It is Time!

Time is Now

 

It is time to be a listener.

It is time to look

And see.

It is time to know the difference

Between opinion

Fact or

Dream.

Yet it’s also time to tell some stories.

Time to let the mind roam free.

Time to open hearts

To conversation

To let imagination

Be.

And it is past all time

To hold compassion.

It is time for patience, too.

Time for kindness

For remembering

The essentiality

Of holding

You

As well as

Me.

 

 

For The Daily Post

 

 

Books and stories: a recipe for laughter and growth

From Pintrest

From Pintrest

Oh so true … that a child who reads will be an adult who thinks. Reading opens doors, windows, paths, and secret passages to all manner of worlds and imaginations, language and vocabulary, expression and understanding.

Reading matters.

A reading child is also preceded by a child who is being read to and is spoken to and with, and who experiences being part of conversations and experiences, narrative and the day to day stories of life lived and happenings that happen …

Because:

A child who is read to will be a child who listens, imagines, thinks, wonders, comprehends and symbolizes… A child more likely to read and enjoy reading …

A child who is talked to, who participates in conversation and discussion, is a child who knows to ask questions and answer queries, offer opinion and listen to that of others, be curious about others’ experience and tolerant of differences, ideas, and views… A child more likely to read and enjoy variety in what they read …

A child who is listened to–and is shown how to reciprocate and take one’s turn in listening–is a child who can relate and remember, reminisce and realize, teach and learn, listen, comprehend and think… A child more likely to read and find books a place for expanding understanding and relating …

So …

Did you open a book today? Did you tell a story? Make a story together? The story of going to the store, of cleaning up the room together, of salad making and laundry folding, of visiting the park and counting dogs with spots and kids in strollers, of the rainbow of colors in the produce aisle and the funny thing that silly dances do to your feet and heart and smile …

Go tell some stories. We’re never too old or too young!

Earth Talk

earth1
It is Earth Day.

An odd day to have, when we consider that realistically, every day is an Earth Day. We live it. We breathe it. We would not be. Literally. Without it.

And yet, there’s Earth Day. To remind us of what so many of us may be taking for granted, to counter what too many do not want to accept as Truth, to open our eyes to what we can do better or more of or less of.

For the Earth, yes. But if that is not incentive enough–for ourselves. For our children and their children and their children’s children.

People vary in how well they hear Earth–or how willing. Some prefer to not hear. Others spend life more attuned to Earth than others. Most children do.

Children often are attuned to Earth. You see it in their intense attention to a crawling ant or an undulating earthworm. You see it in the careful handling of leaf and pebble and that tattered bit of some insect’s wing that you really don’t want to find in their pocket when you do the laundry. You see it in their awe. In how hard it is for them to tear their eyes away from listening to do whatever you find so much more important in that moment, but they don’t–for they are listening to the Earth’s heart.

Children listen. They are naturally attuned to the rhythm of what birthed them. Till we teach them not to. Till we fill their world with too many competing sounds and none-too-subtle visuals that they tune-out the ripple of the earth-talk for the beeping of their videos and ever-busy-schedule-noise.

The Earth talks. Most days it speaks softly, slowly. Other days it shrieks and growls and thunders, matching winds and storms peak to peak. Earth speaks. It has always spoken. Native Peoples everywhere have listened, been tuned in, respected both the cycles of the earth and the sanctity of the sanctuary it provides us.

They have loved and feared the earth–because for all its perfect habitat for people and our fellow living beings, the Earth is not a subtle being. It blooms explosively. It raptures in shuddering volcanos. It sweeps down in tornados and hurricanes.

Native Peoples listened to the subtle: to the slow drawl of the summer and the fleeting flutter of the spring. To the deep rumble of the winter and the dried crinkle of the fall.  They heard those just as they heard the fury and eruptions. Most of us today listen only when the voice is loud enough … when Earth Talk drowns all other sound.

Even then, do we hear? Do we listen? What do we understand?

The Earth talks. All of it does.

Trees whisper. They bend and laugh and cry. They may do less of it these days, with less of them to pass a whispering along to, but talk they do. Their voice is not quite heard as it is felt, reverberating down their trunks and through their roots. In case you wondered, a small one states with certainty that Fairies often speak back or translate–you can see their lights flicker in response …

Oceans talk, as well. If only we would listen.

The fish, the whales, the jellyfish and sand-beings.

The growing grasses talk. The roses sigh and blush. The daisies sing and bow to bees for their gentle contribution.

Animals all carry their own voice. Individual and harmonizing. In body-language, pose and poise, hum and throaty purr, cries and song.

