Tag Archives: READING

4 Ways to Build Your Kid’s Resilience

meditatingkidby Becky Karush

Resilience is the key to bearing up under stress—not just for you, but for your kids, too. Their worries may seem innocuous enough, but you only have to think back to your own memories as a kid to know that childhood stresses are not just traumatic at the time, but can also affect you in the long run. Building resilience is the backbone of the meQuilibrium system—and resilience is not just a skill you can strengthen for yourself, but something you can teach your kids as well.

Take my friend Darcy, for example. She grew up in poverty in Boston. Her family wasn’t just going to the food pantry for a bag of groceries now and then; theirs was a “we own one bed and no one’s making it to college” kind of struggle. The odds were stacked against her, but Darcy had two amazing things going for her.

First, she found a strong, supportive, and inspiring connection with a caring teacher. Second, no matter what downright awful situation hit her, she kept moving in the direction of her dreams, whether it was going to the library, getting into a private high school, or working in China as a financial analyst.

Darcy achieved all those things. During vacations at the private boarding school she attended on scholarship, she cleaned faculty members’ houses for extra cash, and one day she flipped through book on a psychology teacher’s shelf. She called up her roommate and best friend. “I found the word that describes my life!” she said. “It’s ‘rez-a-LEE-ance’!”

So she couldn’t pronounce it, perhaps—but she knew it because she had it. And so can you.

Teaching Kids Resilience

Given that stress is inevitable for all of us, a parent’s job is helping a child learn how to meet it. meQ’s Chief Science Officer Andrew Shatte says, resilience is the key to keeping ourselves strong in the face of stress. It’s a hands-on skill that affects how you and your kids deal with stress now—and later. 

For younger children, Paul J. Donahue, Ph.D., a clinical psychologist and author of Parenting Without Fear offers simple tips to help give kids a foundation for resilience; below are a few of our favorites.

1. Establish healthy sleep patterns. Nothing will throw a kid off like going to bed and getting up at irregular times. Setting a regular bedtime for every night of the week, not just weekdays, ensures that your child has a solid foundation of rest–without which resilience is going to be next to impossible.

2. De-structure playtime. When a kid’s days are scheduled to the minute, he loses the chance to learn to think for himself. Free play, which might include that uncomfortable feeling of having “nothing to do,” promotes independence, creativity, and confidence in children in ways that structured activities can’t.

3. Spend time outside. Being outdoors is literally used as therapy for kids who have suffered loss or trauma. Activities like climbing a tree or simply cloud-watching have a natural restorative effect that loosens the grip of stress on the body and helps kids return to the problem at hand refreshed.

4. Read more books together. Not only does reading together strengthen your bond with your child, it also begins to build her understanding of how the world works and how to move in it. Picture book characters can become role models and companions of a sort to guide a child through a hard moment.

(Read the complete list of Dr. Donahue’s tips.)

Showing Kids Resilience

Bottom line: You need to model resilience to foster it in your children. When you practice building up your own resilience, your children get to see what it looks like when a grown-up handles obstacles with grace, and even uses that stress energy as a catalyst for action.

Darcy’s first baby is due early in 2014. What a lucky kid that will be, to have a mom whose life got bigger, better, and more resilient with every hard time she faced.

Becky Karush is a writer and editor in New Hampshire specializing in healthy child development and child health care reform. Becky is also a writer for meQuilibrium.com, a website and app designed to help you manage stress. 

3 Young Adult Books that Will Make You a Better Grown Up

The third week of October is annually celebrated as “Teen Read Week.” Since young adult fiction is in a golden age and having a large impact on our mainstream media (see: Harry Potter, The Hunger Games, Twilight, etc) we thought we’d take a look at the section of the book store you normally leave to teenage girls.

