24 November 2016

The Art of Listening

“Asking questions and listening intently to the stories that emerge is one of the most powerful forces in the world. If we all take one hour this year to do it, we’ll strengthen our national fabric at a time when it desperately needs it.” Dave Isay, StoryCorps founder and president 
A whole lot of listening goes on around here. We listen to audiobooks, podcasts, and music is often streaming from speakers or earbuds somewhere in the house. Most of all though, we listen to each other. Like most things in life listening takes work and there is always, always, more to learn. In the past several years we’ve been researching, studying new techniques, and we have begun to really honor the art of listening.

An important part of the art is one that seemed surprising: Quiet. “We have two ears and one mouth and we should use them proportionally.” Such a simple idea, but one that holds so much wisdom, as Susan Cain explains in her book Quiet: The Power of Introverts in a World That Can't Stop Talking. Quiet was recommended by a dear friend, singer-songwriter May Erlewine. In person May seems to be well, quiet, but when she steps on stage her artful, engaging, energy effects everyone with the depth of her voice and poetry of her craft. May suggested the book because The Big Sister wondered how to be quiet and still be part of conversation. In a world that felt like we have to be loud to be heard, can we really be still and listen? We’re discovering that the answer is resoundingly, yes.

Why are we thinking about Listening?

In the United States on the fourth Thursday in November people gather: some to celebrate Thanksgiving, some to mourn*, and many struggle to communicate with those they love deeply but wonder: how did we get here, how can I get to know each other better, where do we begin? We’re guessing that people in each category might find some inspiration and hope in two tools that both focus on listening:

The Books for Walls Project first became involved with the StoryCorp National Day of Listening oral history project in 2011 with the Listening Challenge, we were even official state partners of the project. Our interview plans were thwarted by lack of proper recording equipment that is no longer a problem for anyone with a smart phone thanks to the StoryCorps app. Now anyone, anytime, anywhere can participate and become part of this incredible compendium of relationship oral history. Start now, click here: https://storycorps.me

Lets Talk, an interactive to bridge the gap
In 2016 the U.S. experienced a divisive, ugly, and unsettling election. The process of understanding, grieving, working to fix, and healing the division is just beginning. Thankfully, The New York Times created a resource to help heal the wounds and wouldn’t you know, it’s all about listening. With 19 interview questions, a few ground rules, just about anyone can be on the road to reconciliation. Click to learn more and even listen to a couple of the interviews: http://www.nytimes.com/2016/11/18/podcasts/how-could-you-19-questions-to-ask-loved-ones-who-voted-the-other-way.html?_r=0

Now get out there and listen.

Listening Tools, Resources, References, Information, and Insights:
Another part of listening is empathy. Learn more with Brene Brown’s Empathy Primer: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=1Evwgu369Jw
Are you an Educator? Bring the Great Listen to your students, get the toolkit: https://storycorps.me/about/the-great-thanksgiving-listen/
The Dad found a resource to help us understand the difference between judgement and being judgmental, definitely a doorway to better listening: https://www.psychologytoday.com/blog/theory-knowledge/201305/making-judgments-and-being-judgmental
More about May Erlewine: http://mayerlewine.com
How to Be a Better Listener, Scientific American https://www.scientificamerican.com/article/how-to-be-a-better-listener/
Thanksgiving and the Myth of Native American “Savages”, from Scientific American https://blogs.scientificamerican.com/cross-check/thanksgiving-and-the-myth-of-native-american-savages/
*Why Thanksgiving Is A ‘National Day Of Mourning’ For Some Americans, Huffington Post: http://www.huffingtonpost.com/entry/native-americans-national-day-of-mourning_us_5650c46ee4b0258edb31c3ca
Learn about the American Thanksgiving from “why turkey?” to “why Thursday”: http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/0/thanksgiving-day-whats-the-history-of-the-holiday-and-why-does-the-us-celebrate-pilgrim-fathers/

08 August 2016

A Reluctant Reader Can Become a Ravenous Reader with an Adventure at the Library

"If you're gonna do one thing for your kids, 
teach them to read.

Rick Riordan

Rick Riordan was 12 or 13, James Patterson was 19, Diane Rehm was 21, and The Dad was 28, at these "late ages" each finally found their way to book love. 

Sadly, these wonderful people would have been considered reluctant readers in elementary school. Fortunately all went on to become ravenous readers. 

