Friday, August 28, 2015

Children with More Vocabulary Have Better Math, Language and Literacy Skills

According to a new study, two-year-olds who can promptly say more phrases have better math and language skills and fewer behavioral problems when they are about to start kindergarten. It is important to encourage children’s vocabulary development so that they develop the language and literacy skills necessary to succeed in school. The adults in a child’s life play a significant role in helping a child learn new words. Through everyday conversations and interactions, caregivers use unfamiliar words and talk about what words mean, which helps expand a child’s vocabulary.

Reading and talking with children plays an important role in developing their vocabulary. Typically, more words are used in written language than in spoken language. The more we read to children, the larger vocabulary they will develop.

Previous research has shown that kids who function better in kindergarten have greater social and educational opportunities as they grow up, according to the background summaries in the study.
“Our findings provide compelling evidence for oral vocabulary’s theorized importance as a multifaceted contributor to children’s early development,” said study leader Paul Morgan, an associate professor of education at Pennsylvania State University.

The analysis of data from more than 8,600 children in the United States showed that 2-year-olds with larger speaking vocabularies did better academically and had fewer behavioral problems when they later entered kindergarten.

At kindergarten entry, those who had larger vocabularies at an early age had higher reading and mathematics achievement and fewer problem behaviors like being disruptive, having temper tantrums or being physically aggressive.

It was also found in the study that children with larger vocabularies at age 2 tended to be from higher-income families, girls, and those who had higher-quality parenting. Despondently, children with low birth weight and those with a mother with health problems had smaller vocabularies at age two.
“From a policy standpoint our research is supportive of calls to provide high quality early experiences for children,” Morgan said.

“Vocabulary, unlike many other things like occupation, income, socioeconomic status or birth weight, is highly (modifiable),” Morgan said.

The parents have the most influence on a child’s language acquisition from birth, and changing how parents communicate with their children can increase their oral vocabulary, he said.
Morgan emphasized that frequent storybook reading and capitalizing on informal opportunities to have conversations are both important.

By accompanying the words with actions, gestures, or facial expressions, it will help the child understand the meaning of the words. For example, when modeling the word “weary”, you could do a sleeping action (hands under your head or yawn) so that the child understands what the word means.
The voice can also add meaning to a word. For example, if you say the word “frightened” or “terrified” with a shaky voice that sounds like you are scared, it will help the child understand what you mean.

The bottom line is not just how much to say, but also what to say and how to say it that makes a difference for the child’s vocabulary growth. Keeping one step ahead of the child will promote his vocabulary skills, and also set him on the path for success in school.

The study was published Aug. 18 in the journal Child Development.

Thursday, August 27, 2015

Helping Your Child Improve Reading Skills

When my grandson Woody comes to visit, a favorite thing to do is curl up on the couch together with a good storybook. For instance, on his next visit, I look forward to introducing him to Busy Day, Busy People. Like most two-and-a-half year olds, Woody loves exploring his world, and learning about that world through books. I know that he will enjoy the pictures of the construction workers, digging dirt and pouring cement. And I know even more deeply what a joy it is to help him discover the world.

Even on a "Busy Day" for "Busy People," reading is a wonderful way to expand children's worlds and to bond children and caregivers, and one that can start at birth. It also is a crucial way to help children gain the language and literacy skills needed for a good start in school.

The effects of early reading ability are far-reaching. According to the American Academy of Pediatrics, "Reading proficiency by third grade is the most significant predictor of high school graduation and career success, yet two-thirds of U.S. third-graders lack competent reading skills."

To help your child develop these important skills, make reading a daily activity, starting on day one.

Reading at Every Age

Here are a few strategies to engage your child and promote reading every day:

  • For infants, develop early language skills by repeating babies' babbles and coos and smiling back, showing that you hear their sounds. Also talk to babies with words, pausing to give them an opportunity to learn about the structure of conversations. Board books and cloth books are made to withstand babies' touching and chewing; let them explore.

  • For toddlers, it's okay if they request to read the same book over and over (we've all been there, over and over again). Repetition helps children become familiar with words and what they look like in print. Point to the pictures and text as you read, and encourage children to tell you about the pictures they see. Ask open-ended questions (who, what, where, when, and why) to give children an opportunity to talk about the book.

  • For preschoolers, read predictable books and pause in your reading so they can supply a familiar word or rhyme. Ask children about their favorite parts of the book or what they think will happen next in a story.

  • For kindergarteners and first graders, have children explain stories in their own words and make connections to their own lives. Read from magazines, fiction and nonfiction books, and even age-appropriate websites to help children develop an interest in the world and gain more background knowledge to support reading comprehension.

  • For second and third graders, listen to them read aloud and have them reread paragraphs or pages if they have trouble. Be patient as they are learning, and let them know you're proud of their effort. Help them use a dictionary or thesaurus to learn about new words they hear, and discuss with them what they read.

Reading frequently with children also is a good way to notice early whether they are having worrisome difficulties, so you can discuss concerns with their teachers and request additional help if needed.

When Reading is a Struggle

Learning to read is a process that, for many people, doesn't come easy.

At the National Institutes of Health, we are supporting research to better understand the causes of reading problems and to intervene more quickly and effectively so problems don't compound. For example:

  • Researchers are peeking into the brain's inner-workings, examining brain waves and brain scans to find ways to predict which children may have trouble learning to read before they get to school. Once identified, the children may be fast-tracked to interventions designed to help them overcome their reading difficulties.

  • Building on the successful program Reach Out and Read, researchers created a new approach to promote early childhood learning at pediatric visits. Through the Video Interaction Project, parents learn ways to read to and play with their children to foster optimal cognitive, linguistic, and social development.

