Tuesday, February 27, 2018

Stories are powerful because they speak to your mind, heart and imagination

Facts, data and numbers will never have a story's power to influence simply because a story speaks to the mind, heart and imagination.

Harold Goddard wrote in The Meaning of Shakespeare, "The destiny of the world is determined less by the battles that are lost and won than by the stories it loves and believes in."  How we respond  to the stories we read very much influences how we respond to the stories in our own lives.  Conversational Reading-read a book, ask a questions and start a conversation-  encourages reading for meaning and engaging with the story on a personal level. Conversational Reading ignites a reader's curiosity and brings into focus the ubiquitous page turner … and then what happened?

The best of readers seek to realize the meaning of the stories in our own lives and in the lives we meet through story. As E.L Doctorow remarked in defense of "the March," his fictional tale of the Civil War, ' Which would you rather read to get a sense of the Napoleonic Wars-a history textbook, or " 'War and peace'?"  Through story we apprehend the world and in so doing, gain an understanding of ourselves. Maybe this is the best definition of a life well lived, a commitment to seek his or her own inner truth. The inner story, though the same for all,  is always  unique in each human being, never before lived and never to be repeated.

Monday, February 26, 2018

Harvard Study highlights the importance of questions & Conversational Reading looks to ask good questions

As parents, we can help our children practice a regular habit of asking good questions through the stories we read. Hone your skills of “Conversational Reading” with the literacy and language expert who coined the phrase herself, Diane Frankenstein.

Register now for her Beginner, Advanced and Enriched Conversational Reading classes, March 3-10, 2018!In the cover feature story of the “Better Brainstorming: Why Questions Matter More than Answers” , they cite a recent interview from MIT Professor and “Edison of Medicine”, Robert Langer “When you’re a student, you’re judged by how well you answer questions. Somebody else asks the questions, and if you give good answers, you’ll get a good grade. But in life, you’re judged by how good your questions are.” As he mentors people, he explicitly focuses their attention on making this all-important transition, knowing “they’ll become great professors, great entrepreneurs-great something-if they ask good questions.”

Saturday, February 24, 2018

Conversations that expand our understanding about masculinity

The tragedy (2.14.18) of 17 people, most of them teenagers,  being shot dead at a Florida school has put important conversations in motion and I am not just  referring to the much needed and to be applauded protesters who took their plea for tougher gun laws to the Florida House of Representatives.

A recent NYT column, “The Boys Are Not All Right” by Michael Ian Black in a must read. In a nutshell, Black makes a compelling case for the need to start having conversations with boys that will best support their movement toward the complexities of manhood. He says “too many boys are trapped in the same suffocating, outdated model of masculinity, where manhood is measured by strength, where there is no way to be vulnerable without being emasculated, where manliness is about having power over others.” 

The conversations the women’s movement gave voice to provided women the language they needed to talk about all things female and we can see how it has served them well. There is no such equivalent for men and young boys.

Reading is one of the best ways we accumulate the language needed to talk and think about complex issues and feelings. There is a direct relationship between the empathy a reader has for the characters they meet and self knowledge.. To understand another is to better understand the self. To experience the wide range of emotions found in the best of stories help us relate to our own complexities. The best of stories introduces us to one character we might recognize but are not always eager to know better: ourselves.”

In my work with young boys and men I see their difficulty to express their feelings and especially feelings they don’t fully understand. Reading to our sons and having the conversations that seem to come more naturally with our daughters, won’t solve the trouble many boys find themselves in, but it is a step in the right direction. Let our sons be the recipients of conversations that will help them understand and develop all aspects of self—pushing against the boundaries about what defines masculinity. 

Monday, February 19, 2018

What would Presidents Washington and Lincoln have to say to us today?

It would be good to know why February 19 is a holiday and to ponder the sentiments of the leaders the day honors.  Presidents Day honors President Washington, whose birthday falls on February 22. The day is also believed to celebrate Abraham Lincoln, America’s 16th President who was born on February 16.

Though we don’t know what Presidents Washington and Lincoln might want to say to us today, we can look at several of their ideas and test them against the climate of today.

President Washington on truth and conscience
~ Labor to keep alive in your breast that little spark of celestial fire, called conscience.  
~ Truth will ultimately prevail where there is pains to bring it to light.

President Lincoln on freedom and character  
~ America will never be destroyed from the outside. If we falter and lose our freedoms, it will be because we destroyed ourselves.
~ Character is like a tree and reputation like a shadow. The  shadow is what we think of it; the tree is the real thing.

For sure, to speak about truth and conscience, freedom and character will be a fruitful conversation