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April 5, 2015

Ability Development From Age Zero Book Review

The book “Ability Development From Age Zero” by Shinichi Suzuki, has been used for years as a kind of introduction manual for Suzuki parents on the spirit of Suzuki philosophy and education and has often been described as life changing. While reading this book, one is constantly coming across ideas which ring true in their simplicity, leaving readers asking themselves, “How have we gotten so far off track in educating our children?” Shinichi Suzuki, through his commitment to teaching and in writing this book, helps the reader get back on track.

As in “Nutured by Love”, the author’s second book, “Ability Development From Age Zero”, revolves around the following idea: “The consideration that all healthy children speak their own language indicates that every child can be educated. Therefore, the ability to become well educated is shown to exist in anyone who has developed an ability in language”. By pointing out that a baby is able to internalize thousands of words, idiomatic expressions, complex grammatical structures and even the most difficult of dialects (not to mention their ability to learn many languages contemporarily), he expresses his conviction that “the best method in the world is hidden within the mother tongue education”.

In order to apply the “Mother Tongue Method” to music education, Shinichi Suzuki outlines the conditions for developing great talent in music students. These conditions have become “The 5 Principles of Suzuki Method Education”:

  1. Begin as early as possible.
  2. Create the best possible environment.
  3. Use the finest teaching method.
  4. Encourage the student to practice as much as possible.
  5. Train the finest teachers.

He assures us that “when all these conditions are working together, the flower of wonderful ability will bloom.

This book is permeated with an air of child-like enthusiasm and joy in it’s teachings. Suzuki’s remarkable ability to instinctively understand children was a life-long quest for him. “I am mentally preparing myself for the five-year old mind. I want to come down to their physical limitations and up to their sense of wonder and awe.” He emphasizes clearly the importance of kindling the child’s desire to learn. He teaches us that “children learn abilities best when they are having fun. Tasks which are done happily are internalized” and “if training can be combined with fun, a child has the power to do things which can surprise adults”. Through the author’s example of using fun in his musical studies, the Suzuki Method has developed this educational tool extensively and it has become a distinguishing element of Suzuki education.

“Ability Development From Age Zero” is full of metaphors, stories, and reflections. It is less biographical than “Nurtured by Love”, but much of the philosophy and principles of his teaching method are also found in this book. The focus is more on applying this philosophy to life in general rather than on purely musical considerations. For this reason, non-musicians (especially Suzuki Parents) and musicians alike will find this book inspirational in the way Shinichi Suzuki expresses his deep respect for children and his absolute conviction that “every child can learn to play an instrument!”

“If this book becomes a light of hope for mothers who love their children and wish for them to grow up wonderfully, I could not be happier”

-Shinichi Suzuki

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