We also are supporting research to explore how reading disorders overlap with other disabilities, such as math or writing disabilities or attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD). And, for non-native English speakers, we want to disentangle when learning delays are due to disabilities or simply to challenges of learning a second language.

Ultimately, our hope is for all children to have the chance to achieve their full potential for healthy and productive lives. Early learning is a key part of that. And just like the construction crew in Woody's next book, reading builds a strong foundation.


Wednesday, August 26, 2015

15 Books That Will Make You A Better Teacher

These books are mostly written by teachers for teachers. They range form the latest research on students, teachers talking about overcoming inequality to help students learn, and great techniques every teacher can use in their classroom.

1. Other People’s Children by Lisa Delpit

Why it’s worth the read: According to Lisa Delpit, teachers and students have to understand one other for classrooms to succeed. Delpit analyzes the cultural differences between teachers and students and provides some insight as to how teachers can leave cultural baggage at the door to really support students’ needs. Delpit’s follow-up book, Multiplication Is For White People, further expands on Other People’s Children, analyzing the effect of the education reform movement on schools.

2. Savage Inequalities by Jonathan Kozol

Why it’s worth the read: It provides a shocking look into just how unequal school can be for students living in different ZIP codes. Kozol shows that even resources and opportunities in public schools are determined by which ZIP code you happen to live in. Kozol also wrote The Shame of The Nation, where he visited 60 schools across the country in an effort to find some classrooms that could provide examples of great learning environments for all schools.

3. The Passion-Driven Classroom by Angela Maiers and Amy Sandvold

Why it’s worth the read: Angela Maier and Amy Sandvold want to turn the conversation about the achievement gap into a conversation about how increasing passion in the classroom can create transformative change in students’ lives.

4. Freedom Writers by Erin Gruwell

Why it’s worth the read: English teacher Erin Gruwell tells of her experiences as a new teacher and reveals that most new teachers struggle with understanding their students’ needs and backgrounds. Freedom Writers provides insights into how teachers can take back struggling classrooms and renew students’ interest in learning.

5. Choice Words by by Peter Johnston

Why it’s worth the read: This book reminds teachers that developing students’ habits of discussion is important for how they express themselves.

6. Why Don’t Students Like School? by Daniel T. Willingham

Why it’s worth the read: This book is for teachers who want to know how their students’ brains work. It tells how teachers can motivate their students to remember both their favorite TV shows and the things they learn in school.

7. Teach Like a Champion by Doug Lemov

Why it’s worth the read: Doug Lemov offers 49 effective techniques that will help new teachers create great classroom management techniques to help increase learning.


This article was first published in COMMUNITY on Buzzfeed

Monday, August 24, 2015

27 Business Leaders Name Their Favorite Books Ever

Warren Buffet

Business leaders didn't get to where they are today without a bit of wisdom guiding them along the way. Many of them cite books — whether strategy guides or novels — that inspired them or changed the way they think.

Yahoo! CEO Marissa Mayer

In an interview with, Mayer revealed her favorite book as "The Design of Everyday Things" (2002) by Donald Norman. She said:

"I think a lot about design and products and how things should work. But it makes you notice things that can be infuriating. Like, why does my sandwich shop have meat all the way over there? At the same time, it makes you think about design in new ways, because when you use something everyday it needs to be absolutely efficient and not get in your way. It’s cool to be able to articulate and discuss that on a level that is really accessible and interesting."

Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg

Zuckerberg named "The Aeneid" by Virgil as one of his favorite books in a 2010 New Yorker profile:

He first read the Aeneid while he was studying Latin in high school, and he recounted the story of Aeneas’s quest and his desire to build a city that, he said, quoting the text in English, “knows no boundaries in time and greatness.”

Trump Organization CEO Donald Trump

Trump named "The Power of Positive Thinking" by Norman Vincent Peale as his favorite book, according to ShortList Magazine. This book inspired Trump at his lowest moment when he was billions of dollars in debt. He told Psychology Today:

"My father was friends with Dr. Norman Vincent Peale, and I had read his famous book, 'The Power of Positive Thinking.' I'm a cautious optimist but also a firm believer in the power of being positive. I think that helped. I refused to be sucked into negative thinking on any level, even when the indications weren't great. That was a good lesson because I emerged on a very victorious level. It's a good way to go."

Zappos CEO Tony Hsieh

Hsieh told USA Today that one of his favorite books is "Tribal Leadership: Leveraging Natural Groups to Build a Thriving Organization" by Dave Logan, John King and Halee Fischer-Wright.

"'Tribal Leadership' codifies a lot of what we've been doing instinctually and provides a great framework for all companies to bring company culture to the next level," he said.

Hsieh's other favorites include "Peak: How Great Companies Get Their Mojo from Maslow" by Chip Conley and "The Happiness Hypothesis: Finding Modern Truth in Ancient Wisdom" by Jonathan Haidt.

OWN Network CEO Oprah Winfrey

Winfrey has said "To Kill a Mockingbird" by Harper Lee is her all-time favorite book. She was even featured in Mary McDonagh Murphy's documentary on the book.

"I remember reading this book and then going to class and not being able to shut up about it," she said, according to The Baltimore Sun. "I read it in eighth or ninth grade, and I was trying to push the book off on other kids. So it makes sense to me that now I have a book club, because I have been doing that since probably this book."

Cantor Fitzgerald CEO Howard Lutnick

Lutnick's favorite book is "The Tender Bar: A Memoir" by Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist J.R. Moehringer. “It’s an uplifting story in a place and manor you’d never expect," he told Fox Business News.

IMAX Ceo Richard Gelfond

Gelfond's favorite book is "Life," the autobiography of Rolling Stones musician Keith Richards.

"The guy’s had an incredibly eclectic and interesting life that no one else has ever lived," he told Fox Business News.

