Read To Remember

Photo prompt © CEAyr

 

“I read to remember,” she said, her voice steel and quiver. “I read because he no longer can and because I know he was, most very likely, reading at the very moment his life stopped, evaporated, in mid-word. I read because mine almost stopped in the loss of him and in the enormity of the awfulness that took him and so many.

“I read to not forget. Because there is a bigger spark in life than in sorrow, and because he never would have left us, and certainly not this way. If it weren’t for the planes.

That September day.”

 

 

Note: Dedicated to all the lost, and to all those who lost so much, and to all that has been changed — insidiously and indelibly for so many — on September 11, 2001. I was here. I remember and I understand why we remember and what we must remember about ourselves and about who we can be. May we hold truth. May we be the better, kinder, more humane version of ourselves.

For Rochelle’s Friday Fictioneers

 

Reading Time

reading time PhilipCoons

Photo: Philip Coons

 

May the words wrap

Around you

In shade and in

Sun.

May a book grab

Inside you

To where stories

Abound.

May good tales sustain

Your

Every heartbeat

And sound.

May you find space

Aplenty

To create

Reading time.

 

 

 

For the Tuesday Photo Challenge: Sculpture

 

English: Tough Enough?

Bel Air Library Baltimore

 

English …

The impossible nuance of words that do not follow through

And rules that leave one without clue

Enough to grow a frown on many brow

As they doggedly attempt to plough

A minefield of delivery so rough

It leaves them justifiably gruff …

 

This video never fails to make me … laugh!

 

New Beginning: Habit & Opportunity

opportunity

“He still won’t read.”

The mother’s voice held disappointment and frustration. Her son struggles in school and was required by teachers to read every day over the summer, but hadn’t.

“I did read!” he protested, pouted. Hurt. “I read two whole books!”

“Only because we made you read!” She retorted and turned to me. “Every day is a new excuse. He’s too tired, the book is boring, it’s too hard, he’ll read later, he hates reading, it is stupid … He’ll do anything to avoid it.”

He stomped to the chair. Sat dejectedly. I patted his arm. “I’m glad you read two whole books,” I said. “Which ones?”

He brightened. Threw a “you see?!” look at his mom, and told me. We discussed what he liked about the stories, what he didn’t. What was hard, what wasn’t. We then went over a list of possible titles to follow.

I scheduled a time to speak with the mom. Her frustrations need venting, and she needs solutions, but we can talk about her disappointment without him needing to be present.

♦♦♦

Every child is different but the complaint is not unique. Children and parents rarely battle over things that are fun and easy. It is the stuff that’s hard, confusing, boring, tedious, or appears to be of import to one side but feels less so to the other … where lines get drawn in the sand and stubborn frustration ensues.

Parents cajole. They threaten. They withhold privileges. They might use shame as ‘motivator’ by characterizing the child as lazy or ungrateful, oppositional, immature …

Not surprisingly, these tactics rarely work to ‘motivate’ learning. Nor do they solve whatever problem underlies a child’s reluctance to read: difficulty decoding, difficulty comprehending, delays in language and learning, issues with processing and retrieval, attention issues, stress and overwhelm …

A new school year is seen as opportunity for new ways of learning, new progress, new habits. Parents expect their children to enter school with gusto after a summer’s break and to give it their all. They often expect improvement of whatever issues may have been present the year prior. They verbally and otherwise communicate their expectation that the child prove himself or herself as mature and hardworking, and overcome whatever habits held them back.

A new grade and new beginning indeed offers much new opportunity for doing things differently. However, for that to happen we cannot fall back on failed methods or less-than-helpful habits. If children knew to do better on their own, they would do so already. No child wants to fail. No child enjoys the negative attention of reproach if they can get the positive attention of pride and praise.

♦♦♦

“So what am I supposed to do?” the mother asked when we met. Exasperated.

“You did the best you could last year, and this year we’ll have to work together to do better,” I replied.