If we don’t hear it, it is not from lack of conversation abounding all about us, but from dulling of the senses and a denial that makes it easier to not know. For we would not be able to go on abusing Earth and its inhabitants if we did fully hear and know, if we maintained an open eye. If we let our heart know.

Those among us who fight to remain open hearted to the Earth are often achy-hearted. Frustrated, too, and yet immensely hopeful. Because we know it can be–should be, could be, oh-please-would-be birthed anew.

All living things have a voice.  The whole Earth hums. Abuzz with sound. Much of it unhappy now, these days … but it can turn back. It can remember better times and calibrate its tuning forks and old-sung centuries.

Let us listen. Let us recognize the tunes that whisper life and harmony. Let us work to dim those wounded melodies that rasp pain and pollution and hollowed out caverns where resources were all but stripped out.  Let us amplify the ones that celebrate renewal.

Earth talks. May we hear, and see, and listen, and understand. For the sake of all that is, for our children–let us truly, fully, take a stand.

 

How early? For how long?

book time

I’ve received a query from a parent: “I heard reading to children is good for them. Is it true that it helps language development? How early should I start reading to my baby and how long should I go on reading to her?–Parenting Neophyte…”

It is a good question and one I get often and love getting. It is always worthy of an answer.

Dear Parenting Neophyte,

The facts are clear: Reading to kids is great. Introducing children to books is important for language development, listening skills, later literacy, and general cognitive potential. Stories expand vocabulary, increase imagination, teach social skills, improve narrative. Reading to your children is good parenting and a good investment in their education and future.

As to how early one is supposed to start reading to children and how long one goes on doing that–the simple answer is: “as early as possible and for as long as kids would let you …”

The more detailed reply is that even newborns find interest in clear patterns and drawings, in contrasting colors, in faces (especially in faces), and pictures of familiar objects. They listen. They pay attention. They track. They make connections between sounds and experience. Unfold an accordion book when the baby is playing on the mat. In the stroller. In the playpen. Give them a soft-book to hold in the stroller or to reach for when they loll on the floor during some ‘tummy time’ (check for lead-free paints and non-toxic materials, of course–babies put everything in their mouth!). Certainly introduce picture books as part of every night routine. Talk about the pictures with your infant, point to familiar animals and items. It is not about testing how much they understand or what words they can say or point to. Rather, it is about having reading books become a link in the nightly ritual of cuddling and comfort, connection, familiarity, language, narrative, and stories.

Babies who are read to often gravitate toward books as playing objects, they leaf through, turn pages, pause, look, and ponder, even as they mouth the corners and tear out what they manage to … (all great motor and visual spatial skills, by the way). They also learn to point, to wait, and to associate pictures with words and sounds. They learn to anticipate the next picture, to predict what’s to come. They learn to trust their memory. They rarely tire of adoring the confirmation of seeing the same picture appear as it did the day prior.

For sure, the repetition can be tedious (you’ll know what I mean when your toddler asks for the same book in the two-thousandth time, and wants to read it “again” and “again” and “more time!”), but it is part of children’s normal development during infancy and toddlerhood to like things repeat. So take a deep breath and even as you introduce new books once in a while, and expand the child’s repertoire of stories, do cave in and read “goodnight moon” one more time …

As for the question of “how long to keep reading to children?” The answer truly is to do so for as long as possible. Many professionals recommend reading to children straight through middle school, and certainly throughout the elementary school years.

It tends to surprise parents when I recommend that. Very often they tell me that they’d stopped reading to the child when he or she learned how to read independently–sometimes during the first or second grade. They thought that the move to independent reading marked the end of “needing to be read to” and in fact often had reading time revert into the time of day when the child read to them … It was almost a rite of passage. A mark of moving into the reading world.

Granted, there’s still plenty of bonding potential in cuddling with your child and witnessing their reading progress. It certainly feels good to the parent to measure their child’s progress … and to a child to know their efforts are appreciated. However, being read to is a very different task than reading aloud as decoding practice. The two have very different goals and encompass very different language levels. The books children read are often matched with their decoding ability, rather than their language level. Also, even in later elementary grades, when reading skills allow children to decode most common words, books are chosen with the child’s comprehension level in mind, not necessarily their exposure to higher linguistic material.