Renault, Nissan CEO Carlos Ghosn

Ghosn's favorite book is "The Reader" by Bernhard Schlink, a novel set in post-war Germany about a young boy's affair with a woman twice his age.

“My son gave it to me and I love it," he told Fox Business News.

Coca-Cola CEO Muhtar Kent

Kent's favorite book is "The Ascent of Money: A Financial History of the World" by Niall Ferguson, a non-fiction work that chronicles the evolution of the financial system.

“I love books on economic observations," he told Fox Business News. "This is one of the best.”


Thursday, August 20, 2015

10 Easy To Read Books That Make You Smarter

There could be as many books written as opinions on which to read. This list is not at all exhaustive, but serves as a starting point for the inquisitive mind. These are all modern, easy to read books that don’t fill your brain with easily forgotten facts, but a way of thinking about the universe that makes you smarter.

Ranging from books based on science and new breakthroughs in psychological research, these books serve to awaken and enlighten you. If you’re only going to read 10 non fiction books, these books are all you need. So, without further ado:

1. Cosmos – Carl Sagan

Carl Sagan’s Cosmos, tells the story of 15 billion years of cosmic history like no one else can. This book shows how broad and deep Carl’s interests extend and draws the reader into a world of fascination. Although the book is primarily about how science has developed in our society, the book touches on subjects such as history, philosophy, religion, and cultures. The book is written in simple terms and is understandable to those without a background in science.

2. Outliers: The Story Of Success – Malcolm Gladwell

Outliers brings a crucial point that there is logic behind why some people become successful, and it has more to do with legacy and opportunity than high IQ. This important idea, shifts the concept of the smarter the better to point out what actually goes into making a successful person. Although Malcolm Gladwells methods have been brought into questioning in recent times, there’s no doubt that this book is a great starting point for anyone interested in evolutionary psychology.

3. A Short History Of Nearly Everything – Bill Bryson

This is the greatest guide, to what we all should have learned in high school and beyond. Through one giant narrative, Bill Bryson takes the reader to the many physical quarks and wonders of our universe. As far as science books go, this one is a must read for anyone interested in how and why we are here.

4. The Moral Animal: Why We Are, the Way We Are – Robert Wright

Where do morals come from? Why do we do certain things?
These are the questions the book challenges from a new perspective. Taking the basic principle of evolution and finally applying it to the way we act as humans

5. Thinking Fast And Slow – Daniel Kahneman

Daniel Kahneman presents the brain as we have never seen it. The basis of the book is simple. In judging the world around us, we use two mental systems: Fast and Slow. The Fast system (System 1) is mostly unconscious and makes snap judgments based on our past experiences and emotions. When we use this system we are as likely to be wrong as right. The Slow system (System 2) is rational, conscious and slow. They work together to give us a view of the world around us.

6. Freakonomics: A Rogue Economist Explores the Hidden Side of Everything – Steven D. Levitt & Stephen J. Dubner

The lesson of this book is that we should be leery of trusting society’s or common wisdom. In other words, the book encourages us to keep our mind alert and break out of the mold in the way we see things. It introduces one of the most important topics which is differentiating correlation from causation.

7. The Power of Habit: Why We Do What We Do in Life and Business

This is a great book about the power of habit and what we can do to change our habits in business, life, and society. The book is divided into three sections, first focusing on the individual, then companies, and finally societies.

8. Guns, Germs, and Steel: The Fates Of Human Societies – Jared Diamond

Winner of the Pulitzer Prize, Guns, Germs, and Steel is a brilliant work answering the question of why the people’s of certain continents succeeded in invading other continents and conquering or displacing their people’s. This book sheds light on why the Europeans advanced so much quicker than the rest of the world.

9. Six Easy Pieces: Essentials of Physics Explained by Its Most Brilliant Teacher – Richard P. Feynman

Physics can often be wrongly marred with hatred for its complexity and day to day social application. No one will ever come close to describing the fundamentals of our universe quite like Richard Feynman can. He is able to make physics intuitive, unlocking the many beauties for everyone to appreciate.

10. This Will Make You Smarter: New Scientific Concepts to Improve Your Thinking – John Brockman

Wednesday, August 19, 2015

7 Ways Books Can Change Your Life

Often times, during a dark hour or an idle point, a book has changed my life. There are countless books that have pointed me in a different direction, or taught me a lesson. There are also many books that have helped me articulate my own emotions or thoughts, helped me find a voice. If it weren't for the books I've read, I'd be a very different man today...I'd even argue I'd be less of a man.

Books, especially good ones, have that sort of power. If you let them, they can change your life, serve as another compass or guide, or give you a lift when you need it most. I'm sure you can think of at least one book that fundamentally changed you as a human being.

For all of us who've felt this transformation, or for anybody who hopes to find that in a good book, this is for you. Here are some of the ways reading a book can change your life.


At the very least, you will connect with the person at the other of the dialogue, the author. But you will likely connect with much more than that: the zeitgeist, the universe, a reality that exists somewhere else or that one day could be yours. Reading is a lifeline to all else that is.

Think about it: the book you are reading may have been written decades ago, in another country, maybe even in another language by a person who lived a completely different life. Or it may have been written in New Jersey a few years ago by some guy you know. Either way, you are having a conversation with someone else, and, if you nod along enough while reading the book, you're also finding a new friend and a friendlier existence.

Reading reminds you that you are not alone. Your struggles and dreams are shared. Your life is a part of a larger ecosystem. The greatest books comfort you with this sense of belonging.


As with any good conversation, when you read you do a lot of listening. You are on the receiving end of a wire transfer of knowledge (with no transaction fee). This other person, the writer, is imparting something, at the very least one thing, you didn't have before: a fact, a theory, a point of view, an emotion. They are letting you into a psyche (theirs, their alter ego's, their main character's) and letting you in on some secrets.

And they are hoping you care enough to truly listen.

