Do you believe that your words matter? Sometimes, when viewing the massive number of available books, podcasts, blogs, TikToks, Reels, etc., I assume that my words are insignificant, that they only add to the cacophony around us without making an impact. When I start to feel like that though I find that I’m looking in the wrong direction. When I fall into thinking, “I don’t matter,” I realize that I’m forgetting whom I matter to. One of my favorite Bible verses is I Peter 4:11, “If anyone speaks, they should do so as one who speaks the very words of God.” (NIV) This is referring to those with the gift of speaking but I think also applies to those of us who have the freedom to share and speak or write to others as an ambassador of Christ. In some versions, the word oracles is used. An oracle is one through whom the gods speak. In writing to the believers of the early church, Peter is conjuring up imagery and wording that would have been familiar with this imagery. Peter is challenging believers to speak as though they are speaking God’s words. That’s quite the challenge! Too often we speak our own words acting like they are God’s words. We put our words in His mouth instead of putting His Word in our mouths.
Recently, I was discussing the web-like connectivity of the Bible. An example of this connectivity is the idea that we need God to be the foundation and sustainer of our lives. The Israelites were told to collect manna every day and that to only collect what they need for that day other than the Sabbath. Jesus alludes to this when he asks for daily bread (Matthew 6:11) as well as later when he tells his followers not to worry about tomorrow because today has enough troubles (Matthew 6:34). We can cast our cares on the Lord and He will sustain us (Psalm 55:22) like the wise man who built his house upon a rock (Matthew 7:24). The idea of only speaking God’s words is not isolated to I Peter 4:11. Psalm 19:14 “Let the words of my mouth and the meditation of my heart be acceptable in your sight, O Lord, my rock and my redeemer.” We are to hide God’s Word in our hearts and meditate upon it because we can’t speak words we don’t know. Have you ever been in a conversation with a group of people who have all seen and loved a movie you have not yet seen? Their entire conversation becomes quotations from the movie as you realize you have no frame of reference for these quotations. If you tried to quote the movie it would quickly become apparent you don’t know what you’re talking about. You haven’t memorized the lines. You haven’t made the quotes from the movie part of your everyday language. (Lest you think I’m exaggerating about movie quotes being part of language, I dare you to think of the word inconceivable without coming around to thinking about the Princess Bride.)
So what about you? Do you know God’s words well enough to quote them? I struggle with memorization but have good comprehension. I love doing what I did above and finding connections between verses and peppering my writing and speaking with them. I like to read multiple passages over and over to help me understand and absorb more. Before speaking at an event or counseling with students, I pray that I would only speak God’s words. This isn’t some weird mystical thing, it’s just making sure what I’m saying aligns with God’s Word. Before a salesman goes out into the field he needs to make sure that he knows the product he is speaking about and trying to sell. If he is misinformed it will reflect poorly upon the company he is representing. Political leaders pick their own ambassadors because they want people who will represent them well.
Your words matter. You impact the world with your words. You will be held accountable for your words. Lest you think you are off the hook because you are not a speaker or writer, I will remind you that your words on social media matter - and not just what you write but also what you share from someone else. Your words to the sales person at the store or your server at a restaurant matter. Most of the world is short staffed and it’s easy to become impatient, but Christians are called to be the light of the world. We can demonstrate our love for others and our willingness to be different simply by being kind.
In my life, there have been many dreary days when the sun did not shine and it was too wet to go out and too cold to play ball. On those days I could read and travel around the globe with books. Sometimes I went to places that were real and sometimes I traveled into Narnia or Wonderland. In my travels, I discovered that from there to here, from there to there, funny things are everywhere.
When I grew up I became a teacher and had students who would rather eat green eggs and ham than read. They wouldn’t read in a box or with a fox, in a house or with a mouse, but with some work most discovered that they liked reading everywhere.
March is celebrated as Reading Month by schools and families across the country. Special days and contests are designed to help students discover the joys of reading. We celebrate reading in March because March 2, is the birthday of Ted Geisel, better known as Dr. Seuss. Geisel did much to expand the library of children’s literature by creating high-interest stories as an author-illustrator as well as the editor of Beginner Books. He worked with P.D. Eastman and Stan and Jan Berenstain to create a library of titles that would motivate children to read including Go, Dog, Go and Old Hat New Hat. One of his requirements was that the illustration on the page had to match the words to help struggling readers self-correct.
