Thursday, December 1, 2016

5 Books Every Aspiring Writer Should Read

CTTO: Grammarly

When it comes to giving aspiring writers advice, famous authors have suggested everything from imagining you’re dying (Anne Enright) to abstaining from alcohol, sex, and drugs (Colm Tóibín). The one pointer that nearly every personality seems to agree on, though, is that anyone dreaming of penning the next great novel should read, read, read.

And while the rule seems to be the more books the merrier, here are a few top recommendations for those counting on being the next F. Scott Fitzgerald, Maya Angelou, or Bret Easton Ellis.

Becoming a Writer by Dorothea Brande

Recommended by some of the best in the biz, including Man Booker Prize–winning author Hilary Mantel, Dorothea Brande’s 1930s meditation on the process of creative writing delves into what it takes to become a writer from the inside out. Neither a technical manual nor a reference book, Becoming a Writer is more aptly a friendly but blunt guide, alongside which beginners can explore the art of authorship, the discipline necessary to achieve a finished work, and the false belief that writers are born and not made.

Edgar Allan Poe: Complete Tales & Poems by Edgar Allan Poe

Though widely lauded as the inventor of the modern detective story, Edgar Allan Poe is also credited as being the first great American literary critic. This long-celebrated anthology offers up evidence of both, presenting aspiring writers with the opportunity to dissect the master craftsman’s essays on good writing and the “unity of effect” before devouring the very tales that brought his theories to life and bricked in (“Cask of Amontillado” anyone?) his place in literary history forever.

On Writing: A Memoir of the Craft by Stephen King

If you’re an aspiring writer looking for an inspiring success story, some sort of experiential solidarity with one of the most bestselling authors of all time, and a handy textbook full of useful advice, Stephen King’s part-master-class, part- memoir is it. Readers not only get insight into how the famous storyteller became a writer and hurdled massive life challenges; they get a handy collection of tried-and-tested tips, from philosophical musings (The magic is in you) to grammatical lessons (Don’t use passive voice) to plot pointers (Leave out the boring parts and kill your darlings).

As I Lay Dying by William Faulkner

One of the most important things to keep in mind as an aspiring writer is that, in fact, there’s no right way to write a story. A point that’s wonderfully illustrated by the great William Faulkner and his seminal work, As I Lay Dying . The celebrated novelist broke with convention to tell the tale of a poor Southern family’s quest to bury their matriarch, Addie Bundren, in the town of Jefferson through not one, not two, but fifteen different narrators. Faulkner brazenly pairs this technique with what was at the time a seldom-used narrative device called stream of consciousness writing. The result was a risky, out-on-a-limb work that, along with his other publications, would eventually earn him the Nobel Prize in Literature.

Oryx and Crake by Margaret Atwood

As one character so wisely tells another in Japanese sensation Haruki Murakami’s 1Q84,

"When you introduce things that most readers have never seen before into a piece of fiction, you have to describe them with as much precision and in as much detail as possible. What you can eliminate from fiction is the description of things that most readers have seen."

Nowhere is this more vital than in speculative or science fiction, and arguably, few do it consistently better than Canadian author Margaret Atwood. While her Man Booker Prize–winning The Blind Assassin and Arthur C. Clarke Award–winning The Handmaid’s Tale are classics as much as primers in the art of constructing convincing settings, aspiring writers will find a formidable and incredibly inventive blueprint in the post-apocalyptic world of Oryx and Crake.


Monday, July 4, 2016

10 Benefits of Reading: Why You Should Read Every Day

When was the last time you read a book, or a substantial magazine article? Do your daily reading habits center around tweets, Facebook updates, or the directions on your instant oatmeal packet? If you’re one of countless people who don’t make a habit of reading regularly, you might be missing out: reading has a significant number of benefits, and just a few benefits of reading are listed below.

1. Mental Stimulation

Studies have shown that staying mentally stimulated can slow the progress of (or possibly even prevent) Alzheimer’s and Dementia, since keeping your brain active and engaged prevents it from losing power. Just like any other muscle in the body, the brain requires exercise to keep it strong and healthy, so the phrase “use it or lose it” is particularly apt when it comes to your mind. Doing puzzles and playing games such as chess have also been found to be helpful with cognitive stimulation.

2. Stress Reduction

No matter how much stress you have at work, in your personal relationships, or countless other issues faced in daily life, it all just slips away when you lose yourself in a great story. A well-written novel can transport you to other realms, while an engaging article will distract you and keep you in the present moment, letting tensions drain away and allowing you to relax.

3. Knowledge

Everything you read fills your head with new bits of information, and you never know when it might come in handy. The more knowledge you have, the better-equipped you are to tackle any challenge you’ll ever face.

Additionally, here’s a bit of food for thought: should you ever find yourself in dire circumstances, remember that although you might lose everything else—your job, your possessions, your money, even your health—knowledge can never be taken from you.

4. Vocabulary Expansion

This goes with the above topic: the more you read, the more words you gain exposure to, and they’ll inevitably make their way into your everyday vocabulary. Being articulate and well-spoken is of great help in any profession, and knowing that you can speak to higher-ups with self-confidence can be an enormous boost to your self-esteem. It could even aid in your career, as those who are well-read, well-spoken, and knowledgeable on a variety of topics tend to get promotions more quickly (and more often) than those with smaller vocabularies and lack of awareness of literature, scientific breakthroughs, and global events.

Reading books is also vital for learning new languages, as non-native speakers gain exposure to words used in context, which will ameliorate their own speaking and writing fluency.

5. Memory Improvement

When you read a book, you have to remember an assortment of characters, their backgrounds, ambitions, history, and nuances, as well as the various arcs and sub-plots that weave their way through every story. That’s a fair bit to remember, but brains are marvelous things and can remember these things with relative ease. Amazingly enough, every new memory you create forges new synapses (brain pathways)and strengthens existing ones, which assists in short-term memory recall as well as stabilizing moods. How cool is that?

6. Stronger Analytical Thinking Skills

Have you ever read an amazing mystery novel, and solved the mystery yourself before finishing the book? If so, you were able to put critical and analytical thinking to work by taking note of all the details provided and sorting them out to determine “whodunnit”.

That same ability to analyze details also comes in handy when it comes to critiquing the plot; determining whether it was a well-written piece, if the characters were properly developed, if the storyline ran smoothly, etc. Should you ever have an opportunity to discuss the book with others, you’ll be able to state your opinions clearly, as you’ve taken the time to really consider all the aspects involved.

7. Improved Focus and Concentration

In our internet-crazed world, attention is drawn in a million different directions at once as we multi-task through every day. In a single 5-minute span, the average person will divide their time between working on a task, checking email, chatting with a couple of people (via gchat, skype, etc.), keeping an eye on twitter, monitoring their smartphone, and interacting with co-workers. This type of ADD-like behaviour causes stress levels to rise, and lowers our productivity.

When you read a book, all of your attention is focused on the story—the rest of the world just falls away, and you can immerse yourself in every fine detail you’re absorbing. Try reading for 15-20 minutes before work (i.e. on your morning commute, if you take public transit), and you’ll be surprised at how much more focused you are once you get to the office.