So reading flexes your empathy. It works your capacity to connect to another person and invest yourself in their story. Even if you vehemently disagree with them, you get to know them, and as any script writer will tell you, that is how you end up using that giving-a-damn muscle.


Give any book the opportunity and it will teach you something. It will at least teach you what not to do or say or believe in. But in order for anything to happen, you have to give it a chance, and to give it a chance you need to be humble. You need to think, OK, let me put down my ego and hear ya out.

Reading will very likely remind you that everybody else is smarter than you. In some way, everyone else has an edge on you. Every one of us knows at least one thing better than everyone else. Our life experiences, by themselves, give us a leg up on the competition; nobody has lived our life.

Once you embrace this truth, your humility deepens, because you know you don't have all the answers, you and your world are not all of it.
It is like studying astronomy: you start with this world which encompasses everything you know; and then you move on to the planets, the awesome sun, the stars that dwarf the sun, the overwhelming constellations made of their own stars and planets, and on and on..

This makes me feel tiny. My entire reality, that which has taken me over 30 years to put together, is an infinitesimal part of "all of it."

But that's not where it ends. It also reminds me of how much more is out there. How much more is left to explore and know and live. My tininess is actually an invitation to let my imagination roam, let my eyes widen as much as possible to take more of it in.

Same goes with the books we read. Each of them open up a new window of this universe, and we have the option of letting our eyes widen and start exploring. But first, check that "I know everything" ego at the door.


The most moving (and enduring) books you collect are those that become a mirror. This mirror is placed in front of you when you read something that has you nodding along and thinking, yes, that is how it is. You just found a part of yourself.

You may cry, smile, or wince, because that's you you're reading. You feel like you've been searching this whole time for this moment, but never knew that. The author has perfectly described the world (your world), or reminded you of your past, shone a light on your core beliefs, or lit up that dim hope you carry.

The words written by a likely stranger have helped you connect with the person you ought to know the best, yourself, thus reminding you that sometimes a stranger appears within, too. But the more read, the more you'll educate yourself on yourself by finding what rings true.


Reading challenges you. Taking a book seriously means risking the chance of finding an adversary. A book may become a headwind. These challenging books push back on everything you hold true. They tell you human nature is inherently evil, or that the Church is at fault, or that America is not the greatest country in the world. It will essentially say you're wrong.

A poorly constructed book that does this is easy to dismiss. But one that has been carefully crafted, one that shakes you at your core, you can't brush off. It will demand that you stand up and defend your truths.

A challenging book will force you to re-think those flabby truths. What you considered true will be put to trial, and by defending them you will grow stronger, regardless of the outcome.


Reading helps you remain calm. It's as therapeutic as anything else. Once you start digging into a book that's caught your attention, time ceases to exist, your mind is completely immersed in what is in front of you.

As with anything that fully engages your attention, reading makes you stop rushing or running from one point to the next. Instead, you are where you need to be, right here, doing this, and all other things are secondary. The worries, anguish, fears, and ambitions of a moment ago are boxed away in a container that read "for later." Your only worry is flipping to the next page to find out what's next.


Reading is a pleasure -- it ought to be. Nobody has any time to read books you don't like.

These are not books you disagree with or challenging ones, but just those that cannot keep you interested. Whatever you choose to read should bring you pleasure at some level. The amount of time and space that you invest in these darlings should be an investment, not a cost. The return on this investment should be some sort of joy: a joy in having experienced it, a joy in having learned from it, or a joy in having found a new friend in it.

If this joy does not come up, not even in the first few pages, then I'd ask you this: would you buy a DVD for a movie you didn't like? Would you go on a second date with a guy who made you wince? Then why would you invest more of yourself in a book that is on that same level?

Life is too short to read books that don't bring you joy, or worse, that don't matter at all. Read what enriches your life, and your life will change because of it.


Friday, August 14, 2015

10 Study Motivation Quotes to Help You Study NOW!

Let’s face it, studying is not what you want to be doing right now. You want to be playing video games, reading up on your celebrity gossip, hanging out with your friends or watching movies. Even cleaning your room would trump preparing for your exams right about now!

Exam stress is tough but if you want to get somewhere, you have to put the work in. Just like when you’re in the gym and your instructor shouts motivational comments to keep the pressure on, these quotes will help you boost your study motivation to get you over that final hurdle.

No matter what type of student you are, these study motivation quotes will help you focus and see the big picture. Also, check out the top tips at the end for more ways to help you study or have a gander at these good habits for a serious student.

P.S. Everyone loved the image at the end on our GoConqr Facebook!

1. For the student who is extremely productive at unimportant things:

2. For the student who needs a reality-check:

3. For the student who is the master of excuses:

4. For the student who can’t stop procrastinating:

5. For the student who is struggling with their self-belief:

6. For the student who has big ambitions:

7. For the student who can only see a mountain:

8. For the student who can’t see the end of the road:

9. For the student who needs to think about the future:

10. For the student who doesn’t understand the purpose of mistakes:

And finally………..for every type of student:

When you’re struggling to motivate yourself to study, the key thing is to think about your long-term goal. Some students even find a way to have their goal in front of them; whether it’s on a post-it note, the front page of your notebook, or even the screensaver on your laptop or phone!

Thursday, August 13, 2015

18 Business Lessons You Don't Want to Learn the Hard Way

You can learn these precepts the way most people do--by getting them wrong and setting yourself back. But it doesn't have to be that way. And the more quickly you pick them up, the more successful you can be.

Much of the knowledge we gain in business and in life we learn the hard way. But if you can learn the lessons before you make the mistakes, you can gain the advantage that much earlier--and free yourself from the struggle of getting it wrong.

Here are 18 useful business lessons you don't have to learn the hard way:

1. Stand for something.
Stand for something, even if it means standing alone. Because often times the one who flys solo has the strongest wings.