Reading TO children is a whole other world of learning opportunity. It is primarily a listening task and allows the child to relax into the story and delve into language while losing oneself in it. Being read to opens space for a child to draw inferences about connections, context clues, idioms, character descriptions, sequence, cause and effect. It is a time for a child to consider possible outcomes, predict to himself what might happen next, check a hypothesis, internalize some of the story characters, discern who they like and who they don’t, who they may want to be, where, how, why. It opens an opportunity for discussion that is very different than the ‘reading comprehension testing’ that happens with school books or those the child reads independently. The books you read to your child become fodder for conversation and self-discovery: what did they like about the book? what did you? why did so and so do this or that? would you so the same? what is your favorite character? which is mine? how come?

Children who are read to through 8th grade, have larger vocabularies than children who are good readers but are not being read to (and we are talking vocabularies that are larger by tens of thousands of words–not just by a small margin!). As a group, they have better listening skills, better auditory processing and auditory memory skills. They have better narrative skills. They use a more varied lexicon in their own writing. They have bigger cache of idioms and expressions that they can infer meaning about. They can converse better and show wider world-knowledge.

Children who are read to tend to enjoy books better than kids who are not read to. They tend to love reading more. They choose a wider variety of books and have a wider foundation in classical literature (read: the books you read to them may not be books they’d otherwise pick up to read themselves … but having listened to them, they may get the ‘book bug’ to look for more classic literature on their own). Want another bonus? Reading to children improves connection with parents and allows children to feel comfortable talking to their parents more, and about more topics (not to mention that stories often bring up issues that they may otherwise not talk about …)

In some families, reading to each other continues as part of family time well into high-school, with teenagers taking turn in reading aloud. Sure, it may seem odd to consider teens today being gung ho about spending an hour “reading boring books aloud” and being commanded to have their thumbs idle (no music, no chat, no texting). However, for families who started early this is often a natural continuation. In families starting a little later (and it is never too late, actually), the benefits are real even if they are grudgingly (or perhaps never verbally) acknowledged. Having your undivided attention is a precious commodity (yes, you have to put down that phone, too …). Knowing you are listening is priceless. It opens yours even as you raise your child to have a more open mind.

Reading to your children builds your relationship with them while also building their relationship with themselves, their inner worlds, the world around them, and their academic and cognitive abilities. It is truly a ‘one size fits all’ intervention. There are no downsides, other than extra cuddle time, honest conversations, and the distinct possibility of difficult questions about life that literature inevitably brings up.

The only warning necessary is … that reading to your child can damage their ignorance …

reading

 

Listen

a voice

It is the voice of heart

The voice of care

Of here and then and everywhere.

Listen. It is there.

 

It is the voice that speaks the wind that rustles

Through the branches

From the smallest trees

Into the clouds.

Listen. Find its sound.

 

It is the voice of oceans ebbing surf

And twirling foam and shells

Onto changing sands

And sparkling sun.

Listen. All is one.

 

It is the voice of all that does not need

Explaining

And has no demand.

Listen. Understand.

 

It is the voice of who you’re meant to be

And are

And have never quite forgotten.

The voice that hears the broken places

It is the voice that heals.

Listen. Breathe it in, and feel.

 

It is the voice of calm

And nature

The voice of reason that does not hold cause

Or fault

Or worry

Just is.

Listen. Welcome ease.

 

It is the voice without words

That carries worlds within it

The voice of souls connected

Hope restored

The voice of light in flow

tenderly weaving earth and sky above.

Listen. It is the endless call of love.

Be You!

beyourself

“My life is over!” the child’s tone says it all. It has been an especially rough day. He failed a test he’d studied for, got passed over for the team he wanted to play in, and just found out he needed glasses. Oh, and that he’s allergic to dairy. The food he loves most in the world is pizza. Figures.

I could see something was wrong when he came up the stairs with shoulders slumped and legs dragging.  He’s usually content enough to come here, but today the last thing he wanted was to have to spend time after school doing ‘after-school’ learning. He likes me well enough, but in the competition between play-date, video game, movie, or seeing me, I don’t stand a chance. It’s as it should be. I get worried if children prefer coming to me to having spare time or play time or get-home-and-relax time. He’s unusually unhappy to come this time. Or rather, he’s unusually unhappy, and it shows. Make sense that it would. Am glad it can.

“And I’m never ever going to be like everyone else,” he adds, having listed the tally of difficulty, bummers and unfairness.

“Why is it good to be like everyone else?” I ask.

He returns the look I probably deserved–the one reserved for adults who ask stupid questions when they should know better and when the query is not even worthy of the effort of forming a reply.

“Okay, okay …” I chuckle, hands up in trounce. “I didn’t mean it that way. I do, however, truly think that everyone is different and that it fine and often even better that way.”