8. Better Writing Skills

This goes hand-in-hand with the expansion of your vocabulary: exposure to published, well-written work has a noted effect on one’s own writing, as observing the cadence, fluidity, and writing styles of other authors will invariably influence your own work. In the same way that musicians influence one another, and painters use techniques established by previous masters, so do writers learn how to craft prose by reading the works of others.

9. Tranquility

In addition to the relaxation that accompanies reading a good book, it’s possible that the subject you read about can bring about immense inner peace and tranquility. Reading spiritual texts can lower blood pressure and bring about an immense sense of calm, while reading self-help books has been shown to help people suffering from certain mood disorders and mild mental illnesses.

10. Free Entertainment

Though many of us like to buy books so we can annotate them and dog-ear pages for future reference, they can be quite pricey. For low-budget entertainment, you can visit your local library and bask in the glory of the countless tomes available there for free. Libraries have books on every subject imaginable, and since they rotate their stock and constantly get new books, you’ll never run out of reading materials.

If you happen to live in an area that doesn’t have a local library, or if you’re mobility-impaired and can’t get to one easily, most libraries have their books available in PDF or ePub format so you can read them on your e-reader, iPad, or your computer screen. There are also many sources online where you can download free e-books, so go hunting for something new to read!

There’s a reading genre for every literate person on the planet, and whether your tastes lie in classical literature, poetry, fashion magazines, biographies, religious texts, young adult books, self-help guides, street lit, or romance novels, there’s something out there to capture your curiosity and imagination. Step away from your computer for a little while, crack open a book, and replenish your soul for a little while.


Wednesday, May 11, 2016

Uganda, where a book can cost a month’s salary

Beverley Nambozo reading with her daughter Zion, aged seven, in Kampala, Uganda

The hunt for a good book in Uganda's capital is not for the faint-hearted; in fact it feels like a black market.

People look for friends going on a foreign trip to help them buy books, which are either not available or too expensive in Kampala. One book which I have been wanting to read is Nothing Left To Steal by South African journalist Mzilikazi wa Afrika. But it costs around 140,000 Ugandan shillings ($42, £29) in bookshops here - which can buy a week's worth of groceries for a family. On internet shopping sites the best-selling memoir goes for less than a third of that price but deliveries to Uganda are not straightforward. I did splurge once on a book by Guinea's revolutionary leader Ahmed Sekou Toure. It set me back $60 - the pan-Africanist in me got the better of me that day. Waitresses in downtown Kampala barely earn $60 in a month.

Library books by motorbike

It is in this environment that Rosey Sembatya has decided to start the Malaika Children's Mobile Library. "My sister has four children now and I've been finding it very difficult to buy them books because they're quite expensive," she says. "So I sat back and thought maybe there is need to create something that can make story books accessible and available at a quite cheap price."

The library is in the spare room of a two-bedroom house she rents.
There are a couple of hundred books stacked on shelves and a long desk.
From here motorbike taxis, known as boda bodas, whizz around the capital delivering a week's worth of reading for children. Ms Sembatya used up her savings to start the library and says she tries to keep the cost down. For a $30 annual fee, each child can borrow three books a week.
She wants schemes like hers to stop reading being regarded as a purely middle-class luxury.
"It is because it has a cost implication. Yet it shouldn't be. Once one has a child they need to learn, they need to read."

Bookpoint, a bookshop in Kampala, Uganda

But Uganda does have a fairly robust publishing industry. Fountain Publishers is one of the biggest in East Africa, but like most companies here its focus is on academic writing. Its main production office is at Makerere University, the country's main higher institute of learning. "Our biggest sellers are the curriculum books. Schools and students cannot afford to go away minus curriculum books," Harrison Kiggundu, the firm's senior marketing officer, told me. They are then loath to spend extra money on other books. "It has had a great impact on bringing down the reading culture," he says. But it is not only about price. Getting Ugandans reading for pleasure is the challenge. As Mr Kiggundu says, after years of cramming textbooks many people do not want to open another book after their studies.

Changing attitudes

With the advent of social media and the wider availability of the internet, Ugandans are reading snippets on their phones, laptops or tablets rather than picking up a novel. But there are people willing to invest in reading.

At one of the new upmarket malls in Kampala, Christina Kakeeto opened up Bookpoint a few years ago. The bookshop's shelves are stacked with international bestsellers, classics and popular African novels - it could be in London or New York. A civil engineer, Ms Kakeeto gave up her career to start this venture and says she tries to keep prices close to those on international markets - though these are too high for many Ugandans. But she says as some Ugandans get wealthier, they are willing to buy books especially for their children. This is also happening with parents who are not necessarily readers themselves as they were not read to as children. "I'm encouraged that they are teaching their children to read. The cost remains a challenge," she tells me.

'More confident'

Beverley Nambozo and her husband are an example of parents trying to make sure their children grow up with a healthy habit for reading. Their daughters, Zion aged seven and four-year-old Raziela, are signed up to the Malaika Children's Mobile Library. As a poet Ms Nambozo knows the value of words and she is adamant that reading for fun will give her girls a brighter future. "Having these creative books with children reading, you just see how they are learning more about themselves, about their environment, improving on their vocabulary and becoming confident as well," she says.
So Uganda appears caught in a Catch-22 situation. People seem to read more when they have the money and know the value of reading for personal success. But to make decent money, it helps to be educated and able to read.

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Wednesday, April 27, 2016

The Book Stop Project Proves Filipinos Are Readers

The Book Stop Project commenced on Apr. 23 at the Ayala Triangle Gardens revealed that Filipinos have the affinity for books.

There was an airline joke I heard when I was young saying that you can easily spot Filipinos in a plane as they are the ones sleeping or talking non-stop to their kababayan, while other passengers are reading. However, this seems not to be the case based on the show up at the recently concluded Dia del Libro or International Book Day last Saturday.

The Book Stop is one of the main attractions at the event. It is a non-profit 3×4 meter pop-up library designed by WTA Architecture & Design Studio that allows book lovers to donate, borrow, or swap books. Even the design and interior of the library allows readers to mingle and discuss about books. The goal of the project is to “reinvent, reinvigorate, and reestablish the library in Filipino society.”

The Book Stop will be at Ayala Triangle Gardens until May 9. Share ideas, one book at a time.

Filipinos are Bibliophiles, too.

While other nations mock us that we do not even read a magazine or newspaper every morning. Filipinos are bookworms, too. How can we read during our commute when it is like a battlefield to get to work?

However, I can attest that my generation (Generation Y) and the millennials are voracious readers. During my high school and college years, we all wait with pins and needles for the release of the new Harry Potter books. Meanwhile, we also diligently read Paulo Coelho and Bob Ong books like a bible.

When I started working and earn money to support my addiction, I was one of the many who scour the Young Adult section in FullyBooked and National Bookstore for new releases. Even with the advent of new technology, readers still buy real books. Many say that the feel and effect of real books are different from electronic ones.

Wednesday, April 20, 2016

The Reading Habits of Ultra-Successful People

Want to know one habit ultra-successful people have in common? They read. A lot.