2. The antidote to stagnation is innovation.
Learn to view innovation as opportunities for creativity.

3. People do business with people who make them feel special.
It's an old chestnut, but it's true: The only way to get people to care about you is to care about them first.

4. In order to get, you have to give.
If you want a lot, be ready to give just as much.

5. If you can't put your heart into it, take yourself out of it.
The easy way never leads to success--it takes heart and hard work.

6. When passion and skill work together, the result is a masterpiece.
The big moments happen to those who want them deeply--and prepare for them. Balance is the key.

7. The bigger the goals, the more it requires.
Goals will remain dreams forever unless you roll up your sleeves and get started making them happen.

8. Clean your messes up or they will clean you out.
There may not be an easy way out, but there's always some way out. And waiting for something to get better by itself almost never pays off.

9. Speak less and listen more.
Learning requires, at its core, a willingness to listen.

10. If you want something in your life you've never had before, you're going to have to do things you've never done before.
The first step is deciding, down in your bones, what it is you want.

11. To double your net worth, double your self-worth.
You don't need anyone's permission or approval to be successful.

12. All mavericks are first ridiculed first and then revered.
Believe in yourself, even--especially--if others don't. Know that there is something inside you that is greater than any obstacles or scorn.

13. True failure is not trying.
If you haven't failed a lot, you probably aren't going to win a lot. If you never take a risk, you'll never fail, and you'll never win.

14. The most dangerous place you can be is inside your safety zone.
You cannot find opportunities for success if you are stuck in a zone. Especially the safety zone.

15. You will never go wrong by doing what is right.
Just because it hasn't worked out does not mean it won't turn out right.

16. Business is built on relationships, and relationships are built on trust.
Earning and keeping that trust are pretty simple prospects: Don't promise what you cannot deliver, and deliver everything you promise.

17. Just because your competitors are doing it doesn't mean you have to do it too.
Success means creating something you can be proud of--not whatever is trendy this week.

18. Let your life matter and your business make a difference.
If your business is a good cause, if it contributes to good lives for people, it's worth every risk to pursue.

You'll have countless more opportunities to learn throughout your life--some the easy way, some difficult and even painful. Whatever comes your way, remember to always pay attention, be open to what you can learn from every situation, and carry that learning forward by acting on it and sharing it with others. Those are the elements of good business, and a great life.

Wednesday, August 12, 2015

7 Leadership Books that Donald Trump and All Leaders Should Read

As the race for our next president heats up the whole question of who and what makes a great leader, is front and center, and gives us all food for thought about what really matters in leadership today.

Many years ago when The Apprentice was full steam ahead, Donald Trump sat behind the big desk in the boardroom, pointed his finger week after week and said, "You're fired."

Those two words can bring fear to the strongest of us. Who hasn't had a dream about being in that awful, compromising situation when you are told you are no longer needed or wanted?

Those words are so adrenaline filled that Mr. Trump attempted to trademark them. His request was denied because there is a board game that sounds too similar, called "You're Hired."

Thus, all of you in positions of leadership, relax. You can still use those words when needed, they are still in the free market. Remember, use them wisely!

I was envisioning The Donald as President, making the White House into a reality show like the film The Truman Show with Jim Carey from years ago. The vision was unnerving to say the least. Since Trump is a front-runner at the moment I decided, as a concerned citizen I needed to make a contribution to our country.

Here are some books that underline the importance of leadership he may want to take a look at:

  • Leaders Eat Last, by Simon Sinek: addresses the constant tension about money and meaning and shows that you can be wealthy and make the world a better place.
  • It's Not All About Me, by Robin Dreeke: there is a better way than just pointing a finger and saying "you're fired." It is about relationship building and putting people at ease to become the best they can be.
  • Long Walk to Freedom, by Nelson Mandela: deep and honest look at a man, through his own words. He was one of the great moral and political leaders of our times.
  • The Servant, by James Hunter: shows the difference between managing things and leading people. Underlying focus is on building relationships and listening.
  • The Emperor's Handbook, by Marcus Aurelius: he ruled the Roman Empire at its height and yet was never corrupted by the absolute power he held.
  • Geronimo, by Mike Leach: about this mighty Apache leader who used the circumstances he was faced with to create a powerful team to go against all odds. (Interestingly, I see the Mr. Trump has endorsed this book.)

Now we all know in this day and age, controversy sells. It is enticing, exhilarating and exciting. And, it makes for good television, good tweets, and possibly more votes.

Yet, a steady diet of controversy is like being on a diet of sugar and carbs while our bodies are screaming out for some protein.

Therefore the last book on the list is a classic that I think should be required reading in schools, in offices, in boardrooms, and on the campaign trail.

  • How to Win Friends and Influence People, by Dale Carnegie: he teaches effective communication that leaves people feeling valued and not manipulated. Ya think John McCain would like to get a copy of Carnegie's book in Trump's hands?
Let me know what your favorites are and we can get a list to all the candidates as well as the leaders in all companies around the world.

Tuesday, August 11, 2015

How Great Leaders Build Loyalty

When I was 22 years old, my grandfather taught me one of the most important lessons I've learned about leadership. We had just grown our company to 6 people, and I remember I was scared out of my mind about how I was going to get my teammates to believe in me. I felt like I had no idea what I was doing, I was making all types of mistakes, and I worried about letting everyone down. Most of all, I wanted my team members to trust and stick with me through the journey.

Being a first time entrepreneur and a recent college graduate, I asked my grandpa how to lead my team. His response? Try and make everyone in your company smarter than you, and they'll stay with you through the worst of times. This advice has stayed with me ever since, and has been a big reason why our early team has stayed together through hard times. Below, I'll go through 3 ways you can gain the loyalty of your team through learning. Your success as a CEO should be based on how many employees you've made smarter than you. It’s not based on how many teammates you've become smarter than.