This year, the day is being swallowed up by controversy about the work of Dr. Seuss. I’ve seen more posts about the controversy than I have about reading month! So here’s my plan of action - I’m going to move forward without heeding any of the articles because they don’t affect me and I doubt they affect you. One story states that a school district in Virginia is dropping Dr. Seuss and another states that six books will no longer be published. Although I have opinions about these issues, neither announcement has any immediate effect on my life. I don’t live in Virginia and I already own a copy of And to Think That I Saw It On Mulberry Street.
Andy Warhol predicted a world where everyone would be famous for fifteen minutes. I’ve seen people achieve those minutes in a variety of ways but it seems like a current popular method is to cancel something. People start sharing their approval or disapproval and soon it’s all anyone can talk about. But what happens then? We aren’t talking about the benefits of reading, rather we are arguing and fighting for something that really has no impact on us. I’ve seen many shares of the anti-Seuss campaign with great consternation and while this is understandable it has to stop. Social media gives you a positive feedback loop so the majority of what you see affirms your own viewpoints. This gets us nowhere. I strongly encourage you to read “The Zax.” It’s only a few pages long and can be found in The Sneetches and Other Stories. (That whole book is incredibly relatable right now. In “The Sneetches,” Sylvester McMonkey McBean takes advantage of the Sneetches by exploiting their desires and encouraging divisiveness.) In “The Zax,” a North-Going Zax and a South-Going Zax run into each other while walking across an open plain. Neither would deviate from their course and so they stayed butting heads for a couple of years until the growing world grew around them. Arguing with people on social media feels like that. I can argue and refuse to deviate course but what will that accomplish?
So today, I’m asking you to join me. Don’t be a Zax. Don’t let Sylvester McMonkey McBean manipulate you. Pick up a book and read. If you can, read a Dr. Seuss book aloud today. Luke (age 2) was delighted by Green Eggs and Ham this afternoon and I plan on reading and discussing some of The Sneetches and Other Stories with Logan this evening. Read The Lorax and discuss conservation or read The Butter Battle Book and discuss nuclear proliferation. For a taste of what it feels like to age read You’re Only Old Once, but follow it up with something positive and inspiring like Horton Hatches an Egg.
I know it’s upsetting to read about things “getting canceled” but you don’t have to participate. No one is coming for my books (yet) so I’m going to fight back against cancel culture by going around the “other Zax” and sharing my love for reading and learning with others. At night, don’t spend time fretting over what others are doing or refusing to do, rather inspire those whom you have the ability to influence then lay your head down saying, “Today is gone. Today was fun. Tomorrow is another one. Every day, from here to there, funny things are everywhere.”
We are in the midst of a polarizing political season. Facebook and Twitter are full of very angry people trying to convince others to agree with them, or more often crititizing those who don't agree with them. People shout and yell then they feel good when they get likes and shares which bolsters their viewpoint. They forget that the platforms’ algorithms show users what they want to see which causes further polarization. I make a habit of following others whom I do not agree with in order to get a broader perspective of the issues. I constantly go back to God’s Word as my foundational belief before proceeding with any belief.
Although this has been a long time concern, I have been noticing it growing increasingly worse. Individuals who may agree with a group on an issue are being attacked for not being zealous enough or for deviating from the party line. The concern is that these people who feel marganilized and attacked will fail to participate in the voting process at all.
Based on the conversations I’ve had with many people lately I’ve compiled a list of things that make me say, “You lost me,” when I see your political post. These are things that make my respect for people’s viewpoints diminish and weakens future ideas you promote. Please read these and share if you agree. I don’t think I’m alone here. You lost me when . . .
So what can you do to persuade others to agree with you? Well, in all honesty, in some cases, nothing. Some people, despite your best efforts and the best arguments, will never agree with you. So don’t waste your time arguing with them. Move on. If you have to get along with them because they are a co-worker, neighbor, family member, etc. find common ground and meet them there. However, there are people searching for answers and looking for direction. Here are some ways that you can influence them.
So, there it is. I have been purposefully vague regarding specific candidates. My purpose in discussing politics isn’t to debate the 2020 election but to encourage others, particularly believers in Christ to do so with compassion and critical thinking. Now more than ever it is important to be a light in the darkness of this fallen world.