In fact, when Warren Buffett was once asked about the key to success, he pointed to a stack of nearby books and said, “Read 500 pages like this every day. That’s how knowledge works. It builds up, like compound interest. All of you can do it, but I guarantee not many of you will do it.” Buffett takes this habit to the extreme — he read between 600 and 1000 pages per day when he was beginning his investing career, and still devotes about 80% of each day to reading.

And he’s not alone. Here are just a few top business leaders and entrepreneurs who make reading a major part of their daily lifestyle:

  • Bill Gates reads about 50 books per year, which breaks down to 1 per week
  • Mark Cuban reads more than 3 hours every day
  • Elon Musk is an avid reader and when asked how he learned to build rockets, he said “I read books.”
  • Mark Zuckerberg resolved to read a book every 2 weeks throughout 2015
  • Oprah Winfrey selects one of her favorite books every month for her Book Club members to read and discus

And these aren’t just isolated examples. A study of 1200 wealthy people found that they all have reading as a pastime in common.
But successful people don’t just read anything. They are highly selective about what they read, opting to be educated over being entertained. They believe that books are a gateway to learning and knowledge.

In fact, there is a notable difference between the reading habits of the wealthy and the not-so-wealthy. According to Tom Corley, author of Rich Habits: The Daily Success Habits of Wealthy Individuals, rich people (annual income of $160,000 or more and a liquid net worth of $3.2 million-plus) read for self-improvement, education, and success. Whereas poor people (annual income of $35,000 or less and a liquid net worth of $5,000 or less) read primarily to be entertained.

Successful people tend to choose educational books and publications over novels, tabloids, and magazines. And in particular they obsess over biographies and autobiographies of other successful people for guidance and inspiration.

There are many examples of successful people dropping out of school or foregoing a formal education, but it is clear that they never stop learning. And reading is a key part of their success.

If reading as a pathway to success isn’t enough to get you motivated, consider these health benefits of reading: Reading has been shown to help prevent stress, depression, and dementia, while enhancing confidence, empathy, decision-making, and overall life satisfaction.

Whether reading is already a way of life for you, or you’re just getting started, here are some book lists to consider:

  • 9 of Warren Buffett’s Favorite Books
  • 17 of Bill Gates’ Favorite Books
  • Books Extremely Successful People Read (From President Obama to Bill Clinton to Sheryl Sandberg)
  • 20 Books that the World’s most successful people read and recommend
  • 25 Must-Read Books for Success
And here are a few lists of 2016 must-reads:

  • 10 Must-Read Business Books for 2016 (Inc.)
  • 16 Must-Read Business Books for 2016 (Forbes)
  • 9 Business Books to Read in 2016 (Stanford)

Friday, January 22, 2016

Why You Should Read 50 Books This Year (And How To Do It)

If you want to get ahead in business, sit down and pick up a book. Warren Buffett spends 80% of his day reading. Bill Gates reads for an hour each night before going to bed. And Mark Cuban credits part of his success to the fact that he is willing to read more than anyone else. "Leaders are readers," says author and syndicated radio host Dave Ramsey, who reads at least one book a week and gives five of his favorite books to every new team member as part of the on boarding process. "It’s in my DNA to always want to grow as a leader. We want our team to always be learning and growing, too," he says.

"Reading forces me to stop thinking about my day-to-day life for long enough that I often find a new perspective." Business boils down to personal interactions, and exposure to new ideas challenges you and expands your understanding of viewpoints, says Joan Fallon, CEO of the biotech company Curemark, who reads a book a week. "Reading forces me to stop thinking about my day-to-day life for long enough that I often find a new perspective or a new way of thinking about something," she says. For example, Fallon says Quiet: The Power of Introverts in a World That Can’t Stop Talking by Susan Cain gave her tips on how to work with introverts. "This understanding gives me the empathy to work with other introverts when I encounter them in a business, or even in social situations," she says.

Reading 50 to 60 books a year helps Ajit Singh, partner at the venture capital firm Artiman Ventures and consulting professor in the School of Medicine at Stanford University, be a better communicator. "Leadership requires storytelling; the story can be the vision of the company, or an acquisition plan, or an impending layoff," he says. "Telling a compelling story and listening with empathy have contributed much to my skills as a leader."

What To Read

If you’re not sure where to start, get recommendations from friends or mentors. Gates shares his favorites on his blog throughout the year. Buffett shares his favorite picks in his annual letter to shareholders of Berkshire Hathaway. Singh gets inspiration on what to read by talking to independent bookshop owners. "A latte and 15 minutes go a long way," he says, adding that he also checks out The New York Review of Books and Kirkus Reviews. You can also check your local library for recommendations or join a business book club. Last year, Mark Zuckerberg set a goal to read one book every two weeks, and he started A Year of Books page on Facebook as a virtual book club. He and followers discussed the choices and invited authors to participate via webcasts; by December, he had finished 23 books.

If you want to get ahead in business, sit down and pick up a book. Warren Buffett spends 80% of his day reading. Bill Gates reads for an hour each night before going to bed. And Mark Cuban credits part of his success to the fact that he is willing to read more than anyone else. "Leaders are readers," says author and syndicated radio host Dave Ramsey, who reads at least one book a week and gives five of his favorite books to every new team member as part of the onboarding process. "It’s in my DNA to always want to grow as a leader. We want our team to always be learning and growing, too," he says. Reading forces me to stop thinking about my day-to-day life for long enough that I often find a new perspective.

Business boils down to personal interactions, and exposure to new ideas challenges you and expands your understanding of viewpoints, says Joan Fallon, CEO of the biotech company Curemark, who reads a book a week. "Reading forces me to stop thinking about my day-to-day life for long enough that I often find a new perspective or a new way of thinking about something," she says.
For example, Fallon says Quiet: The Power of Introverts in a World That Can’t Stop Talking by Susan Cain gave her tips on how to work with introverts. "This understanding gives me the empathy to work with other introverts when I encounter them in a business, or even in social situations," she says.

Reading 50 to 60 books a year helps Ajit Singh, partner at the venture capital firm Artiman Ventures and consulting professor in the School of Medicine at Stanford University, be a better communicator. "Leadership requires storytelling; the story can be the vision of the company, or an acquisition plan, or an impending layoff," he says. "Telling a compelling story and listening with empathy have contributed much to my skills as a leader."
What To Read

If you’re not sure where to start, get recommendations from friends or mentors. Gates shares his favorites on his blog throughout the year. Buffett shares his favorite picks in his annual letter to shareholders of Berkshire Hathaway.
Singh gets inspiration on what to read by talking to independent bookshop owners. "A latte and 15 minutes go a long way," he says, adding that he also checks out The New York Review of Books and Kirkus Reviews.

You can also check your local library for recommendations or join a business book club. Last year, Mark Zuckerberg set a goal to read one book every two weeks, and he started A Year of Books page on Facebook as a virtual book club. He and followers discussed the choices and invited authors to participate via webcasts; by December, he had finished 23 books.

