Books That Tackle Mental Health
As someone who struggles with anxiety, I wish this list of books had been around when I was a teen. It features eight books that expertly handle various mental health struggles. I love this list because I feel it is so important both for children to see themselves reflected in the pages of the books they read, and to read about others' struggles so they can understand others better. I'll admit I haven't read any of these books yet, but they are on my 2018 list, especially Turtles All the Way Down by John Green and Fangirl by Rainbow Rowell, both of which feature characters with anxiety (one of my students couldn't believe I hadn't read any Rainbow Rowell yet, so I must remedy this). I also want to share my general endorsement of Brightly, where I found the list. The site features many more lists like the one above in all grade levels, including book lists for adults. In addition, it has articles on various aspects of learning and parenting, with a focus on reading. Check it out!
Stories of Struggle Help Students Persevere
You've probably seen something similar to the image above before. It hints at how much work goes into being successful at something. It's hard when looking from the outside to see this, though. We know that JK Rowling has sold millions of books but forget how she was a clinically depressed, unemployed single mom whose first book was rejected 12 times before it was picked up. There are hundreds of stories like this. A Wrinkle in Time was rejected 26 times. Anne Frank's diary was rejected 16 times. Oprah was fired from her first TV anchor job. Stephen Spielberg was rejected from film school. Walt Disney was told by his boss at a newspaper that he had no imagination. And what's interesting is that students benefit from hearing these stories of struggle. In the realm of science, researchers discovered that hearing stories of scientists' struggles improved their performance in science class. As this Mind/Shift article notes, "researchers found that students who heard ...a 'struggle story' improved their science performance post-intervention, relative to students in the control group. The effect was especially pronounced for lower-performing students, for whom 'exposure to struggling stories led to significantly better science-class performance than low-performing students who read achievement stories.'" The iceberg image demonstrates that it takes persistence, the ability to fail, willingness to take risks, doing hard work, and setting and working toward goals to be successful. It's this combination that is the marker of success more often than raw talent, and when students hear stories of people who have struggled, it helps them understand what it really takes to succeed.
Learning the Truth about Thanksgiving
This Thanksgiving, amidst the food and football, take a moment to share the real story of Thanksgiving with your child, one that doesn't sugarcoat the interactions between settlers and Native American communities. One way to spark a conversation about this with older children would be to watch the video above, created by Teen Vogue, this one by One Word, as well as this episode of Decoded. In the Bay Area, you could talk about (or attend) the Indigenous People's Sunrise Gathering at Alcatraz, which commemorates the occupation of Alcatraz Island from 1969–1971 by Native Americans attempting to reclaim the land. You could also teach your children about the Ohlone or Miwok tribes. In Vermont, you could teach your children about the National Day of Mourning that happens every Thanksgiving at noon in Plymouth, MA during which Native Americans and allies come together to mourn the loss of land and people. You could also teach them about the Abenaki people. This article on Mashable has further suggestions, including becoming aware of the struggles indigenous communities face today.
Why Down Time is Vital
Do you or your kids ever lounge around, slightly bored, staring into space and daydreaming? If this is still in your life, it's a very good thing. For many of us, however, there is a constant stream of stimulation from emails, texts, social media posts, books, newspapers, television, and video games. We spend a fraction of our time just doing nothing. Look around…even in line at the store or waiting at the doctor's office, most of us have a device, a book, a magazine, or a newspaper to occupy us. We are rarely bored anymore. But scientists say this is negatively impacting our creativity — a vital piece of all of us. Emma Seppälä, a scientist who works at Stanford and Yale, tells us that creative thinking arises from being idle. Great inventors came up with some of their best inventions while sitting around…think of Isaac Newton under the apple tree or Dmitri Mendeleev discovering the periodic table of the elements in a dream. Naps have been favored by creative thinkers like Salvador Dali, Eleanor Roosevelt, and Thomas Edison. So what's the solution? Create time in the evenings and on weekends for lounging. Build a fort out of pillows and blankets where you and your kids can relax. Encourage naps. Take a tech-free walk every weekend, or even better, every day after school. Keep a shelf in the closet for art supplies and bust them out often. Meditate. Play games together. Get bored.
Comics With Awesome Female Leads
Don't shy away from letting your children read comics if they find them interesting. Comics and graphic novels help students understand how to connect illustrations to text, explore the complexities of plot, and learn about character development. Often, the realm of comics and graphic novels is dominated by male lead characters, but more and more titles feature female leads (and authors). This blog compiled an excellent list of comics that feature female main characters (reading level varies). Some of my favorites include the Lumberjanes series and the Wrinkle in Timegraphic novel adaptation. Check out the entire list to find some gems that girls and boys alike will love.