In just a few days Hamilton: An American Musical will be debuting on Disney+. When I first heard this news I was elated. I’ve seen the stage production in Chicago twice and listened to the original cast recording many times. I wanted to take the time today to tell you a little about it before it airs on a streaming service with so much content for children.
If you have Disney+, you know it’s great. The vault has been opened and users have access to (almost) all the movies Disney has created. That said, it is important to keep in mind that not all movies on the service are appropriate for children. Some, like superhero movies, are violent and not appropriate for small children.
Which brings us back to Hamilton. As I said before, I thoroughly enjoy the musical but always shudder when I see young kids listening or attending. Here’s why. There are several objectionable elements that make the musical inappropriate for young kids.
He concludes that he wrote his own successes in the past and decides to do it again. This time his writing exposes his family to shame and he finds that he can not write himself out of every situation. Later in the song “It’s Quiet Uptown” Hamilton receives forgiveness from his wife and we see a beautiful example of redemption. I’ve heard immature listeners quote “Hurricane” as a type of mantra but that lacks the understanding of its place in the story.
So, there are the negatives. With all that you may be saying, “Um, Edy, why are you a fan of this show?” Yes, there are negatives. But there are many parts of this musical that lead me to rank it up with my favorites including The Phantom of the Opera and Les Miserables.
We just finished school last Friday. Normally, I’d be posting our summer bucket list and sharing a list of places we planned to visit as well as lists of activities we planned to accomplish. I would have done this in early May but this year is going to look very different. Our governor extended the stay at home order for our area until June 12. Whether or not we agree with that choice, it has a major impact on our plans. Museums, zoos, etc., may not be open so this year there is no point in adding them to a bucket list. Many of these places offer virtual tours, but we haven’t been able to embrace those in the same way we can get excited about visiting in person.
In past years we’ve had the Summer of Go and Grow, the Summer of Adventure, the Summer of Exploring, and so on. How do I create a summer bucket list when there is no chance of adventure, exploring, or going? Well, after listening to our pastor’s sermon about Psalm 34 I decided to plan the Summer of Radiance. Psalm 34:5 says that those who look to the Lord are radiant. Radiant is defined as “(1) emitting rays of light; shining; bright: (2) bright with joy, hope, etc.: Jesus said he is the light of the world. When I try to be the light of the world I fail miserably. My lights power source quickly grows dim and I burn out quickly. But Jesus IS the light of the world. When I radiate His light I don’t grow weary because I’m no longer responsible to be the source of the light.
This summer our goal will be to radiate God’s love to the world. It feels like now more than ever we need to be a light in the darkness. Murder, violence, hatred are all too common. Although we all need a break now and then, the culture of entertainment is not healthy. Our days are not just about entertaining ourselves but we were created to fulfill a beautiful purpose. That purpose, what we call God’s will for our lives, cannot be accomplished if we focus on making ourselves happy. This summer we want Logan to see that there is satisfaction, fulfillment, and joy to be found in serving God by learning to care for the things God has provided for us and by learning to care for others.
So here’s our list:
Study logical fallacies critical thinking skills
Write letters to family and friends
Learn to plan and cook a dinner
Watch the Cosby Show
Build a river in the yard
Read the 100 Cupboards series
Learn how to wash the car by hand
Go for a hike
Build a bat house
Ride bikes to Rochester
Build a squirrel picnic table
Perform 5 random acts of kindness
Build a stand for Mikhail Gorbachev (the betta fish)
Finish Big Life Journal
Go (alone) to Ace Hardware
Learn to tie a tie
Plant a forest garden
I'm currently reading a book called Oh, Ranger! It is a collection of stories and essays written by National Park Rangers. I was moved by an essay written by Shelton Johnson, an African-American National Park Service ranger. While looking through photographs at Yosemite's research library he found a photograph of 25 African-Amerian soldiers who had protected the land from ranchers who were grazing their animals on park land. Their names are not recorded but these soldiers protected Yosemite until they were relieved by another regiment who noted their excellent service. Often African-American men would choose to serve in the military because it was one of the few jobs that provided a pension available to them. That said, they still failed to receive proper respect. Ranger Johanson wrote them a letter thanking them for their service and for allowing himself to be caught up in their story. I found the ending particularly poignant:
"Thank you for clearing the trail that I followed 100 years later. You cannot imagine how your passage has made my journey infinitely easier, as I hope mine will be for those who follow."