How To Do It

Finding the time to read needs to be a priority. "I wouldn’t recognize a Kardashian, and I don’t know who got kicked off the island," says Ramsey. "My suggestion for anyone who wants to be successful: turn off the TV and open a book. You can become an expert on just about anything just by reading and learning." Sam Thomas Davis, author of Unhooked: How to Break Bad Habits and Form Good Ones That Stick, reads one nonfiction book each week and says you have to make reading a habit instead of waiting until you’re in the mood. "Identify a constant trigger for when to read (like an existing habit) and commit to it," he writes in his blog. "I read for 30 minutes every morning, immediately after my wife goes to work. As soon as I’ve kissed her goodbye, I sit at my desk, set a timer for 30 minutes, and read without interruption. By scheduling when to read, you begin to look forward to it, and can enjoy it guilt-free." Reading on the road is another popular way leaders find time. Singh reads during flights. "During rush hour, I don’t drive; I take Uber and read in the backseat," he says.

If you want to get ahead in business, sit down and pick up a book. Warren Buffett spends 80% of his day reading. Bill Gates reads for an hour each night before going to bed. And Mark Cuban credits part of his success to the fact that he is willing to read more than anyone else. "Leaders are readers," says author and syndicated radio host Dave Ramsey, who reads at least one book a week and gives five of his favorite books to every new team member as part of the on boarding process. "It’s in my DNA to always want to grow as a leader. We want our team to always be learning and growing, too," he says.

Fallon also finds time during travels. "Every day there is time that is idle or spent traveling from one place to another," she says. "If those gaps are long, I can read a book; if they are shorter, I read an article. Everything I read adds value to my life: personally, professionally, emotionally, and on so many levels."

Tuesday, December 8, 2015

Boy Who Couldn’t Afford Books Asks Mailman For Junk Mail To Read; Mailman Responds Spectacularly

Because he couldn't buy books or a bus pass to the library, he'd been reading ads.

Twelve-year-old Mathew Flores is a bit different from the rest of us. He loves junk mail. Until recently, advertisements were the only reading materials available to the boy. Flores loves reading so much that he approached his mailman in a Salt Lake City suburb on Friday to ask if he could have any junk mail.

The strange question prompted the mailman, Ron Lynch, to ask why. Lynch detailed Flores' response in a heartbreaking Facebook post afterward.

"Today while delivering mail to his apartment complex, I saw him reading ads, and then he asked me if I had any extra mail he could read," Lynch wrote. "He told me his wish is to have books to read. I told him the library had many, but he said they don't have a car, and couldn't afford the bus."

Lynch then asked his Facebook friends if they could spare some books for Flores:

"Most kids his age want electronics! It's great to see his desire, and you should have seen him beam when I said I could help!"

"He's counting on me," he concluded, "so I'm counting on you!"

Lynch thought the Facebook post might bring in 50 to 6o books, he told local news outlet KSL. But his request went viral.

People from around the world, including the U.K., Australia and India, have sent books, Lynch said. He told The Huffington Post hundreds of books have been delivered to the boy's door so far, with hundreds more likely on their way, and he's amazed at the generosity.

"I'm stunned and humbled by what happened," said Lynch. "I deserve little credit."
He has a message for everyone who has sent in a book or contributed:
"Its [sic] all of you who cared enough to do something about it that are the true heroes of this story. Bless you all, and thank you all so much!"

When books first started arriving, Flores was in disbelief. "They said, 'These books are for you,'" Flores told Salt Lake City's Deseret News on Sunday. "I thought they were mistaken, but they were for me." He said he can't wait to share the books with other kids, and has promised to read every last one.


Wednesday, November 25, 2015

Raising Healthy Readers: How to Get Kids Hooked on Books

Want to help your kids become readers? When they’re little, give them board books and read aloud to them. When they’re bigger, get them library cards, and leave books in every room. If your kid becomes an enthusiastic reader, start a parent-child book club, and seek out author events at community bookstores. Even if your kids aren’t natural bookworms, let them see you reading newspapers, magazines, and books. Give books as gifts too, whether to newborn babies, college grads, or friends turning fifty. If children see that you value books, sooner or later, they may just acquire a taste for reading that will serve them well all their lives.

  • read with your children
  • get them a library card
  • leave books and magazines around
  • keep a reading record or journal or start a book club
  • set designated reading times and let kids see you read

  • criticize their reading choices
  • tell them a book is just for girls or just for boys
  • make it too easy for kids to play games instead of reading
  • make a child feel bad about not being a bookworm


Do read with your children

It’s never too early to read to your kids. Did your mom or dad read to you? If so, it’s probably a sweet memory. Reading to babies and kids gives you a time of closeness and helps kids build vocabulary from the start. The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends reading aloud to your infant. Give your baby board books, not just rattles or stuffed animals. Snuggle up with your infant or toddler and enjoy reading together.

Do get them a library card

You know the expression “like a kid in a candy store”? Libraries are even better for growing minds and bodies, and a child with a library card feels empowered. How often do kids get to choose what they want to read and exercise free rein? Next time you have an extra hour while you’re waiting for a sibling to finish tutoring or swim practice, spend it in the library. It’s a cozy, happy, place and a good habit to instill. (Bookstores are great too!)

Do leave books and magazines around

Many parents lament that their school-age kids don’t read for pleasure. The solution may be simply to leave the right “bait” around. Even kids who think they don’t like to read will succumb to a strategically-placed Snoopy, Spiderman, Sports Illustrated, or Seventeen on the kitchen counter or in the bedroom or bathroom. Girl magazines are like catnip for preteens. If you ask your teen daughter if she’d like a copy of Girltalk or a subscription to GL or Seventeen or Teen Vogue, she may say no. But if you leave a copy at her bedside, she’ll jump in. Make it easy for kids to dive into reading.

Do keep a reading record or journal or start a book club

Some kids get motivated if you write down the names of the book they read or put gold stars on calendars. Other families find that starting a book club can make a big difference. Get a book club going with each of your children when they are old enough to read longer books. Pick a book that is a good fit for both you and your child based on age and interest. Going for a classic can never hurt, like Charlotte’s Web or The Giver. Avoid heavy reads or school books. The goal is to bond over books.

Do set designated reading times and let kids see you read

Why not establish a family reading time during which everyone reads for thirty minutes? After dinner? Before bed? Sunday before brunch? Turn off the electronics please. When kids see parents curled up with books (or even newspapers), they know their parents value reading.


Do not criticize their reading choices

Rather than tell a child that a book is too easy for him, just let him enjoy reading. There’s nothing wrong with getting lost in comic books, graphic novels, sports biographies, etc. and a boy who learns to enjoy reading will be an adult who cares about books. And when a book seems too hard or too advanced or adult? Okay, in this case, say, “I bet you’ll like that even more when you are older” and steer them to more age-appropriate fare.

Do not tell them a book is just for girls or just for boys

No one tells girls that Harry Potter is for boys only, and you shouldn’t tell a boy that a book is just for girls. In fact, when a boy reads a book about girls, even a diary, this can help him learn more about the wider world. Girls and boys can learn a lot from whatever books interest them, and when there are strong male or strong female characters, so much the better. Look too for books with diversity and multicultural settings and characters. Reading is learning.