Eye roll. At least he regained enough energy for sarcasm. “Yeah, sure. But you get to be really different and you end up being weird.

Fair enough.

“And anyway,” he sighs. “I don’t have a choice. Everyone has to do the same stuff at school, and everyone is supposed to get good grades, and be popular and that kind of stuff.”

“Hmm …” (when I say less, the kids tend to say more … I wait).

“School is too hard and it is too boring. And my dad thinks I’m not trying but I am working hard. I’m not a genius or a nerd or something. I’m not good at reading and I suck at math. And science … I failed science … my dad is going to hate me when he finds out.”

I wish I could rush to reassure this boy–barely 11 and already so jaded–that he is not expected to be like everyone else, that he is not expected to excel in everything regardless of his relative strengths, that his perception of needing to be popular is not correct … or that his father would not have a reaction that would crush him. Oh, I know that the father would not hate him, but he can be critical, and he tends to view grades as the only reflection of effort. He would likely see a failed test as an immediate proof of his son not trying hard enough. Even if he does not ‘punish’ him by taking away computer time or confiscating his phone for a weekend, the disappointment alone will devastate this child.

“He doesn’t understand,” the boy adds. His voice catches and he looks away, old enough to have internalized the (mis)conception that tears are somehow yet a marker of weakness. He doesn’t want to show me how much this matters. “I studied really hard and I knew all the notes but then the teacher changed the questions. How was I supposed to know the answers to those?” the color rises in his cheeks, wetness in his eyes. He looks away again.

“I’m sorry,” I say. I mean it. “I know how hard you work and I can see how having different questions–even if it was about the same material–can make it much more difficult. It is hard to figure out what the teacher meant and what the questions are about.” He nods. This boy is not making excuses. He comes to see me because he has difficulty with retrieving information–the access to what he knows is hit-and-miss, his brain behaves more like one big dump of knowledge than a filing cabinet. Information comes in haphazardly and is later hard to recognize or organize. He is smart, and he understands the material. However, change it around and he gets lost.

The teachers only marginally understand it. His father thinks that there’s nothing wrong with his son that a bit more ‘motivation’ won’t fix. It is curious, you might think, that he is that harsh when he admitted to having had learning issues himself. Or maybe not curious at all: people can pass judgement like a hot potato–what they cannot stand to hold, they put onto another. It can be especially so between mother and daughter, between father and son. Mirrors are a painful thing for what one did not accept in oneself and sees reincarnated in their progeny.

“Would you like me to speak with your father?” I offer. I’ve done it before, and it helps some, if temporarily. The father is of the opinion that I am far too soft and that kids wrap me around their little finger and I think they can do no wrong. He is not all that far from the truth, actually. I do believe that softness and kindness get farther and build better than harsh critic and demand. To his credit, the father also respects my opinion, and he does–quite touchingly–love his son. He told me once, in a moment of vulnerability, “I don’t want him to go through what I did. I want him to fit in better. To be a better student than I was. To be like everyone else.” (Yes, the boy now worries about same. Children will take on our fears and worries–they are acutely tuned in to what we think, even if we do not say it. They will know, and take it on)

The boy nods. He looks up at me then, hopefully slightly relieved–if not with the possibility of his father’s understanding, than by being believed. “If it is so good to be different,” he challenges, “what am I good in?”

“What do you think?” (my standard answer-query. I figure, if a child is asking, they already have a hypothesis in mind)

Moment of thought, pursed lips, raised eyebrow. “I’m good at drawing,” he states.

I energetically agree. The cartoons this boy can doodle put my best attempts at stick figures to shame. He smiles. He knows–as I often emphasize to the kids–drawing is not one of my strengths (five-year-olds come to my aid on a regular basis. “Let me do it for you,” the munchkins offer, “you are not very good at that…”). He smiles.

“And at snowboarding,” he adds. I nod. He began snowboarding only the winter before last, and reportedly advanced super fast from level to level. He snowboards with children several years older now. “I want to be a professional snowboarder when I grow up,” he says, the spark back in his eyes, “and wouldn’t it be cool if I drew, like, cartoons of snowboarding stuff, you know, for newspapers and maybe comics and such? I bet I could do that. Would that be awesome stuff?!”

I smile. “That is pretty cool stuff! You have got to do school work because that’s just how it is, and you have to do your best with that. But I am thinking, there are a lot of kids who would love to know to draw as well as you do, and most can’t snowboard half as well as you can.”

He grins. Proud.

“So …,” I note gently, “maybe life is not quite over … and maybe it is not such a bad thing to have some stuff where you are not exactly like everyone.”

hopeis