My heart hurts when I read stories about violence against others because of how they look. These stories go back for hundreds of years and involve all sorts of people. They are sad, dark, and full of hate. Do you hate these stories too? Perhaps, like those soldiers who protected Yosemite, we can do some things to make the journey of those who follow us a bit easier.
If you ran yesterday and posted about in on social media, good for you. Now keep running. Keep moving. Call someone in an elected office. Create a petition. Volunteer to help others. Look each person you meet in the eyes and see them as a life created for a purpose.
One of my favorite preschool memories is Jay asking Maddie what color her new baby was going to be, brown or white. Maddie, whose mom was very pregnant, was the only fair-skinned child out of my 10 students. She looked around the room and said, “I don’t know, probably brown.” They honestly didn’t know why our skin looks the way it does. It appeared to be about statistics to them and asking about it was as casual as asking a friend to pass the playdough.
Aging robs us of the innocence of youth but it doesn’t have to rob us of our curiosity. Below I’ve provided a list of books that have helped me get into the lives and experiences of those whose heritage I do not share. True these are fiction, but the experiences of the characters are very real. I, like Ranger Johnson, thank those who have come before me. I come from a line of curious and compassionate people. My wish is that my life will pave the way for future generations to share God’s love with the world as I try, yet often fail, to do.
Copper Sun by Sharon Draper
Elijah of Buxton by Christopher Paul Curtis
The Watsons Go to Birmingham, 1968 by Christopher Paul Curtis
Stella by Starlight by Sharon Draper
Finding Someplace by Denise Lewis Patrick
Chains by Laurie Hase Anderson
Brown Girl Dreaming by Jacquline Woodson
Roll of Thunder Hear My Cry by Mildred Taylor
A Long Walk to Water by Linda Sue Park
Underground by Jean Ferris
Several years ago while scrolling through Pinterest, I saw the quote “Stop the glorification of busy,” and I liked it, but I never let it sink into my life. Growing up in a Christian home I heard the word glorify often in my church and Christian school. I knew what it meant when it applied to God, but recently I’ve unpacked it more thoroughly.
Today's Word: Glorification
Five syllables. Pronounced [glawr-uh-fi-key-shuh n]. noun. Defined on Dictionary.com as the act of glorifying or the state of being glorified. The Bible talks extensively about giving glory to God. We are told that whether we are eating, drinking, or whatever we are doing it should all be to God’s glory. Glory is defined by Dictionary.com as to give adoring praise to something. Glorification is the act of giving glory.
So how do you feel about busy? Try this experiment. Tell someone you have a busy weekend and see what they say back. People love comparing busy. Tell them you’re going to sporting events for each of your three children, attending an event at the library, and going to your grandma’s birthday and they’ll tell you about the six sporting events, two birthday parties, and the cooking class they have squeezed into the weekend. I’ve decided to stop playing this game. This doesn’t mean I don’t have a lot going on. There are seasons and days where there are many things to do. During Christmas, I want to do ALL THE THINGS! See the lights, visit family, catch up with friends, decorate, the list goes on and on! There’s nothing intrinsically wrong with being busy, but when we glorify it we are putting our focus on the wrong thing.
When we give our praise and adoration - How do you do it all? - to "busy" we are focusing on the person. Rather than “God has given me the energy, health, and resources to accomplish this,” we focus on, “I have to do these things to fit in or to be a good parent or to make my kid succeed.” (I really struggle with this last one. God is slowly and painfully teaching me that I can’t in any way MAKE Logan succeed. Only he can do that.) Busy also makes me look at others and how they manage their lives instead of looking to Christ. So often I’ve asked other moms, “How do you do it all?” but what I’m really doing is comparing my failures to do “all the things” and seeking to find success in a way that God hasn’t planned for me. This self-focus drives me inward instead of driving my thoughts upward.
For the last several months I’ve been working as a nanny for very dear friends of ours. The baby is absolutely adorable and so incredibly good. Despite the relative ease of this situation, I’ve been unhappy at times. I see other people doing things I love such as teaching and I want to be there so badly. They are running around going, going, going and I’m not in that place. Staying home can very challenging because I feel like I don’t accomplish anything. I do laundry, wash dishes, clean up spilled toys, then the next day I have to do it all over again. I realized that I was longing for busy. Our culture values the production of something which leaves stay-at-home moms (and nannies) feeling like we aren’t contributing to the world.