Do not make it too easy for kids to play games instead of reading

If you automatically hand a child a phone when he or she acts bored or fussy, the child will quickly get used to playing games. If, however, you hand little children books rather than devices, they’ll read instead of play. Some families keep devices on high shelves to help kids resist temptation. Strive to make it easy for kids to develop the habit of reading and harder for them to get into mindless games.

Do not make a child feel bad about not being a bookworm

If your child is not a natural born reader, that’s still OK. Some kids have other strengths and passions. Keep encouraging reading and keep tempting reading material handy. Is your child reading a book in English that interests you? Great. Ask about it in a friendly casual way. In general, your goal is to help your kids feel good about who they are and to help them become their best selves.


Some kids are born bookworms. Some need a little encouragement. If you read to your child and have family reading times and leave enticing books around, your reluctant reader may just come around. Anna Karenina, anyone?


Tuesday, November 24, 2015

17 Books Bill Gates Thinks Everyone Should Read

While Bill Gates has a schedule that's planned down to the minute, the entrepreneur-turned-billionaire-humanitarian still gobbles up about a book a week.

Aside from a handful of novels, they're mostly nonfiction books covering his and his foundation's broad range of interests. A lot of them are about transforming systems: how nations can intelligently develop, how to lead an organization, and how social change can fruitfully happen.

We went through the past five years of his book criticism to find the ones that he gave glowing reviews and that changed his perspective.

'Tap Dancing to Work: Warren Buffett on Practically Everything, 1966-2012' by Carol Loomis

Warren Buffett and Gates have a famously epic bromance, what with their recommending books to
each other and spearheading philanthropic campaigns together.

So it's no surprise that Gates enjoyed "Tap Dancing to Work," a collection of articles and essays about and by Buffett, compiled by Fortune magazine journalist Carol Loomis.

Gates says that anyone who reads the book cover-to-cover will walk away with two main impressions:

First, how Warren's been incredibly consistent in applying his vision and investment principles over the duration of his career;

[S]econdly, that his analysis and understanding of business and markets remains unparalleled. I wrote in 1996 that I'd never met anyone who thought about business in such a clear way. That is certainly still the case.

Getting into the mind of Buffett is "an extremely worthwhile use of time," Gates concludes.

'Making the Modern World: Materials and Dematerialization' by Vaclav Smil

Gates says his favorite author is Vaclav Smil, an environmental-sciences professor who writes big
 histories of things like energy and innovation.

His latest is "Making the Modern World." It got Gates thinking.

"It might seem mundane, but the issue of materials — how much we use and how much we need — is key to helping the world’s poorest people improve their lives," he writes. "Think of the amazing increase in quality of life that we saw in the United States and other rich countries in the past 100 years. We want most of that miracle to take place for all of humanity over the next 50 years."

To know where we're going, Gates says, we need to know where we've been — and Smil is one of his favorite sources for learning that.

'The Sixth Extinction: An Unnatural History' by Elizabeth Kolbert

It can be easy to forget that our present day is a part of world history. Gates says that New Yorker
writer Elizabeth Kolbert's new book "The Sixth Extinction" helps correct that.

"Humans are putting down massive amounts of pavement, moving species around the planet, over-fishing and acidifying the oceans, changing the chemical composition of rivers, and more," Gates writes, echoing a concern that he voices in many of his reviews.

"Natural scientists posit that there have been five extinction events in the Earth's history (think of the asteroid that wiped out the dinosaurs)," he continues, "and Kolbert makes a compelling case that human activity is leading to the sixth."

To get a hint of Kolbert's reporting, check out the series of stories that preceded the book's publication.

'Stress Test: Reflections on Financial Crises' by Tim Geithner

Gates stood at the center of an enormously complex system as CEO of Microsoft. Timothy Geithner
did much the same as US Treasury secretary — and saw the structure fall down around him during the financial crisis.

"Geithner paints a compelling human portrait of what it was like to be fighting a global financial meltdown while at the same time fighting critics inside and outside the Administration as well as his own severe guilt over his near-total absence from his family," Gates says. "The politics of fighting financial crises will always be ugly. But it helps if the public knows a little more about the subject."

"Stress Test" provides that knowledge.

'The Better Angels of Our Nature: Why Violence Has Declined' by Steven Pinker

In "Better Angels," Harvard cognitive scientist Steven Pinker branches out into the history of the
most contentious of subjects: violence.

Gates says it's one of the most important books he's ever read.

"Pinker presents a tremendous amount of evidence that humans have gradually become much less violent and much more humane," he says, in a trend that started thousands of years ago and continued until this day.

This isn't just ivory-tower theory. Gates says the book has affected his humanitarian work.

"As I'm someone who's fairly optimistic in general," he says, "the book struck a chord with me and got me to thinking about some of our foundation's strategies."

'The Man Who Fed the World' by Leon Hesser

Even though Gates can get a meeting with almost anyone, he can't land a sit-down with Norman
Borlaug, the late biologist and humanitarian who led the "Green Revolution" — a series of innovations that kept a huge chunk of humanity from starving.

"Although a lot of people have never heard of Borlaug, he probably saved more lives than anyone else in history," Gates says. "It's estimated that his new seed varieties saved a billion people from starvation," many of whom were in India and Pakistan.

Borlaug was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize, the Presidential Medal of Freedom, and the Congressional Gold Medal for his efforts — and is one of only seven people to receive that honor.

For Gates, Borlaug is a model in getting important work done in the world.

"Borlaug was one-of-a-kind," he says, "equally skilled in the laboratory, mentoring young scientists, and cajoling reluctant bureaucrats and government officials."

Hesser's "The Man Who Fed the World" lets you peer into the personality that saved a billion lives.

'Business Adventures: Twelve Classic Tales from the World of Wall Street' by John Brooks

Back in 1991, Gates asked Buffett what his favorite book was.

To reply, Buffett sent the Microsoft founder his personal copy of "Business Adventures," a collection of New Yorker stories by John Brooks.

Though the anecdotes are from half a century ago, the book remains Gates' favorite.

Gates says that the book serves as a reminder that the principles for building a winning business stay constant. He writes:

For one thing, there's an essential human factor in every business endeavor. It doesn't matter if you have a perfect product, production plan and marketing pitch; you'll still need the right people to lead and implement those plans.

Learning of the affections that Gates and Buffett have for this title, the business press has fallen similarly in love with the book. Slate quipped that "Business Adventures" is "catnip for billionaires."

'The Bully Pulpit: Theodore Roosevelt, William Howard Taft, and the Golden Age of Journalism' by Doris Kearns Goodwin

Like us, Gates is fascinated by the way Theodore Roosevelt was able to affect his society: busting
trusts, setting up a park system, and the like.

For this reason, Gates appreciates how Goodwin's biography uses the presidency as a lens for understanding the shift of society.

"How does social change happen?" Gates asks in his review. "Can it be driven by a single inspirational leader, or do other factors have to lay the groundwork first?"

He says that TR shows how many stakeholders need to be involved.

"Although he tried to push through a number of political reforms earlier in his career," Gates says, "[Roosevelt] wasn't really successful until journalists at 'McClure's' and other publications had rallied public support for change."

'The Rosie Project: A Novel' by Graeme Simsion

Gates doesn't review a lot of fiction, but "The Rosie Project," which came on the recommendation of
his wife, Melinda, is an oddly perfect fit.

"Anyone who occasionally gets overly logical will identify with the hero, a genetics professor with Asperger’s Syndrome who goes looking for a wife," he writes. "(Melinda thought I would appreciate the parts where he’s a little too obsessed with optimizing his schedule. She was right.)"

The book is funny, clever, and moving, Gates says, to the point that he read it in one sitting.

‘On Immunity’ by Eula Biss

Even though the science all says that vaccines are among the most important inventions in human
history, there's still a debate about whether they're a good idea.

In "On Immunity," essayist Eula Biss pulls apart that argument.

She "uses the tools of literary analysis, philosophy, and science to examine the speedy, inaccurate rumors about childhood vaccines that have proliferated among well-meaning American parents," Gates writes. "Biss took up this topic not for academic reasons but because of her new role as a mom."

‘How Asia Works’ by Joe Studwell

Joe Studwell is a business journalist whose central mission is understanding "development."

The Financial Times said that "How Asia Works" is "the first book to offer an Asia-wide deconstruction of success and failure in economic development."

Gates says that the book's thesis goes like this:

All the countries that become development success stories (1) create conditions for small farmers to thrive, (2) use the proceeds from agricultural surpluses to build a manufacturing base that is tooled from the start to produce exports, and (3) nurture both these sectors with financial institutions closely controlled by the government.

‘How to Lie with Statistics’ by Darrell Huff

Published in 1954, "How to Lie with Statistics" is an introduction to statistics — and a primer on how they can be manipulated.

It's "more relevant than ever," Gates says.

"One chapter shows you how visuals can be used to exaggerate trends and give distorted comparisons," he says. "It's a timely reminder, given how often infographics show up in your Facebook and Twitter feeds these days."

‘Epic Measures’ by Jeremy Smith

Reading this biography was especially meaningful for Gates because he's known its subject, a doctor named Chris Murray, for more than a decade.

According to Gates, the book is a "highly readable account for anyone who wants to know more about Chris's work and why it matters."

That work involves creating the Global Burden of Disease, a public website that gathers data on the causes of human illness and death from researchers around the world. The idea is that we can't begin finding cures for health issues if we don't even know what those issues are.

Writes Gates: "As Epic Measures shows, the more we make sure reliable information gets out there, the better decisions we all can make, and the more impact we all can have."

‘Stuff Matters’ by Mark Miodownik

If you're like most people, you use steel razors, glass cups, and paper notepads every day without thinking much about the materials they're made of.

In "Stuff Matters," Miodownik, a materials scientist, aims to show you why the science behind those materials is so fascinating.

That premise might sound similar to "Making the Modern World," a book by Gates' favorite author Smil, which Gates has also recommended. But Gates says the two works are "completely different." While Smil is a "facts-and-numbers guy," Miodownik is "heavy on romance and very light on numbers," potentially making "Stuff Matters" an easier read.

Gates claims his favorite chapter is the one on carbon, "which offers insights into one atom's massive past, present, and future role in human life."

‘Hyperbole and a Half’ by Allie Brosh

It might be hard to imagine Gates curled up with a book of comic drawings. But "Hyperbole and a Half," based on the blog by the same name, is more moving and profound than it is silly.

The stories and drawings in the book are based on scenes from Brosh's life, as well as her imagined misadventures.

"It's funny and smart as hell," Gates writes, adding that "Brosh's stories feel incredibly — and sometimes brutally — real."

Gates was especially moved by the parts of the book that touch on Brosh's struggles with severe depression, including a series of images about her attempts to leave an appropriate suicide note.

It's a rare book that can simultaneously make you laugh, cry, and think existential thoughts — but this one seems to do it.

‘What If?’ by Randall Munroe

Another book based on a blog, "What If?" is a collection of cartoon-illustrated answers to hypothetical scientific questions.

Those questions range from the dystopian ("What if I took a swim in a typical spent nuclear fuel pool?") to the philosophical ("What if everyone actually had only one soul mate, a random person somewhere in the world?") Each question was posed by a different reader, and Munroe, a former roboticist for NASA, goes to the greatest lengths to answer it accurately through research and interviews.

Gates writes:
The reason Munroe's approach is a great way to learn about science is that he takes ideas that everybody understands in a general way and then explores what happens when you take those ideas to their limits. For example, we all know pretty much what gravity is. But what if Earth's gravity were twice as strong as it is? What if it were three times as strong, or a hundred? Looking at the question in that way makes you start to think about gravity a little differently.

For anyone who's ever wished there were someone to indulge and investigate their secret scientific fantasies, this book comes in handy.

‘Should We Eat Meat?’ by Vaclav Smil

Gates isn’t shy about proclaiming Smil, a professor emeritus at the University of Manitoba, his favorite author. In fact, he's recommended several of Smil's books before.

As usual, Gates writes, Smil attacks the issue of whether humans should consume meat from every possible angle. First he tries to define meat, then he looks at its role in human evolution, as well as how much meat each country consumes, the health and environmental risks, and the ethicality of raising animals for slaughter.

Gates, who was a vegetarian for a year during his 20s, is especially impressed by how Smil uses science to debunk common misconceptions, like the idea that raising meat for food involves a tremendous amount of water.

In fact, Gates writes:
Smil shows you how the picture is more complicated. It turns out that not all water is created equal. Nearly 90 percent of the water needed for livestock production is what's called green water, used to grow grass and such. In most places, all but a tiny fraction of green water comes from rain, and because most green water eventually evaporates back into the atmosphere, it's not really consumed.

Overall, the book left Gates feeling that eventually, "the world can meet its need for meat."


Thursday, October 15, 2015

Picture Books that Model Perseverance

It’s Picture Book Month and I have picture books on my mind. I am beginning to think in lists. Often. It may be a syndrome. Picturebooklistitis? Something like that.

On Friday, I had some parent meetings in the a.m. It was lovely to talk about students who have demonstrated improvement in goal areas due to persistence, determination and creative approaches to problems. Heading home, after school, I started thinking about picture books on this theme of persistence.

What exactly was I thinking about? All of the synonyms for perseverance: persistence, tenacity, determination . . . But also being able to solve problems with creativity or a different/unique approach. A lot of it has to do with being able to focus but also being able to think outside of the box. Sometimes it is just about, simple but tough, hard work and diligence.

I think all of these picture books highlight a particular aspect of this theme and in their own way, model perseverance.