What made it happen? Was it worth the wait? How do we help the reluctant readers in our lives fall in love with reading? 

"For many years we had 6 to 7 o'clock, that was our reading time," Rick Riordan explains. "I don't care what you're reading, but you're reading. I'm reading too, because if the parents say they're too busy to read, well, of course the kids are going to feel the same way." 

According to Rick if you want a child in your life to read it's all about what you do, not what you say.  
We agree, The Four of Us read whenever we have a moment and make certain there are tons of books to choose from because, as James Patterson explains, one of the keys to getting kids to read is "freedom of choice." 

The Big Sister believes that any child would like to read, "they just have to find the right book, it may be a comic book, but that is a start!" The Little Sister adds, "Calvin and Hobbes is great book to read!"

Go on an adventure with your reluctant reader: together visit the library. Make sure you have time to wander and discover. And make sure you take turns, let your child watch you try to find a good book. And don't be afraid to ask for help, find a librarian, ask them how to go on a library treasure hunt. Then schedule your library adventures regularly, mark them on the calendar and plan accordingly.

Whatever you do the first step is simple: grab a book and start reading!

(Originally published 2011)

21 April 2016

Put a Poem in Your Pocket Challenge

"Poetry is a record of the life around us and in us, and you'll get a better idea from poetry what it was like to be alive in 2011 than you will from the New York Times." Garrison Keillor

The Big Sister recently learned that she loves to write poetry. With this came a new understanding of poetry and how truly wonderful poetry is. 

April 21, 2016 is national Poem In Your Pocket Day, the idea is simple: select a poem you love then carry it with you to share throughout the day. Want other ways to participate? Click here for a treasure trove, brought to you by the Academy of American Poets. (In 2016 The League of Canadian Poets have extended Poem in Your Pocket Day to Canada!)

The Put a Poem in Your Pocket Challenge is to find a poem and share it with BFWP (post it in the comments.) Then if you choose, print it, carry it in your pocket, and share it with people in honor of Poem in Your Pocket Day!

  • Visit www.poets.org. There you will find a treasure trove of information.
  • To randomly search for a poem by topic, author or first line click here for poets.org amazing search engine. On that page we found this quote: "For poems are not, as people think, simply emotions (one has emotions early enough)—they are experiences." Rainer Maria Rilke 
  • Visit this very cool interactive map to search for local poets in the USA, click here to learn more.

Now it is your turn, find a poem and share it! The Big Sister adds, "it is okay to share your own poetry!" 

Read the comments --you might like some of the poems that have been shared. Please use the following format for your comment: Title of Poem, Author, and your thoughts on the poem.

**This post was originally posted April 14, 2011 --we've updated the content and links!

30 March 2016

Get in Touch with Your Inner Dummy Challenge

A few weeks ago The Little Sister was peering at the bookshelves with a curious look on her face, "Mom, what are all those books? Those yellow and black ones?" 

The Mom responded without thinking, "those are Dummies books." 

I wish we had a photo of her face at that moment: a mix of giggles and wisdom trying to work out in her head how there could be dummy books

The Mom went on to explain, ""Dummies Books" are written by people who are experts in their field to help other people understand the subject."

We own several Dummies Books. We frequents library book sales and always looks for the yellow and black covers: Sewing for Dummies, Yoga for Dummies, Nonprofit Kit for Dummies, Houseplants for Dummies

There is something comforting about referring to a Dummies Book for help. Mortgages for Dummies helped us navigate buying our first house. Houseplants for Dummies helped The Mom stop killing plants. Yoga for Dummies, got The Mom over her fear of yoga, there was something about relaxing in a room full of people just didn't work in her head.

Rminiscing about our Dummies Books got The Sisters and The Mom into full BFWP brainstorming mode, there seemed to be a challenge here. The Big Sister got it, "we can invite readers to tell us what THEY are experts on, what Dummies book THEY could write!

The Mom asked The Sisters what Dummies Book they could author, wondered about what subject they were experts on, and without hesitation they answered (read the comments to find out). 

Now it is your turn.  

Here is your ChallengeWe all have some special thing, a talent, a secret hobby, a career, a sport, a trick, something we are experts on. 

Don't worry you do not have to actually write the book, just tell us in the comment below what Dummies book Y-O-U could write!
We searched www.worldcat.org for Dummies
Books and the search came up with 19,000 titles,
click here to check out the search
and find a Dummies book at a library near you!

*Updated, originally published March 2011.