Book Review – Observing Gabby by Cath Arnold

Reading Time: 4 minutes

Book Review – Observing Gabby written by Cath Arnold

Reflections by Aaron Bradbury 


I have been writing about the use of books for CPD in the Early Years now for a couple of months. Reviewing core texts and exploring the use of them within your practices. So this month I am giving you a review on the book called ‘Observing Gabby’, written by Cath Arnold. I have the pleasure this month of giving you my reflections on this book and also how this can support you when you are observing children in the Early Years.


Firstly, I think this book isn’t like any other. To see through the eyes of the child and then the adult supporting the narrative around interpreting the child’s view of the world is pure genius. This books does this so well.


So let’s get started…..


The book in general


The book is technically the second one that Cath Arnold has published after the success of Observing Harry, who is all grown up now. But what an accolade to both Harry and Gabby for when they grow up. A snippet of their Early Childhood for us all to share and utilise for our own practices. Observing Gabby now moves us to the twenty first century by giving us a little more than a book, nothing wrong with just a book mind, but it now comes with the positive use of technology and videos. I think we have to agree that a lot of work has gone into this book, 7 years of data and observations to demonstrate the importance of child development is exciting. It’s not something that has been written overnight. Therefore, it is years of data that has been captured by Gabby’s Grandmother Cath.

The book is about Gabby first and foremost, which I love. Many of you know that I am a true advocate for child development, nurturing, children’s rights and gaining the voice of the child within our practices. To have a book which is written about a child focusing solely on the child makes me completely smile and so happy to see in action, and to support Continual Professional Development. The author, Cath truly gets it, the importance of the child, not just because it is her grandchild but allows us to really engage with the development of the child, exploring each stage and allowing Gabby to show us that children develop differently and at their own pace. This completely shines through when you read the book. Focusing on the ethical implications of the child has been made clear and important. It is also a focus when you read through the book the journey of Gabby’s developmental outcomes and that her voice is being heard and explored to support us as professionals working within the Early Years to narrate and reflect on our observations, but also interpret them to support ethical practices with children.


What makes it special


The transitional opportunities that matter to children and the progress that Gabby makes is clear as she grows up. Transitions of the child is one in which we sometimes overlook, and the book allows us to make those links to the child’s transitions and also from our perspectives of being an Early Childhood Professional. I guess for me, Gabby and the observations within the book has made me stop and think, question and reflect on my own practices. Question the why and whether what we are observing is of any use or are we doing it solely because we think we need to do it?, if so what are we getting out of the observation and how can we interpret the child’s voice and rights within them.


Saving the best until last


The chapters of the book are presented in a chronological order as a running record of Gabby’s development. Exploring child development 0-1 years and then through to Gabby becoming 7. Not only do the chapters support the development of Gabby but there are a list of video clips to accompany the text online. This blew my mind to be honest, so as I sat and read the chapters I was able to go to the video clip of Gabby and see the observation in action. The rich learning experiences you get from the chapters as a learner and professional and then having that accompanied by a video is a stroke of genius. I can see my students now getting to grips with the theory, the exploration of language, expression that Gabby is using and then the narration linking to practice that Cath provides would be a great link that we continue to steer between theory and practice within the Early Years. These video clips do that and do it well. When you purchase the book, at the beginning there is a link for you to access the videos via a dedicated website. These videos are detailed, of a good quality and supports the discussion from all the chapters.


Child development can become complex if we allow it to. Imagine being at the start of your Early Years career, supporting parents or even just reflective on your continual practices, this book allows you to really understand the importance of connecting with the child and fully understanding child development. It truly is a well put together book, full of research and informed practices and most of all Gabby showing us with the help of Cath to produce a truly immersive book which allows you to respect the child’s journey, the development and most importantly the voice of the child. I truly value that we as Early Childhood professionals can enhance children’s opportunities and experiences within our roles by valuing child development and most importantly valuing the child. I know that once you pick this book up you will feel energised to learn more about Child Development and want to enhance your reflections on the why, the how’s and what is next for you as an Early Childhood Professional. This book allows you to do all of these things.


Thank you, Cath and Gabby, for sharing your knowledge and experiences with me. It will definitely be on my reading list for my Child Development Modules.


Aaron Bradbury



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