Twenty favourite titles:

These ten beauties:

And ten more:

Twenty picture book titles that model perseverance:

Sam and Dave Dig a Hole by Mac Barnett and illustrated by Jon Klassen

Rosie Revere, Engineer written by Andrea Beaty and illustrated by David Roberts

The Curious Garden by Peter Brown

Prudence Wants a Pet written by Cathleen Daly and illustrated by Stephen Michael King

Hank Finds an Egg by Rebecca Dudley

Papa’s Mechanical Fish written by Candace Fleming and illustrated by Boris Kulikov

If You Want to See a Whale written by Julie Fogliano and illustrated by Erin E. Stead

Rosyln Rutabaga and the Biggest Hole on Earth by Marie-Louise Gay

Ice by Arthur Geisert

Flight School by Lita Judge

A House in the Woods by Inga Moore

The Mighty Lalouche written by Matthew Olshan and illustrated by Sophie Blackall

The Girl and the Bicycle by Mark Pett

The Dot by Peter H. Reynolds 

The Most Magnificent Thing by Ashley Spires 

A Home for Bird by Philip C. Stead

Oscar and Hoo written by Theo and illustrated by Michael Dudok De Wit

Queen of the Falls by Chris VanAllsburg 

Don’t Let the Pigeon Drive the Bus by Mo Willems

Ten Birds by Cybèle Young

In case you’ve missed them, I have been making more lists:

Picture Books that celebrate courage

Picture Books to make you giggle

Happy Picture Book Month!

Wednesday, October 14, 2015

Best of the Best Business Books for the Ages

Best of the Best Business Books for the Ages

By Dan Coughlin

In my lifetime I’ve read over 500 books. Recently I put together a list of 110 recommended books that I called “Business Books for the Ages.” You can see this list, which represents 20 percent of all the books I’ve read, on my Web site.

I then decided to narrow that to the ten books that I felt were the most important business books for readers to dig into. Now that was an even more challenging assignment. It represented less than two percent of all the books I’ve read. I decided to choose ten topics (okay, actually fourteen), select one book for each topic and then provide a brief explanation as to why I selected it. Here goes

The Ten (okay, fourteen) Most Important Business Books for the Ages

Less is More by Jason Jennings. Jason is the master at finding companies that are truly productive, narrowing his list to the absolute best of the best and then immersing himself into researching what makes those companies truly extraordinary in the area of productivity. I think you will find this book to be of tremendous practical value.

Walt Disney by Neal Gabler. Since I believe that perseverance is of utmost importance in creating a great business and a great career, I found this book to be amazing. Disney’s creative mind was a big part of his success, but a bigger part was his absolute willingness to persevere no matter what obstacles he faced. Stubborn, yes; legendary performance, double yes.

Overcoming Obstacles
Personal History by Katherine Graham. Greatness is also derived through overcoming massive obstacles. When she was 46, Katherine Graham’s husband, Phil, committed suicide. Suddenly she was the publisher of theWashington Post with exactly zero experience in any aspect of publishing a newspaper. Through exceptional courage and tenacity she vaulted the paper onto the national stage and became one of the most powerful women in the world.

Born Standing Up by Steve Martin. This is the extraordinary story of the eighteen years that Steve Martin invested to go from being a comic newbie to the most popular stand-up comic in history. My favorite quote in the book is from E.E. Cummings who wrote, “I am abnormally fond of that precision which creates movement.” It is this pursuit of precision that generates extraordinary business results in every industry.

Positioning by Al Ries and Jack Trout. The brilliance of this book is in its simplicity. Ries and Trout explain that every buyer carries categories around in his or her head, and that for every category there is always a ranking of the products or services within that buyer’s head. The key is to have the first or second position in the minds of buyers for the category you want to be known for.

Inside Steve’s Brain by Leander Kahney. This is a remarkably useful insight into the management approach of Steve Jobs, who guided Apple to fundamentally change three industries: computers, music and cell phones. I found it to be extremely helpful in multiple areas.

The Age of Turbulence by Alan Greenspan. Greenspan does a spectacular job of explaining the impact of emotions, particularly exuberance and fear, on the economy and financial decisions. From this book, I learned the psychology of results and the importance of staying logical with results and not getting emotional.

The Snowball by Alice Schroeder. Extraordinary in its detail, this book provides the reader with a deep understanding of Buffett’s approach to investing, which he cultivated over a period of more than sixty years. It’s quite long, but it moves very fast and you will walk away with powerful and practical insights on what types of organizations to invest your time and money into.

Team of Rivals by Doris Kearns Goodwin. Goodwin is a gifted writer, and this is her greatest book. It is a magnificent example of how completely different types of members can make for an exceptionally powerful team. One of Abraham Lincoln’s greatest contributions to America was his willingness to assemble the best team he could and constantly work to make it better.

Getting Started in Consultingby Alan Weiss. In times of great economic change, many successful executives decide to start their own consulting practices. They find purpose in leveraging their knowledge and experience in ways that can help other people achieve their desired business outcomes. Alan Weiss is the world-wide guru on how to make this happen, and this is his finest book, which should be renamed, What to Do From the Day You Start Your Consulting Business to the Day You Retire.

The World is Flat by Thomas Friedman. Not only is Friedman a compelling writer, but his travels and ongoing diary make the concept of globalization real and accessible. This book is a masterpiece in explaining how interconnected the world of products, services and producers really are.

The Effective Executive by Peter Drucker. This is Drucker’s shortest and finest book. Chapters two and four are particularly useful in explaining how leveraging strengths and optimizing priority management can generate extraordinary results.

Only the Paranoid Survive by Andy Grove. Perhaps Grove’s greatest contribution to business was his explanation of strategic inflection points and how they provide extraordinary opportunities for strategic growth. Times of great systemic change, like the era we’re living in now, provide great opportunities to step back and find better approaches to the marketplace.

The Greatest Miracle in the World by Og Mandino. This is the shortest book on my list, but it was critically helpful to me during two key transitions in my career.

I hope you find this list to be of as much value for you as it was for me.

Tuesday, October 13, 2015

Instilling Perseverance In Children

Perseverance means having the self-discipline to continue a task in spite of being confronted with difficulties. As Albert Einstein once said, "It's not that I'm so smart, it's just that I stay with problems longer."

The following classroom activities can be used to promote perseverance in students:

Thinking about perseverance.
Lead a discussion about what perseverance means and does not mean. For example, it means to keep working until the assignment is complete, instead of trying only a few times and quitting. With students' help, list the steps needed to learn a new skill such as riding a bicycle, learning to swim, or memorizing the multiplication table.

Abraham Lincoln and Perseverance
Abraham Lincoln once said, "People are about as happy as they make their minds up to be." Share that quote with students. Also share that Mr. Lincoln experienced many successes in his life, but he also failed in business in 1831, was defeated in his bid for a seat in the legislature in 1832, lost his bid for congress in 1843, lost his run for the Senate in 1855, and was defeated for Vice President in 1856. Yet, in 1860, Mr. Lincoln was elected President of the United States. List and discuss the qualities he must have had. For example: positive attitude, tenacity, diligence, courage, boldness, self-discipline, and determination.

Others Who Showed Perseverance
Have each student write a report on a person of their choosing who demonstrated perseverance. Some examples include: Albert Einstein, Helen Keller, Thomas Edison, Harriet Tubman, Franklin D. Roosevelt, Mother Teresa, Madame (Marie) Curie, Ray Charles, Rosa Parks, Lance Armstrong, or Christopher Reeve. Have them answer the following questions in their reports:

  • How did he or she show perseverance?
  • In what ways are you like the person in your report?
  • In what ways are you different from that person?
  • What did you learn about yourself from writing the report?