1. Invest In A Company Library

Every week, I go on Amazon and buy books that I think would be helpful for our business. A huge advocate of reading, I started encouraging my team to ask me for books that would help them be more successful. Every once in a while, I'd surprise a team member with a book that she would find helpful. After she saw how much it helped her, she would become so grateful for a $10 book. Teaching someone to fish will always be more valuable than buying him a fishing a pole.

Nowadays, we have a growing library of books and resources that any team member can check out and read at his or her convenience. We even allow our team to read these books during work hours if they like. We know that people who invest in themselves produce the best work.

No matter how strapped for cash you are, start a company library as soon as possible. You can find books lying around the house, or get some of the best books on Amazon for less than $10. Build an early culture of learning, and you'll reap major rewards for the rest of your company's life.

2. Encourage members to become dual threats

To keep a company moving quickly and efficiently, you need to try to keep the team as small as possible before hiring. At 16 people, one of the biggest threats in our company is that it's tougher to move as fast as when we were under 10. You'd think the opposite would happen at first, that more people means faster progress. Unfortunately, this is rarely the case. As a team grows, logistics becomes more of a headache, and communication takes longer.

One of the ways I've learned to protect us from moving too slow is by hiring from within whenever possible. I encourage and push my teammates to learn new skills in the business so that if needed they can take dual roles. For instance, our sales team is learning marketing strategies. The finance team is taking coding courses, and as the CEO I try to be able to know as much about every part of our business as I can.

3. Sacrifice short term goals for long term loyalty

A few weeks ago, we had a major product deadline for one of our clients. Time was ticking, the product needed to be shipped, and the customer was anxiously waiting. It looked like we were going to make the deadline, but it was going to be last minute. With only a week until we needed to ship the product, our best iOS developer told me he was set to go to Big Nerd Ranch that week. We send our best developers to this bootcamp, and when they come back the amount they learn in a week is about the same as a yearlong course. I had promised him that he would go, but if he left we would for sure miss the deadline.

He looked at me and said that if I needed him to stay, he would sacrifice the opportunity for the team no problem. That's the kind of commitment every leader hopes for. While it stung at first, I decided to send him to Big Nerd Ranch even though I knew this meant we would miss our product deadline. I apologized to our customer, explained the situation to the team, and stood by my decision.

To my amazement, the rest of our team respected and backed my decision. Our customer understood the situation and stuck with us, and our iOS developer came back a ten times better coder. These decisions are never easy, but when you confront them think about what's going to matter in the long run. To have missed product deadline for an experience that will positively affect someone for the rest of his or her life? That's an easy decision to make.


Monday, August 10, 2015

Why Picture Books – 5 Reasons Why They Belong in Every Classroom

I don’t remember when I fell out of love with picture books, but I do remember wondering why any teacher would invest any money in them if they were not teaching young kids.  After all, picture books are so expensive and there is not much to them.  No, I would rather invest my money in chapter books, that is where you get the most value.  So picture books?  Perhaps a few selected mentor texts in my 4th grade classroom.

I don’t remember when I fell back in love with picture books.  Perhaps it was the first time students laughed out loud with me at Chick and Pug.  Perhaps it was the first time students held their breath with me when I read out loud Pete & Pickles.  Perhaps when I cried while I read Ivan: The Remarkable True Story of the Shopping Mall Gorilla. Perhaps it was when those kids that hated reading so much would ask if they could borrow some picture books so they could read to their little sister, and then tell me all about their night the very next day.  Whatever happened, I now know that picture books belong in every classroom, for every reader.  Here is why.

Picture books give us a common language.

I love how we can read a picture book and then refer back to it again and again as we weave our threads of community throughout the year.  The students remember it, they read it again, and the reminisce about reading it.  In a short amount of time we create a foundation for the students to bond through and a way for us to be a part of their world.  Even within my 45 minutes of instruction time, I know I can at least read a picture book out loud, most days.  And if you don’t teach English, read one once in a while, students need community in all classes, not just the literacy ones.

Picture books can teach us complex matters in a simple way.

When my students became curious about the great Malcolm X, I read them Malcolm Little.  When we spoke of the civil rights movement and the every day segregation that happened, I read them Ruth and the Green Book.  When they feel completely alone, I read them The Invisible Boy.  When we have to talk about what our actions do to others, we read aloud Each Kindness which with its less than perfect ending is a perfect mirror of what life is really like.  These books don’t offer all of the knowledge my students need, but they give us a chance to start the conversation.  There are so many curriculum picture books out there waiting for us to embrace them for the knowledge they give us, not written for the young reader but for mature kids that can take the information and do something with it.  Don’t leave your students out.

Picture books can make us feel successful when we have lost our way.

I often teach students who don’t think they will ever be a strong reader.  Who do not go home and read, who do not gravitate toward books, but instead spend them them flipping pages and waiting for the bell.  I hand these kids stacks of picture books.  I tell them to immerse themselves and come up when they are ready for more.  There is no judgment from other kids, nor jealousy.  Our picture books are waiting for anyone to read them.

Picture books relieve stress.

If a child is having a bad day, I can hand them a stack of Elephant and Piggie books and know that at some point a small smile will form.  I can hand them anything fantastical that is nothing like their real life and for a  moment they have a reprieve.  How often do our students get a chance to escape the stress of their lives and still work?  Picture books offer me that opportunity.

Picture books can make us believe that we can read well.