She was taken aback. She didn’t expect me to include her in the assessment of last year’s difficulties …

I did not mean blame, but I did mean accountability. Parents often do the best they know, but they are often overextended themselves, and some don’t quite follow through. They may want to follow suggestions but only do so sporadically, or expect the child to take full responsibility for remembering new tasks that they themselves forget … then feel pressed to blame or require … They may get discouraged at the first sign of difficulty (not unlike the child, maybe …) and not continue to work toward new habits when the implementation hits a bump or scheduling needs to be adjusted. They may balk at taking on more responsibility in a life that may already feel too stressful (again, not unlike the child…).

Parents deserve guidance. Shame does not work any better on adults than it does on children … Parents can use encouragement, not blame. Many can benefit from reminders and a pathway to setting new habits. It is not a weakness or poor parenting to make errors or get frustrated or not follow through. People aren’t perfect. We all need help in some areas.

♦♦♦

For this boy, now in mid-grades, and often argumentative and quite fed up with “everything being too difficult”–new habits will (hopefully) include less fighting and more working together, less demand and more playfulness, less critic and more problem solving, less rigidity and more predictability, less shaming and more understanding.

Practically speaking?

  • Setting a weekly schedule where one of the parents reads TO him every night or almost every night (on the benefits of reading check: How early? For how long? ).
  • Separating the child’s own reading for decoding and school, from the parents reading TO him for literary exposure and pleasure.
  • Taking care to not make a parent’s reading time an opportunity for ‘testing’ vocabulary or memory about the story (talking about the story is fabulous, quizzing is not).
  • For books mandatory for school (but too difficult for the child’s reading level), using audio books as accompaniment to printed/electronic book. This helps the child follow the written word and assist him with decoding and comprehension.
  • Placing reminders for reading-time and having a timer he can set to ensure he is reading long enough and can do this independently.
  • Scheduling daily reading (for school and book logs) at a time that is realistic, rather than opportunistic.
  • Providing assistance with homework and/or test preparation, so that the child is not left to manage what is too difficult on his own, and ends up too stressed and exhausted to optimally process information.
  • Incorporating narrative into the day to day and offering modeling of narrative instead of requiring the child to constantly answer questions.
  • Offering a model for making time for reading. Adults who read are more likely to have children who enjoy reading.
  • Setting the child up for success, not failure: rather than focusing on a day he didn’t read or what he isn’t doing well yet, offer praise when he does do his reading without arguing; remind the child what worked before and what he can try to do again; offer solutions, not reprimand.

♦♦♦

In this new school year, what old and less than desirable habits can your child replace with brand new opportunity?

What steps can you take to help?

If you need help to formulate a plan–it is okay to ask for it. That, too, is an opportunity.

reading-extinction-buzzfeed

from Buzzfeed.com

 

 

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!

Rules? What Rules?

A friend sent me this photo, taken 1910 … and I thought, it was the best BEST example ever, of bending the rules … (or at least those rules that make no sense beyond to those who made them … )

 

livefree

I was reminded of it today, after speaking with a young boy who complained that he got into trouble–yet again–for breaking “another of the teacher’s stupid rules.”

The boy’s mother had her mouth already open to reprimand him for using a word one ‘should not say’ in the context of one’s educators … but I gave her one of my ‘please don’t’ looks … and she took a deep breath and nodded.

“What kind of rules?” I asked.

“Stupid ones,” he grumbled. Then seeing that I was actually waiting to hear an example, he sighed. “Like not being allowed to hold our pencils while we’re reading. She keeps taking points off when I break the rule.”

“Did she tell you why she doesn’t want you to do that?”

“I don’t know,” he shrugged, “because she said so?”

I chuckled. “Fair enough … sometimes grownups say that you should not do things just because they say so … but I was wondering if she ever actually told you why. Sounds to me she maybe has a reason–maybe kids play with their pencils? Drop them a lot and it is distracting? Doodle in the books?”

The boy peered at me with a look that let me know that I have just lost about 200 points of coolness in his view along with several dozen in the IQ department. “Sometimes we’re supposed to write in our books,” he stated, “… anyway, if she said it was for that it would make sense, sort of” he added. “I don’t drop mine. I just hold it. She doesn’t want us to hold the pencils just because.”

I raised an eyebrow. “Just because?”

“Yeah,” he stressed. “She said that we don’t need a pencil in our hands for our brain to read…” the boy pouted. “How does she know what my brain needs for reading? What if the pencil reminds my brain what the letters are?”

Point made.

I actually could see how it could do that.

I told the little guy that if it helps him to hold the pencil when he’s reading, to go ahead and do so.

He looked at me, suspicious. “It’ll get me in trouble.”

“Not if you tell her that I told you it’s okay for you to keep holding it if it helps your brain.” I smiled, more than a tad conspiring.

His eyes grew large, and the grin that followed had enough wattage to light up Manhattan’s night sky.

 

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

 

Write the breathing of your heart

writebreathe

People ask me how I find the time to write. Though I know they often come from a true query, it never fails to puzzle me … For I don’t see how I could not find the time, when to me writing is like breathing. Writing is my heartbeat.

“How do you find the time to breathe?” I want to ask them back. “How do you make time to see, or hear, or learn, or live, or laugh?”

My heart beats in words. It strings them into sentences and puts them forth into the keyboard or the page. There is magic in writing, certainly. It is not something to claim to own but to allow the flow of. It has in it old life and lives that never happened or might or have not yet been found. It embroiders the fine threads of reality and mystery, interwoven as they are through the uncountable miles of words already written by those who came before: their words that I’ve read, their books that scratched their essence into my soul and changed me, the writers who forged manuscripts out of molten core, the teachers who chiseled rawness into finery, the poets who strung words into daisy chains of soul.

It is a force of nature, writing is. A cumulative tide. A mirror of what is and what could be and what still is hoped for. It is a pool of stillness and a roiling sea.

Writing does gather light from the eyes that read it. Through them it reflects the recognition of what unites all spirits, amplifies the rhythm of all hearts, connects the pace of tides, anchors the pull of moons into the hopes and dreams and grime and steepest climbs. Reading eyes infuses writing with continued life. It strengthens words that last into tomorrow. It is as it should be. Writing is meant to be read.

In its nascent state; however, writing unfurls shoots of new breath into pages for the pure joy of its birthing. It evolves for the very marvel of the stem unbending and the leaves uncurling and the buds of something that could never be imagined until it came through, come true.

“Where do you find the time to write?” I’m asked. “I wish I had the time to write, as you do,” some say. “It must be wonderful to be able to make time for writing,” they comment.

And I don’t know the answer for the ‘where’ or ‘how’ or ‘when’ questions. Nor do I have the key for finding more time (though I wish I did, with writing a vast ocean and only splattered drops finding their way into the daily grind). I do not know where one finds more time for living, when life happens to move through already, interlocking stories as we go. The wonder of the writing I do get, however. The deep gratitude for being allowed the magic in the heartbeat, in life’s pace.

“Writing is like breathing,” I want to tell them. “I can no more cease to do it than I can hold my breath. Oh, for a moment, surely, but not much more. For the words fight back and breathe me and sneak out … as they should. They are my heartbeat. The pulse that crosses time and space to hold together human thought, invention, wonder; life.”

I write because I breathe.

Why do you write?

dandelion

Finding the Ability in Disability

This is a wonderful talk. Inspiring, and well worth the time. Rachel Kolb does a brave, important thing in this talk. Watch it, and let your children watch it, too. Tell your colleagues. If you are a teacher–it is a must. If you work with children–watch it. You will be happy that you had.

Navigating deafness in a hearing world

It is a talk about deafness, but it is not only about deafness. It is about abilities and what we can do and what we worry we cannot and how this in of itself can limit us. It is also about the realities of difference and the many challenges that children (and families) face. It is about the barriers for communication and interaction and how they manifest throughout the domain. It is about the scope of issues that cascade from deafness (and can from other disabilities, as well).

It is about a lot of what still needs to change, and can. In 90% of families of deaf children born to hearing parents, the parents do not learn to communicate effectively (i.e. sign) with their child. Deaf children born to hearing parents are less likely to develop fluent writing skills than those born to deaf parents. It is the result of a fundamental misunderstanding. Where communication suffers, attachment suffers, and abilities suffer. Communication MATTERS.

