Leader Garden Press believes that one of the most important things we can do as parents or teachers is to encourage children to be good leaders. Their Leadership Garden metaphor shows children how to grow good leadership skills and how to weed out negative thoughts, feelings, or behaviors.
For the purposes of the review, I received the U.N.I.Q.U.E.: Growing the Leader Within book, the U.N.I.Q.U.E. Kids: Growing My Leadership Garden for children ages 5-12, and The Leadership Garden Guidebook. I also received mp3 audio downloads for both books and printable pdf files to use with my children.
I was initially impressed with the approach these materials take in terms of defining leadership.
"True leadership grows when you combine good choices together, and bind them with love and respect." (U.N.I.Q.U.E. Kids, page 33)The U.N.I.Q.U.E. Kids book was designed to appeal to younger children with colorful, pleasing pictures on nearly every two-paged spread. According to its Lexile measurement, it appears that the independent reading level similar to that of Charlotte's Web.
These materials are not designed for children to read independently, though. According to the website description, the book is "designed as an interactive leadership development tool with the participation of grownups or older students who can read the book with children (ages 5-12) and provide mentoring and reinforcement of the concepts and discussion." I agree that the materials were too difficult to be used by a student working independently, and in fact, I found the ideas to be too complex for me to use with my younger children (ages 7 and 12).
After introducing the concept of growing helpful seeds in a leadership garden, the book discusses six qualities that help a leader grow -- the words that make up the U.N.I.Q.U.E. acronym. Within each of these six qualities, there are multiple sub-points. Often these subpoints could be full lessons in themselves and would need more explanations than were given in the text. For instance, in the Nurturing Meadow the book lists six leader-friendly gardening practices, including such concepts as being non-judgmental, eliminating blame, and eradicating victimization. Each one gives a two sentence explanation, but my children need me to provide more examples and ways to practically apply the concept to their everyday lives.
Since Addison is older than the recommended age for the kids book, I offered her the choice to read part of either the kids book or the adult book. She was intrigued by the idea of becoming a better leader, but she wasn't sure that the concepts in this book were a good fit for her. She read some of the passages that talked about "digging out the harmful, feelings, and behaviors that grow into weeds" and felt like there was a huge something missing. She wishes the program could have addressed the role of God in bringing about such changes and find it difficult to imagine being able to do all of this by her own power (i.e. without relying on God's help).
As I read through the U.N.I.Q.U.E.: Growing the Leader Within book myself, I found a lot of sections where I really had to slow down and concentrate on what was being discussed. It was not a book that I could read through while I was distracted by other things going on in the same room; I had to set aside time where I could concentrate on the material. It definitely has some good thoughts, perhaps even some ideas that I should mull over for a while. I hesitate to recommend it to other busy moms, though, because I know that I do much better with books that are organized for reading in short bursts between caring for my children.
The U.N.I.Q.U.E.: Growing the Leader Within and U.N.I.Q.U.E. Kids: Growing My Leadership Garden paperback books each cost $18.95. An mp3 audiobook version of the adult book costs $14.95 and an mp3 version of the kids book costs $8.95. In addition, Leadership Garden Legacy also offers The Leadership Garden Guidebook for $18.95 and a U.N.I.Q.U.E. Kids Activity Guide and Journal as a pdf download for $8.95.
For a limited time, Leadership Garden Legacy is offering the TOS Community a "Spring Special Discount" of 20% on all of their Empowerment Toools. To receive your discount, enter the code: TOS-SS20D upon checkout. This code will expire on May 31, 2013.