselves be successful):

1. I will listen to what others have to say.
2. I will treat others the way I would like to be treated.
3. I will respect the diversity of all people.
4. I will remember that I have people who care about me in my family, school and community.
5. I will try my best.

Each skill is a building block for the next skill in the pledge. For example, if you cannot listen to others, how can you possibly learn how to treat others like you would like to be treated?

Along the way, the child learns about personal qualities (and ways to develop these qualities): self-control (“self-control time”); self-confidence; personal responsibility (“imagining the consequences”); thinking and problem-solving; and cooperation with others. The concepts and their application reminded me of things I have learned in very helpful seminars I have taken. How wonderful it is if children can learn these lessons before they become adults!

The book will seem somewhat repetitious to some, but that is deliberate. The authors want to be sure the reader understands the material and how to apply it. I was especially impressed that an adult can use this book even if she or he has not had experience in these areas. There are even stories prepared here that you can share with children . . . if you do not have any more relevant stories to share from your own experience.

—Reviewer: Don Mitchell from Boston (Top 10 Amazon Reviewer)

LESSON ONE:THE ABCs OF LIFE is a wonderfully readable, sensitive approach to teaching children of ALL ages how to live in a world so in need of compassion, understanding, cooperation, and mutual respect and love. Until reading this wise book I was unaware that LESSON ONE is a widely used educational adjunct created and fostered by the writer Jon Oliver. With the assistance of Michael Ryan Maestro Oliver reveals his learned life lessons on how to instill in children the ability to not only co-habit universally, but how to find happiness within themselves. Sound simplistic? Well, then you need to read this book. Some ideas we all pay lip service to are reiterated in a concise teaching technique that applies to adults equally strongly as to children. The sections are powerfully titled: The Pledge for Success, dealing with Golden Rule elements, respect for diversity, self-motivation to be the best you can be; Self Control with mega-important periods of Self-Control Time out; Self Confidence building; Responsibility for one’s own actions and consequences; Cooperation. Each of these helpful categories is presented with stories from the author’s experiences as well as examples that are global. The result is a stimulating book intellectually, a resource for self improvement, and a joyous addition to the lesson plans of teachers, parents, all children and all adults. The possibilities of a world changed by the incorporation of these vital lessons is a dream of joy, not only to the authors, but to all those who take the time to read and practice the teachings in this valuable book.
—Reviewer: Grady Harp from Altadena, CA (Top 50 Amazon Reviewer)

The fundamental principle that the authors address is that kids and the adults that are part of their environment at home and elsewhere acquire life skills that are not too different. Adults might exercise skills in different ways and levels, but so do kids. It’s the very interaction of the skills that ensures a productive climate or, at the extreme, a disfunctional one. In short, the authors want both adults and kids to think deeply about every action—Heavy demand, but, life is tough!
—Reviewer: gilgarcia6 from Harpers Ferry, WV

I work in the pre-press stage of the publishing industry, and scores of books that deal with this topic cross my desk every year. Each one seems to have its own “hook” or “device” or other method for standing out from the crowd. “Lesson One” stood out for me because, instead of hooks and devices, Jon Oliver uses compelling examples–often drawn from personal history and experience–that clearly illustrate the points he’s making. They’re often so basic and simple that I found myself wanting to hit myself in the head with the palm of my hand and say, “Duh! I should have known that!”
That’s what makes this book such a delightful read: It’s all stuff we should already know, but is for some reason unretrievable in our consciousness. The inspiring–and often touching–personal narratives that flavor the book throughout make you forget you’re learning (or, more accurately, relearning) something quite powerful. It reads not like a textbook but like a biography, with characters you’ll recognize from your own life and people you’d love to meet some day.

I’ve got a lot of my birthday shopping done already for this year: “Lesson One: The ABCs of Life” will make for an indispensable tool for a number of my friends and family.

Rather than just encourage you to buy and read this book, I would like to strongly urge you to apply this book with at least one child. If you do not have children of your own . . . or are not a teacher or coach, I suggest that you take on a volunteer role that would provide the opportunity. The world is too full of children who lack enough loving adults in their lives. In the book, Mr. Oliver tells many wonderful stories about how his surrogate mother, Ms. Effie Boone, raised him while his parents were distracted by their adult lives and responsibilities. Hopefully, we can each play at least part of such a role for a youngster.

As I finished the book, I realized that it would be great if Mr. Oliver were to extend his work to develop two counterparts to this book. The first might be called Lesson Two: The ABCs of Being an Adult. The second might be called Lesson Three: The ABCs of Being a Parent.

May you find great role models to help you be more effective in mentoring and parenting children!

—Reviewer: RICHARD L GROFF from West Monroe, NY

It’s the key to revolutionizing American society and making the world a better place. It’s a must read!
—Reviewer: joyceseymore from Wilton, Connecticut