In the past few months, as I’ve been unpacking this concept of savoring life and avoiding busy, I’ve learned that life isn’t about accomplishing things on a to-do list. God has brought this little guy into my life and he is a precious soul that I get to spend time with on a regular basis. So what if “play hide and seek” isn’t a product that I can showcase or sell? He is learning object permanence and having a marvelous time doing it. I accomplish nothing for myself when I sit with Logan and his homework, but I am teaching him perseverance and demonstrating my love for him. Yesterday he even identified adverbs and adjectives with ease which felt like something worthy of great celebration. When I stop glorifying busy and start glorifying God with my life I find great joy and peace.
This doesn’t mean I can sit back and hit the snooze button on life though. I no longer feel the need to justify my schedule to others, but instead, I try to see it as God sees it. When my calendar is run through that filter, things line up differently; to be honest it is quite daunting. Who am I helping? Why am I going there? Which of the calendar activities is best? But I rest in knowing that I am prayerfully doing my best and that is the best I can do.
How is your schedule? Do you feel worn down? A friend passed on a quote to me the other day and I absolutely loved it. “If you get tired, learn to rest, not quit.” Isn’t that great? Jesus said, “Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy and my burden is light." These verses always bring me peace because Jesus didn’t say, “Pull yourself together and grab a cup of coffee. Go do the things.” Instead, he said that He will give us rest. As you finish this likely hectic week, I’ll be praying that you find rest in Christ and that you don’t let "busy" steal your joy.
In late November our family traveled to Italy. Our trip actually started last summer when out of the blue Jason asked, “Do you want to go to Italy?” I thought about it for 1.5 seconds and gave a resounding, “YES!” I knew the trip would make Christmas all the more hectic because we would “lose” days for activities and shopping, but I also knew how our family needed time to grow and bond.
One of my favorite parts of any trip is the anticipation of adventure. I knew that we were flying into Milan and that we would visit a few cities in the surrounding area. Other than that I was leaving everthing up to my travel expert of a husband who had worked out the details. He arranged our lodging and purchased our entry into the Ferrari museum in Modena. I looked up some museums and cultural activities but didn’t book anything specific. When we talked about what we were most excited about, we always agreed that it would be eating.
We left Detroit on Thanksgiving Day and after arriving in Milan we set out for Verona. Yes, THAT Verona - the one where Shakespeare’s Romeo and Juliet is set. Despite being exhausted, we explored for a few hours then we grabbed some lunch. Logan picked out a thick piece of pizza and Jason and I chose a pizza to share. I was excited, but at the same time wondering if this heavy meal would leave my stomach overstuffed and add to my exhaustion. I could not have been more wrong. Logan’s thick slice of pizza crust was light and flaky. Ours wasn’t quite as light, but still much lighter than any pizza dough I had ever tasted. We sat in the shop to eat and complimented the chef on our way out.
Every meal was absoulutly delectable, but it wasn’t only the food that left us wanting more. It was the way they eat. Meals are slow. Guests are welcomed into the restaurant and offered a table knowing there is no rush or crowd of hungry diners waiting behind them. Nothing is rushed. Drinks and chips are brought out right away then you choose what to order. We shared appetizers as we sat and looked at the menu options. With food like Parma ham and parmesean cheese you must savor the deleciate flavors. Both are aged and contian all kinds of interesting notes that must be savored to truly appreciate. We chatted with our servers about recommendations and sometimes they had questions about where we lived. The portions were smaller than typical American restaurants but they were far from small. Most of the food is made in house. At The Enzo in Modena we visited a mom and pop restaurant that was literally run by mom and pop. (See photos.) Much of this experience is similar to high-end American restaurants, but we observed (and were occasionally frustrated by) one glaring difference. Cafes and restaurants only took in a certain number of diners then closed. Once a restaurant is full they refuse anyone else. The guests who have been seated can eat and talk the rest of the night.
