Older and Wiser – New Ideas for Youth Mentoring in the 21st Century (Book Review)

Jean E. Rhodes is Professor of Psychology and Director of the Center for Evidence-Based Mentoring at the University of Massachusetts Boston. She also co-founded the European Centre for Evidence-Based Mentoring and is a Fellow of the American Psychological Association. She has studied and written about youth mentoring for decades. 

In Older and Wiser, Rhodes discusses mentoring research and relays something of value to a wide audience to include teachers, parents, and students. She provides information about how to help young people including disadvantaged young people in need. Rhodes also provides ideas about what does not work when it comes to mentoring today. Let’s also note that Rhodes mentions mentors can be “natural” as a teacher or counselor or part of a program such as Big Brothers/Big Sisters. 

So what does good mentoring today mean to Rhodes? Part of the answer Rhodes provides is to consider technology-driven interventions as well as an accountability model.  She notes that there are many technology-driven interventions that can help. These can include apps that help with mental health issues. These approaches, however, should include “check-ins, mentoring, troubleshooting, and other interventions” (p.106) to be effective. While these can be great tools, what is really needed is a human being who encourages use of the tools and follows up on use of the tools. Even simple reminders dramatically increased the effects of app-based interventions (0.15 versus 0.39 for anxiety; 0.18 and 0.32 for depression) (p. 107).

While Rhodes has a focus in Older and Wiser on data, she also mentions engaging personal stories. One of these is about someone who helped her as a mentor. George Albee was the mentor who taught Rhodes’ introductory psychology class and later taught other classes Rhodes attended, ultimately causing Rhodes to conclude: “Albee saw potential in me, and, over time, that changed me. My sense of self shifted from a Jersey girl with an uncertain identity and modest ambition to someone who could and should make a difference in the world” (p. xi).

Older and Wiser – New Ideas for Youth Mentoring in the 21st Century

Jean E. Rhodes. 2020. Harvard University Press. [ISBN 9780674248076. 212 pages, including index. US$35.00 (hardcover).]

Note to readers: A version of this review is scheduled to appear in Technical Communication, the scholarly journal of the STC.

Review by Jeanette Evans