“Never put limitations on that child,” the Speech Therapist of a then 18 months old Rachel Kolb told her mother. I like that clinician without ever having met her! Because she was right, and because she said Truth: we never do know how far a child would go, and we must give them the tools and support to get there. Not every child will reach the same goals, but we owe it to them to not impose our own limited view onto them.

As for that Speech Therapist–Oh Boy, was she right about Rachel Kolb! This young woman soars! She chooses how to use the abilities she does have, and she uses them spectacularly. This is one wonderfully unlimited woman! You’d be happy to have made the time to listen.

Listen to this talk. It may reassure you that you are on the right path if you are struggling or helping someone else who is. It may help you truly realize how not all differences in perceived ability mean differences in actual ability. It may improve your understanding of the challenges that hearing impaired persons face, and through them, the realities of other limitations. It may help your children understand the difference between accommodating and ‘indulging’, and how someone’s need for help does not mean they cannot think for themselves or should be seen as lesser than.

It is an amazing talk. Instructive, intelligent, impressive.

It WILL inspire you.

For those wondering: eighteen years of Speech Therapy is a long time. It is also not that unusual for people with severe and profound hearing loss to require that amount of time in therapy. This is not because they are slow to learn, but the act of communication is multifaceted and complex and what we take for granted is difficult to do with much reduced and distorted sound. Hearing impaired persons need help not just learn to speak and improve the clarity of their speaking, but also to speech-read (understand what a person is saying from the movement of their lips and face), to discriminate close-sounding words, to learn to rely on context, to identify new words and learn the difference between how they are written and how they are said (and heard/speech-read). They need to keep up with the realities of underlying information in language (e.g. expressions, ambiguous language, discrimination between words that sound the same to them). They work hard in Speech Therapy and they can do exceedingly well, if given the chance.

Rachel Kolb is deaf. But she is not limited. She’s been given the chance and she’s grabbed hold with two hands and then some. There were those she met in who were limited, however. Not deaf, but limited in their vision and understanding. Like the riding instructor who told her that she would never learn to ride. Or others who judge her for her voice without listening to what she has to say. It is them who have a sort of deafness, I suppose. It is them who were limiting, and in that they were limited.

Lets us not be limited. Let children grow limitless in their ability to work hard, master skills, and achieve the best they can do, not the best we think they should be able to.

Find the ability, and the sky is the limit.

Why do YOU read?

How do you use reading? How does reading handle, challenge, comfort, startle, change, use … you?

Do you read for pleasure? Do you read when you are sad? Do you read for inspiration?

Just for school, research, work-stuff, projects? (if so then that is quite a bit depressing, really, I am sorry it is that bad …) 

Do you read for passing time? Do you read for friendship? Do you read to seek ideas? Do you read to make good use of waiting, lines, your travel? Do you read to undo boredom? Do you read because you can? Do you read to keep on current or to discover what had happened during times before your time? Do you read for imagination? Do you read to reconnect? Do you read for knowledge, wisdom, thought provoking, prayer, fate? Do you read for all these reasons and read some more for just in case?

Do you read books, magazines, publications, journals, newspapers, memos, menus, t-shirt logos, signs? Do you re-read old notebooks, older letters? Do you read your children’s homework, the funnies of another, bits of stickies left in library books by mysterious someones?

Do you read for comfort?
Do you read for hope?
Do you read to understand?

Do you read because it matters? Do you read because you must? Do you read for words you’re learning? Do you read to learn to live or to prepare better how to die? Do you read for things you did not know and need to? Do you read for what you wish you did not need to know yet should not be look away from or deny? Do you read for group discussion? Do you read to share a page? Do you read to walk along the ones who placed the letters onto page and screen and paced into your life?

Do you read a child to sleep? Do you read to calm an elder, to apologize, to woo a loved one? Do you read to spark an interest? Do you read for laughter, for redemption, a good cry? Do you read as prayer or as meditation? Do you read to find a path to bigger pictures, wider seeing, deeper meaning, brighter skies?

Do you read to find your own voice? Do you read for vision?

Or like me, do you read for all of those reasons … as well as for the simple fact that you are addicted to the human language and cannot, would not, do not want to, ever stop …?

ihaveread