For the child who gave up a long time ago on reading.  For the child who does not believe that school is for them.  For the child who is angry, who is misplaced, who is lost; picture books can make the biggest difference.  I once taught a student so angry he scared the rest of the class, but if I could get a stack of picture books in his hands before it was too late, send him to a quiet place, he deescalated.  Picture books were not a threat, nor were they work.  They were an escape and something that made him feel successful.  If a child does not think they will ever read as well as the others, get them picture books, have them digest them slowly, see their progress and see them start to believe that they too can be readers, that they too can belong.  There is no shame in picture books, not when we embrace them fully as teachers.  Not when we make them a part of our classroom.  Remove the stigma so that students can find success within their pages, rather than feel there are no books for them out there.


Character Building through Free Reading the Right Step to Take

Starting this 2015 academic year, schools nationwide will oblige their students to spend at least 15 minutes prior to the start of class participating in a free-reading activity, as stipulated in Ministerial Regulation No. 23/2015 issued by the Culture and Elementary and Secondary Education Ministry. Though long overdue, the move needs to be applauded.

Culture and Elementary and Secondary Minister Anis Baswedan has initiated the in-class free reading program on the grounds that such an activity can help instill positive traits in school children. In other words, free reading is believed to be beneficial for students’ character development.

While 15 minutes is considered insufficient for exhorting students to choose books they are fond of and then to read them, Anis’ stupendous move to instill positive traits in students through free reading has scientific justification.

Free reading, or what American educator Stephen Krashen calls “Free voluntary reading or recreational reading,” indeed offer huge benefits not only to children’s cognitive development but also to their character development.

Research findings have hitherto accumulated (well documented in Krashen’s book, Free Voluntary Reading), espousing the merits of free reading over instructed reading such as obligatory school textbook reading. Children develop language skills faster when they are encouraged to initially do “light reading” such as folk tales, magazines, comics, simplified novels and story books.

Good reading material should not always be associated with “quality” reading like school textbooks or academic-oriented books.

Free reading in the form of illustrated light reading material has been proven to stimulate children’s imagination and creativity, making them inquisitive and critical, thereby encouraging them to read advanced reading material. Unlike in-school instructed reading, which most students are averse to, free reading allows children to explore and shape their own world. This may include reading accountability like book reports.

More important, free reading contributes to the shaping of positive characters. For example, folktales or biographies can influence children to behave in a positive way.

Likewise, free reading provides the opportunity for students to align what is printed in books with what they witness and experience in their vicinity, thus making them not only cognitively and linguistically mature but also socially sensitive. In this respect, reading becomes an important ecological resource that can connect their cognition with the outside world.

Anis’ newly issued policy, however, is not without its problems. For schools in big cities, imposing the 15-minute free reading activity is without question viable, but for schools in remote, poverty stricken regions that will not always be feasible.

The major stumbling block facing the latter schools is that books are scarce, as the numbers of libraries in those schools are very limited. This certainly results in a lack of access to books, which in turn discourages students from becoming voracious readers.

 Meanwhile, for children growing up in poverty, the 15-minute free-reading program is a sheer delusion.

To encourage students to read more, they need to be given access to books. It is evident that easy access to books help stimulate students to develop a reading habit. On the contrary, a lack of book displays in schools seriously hampers students’ effort to read, either voluntarily or for their own pleasure.

It is therefore clear that the free-reading policy needs to be simultaneously supplemented with a program that requires all schools (state-owned and private) to have a school library, so as to ensure that the policy can be equally implemented in all schools nationwide.

- See more at:

Friday, August 7, 2015

8 Ways To Help Kids Understand What They Read

Now that your child is a reader, you can share your best reading comprehension strategies (that you probably don’t even know you use) to help him understand what he reads. But how?

Think about teaching a child to tie a shoe or ride a bike. You break down what you do unconsciously into teachable steps. The same goes in reading. I’m breaking down eight reading comprehension strategies that you can use at home.

1. Does This Make Sense?
The MOST important thing you can teach your child is to realize when he does and doesn’t understand what he’s reading. Help him stop frequently and ask himself, “Do I understand what’s going on?” This can be hard for some kids. To be sure he’s understanding, ask him to retell you what he just read. Teach him that if he doesn’t understand, it’s best to stop.

1) Reread.
2) Pick a book at an easier reading level.
3) Ask for professional help — if it’s consistent issue.

2. Can I Get a Picture in My Head?
Encourage your child to get a mental picture of what she’s reading. You automatically do this as a reader. Beginning readers are just getting the hang of it. So while you’re reading, show your child how to use the descriptions to make a movie in her mind. If she can’t get a picture in her head, it might be because she isn’t understanding or needs more practice with this strategy.

3. I Think That ______ Is Going to Happen Next.
Does your child know how to predict? Help him use the story information to make reasonable predictions about what will happen next. Stop after a short passage and talk about it — share your predictions, too. (You may need to define “reasonable” with some examples — for example, predicting that the wolf gets into a spaceship in the “Three Little Pigs” isn’t a reasonable prediction.)

4. What Is That Word? 
Prepare for word battle. Kids need word attack strategies. Can your child decode words she doesn’t know? Show her your strategies beyond “sound it out.” Look for smaller words in bigger words, use the pictures as clues, figure out the beginning and ending sounds, or skip it and keep reading. Learn more word attack strategies in this article.

5. What Does It Mean?
Help your child stop when he comes to a word he doesn’t know and ask, “What do you think that word means?” Tell him that sometimes you can use the context of the sentence to make a good guess at the meaning (also called inference). Show him how to do this and practice together.

6. What Happened Before?
Readers need to remember what they read before — the day before, even five minutes before. Remind kids to think back to what already happened before they continue reading a new chapter.

7. I Can Relate (Connect) To ______.
Part of understanding what we read is being able to fit it into what we already know, our prior knowledge. Help your child make connections to her own life and other books she’s read. Model this for your kids: “Oh, that reminds me of … “

8. Good Stories Are Worth the Work
Sometimes we can forget the forest when we focus on the trees. Remember, the end goal: that your child loves to read. If reading is getting tough, stop and find a way to make it fun. Chances are, your child already loves stories thanks to your rich home environment. Now, remind him again that the story itself is the reward. And that you will support him through this amazing journey of growing as a reader.