It didn’t take long to notice something else; they have very little food, if any, that is sub-par. American food stores, particularly convenience stores, offer a great deal of food that is meant to be consumed on the go. Most of this food, if we really consider it, is not that great. When is the last time you truly savored the delicate flavors of a fast food meal? Maybe it’s just me, but I usually eat fast food when I’m unable due to time to prepare a meal or we are traveling and it’s the only option. I LIKE what I eat, but when I’m done I rarely feel pleased with how my body feels after a heavy combo meal.
Look at the photo above. This is the breakfast display at a rest area along the highway. This is not a fancy cafe. This is a rest area. Notice anything? On one side there are sandwiches made with fresh bread with cured meats, fresh lettuce tomatoes, and onions. On the other there are pastries and these are not previously frozen. (I always opted for the croissant filled with Nutella.) Behind the counter is the coffee bar where the baristas were busy at work making espressos and cappuccinos. After ordering you would receive your food and coffee, but the coffee does not in our accustomed “to-go” packaging. Throughout the small rest area, people crowded around counter-height tables and drank their coffee while talking. They looked at each other in the eye and looked at the food they were eating.
This may seem like a slight difference, but according to medical journals, distracted eating can causes us to find less satisfaction in our food and to eat more than necessary later in the day. What we saw while in Italy was a focus on food that by simple content is deemed "unhealthy" by American standards, but the time we spent eating, the focus we gave to our food, and the miles we walked around before and after eating all made a significant impact on our bodies digestion of the food. Stress - including the stress of "EAT! We have to get yoru work done!" - increases cortisol levels which can cause weight gain among other major health concerns. Trying to remove distractions from eating is harder than it sounds. So much of our eating is done while on our way to other activities or while in front of a screen that as I'm trying to break this habbit in my own life I am really having trouble. It's hardest when it's just Logan and I. Sometimes we play a game to allow us to interact in a special way that sets our dinner time together apart from the rest of the time we are together. This is still a distraction, but not in the same way as more of our brains are activated.
The contrast of our relaxing time with the ridiculously hectic Christmas season was glaring. I did my best to keep up without becoming overwhelmed. Ever since returning home we've been cutting back on activiteis that keep us feeling "busy." I like being active and am always on the go, but I don't like the feeling of busy. Busy feels like just doing a lot of things because that is what is expected. Active feels like doing many things because we are in an active season of life. Part of living an intentional life is removing activities that we do “just because.” I don’t care if everyone else is doing it or if we’ve always done it that way. I want to look at all our activities and ensure they are absolutely necessary. I refuse to accept that God’s plan for me or my family is to feel busy, exhausted, and unhealthy. If our life requires us to regularly eat fast food in the car to keep up with everything we are doing we will be reevaluating our choices and dropping a few things.
Now, I need to admit an obvious bias and I don’t want to sound as though I am hating on America or others who live a fast paced lifestyle. First, the obvious bias during our Italy trip was that we were on vacation. We didn’t have homework to rush through and we didn’t have to get to work. Our mindset was more relaxed and we were exploring something completely new. Also, the busy American lifestyle has made America a leader among the nations. We take up engineering and technological challenges and succeed where others have not. Unfortunately, that tireless work is exhausting us and leaving us with crippling health problems. My interest in rethinking the pace of our lives is not to stop us from achieving success, but rather to allow us time to rest physically, emotionally, and spiritually. Carving out healthy time is no easy task, but it is very much worth the effort.
Are you frustrated by busyness or are you happy with your pace of life? What are your tips for savoring your food as well as savoring the time spent with family and friends?
I recently had the amazing opportunity to present at a teacher's convention. This particular convention included Christian educators from all over the Great Lakes Region. I presented about World War I and about teaching history with a Biblical worldview. I think I'm supposed to be all calm and professional about it, but can I just say -- THAT WAS SO MUCH FUN!!! I got to talk to teachers and talk about nerdy history stuff and it was just the best! Okay, back to sounding like a calm adult. I would relish any other opportunities to speak to groups in the future should the opportunity arise.
Although my presentations weren't specifically about reading books, I had stacks of books to recommend at each. I see immense benefits in students reading across a broad spectrum of genres and topics. Reading allows students to take their education into their own hands and study what they are interested in. Because we all differ so much in personality, it is always difficult if not impossible to find books that please everyone. When teaching 6th-grade reading, I used a method that I learned from Donalyn Miller in The Book Whisper. I assigned a total of 36 books for my students to read throughout the school year. I know this sounds daunting, but here's how it worked.
