Saturday, May 19, 2018

Prose talks and Poetry sings

I have the privilege to get to know people through reading with them
I am always impressed and rewarded by the many ideas brought to me in our shared reading.
Just recently I was introduced to a poem by a 6thgrader—she made the connection of 
this poem to the many ideas embedded in the book we were reading together. 

Poems give words to thoughts and feeling and a magical synergy happens when a poem is read in tandem with a book. As an experiment, try and pair a poem with what you are currently reading and see if you can find a connection. The worst thing that can happen is that you will end up reading more poetry.

Read on its own, this poem stands on its own.

Greener Grass, Erin Hanson
What if grass is greener on the other side,
Because it’s always raining there,
Where the ones who never fail to give,
Hardly have enough to spare,
Where the people with the broadest smiles,
Have pillows filled with tears,
And the bravest ones you’ve ever known,
Are crippled by their fears,
It’s filled with lonely people,
But they’re never seen alone,
Where those that lack real shelter,
Make you feel the most at home,
Maybe their grass looks greener,
Because they’ve painted on its hue,
Just remember from the other side,
Your grass looks greener too.

Monday, May 14, 2018

Mothers hold their children’s hands for a short while, but their hearts forever

I am not much for the Hallmark Holidays and Mother’s Day ranks right up there,
but I do like the sentiments that can be inside Mother’s Day. I share a few below 

A favorite Jewish Proverb and one I whole heartedly believe in.
God could not be everywhere and therefore he created mothers.

One of my favorite poems about moms 

When I was little, Mom would read to me in bed.
I’d lie under the covers with my eyes closed.
And the sound of her voice would make me feel safe and sleepy at the same time.
Sometimes, even with the good stories, I’d fall asleep before the end.
Now I’m bigger and I can read by myself but still, every once in a while, when I’m feeling sad or something,
I’ll ask Mom and she’ll come in and sit on the edge of the bed
and touch my head
And read to me again

~ Anonymous 

A more lofty sentiment and one I also believe in comes from Washington Irving , the author of one of the gems of American Literature,  Rip Van Winkle.
"A mother is the truest friend we have, when trials heavy and sudden, fall upon us; when adversity takes the place of prosperity; when friends who rejoice with us in our sunshine desert us; when trouble thickens around us, still will she cling to us, and endeavor by her kind precepts and counsels to dissipate the clouds of darkness, and cause peace to return to our hearts."

Any way you cut it…everyone needs and deserves a loving mother.

Tuesday, May 1, 2018

No need for a book on how to talk to children

Speaking with some people in their mid 30’s I was sad to hear how many of them view reading as a means to an end—they very much coral their reading into the world of
prescriptive nonfiction‚ believing what they cannot quantify, such as the value of reading fiction, is of little value. 

Those who read fiction know what it is to identify with a character and what naturally follows is the perennial question that all stories raise— What does this story say about life as I know it? Who am I in this moment of time and who might I become? The best of stories conveys the idea that decisions are about possibilities. Read enough stories and you internalize the idea of perspective. Last but not least, reading literature is a way to understand the world and ourselves.  I believe the most memorable stories introduces us to one character we might recognize but are not always eager to know better: ourselves. 

This got me thinking about a recent talk I heard from a noted expert in the field of child psychology on how to talk to your children. What disturbed me was not just the content of the talk but the reaction from the audience of young parents.  I thought how sad they had not discovered all the conversations just waiting to be had inside the world of reading and talking with children about the stories we read. A simple case in point—read aloud any of the George and Martha books by James Marshall and an entire universe of conversations is revealed. One good question is enough to jump start a richly satisfying conversation.

Be present with your children , read to them, play with them—all of these activities involve speaking and speaking about what matters. If this was not enough of a motivation to read and talk with your children about the stories you read, there is ample evidence that shows how young children learn though relationships and back and forth interactions, including the interactions that occur when parents read to their children.

Tuesday, February 27, 2018

Stories are powerful because they speak to your mind, heart and imagination

Facts, data and numbers will never have a story's power to influence simply because a story speaks to the mind, heart and imagination.

Harold Goddard wrote in The Meaning of Shakespeare, "The destiny of the world is determined less by the battles that are lost and won than by the stories it loves and believes in."  How we respond  to the stories we read very much influences how we respond to the stories in our own lives.  Conversational Reading-read a book, ask a questions and start a conversation-  encourages reading for meaning and engaging with the story on a personal level. Conversational Reading ignites a reader's curiosity and brings into focus the ubiquitous page turner … and then what happened?

The best of readers seek to realize the meaning of the stories in our own lives and in the lives we meet through story. As E.L Doctorow remarked in defense of "the March," his fictional tale of the Civil War, ' Which would you rather read to get a sense of the Napoleonic Wars-a history textbook, or " 'War and peace'?"  Through story we apprehend the world and in so doing, gain an understanding of ourselves. Maybe this is the best definition of a life well lived, a commitment to seek his or her own inner truth. The inner story, though the same for all,  is always  unique in each human being, never before lived and never to be repeated.

Monday, February 26, 2018

Harvard Study highlights the importance of questions & Conversational Reading looks to ask good questions

As parents, we can help our children practice a regular habit of asking good questions through the stories we read. Hone your skills of “Conversational Reading” with the literacy and language expert who coined the phrase herself, Diane Frankenstein.

Register now for her Beginner, Advanced and Enriched Conversational Reading classes, March 3-10, 2018!In the cover feature story of the “Better Brainstorming: Why Questions Matter More than Answers” , they cite a recent interview from MIT Professor and “Edison of Medicine”, Robert Langer “When you’re a student, you’re judged by how well you answer questions. Somebody else asks the questions, and if you give good answers, you’ll get a good grade. But in life, you’re judged by how good your questions are.” As he mentors people, he explicitly focuses their attention on making this all-important transition, knowing “they’ll become great professors, great entrepreneurs-great something-if they ask good questions.”