Thursday, August 6, 2015

7 Powerful Books Sheryl Sandberg Wants Women to Read

Here's what the Facebook COO thinks you should be checking out.

Previous posts have provided the recommended reading lists of Bill Gates, Elon Musk, Steve Jobs, Warren Buffet, Jeff Bezos, and Mark Zuckerberg. Now I figure it's time to expand our reading beyond the billionaire boys' club.

This post consists of books that Facebook COO Sheryl Sandberg recommended in a recent New York Times interview. While she didn't identify these books as being specifically for women, they all fit well with Sandberg's own book, Lean In.

1. A Short Guide to a Happy Life

Author: Anna Quindlen

5-second summary: A novelist explains her philosophy of life through a series of loosely connected personal observations.

Why women should read it: Quindlen's fictional works center around women's roles and how they see themselves, so women will find her encouragement and advice about thses topics particularly apt.

Fun factoid: The core of this book was a commencement address that Quindlen didn't deliver due to planned protests from anti-abortion activists.

Best quote: "But you are the only person alive who has sole custody of your life. Your particular life. Your entire life. Not just your life at a desk, or your life on the bus, or in the car, or at the computer. Not just the life of your mind, but the life of your heart."

2. Bossypants

Author: Tina Fey

5-second summary: A multitalented comedian takes a wry look at life, the media, motherhood, and her career.

Why women should read it: Amid the humor, Fey takes on the big issues of women in the workplace, like the glass ceiling and the tendency of men to diss women in meetings.

Fun factoid: In 2014, Sandberg launched a campaign to ban the word "bossy" to encourage young women to seek more leadership roles.

Best quote: "My unsolicited advice to women in the workplace is this. When faced with sexism, or ageism, or lookism, or even really aggressive Buddhism, ask yourself the following question: 'Is this person in between me and what I want to do?' If the answer is no, ignore it and move on. Your energy is better used doing your work and outpacing people that way. Then, when you're in charge, don't hire the people who were jerky to you."

3. Conscious Business

Subtitle: How to Build Value Through Values

Author: Fred Kofman

5-second summary: How success emerges naturally from holding to and acting on ethical values.

Why women should read it: Studies have shown that in the workplace men are more likely than women to act unethically. This book's redefinition of the role of ethics thus plays to women's strengths.

Fun factoid: Sandberg regularly recommends this book to Facebook employees.

Best quote: "Have you ever driven down the highway on cruise control, engaged in a conversation or daydreaming, only to realize you missed your exit? You didn't literally lose consciousness, but you dimmed your awareness. Relevant details, such as your location and the actions needed to reach your goal, receded from the forefront of your mind Your eyes were open, but you didn't see. This is a poor way to drive--and an even poorer way to live."

4. Home Game

Subtitle: An Accidental Guide to Fatherhood

Author: Michael Lewis

5-second summary: An unsparing, funny look at fatherhood from a husband's viewpoint.

Why women should read it: Working mothers face many difficulties in the workplace; it helps to know that working fathers struggle too.

Fun factoid: Lewis is best known for his books about business and finance, such as The Big Short.

Best quote: "Memory loss is the key to human reproduction. If you remembered what new parenthood was actually like you wouldn't go around lying to people about how wonderful it is, and you certainly wouldn't ever do it twice."

5. Now, Discover Your Strengths
Authors: Marcus Buckingham and Donald O. Clifton

5-second summary: Where most business books tell you to strengthen your weaknesses, this one suggests you make yourself better at what you already do well.

Why women should read it: The assumption in the workplace is often that women must develop and adopt a masculine management style to be successful leaders, when in fact they'd be better off building on their own ability to manage in their own unique way.

Fun factoid: Facebook considers itself a "strengths-based organization" in the sense that it tries to fit jobs to people rather than the other way around.

Best quote: "From this point of view, to avoid your strengths and to focus on your weaknesses isn't a sign of diligent humility. It is almost irresponsible. By contrast the most responsible, the most challenging, and, in the sense of being true to yourself, the most honorable thing to do is face up to the strength potential inherent in your talents and then find ways to realize it."

6. Queen of Fashion

Author: Caroline Weber

5-second summary: Describes how Marie Antoinette's wardrobe and hairstyles came to represent the decadent excess of the French court.

Why women should read it: It will make you feel better about having to wear uncomfortable pumps to work.

Fun factoid: Weber was Sandberg's college roommate.

Best quote: "Although, as many scholars have pointed out, she did not evince a sustained interest in politics qua broad-reaching international or domestic policy, it is my belief that she identified fashion as a key weapon in her struggle for personal prestige, authority, and sometimes mere survival."

7. The Lean Startup

Subtitle: How Today's Entrepreneurs Use Continuous Innovation to Create Radically Successful Businesses

Author: Eric Ries

5-second summary: A guide for building a business on a shoestring budget.

Why women should read it: Women are underrepresented as founders of startups. This book provides a strong foundation for starting a company.

Fun factoid: Facebook encapsulates this philosophy by hanging motivational posters reading: "Stay Focused & Keep Shipping."

Best quote: "The first problem is the allure of a good plan, a solid strategy, and thorough market research. In earlier eras, these things were indicators of likely success. The overwhelming temptation is to apply them to startups too, but this doesn't work, because startups operate with too much uncertainty. Startups do not yet know who their customer is or what their product should be. As the world becomes more uncertain, it gets harder and harder to predict the future. The old management methods are not up to the task. Planning and forecasting are only accurate when based upon a long, stable operating history and a relatively static environment. Startups have neither."