I used this method for three years and saw immense success. Pitfalls could arise so it's important for each teacher using this program to consider the definition of success that best matches their goals. My goal was to encourage literacy and get students reading. I had some students that only managed to read 5 or 10 books. I saw this as a win. As long as they noted everything and turned it in they at least got a C grade. (By the way, a C is and is acceptable. I'll write about that another day.)
I also allowed and even encouraged students to read graphic novels. Nathan Hale writes fantastic graphic novels in the historical fiction genre. Some graphic novels, such as Snow White, have little to no words but tell a compelling story. I would talk with students and make sure they understood the symbolism and picked up on the literary devices the author employed in the illustrations. Learning to "read" pictures is a very powerful tool especially in this day when images are king.
For my class, success equaled books consumed. And did my students consume books! During the 2015-16 school year, I had 52 students and we read over 1,400 books. Below, you can see a picture of our book chain. So that's how I taught reading. I got to read and learn with the students and we all grew. Maybe it isn't for every classroom, but I can't imagine my life without this experience.
What was your classroom reading experience like as a middle school and high school student? Comment below and let me know.
Today's wonder word isn't unusual or rarely used like spanghew or defenestration, but it is one one of my favorite words so I'll get right to it.
Today's Words: Curious, Curiosity, Curiously
Curious: Three syllables. Pronounced [kyoor-ee-uhs] Adjective. Defined by the OAD as eager to know or learn something
Curiosity: Five syllables. Pronounced [kyoo r-ee-os-i-tee] Noun. Defined by the OAD as strong desire to know or learn something
Curiously: Four syllables. Pronounced [kyoo-ee-uhs-lee] Adverb. The adverb form of curious.
Curiosity is often associated with the young because children tend to ask a lot of questions. Sometimes parents bemoan this as a frustration because the timing of the questions can be frustrating. In our house, bedtime always seems to produce deep theological questions. Instead of looking at children's questions as frustrating, we should recognize that curiosity is a powerful thing. Albert Einstein said, "I have no special talent. I am only passionately curious." I would argue that he was particularly talented, but I think the point he was trying to make is the curiosity drives learning and growth and he had a lot of curiosity.
Why is curiosity so important? Well, without it we accept our life as it is. That is not to say that curiosity breeds discontentment. Curiosity asks questions and seeks answers about how the world works rather than lamenting over one's current state. Alice's curiosity is what leads her though Wonderland. Had she been scared or disinterested she might have curled up in a ball of terror instead of continuing to explore. Curiosity encourages contentment because it occupies the mind with thinking and removes boredom. I've noticed that people (kids and adults) who are easily bored are often not very curious individuals. Curiosity gives the mind a place to go when the body is stuck in one place. Why is grass green? Why are there so many people working in this restaurant's kitchen? Who buys all the Spam at the grocery store? Why do birds move like that?
Curiosity breeds wonder and wonder is a fantastic feeling. After reading Quackery, a book about the history of medicine, not only was I more curious about the history of medicine I was also left with a sense of wonder that any of us have survived to the year 2019. After reading Consider the Fork, I was left curious about the history of other household objects and in wonder of the simple innovations that make my life what it is. In How Children Succeed, Paul Tough argues that curiosity is a powerful motivator and an indicator of future success. High marks on report cards indicate an ability to follow directions (which is good) but a strong sense of curiosity is an indicator of future success (even better).
Experts in listening and conversation will state all kinds of ways to engage in stimulating conversation. They will tell you to mirror your counterpart's body language and nod to let them know you're listening and a bunch more things to remember, but really, if you're curious about what you're hearing and you are paying attention you will listen well without all the steps. (Here's a great TED Talk to that effect.)
So my challenge for you on this day is to live curiously. Live eager to know or learn something. In a conversation with someone who has strong opinions you disagree with? Find out WHY they hold those strong opinions. At a restaurant where your food taking too long to come up? Look at the restaurant design and try to understand the designers choices. On a long car ride? Ask questions about the lives of those you are with. A curious life is always growing and always moving forward.
One last book recommendation for today is A Curious Mind by Brian Grazer and Charles Fishman. Grazer makes the case that his successes in life have a great deal to do with his curiosity and passion to learn new things from interesting people.
"A jack of all trades is a master of none, but oftentimes better than a master of one."