Monday, December 23, 2013

Widen the Options to Make Choices Easy

I find myself frustrated at restaurants who offer pages and pages of menu choices. If I can't find something I like in the first five or six options, then that's my problem. My logic is that a restaurant can only do so many things really well. I limit myself now when I go out to stop searching at the first dish that catches my attention.

Chip Heath and Dan Heath, the authors of Decisive: How to Make Better Choices in Life and Work, contend that in most cases widening our options lead to better decision making. They claim narrow framing to be "the first of our villains of decision making."

Too often we look at options yes/no or one item or course of action versus another. We limit ourselves by thinking there is only one right possibility. Parents and educators fall into this trap when it comes to literacy. We have a habit of labeling certain things "not real reading."

I found with my own son no easier way to turn him as a young reader off of reading than telling him what he had to read. I was saying what he liked -- Calvin & Hobbes, Guinness Book of Records -- was wrong. The truth is you can develop literacy skills to an extent reading the back of cereal box.

Let's widen our view; let's widen the label of reading. We need to encourage an excitement for written word wherever you see it.


In play, for example, use toy cars with stop and yield signs. Even signs with symbols rather than words are teaching important reading and communication concepts. You're giving building blocks to the young reader to be.

Widen the options for the budding readers. There is a dinosaur kid, a car kid, and a princess kid in every classroom. Make sure they feel valued with their interests.

Then, follow up. Show you're watching and that you're interested in what they are doing and learning.

Every child can become a reader. Let's help them by avoiding the mistake of putting children in the position where the only alternative to the uninteresting option is not reading at all.

Friday, December 6, 2013

The Speed of the Game

Yesterday, I was watching an interview with Miami Dolphin quarterback, Ryan Tannehill. The ESPN host, Trey Wingo, asked what the biggest difference playing quarterback in college versus the professional ranks. Tannehill gave the standard answer I've hear so many times before from other players making this transition. The hardest part according to him is getting used to the speed of the game. As you'd expect, it's much faster at the professional level.

It takes time and repetition to be able to see and understand then make  the right decision when things are coming at a player. You can't coddle a new player because there is no growth without challenge. The other side of the coin is that you can't simply throw him into the fire without support and protection or he'll be overwhelmed. This has been proven out with too many highly regarded players becoming busts.

It is very similar to struggling young readers. Too often it's young boys who become overwhelmed. There is too much, too quickly expected. We as parents and teachers don't appreciate the gap that may exist between the best readers in the class or an older sibling compared to this struggling young boy.

It doesn't help with a full summer off from reading. We can't expect them to then hit ground running the next fall. Even football players have some training camp before the real season starts again.

So we need to incorporate the successful strategies of training a young quarterback to understand the speed of the game into our literacy efforts with reluctant and struggling readers. It's all about repetition and increasing challenges gradually. We can't overwhelm our young readers. Not every college quarterback has the ability to become an NFL star. But every young person DOES have the ability to become a star reader.

Wednesday, December 4, 2013

Everything Counts

You want your kids or students to read? Easy read with them. Make it one of your habits and see how it becomes a habit with the kids around you. 

Kids establish their habits early by mimicking the adults around them. So whatever is important to you will show up as things that are important to them. 

Tuesday, November 26, 2013

Compound Interest

Einstein is rumored to have declared compounding interest the most powerful force in the universe.
Regardless of whether it was in fact Einstein who said it, the power of dedicated investment even in small amounts, can pay off with great returns.

Monday, August 26, 2013

All About the Craft

As writers, you are told many things.

   Keep up with the market.
   Build your platform using Social Media.
   Have a hook.

But the one thing above all else that we're told is Develop Your Craft.

Thursday, August 22, 2013

August 27 Release of Freak the Mighty 20th Anniversary Edition

Kids all over the country are headed back to school. My son went back today for his first day of middle school. Over a long summer, kids change.

Monday, August 12, 2013

Does this Book Come with a Test?

This year I became an Archery Leader for my kids' 4H club. In my leadership training, our group was asked, "How close to the target do you have a first time or young archer stand?"

A few ventured guesses. 10 meters? 5 meters?

The answer?

Friday, August 9, 2013

WRITERS' BLOCK: Welcome Your Doubts

At the 2013 SCBWI Summer Conference in Los Angeles, Laurie Halse Anderson encouraged attendees in her "Here Be Magic Woven" keynote, to think of the conference community as a fire circle. This is a place to keep darkness at bay, a place where we can share.

Thursday, February 28, 2013

WRITERS BLOCK: No Handlebars

As writers, we do a lot of exercises to get inside the heads of our characters. We want to understand them and their motivations.

I do a writing exercise I call No Handlebars. It comes from one of my kids' favorite songs, Handlebars by Flobots, a band out of Denver. It's a simple exercise based on the lyrics of the song. The song starts with:

Sunday, February 24, 2013

BOYS & BOOK CLUBS: Interview with Darby Karchut

A book club at school is a non-threatening way to reintroduce teenage boys to great books. In this podcast, I talk with teacher, Darby Karchut, about tips for successfully launching a book club. Her article “Boys and Books and Brown-paper Bags: Getting Boys into Middle School Book Clubs” appeared in the June 2012 issue of VOYA Magazine.

Darby is the author of GRIFFIN RISING and GRIFFIN’S FIRE (both from Twilight Times Books) and FINN FINNEGAN (March 2013 from Spencer Hill Press)

Wednesday, January 9, 2013

WRITER'S BLOCK: Highlights Writing For Boys Workshop

If you are serious about writing for boys, Highlights is offering a unique experience to learn from some of the best. Join Rich Wallace, Lenore Look, and Bruce Coville in Honesdale, PA, February 7-10.

The workshop will include:
  • In-depth discussion of your work-in-progress;
  • Writing exercises designed to heighten the emotions and revelations of specific scenes;
  • Lectures on topics ranging from creating realistic dialogue to sharpening your plot.
More information on the workshop can be found here: