Monday, October 22, 2018

Reading is one of the essential building blocks of cultivating a self.

Storytelling plays a big role in the process of development and is not something that belongs in childhood, only to be left behind as we grow up.  As we tell stories about the lives of others, we learn how to imagine what another creature might feel in response to various events. At the same time, we identify with the other creature and learn something about ourselves. As we grow older, we encounter more and more complex stories — in literature, film, visual art, music — that give us a richer and more subtle grasp of human emotions and of our own inner world. The stories we read offer us the opportunity to think what the stories mean to our own lives; the best of literature speaks to what a human being was and could be. To read is to build a self.

One of the best pieces of advice I ever received— You have to live with your mind your whole life, therefore, understand the value of building it, make it worthy.”

Saturday, August 18, 2018

"Reading is a conversation. All books talk. But a good book listens as well."

Human beings were never born to read. Reading is a human invention that reflects how the brain rearranges itself to learn something new. Reading changed the brain and changed the way we think and feel. And now we are seeing how technology is transforming the brain and a question we are beginning to get some answers to is cause for concern. What is happening to the reading brain as it unavoidably changes to adapt to digital mediums.

There is a part of the brain that is responsible for deep reading, which is the active process of thoughtful and deliberate reading  in the interest to enhance one’s comprehension, which is the opposite of skimming or superficial reading. If you think of the brain as a muscle, the parts that are not exercised do not develop, they atrophy.   A brain that is more and more dependent on screens affect a person’s critical thinking, personal reflection, imagination and empathy that comprise deep reading.

A few sobering facts
• The Core Curriculum at Columbia University is a required class with an average of 200-300 pages of reading each week and professors are finding that many students can’t get through their assignments due to decreased in attention span.

• In the 1990’s 3-5% of American school age children were thought to have attention deficit hyperactivity disorder, By 2013 that number was 11%

• Sherry Turkle, an M.I.T. sociologist and psychologist in her book “ Reclaiming Conversation”  tells how children, rather than competing with siblings for their parent’s attention, are up against phones, iPad, Siri, and Alexa, apple watches and computer screens.

• in Shakespeare’s time, the word conversation meant two things—verbal discourse and sex. That’s how intimate the most well-known poet and playwright in the English language viewed the act of talking with another person.


Tuesday, June 26, 2018

Conversations are how we connect with others

We know from extensive research that without continued reading in the summer, students fall back in their reading achievement. The good news is that the latest research shows students who read at least 4 books over the summer maintain or even increase their skills. Reading is a skill that improves each time we read to understand a book. The more you read, the better reader you become. But we live in a world dominated by technology which fights with the idea of down time to just be. Research shows the reading we do on a device is a different experience from a book that we read and hold in our hands. 

For good reason, parents worry about how much time children spend with technology. Obsessive screen time is harmful for children and parents but parents suffer from something called ‘continuous partial attention’, a condition named 20 years ago by technology expert Linda Stone. Partial attention brings about conversations that lack the emotional cueing system whose hallmark is responsive communication, the basis of most human learning. Vocabulary, which is learned in conversation, is the linchpin to literacy.

Here are some simple suggestions to combat the burden of obsessive technology
* Eliminate excessive phone checking
* You and your phone are not tied to the hip—leave the phone behind if you want to have a quality interaction with your child, a friend, a mate, a colleague.
* A phone on silent is an instant vacation from the tyranny of being available 24/7.

Conversations are important ways we make the vital connection all human beings need. These all important conversations, where children learn vocabulary as they learn how to think and communicate, happen quite naturally by reading and talking about a story. We could all benefit by having some time sitting on a front porch swing and really being present. 

Some tips about summer time reading
• Ramp up the “pleasure principle” in reading and love of story.
• Increase the time you read aloud and talk with children about what they read. Children who talk about a story have better comprehension skills, which build their confidence as readers. Children need confidence to enjoy reading.
• SLOW DOWN: get off the literary stair master. I would rather your children read fewer books, know and love them well, than read many books they don’t really like or even remember.
• Audio books are terrific—and they build vocabulary and instill a love of story.
• Set an example and follow your good advice: Read more this summer and enjoy what you read.

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.