Stories of Perseverance
Read aloud (and perhaps invite students to act out) stories of perseverance. For example, you might share The Tortoise and the Hare, The Little Engine That Could, or any other story that has perseverance as a theme. Arrange children into groups and challenge them to write a simple poem, a song, or a short story that exemplifies perseverance. Have them perform their works for each other or for children in lower grades.

Perseverance in the News
Have students locate newspaper or magazine articles concerning a person who demonstrated perseverance after experiencing failure. Ask them to report what they learned.

Feelings of Perseverance
Have students write or draw a picture illustrating a time when they persevered and succeeded even though they felt like giving up. Then discuss the feelings associated with their achievement, for example: pride, happiness, self-confidence, and self-esteem.

Perseverance Role Plays
Invite students to role play -- or to use puppets to role play -- situations where individuals demonstrate perseverance. Examples: a child who stutters and keeps trying to speak fluently, a child who has learning problems yet puts forth much effort to learn, a student in a wheelchair who tries to do new things.

Persevering In Spit of Obstacles
Lead a discussion on how negative comments from others can influence a student's attitude toward learning. Discuss what children can do to prevent these remarks from hindering their efforts. Talk about ways one can be successful in spite of them. (For more ideas, see Encouraging Thoughts.)

Perseverance Role Models
Invite a respected community member who overcame obstacles to speak to your students about his or her life. Ask the individual to discuss the principles that led to his accomplishments. After the visit, have children compose and send a thank you card or letter.

Easy vs. Difficult
Ask students to create lists of things that are difficult for them to do and easy for them to do. Then discuss the fact that every child has strengths and weaknesses; if children keep trying to do things on their difficult lists, they will most likely be successful.

Planning to Persevere
Brainstorm and list obstacles, habits, and attitudes that prevent people from accomplishing their goals. Then have the children write down or draw a picture of what they want to be or do when they grow up. Arrange students into pairs and have them share their ideas. As a group list, generate a list of "general steps" needed to fulfill their dreams.

Life Stories
Have students create a list of questions that they would like to ask an older relative or family friend. For example:

  • What was the most important thing that you learned from your mother or father?
  • What values are most important in your life today?
  • What are you most proud of doing?
  • Tell about a mistake you made. What did you learn from that mistake?
  • Describe a time when you kept trying even though you felt like giving up.

After completing the interview, have the children write a report on what they learned.
Since perseverance is a necessary ingredient for student achievement, it needs to be encouraged. Helping children learn to be patient and to persist in spite of failure are attributes that will contribute to their future success.

See more at:

Monday, October 12, 2015

Elementary Teachers Share Their Favorite Children’s Books

I’ve asked some elementary teachers from Kindergarten all the way through 5th grade to share their favorite children’s books of all-time.   Keep reading to see what teachers chose as the best children’s books!

These teachers have been reading children’s books almost daily for years, so I know it was hard for them to narrow down their list of favorites. Keep on reading to see which books made the cut as their favorite children’s books! 

Cheri~ Kindergarten

1. Pete the Cat: I Love My White Shoes by Eric Litwin

This is an awesome book for younger children.  It comes with a song that is very catchy where your child/student will be singing a long and eventually be able to retell the story.   This book also teaches colors and has a great moral.

2. Pete the Cat and His Four Groovy Buttons by Eric Litwin

Another book written by Eric Litwin similar to the origninal Pete the cat.This one teaches numbers with a subtraction element.

3. All the World by Liz Garton Scanlon

This picture book is awesome and has great illustrations. It’s very poetic and implies that the world is all of us and we need to take care of it.

4. All Fancy Nancy books  by Jane O’Connor

I haven’t read all of these; however, I do like that they teach all kinds of vocabulary and even explain it. Girls tend to like these books as the main character is rather “girly”.

Kelly~ 1st Grade

1. I Don’t Want to Go to Bed! by Julie Sykes

This story has repetitive text and bright illustrations. It has some great messages- it is best to follow instructions to start with, and that the grass isn’t always greener on the other side. The kids always like the bush baby!

2. Counting Crocodiles by Judy Sierra

This one is fun! It has rhyming text without being mind numbing. The crocs in the story are very zany, and I love the tricky monkey. The kids and I love saying ‘sillabobble sea’ most of all. The kids like counting the crocs at the end!

3. Little By Little by Amber Stewart

I read this the first week of school and display it where it can be easily referred to all year.  It reinforces my message that you don’t learn to read overnight, but by taking small steps toward your goal, working hard and never giving up. The kids really seem to get it.

Felicia~ 1st Grade

1. Our Tree Named Steve by Alan Aweibel

2. Alexander and the Terrible, Horrible, No Good, Very Bad Day by Judith Viorst

Leslie~ 1st Grade

1. Chrysanthemum by Kevin Henkes

2. Lilly’s Purple Plastic Purse by Kevin Henkes

3. Owen by Kevin Henkes

Dianne~ 2nd Grade

1. Tough Boris by Mem Fox

2. Koala Lou by Mem Fox

3. The Paper Bag Princess by Robert Munsch

Jan~ 3rd Grade

1. Frindle by Andrew Clements

A story that has fun with words. Kids at this age like words. This story builds on this and allows them to think about derivative of words and even how they could create a word and think about its use.

2. The Indian in the Cupboard by Lynn Reid Banks

A great read-aloud with characters that really come alive within the text. Great vocabulary development. Children love the plot and predicting what will come next.

3. The Castle in the Attic  by Elizabeth Winthrop

A great follow-up to Indian In the Cupboard. I like to compare and contrast characters, setting, and plot between this book and the book above.

Paul~ 4th Grade

1. By the Great Horn Spoon! by Sid Fleischman

This is a really incredible depiction of the California Gold Rush. The two main characters, Jack and Praiseworthy, are constantly coming up with clever ways to get themselves and their friends out of trouble. Kids learn about the Gold Rush even though they just think they’re reading an entertaining book.

2. The BFG by Roald Dahl

3. Bandit’s Moon by Sid Fleischman

Also centered around the Gold Rush, Bandit’s Moon tells about the infamous bandit, Joaquin Murrieta. The story shows things aren’t always as they appear, as Joaquin turns out to be a caring man who was wronged. It doesn’t take long before you’re cheering on the ‘bad guy’.

Moya ~ 4th Grade

Where the Mountain Meets the Moon by Grace Lin

 I like to begin the year with this book as my read aloud. It has short chapters and beautiful illustrations. It appeals to both boys and girls.The kids love it while we’re reading it together, yet it is not a book they often choose to read on their own.

I have many girls who are always asking me for new series books. These are two of their favorites:

Twice Upon a Time #1: Rapunzel, The One With All the Hair by Wendy Mass

Twice Upon a Time #2: Sleeping Beauty, The One Who Took the Really Long Nap by Wendy Mass

 There are other books in the series but these are the two I have. I encourage the girls to read the actual fairy tale before reading these books.
Another series my girls like is The Sisters Grimm by Michael Buckley.

I think the girls like these because they are related to fairy tales, but set in modern time and there is a lot of adventure and mystery.

The Fairy Tale Detectives (The Sisters Grimm, Book 1) by Michael Buckley