Tuesday, August 8, 2017

Every book needs a reader....

Books on a shelf are lifeless. It is the reader who breathes life into a book and brings the story to life. A reader lives as thousand lives before he dies and the man who never reads lives only one. But maybe even more important, when I think back to the books I read as a child and the books I read today as an adult, I clearly see how they have been my guides. They taught me how to live —what does it mean to be a good human being; what does it mean to live a life of integrity? 

I do believe there is no better way to spend time with a child than sharing a book. While recently working with a family we found ourselves inside a conversation about how we care for others. We fell into a lovely poem by Tulip Chowdhury, about how everyone needs a shoulder—

I need, very badly need
a shoulder to lean on
a shoulder to cry on
a wet shoulder to make more wet
and a shoulder that is a permanent place
no matter how wet I make it
will still hold my place,
will not offer the hanky
will just “hold me”
while I lean on.

Sometimes I think sharing a book with a child is akin to offering them a shoulder—to cry, to laugh, to feel safe, to be loved, to be nurtured. Does anyone outgrow the need for a shoulder?
I would hope not.

Our conversation that followed brought the words of P. L Travers (the creator of Mary Poppins) into focus— A writer is, after all, only half his book. The other half is the reader and from the reader the writer learns. Happy Birthday P.L. Travers—she would be 118 years old today, and her stories are still alive and well. 

Sunday, April 30, 2017

What makes reading extraordinary?

I am always on the lookout for an insight into what makes fiction such an extraordinary medium —Frank Bruni recently wrote "Great fiction is the bridge to insufficiently understood lives, our compasses to inadequately learned truth.”

Sunday, April 23, 2017

A poem that celebrates the virtues of not arriving

Ithaca by Cavafy is named after the most famous destination in world literature. 

The poem speaks of a life’s journey’s whose virtue is not in arriving at a destination, but in the journey toward. It was Mark Twain who said, Twenty years from now you will be more disappointed by the things you didn’t do than by the ones you did do. So throw off the bowlines. Sail away from the safe harbor. Catch the trade winds in your sails. Explore. Dream. Discover.

Some lines from Ithaca, in honor of April, the month of Poetry—best kept secret—a daily dose of poetry is a vitamin for the spirit. 

Hope your journey is long,
Full of adventure, full of awakening…
Hope your road is a long one.
May there be many summer mornings when,
with what pleasure, what joy,
you enter harbors you’re seeing for the first time…
Keep Ithaka always in your mind.
Arriving there is what you’re destined for.
But don’t hurry the journey at all.
Better if it lasts for years…

Saturday, April 8, 2017

Interview with Diane in "The Standard", Hong Kong's biggest circulation English daily newspaper

BMAB is the leading advocate for family literacy in Hong Kong and I consider it an honor to be part of their work.  I began working in Hong Kong in 1997 and the changes I have seen are tremendous. These changes have not just happened. It takes the hard work of so many dedicated volunteers to change the literacy climate in a culture.The ripple effects continue with the efforts of Fumika Barretto who was inspired by Diane's workshop to set up her own 'Conversational Reading' class for her Japanese adult students to improve their English, donating all her proceed to BMAB library programs.
Here is Diane's interview from The Standard  "Smart parents highlights Diane Frankenstein's 3 steps for Conversational Reading 
Diane Frankenstein emphasizes three important points about reading aloud:
1) Read a book
How to motivate your kids to read? Reading aloud is like a game: parents are your child’s partner to play in this game. We should not use storytelling time at home for teaching vocabulary or grammar to kids which may have the adverse effect and turn them to become reluctant readers.
In fact, it is during these precious moments of reading time, parents are able communicate with their children for no purpose, other than to strengthen communication and family bonding. Leading kids to explore the joy in books also helps to create their appetite for reading.
2) Ask a question
How to ask questions during storytelling? What are the best way to respond to your child’s questions?
The questions are more important than the answers since questions express the child’s thoughts. As adults, we should ask specific questions (not abstract like “What is the meaning of the book?). Remember not to ask too many questions as this will interrupt the natural flow of the reading. Children only read for story.
3) Start a conversation
Parents should remember reading is a tool to build their children’s values through communication.
“Reading aloud is a skill, Conversational Reading is an art”, according to Diane. Developing communication during reading time with your child is critical. Be patient to nurture your kids.

Monday, March 6, 2017

Diane returns to Hong Kong by popular demand to work with Bring Me A Book Foundation.

The vision of BMAB is a Hong Kong in which every child is read to, strengthening family and community bonds, and creating a love of learning, taps into how children become lifelong readers. 

Parental involvement is essential to a child’s success in school. When children start reading independently, parents need to become more, not less, involved. The question becomes what type of involvement is helpful? Diane’s work is predicated on the belief that a book only comes to life when it is spoken about. She coined the phrase, Conversational Reading which is a simple 3 steps: Read A book. Ask a question. Start a Conversation. Her workshops and presentations in Hong Kong teach parents and teachers the strategies and tools in the art of Conversational Reading. Reading aloud is a skill. Conversational Reading is an art.

Some guidelines on parental involvement
• DO NOT stop reading to children once they learn to read on their own!
• Reading aloud does not automatically lead to literacy. The real link lies in the verbal interaction that occurs between adult and child during story reading.
• Children who talk about stories better understand what they read.
• Children who understand a story become more confident readers. Children need confidence to be good readers.
• Children who come to school with well-developed skills in “taking meaning from books” are clearly at an advantage. Someone in the home read to the children, answered their questions, and encouraged them to read and write.

Questions to ponder:
~ Who helps your child choose the books they read?
~ Do you read some of the books your child reads?
~ Do you talk about the story once the books are finished?
~ Is your child reading books that are not school assignments?

A poem to share
When I was little, mom would read to me in bed.
I’d lie under the covers with my eyes closed
And the sound of her voice would make me feel safe and sleepy at the same time.
Sometimes, even with the good stories, I’d fall asleep before the end.
Now I’m bigger and I can read by myself but still, every once in a while, when I’m feeling sad or something,
I’ll ask Mom and she’ll come in and sit on the edge of the bed
and touch my head
And read to me again.

(Poet unknown)

I am proud to be part of the work BMAB does—
Over the past 10 years, Bring Me a Book Hong Kong has installed 370 libraries, serving over 150,000 children in the low-income communities.  Their qualified trainers run regular trainings each month and have empowered 30,000 parents and teachers to read with children most effectively