NYT Best-selling author John Green says he has no interest in writing about adults because they are too cautious with their emotions. By writing stories about teenagers Green is able to ask and answer the tough questions directly without having to duck around the bush – teenagers go all in when it comes to their hearts and their curiosity. Through those qualities we as adults are able to be more honest with ourselves as to the questions we have about life, love, and the world we live in. Hence the reason for this list. Actually, speaking of John Green, let’s start with him.


1.) The Fault in Our Stars by John Green.faultinourstarsbookcover

Story:  Hazel Grace Lancaster has terminal cancer. Though doctors have miraculously found a way to stop the disease from spreading she knows she only has a limited time left and her life is defined by being a cancer patient. That’s until she meets Augustus Waters. They fall in love, go on an adventure and break your heart in every conceivable way. Obvious warning: keep a box of Kleenex with you at all times while reading this book.

Why you should read it: If you think about it, we all have the same death sentence as Hazel, hers is just sooner than most of ours. Still, Hazel’s decision to live her life to her fullest capability no matter if she has a few months, days or weeks left is inspiring. TFiOS isn’t about cancer, it’s about life. It’s about lowering our defenses to allow the important people in our lives to <i>really</i> matter. It’s about letting yourself to feel – the good, the bad, all of it – because if you don’t it doesn’t matter when your terminal date is, you’re not living anyway.

Similar reads: “Looking for Alaska” – John Green, “Everyday” – David Levithan  & “You Know Where to Find Me” – Rachel Cohn


the-hunger-games-wallpaper-logo-2560x16002.) The Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins

Story: To pay for the sins of uprisers 74 years before them, the citizens of the Panem districts must nominate one boy and one girl every year to participate in the Hunger Games – a sadistic, caged battle to the death for those unlucky enough to be chosen until only one “victor” remains. Katniss Everdeen volunteers as tribute for District 12 to save her sister Primrose from having to go in. As Katniss does everything she can to survive, she unknowingly sparks a revolution that could bring her entire system of life to its knees.

Why you should read it:  There is the obvious argument that by not reading these books (seeing the movies isn’t the same!) you are literally living under a rock. There is more to it than being pop-culturally relevant though. “The Hunger Games” is a story of human nature – how if we go unchecked humans have a disgusting habit of letting our egos destroy ourselves. By sparking the revolution Katniss has an inside look at how societies corrupt themselves, and has to find the strength within herself to stop the cycle from repeating. Most of us can’t relate to toppling governments or taking down dictators, but we can all learn something from breaking negative patterns and making choices to provide ourselves, and those we care about, with a better life.

Similar reads: “Divergent” – Veronica Roth & “The Maze Runner” – James Dashner


3.) Eleanor & Park by Rainbow RowellEleanorPark_thumb

Story: Eleanor is invited back to live with her mother after being kicked out by her abusive step-father for over a year. Every day she has to struggle to stay under the radar from his rage, while protecting her younger siblings and begging their mother to leave. Her life at home and her family’s complete lack of budget make it difficult for her to fit in at school – to the point Eleanor just wants to be invisible. Instead, she meets Park who shares his seat with her on the bus. It starts as a casual sharing of comic books so neither of them has to talk but inevitably they fall in love, and so starts the mission to save Eleanor from her hell at home and for Park to truly find himself.

Why you should read it:  It’s easy to be cynical of teenage love stories. They are too young to know better, right? “Eleanor & Park” proves that teenage naivety actually allows teenagers to fall deep enough into love to find strength and change the world, or at least the world around them. The beautiful thing about Eleanor and Park as characters is that they aren’t perfect. She isn’t a shy and clumsy, but strikingly beautiful damsel in distress. Park isn’t the smarter-than-he-wants-everyone-to-know athlete who gives a chance to the new girl. They have flaws, large ones. They have problems that are even bigger. There’s a quote that says “Love isn’t finding the perfect person, it’s seeing an imperfect person perfectly.” And these kids nail it on the first try. “Eleanor & Park” teaches us to love as deep as we can, no matter how scary it is. It’s a book about trust and inner strength and you find the people who will matter the most to you by being yourself.  By falling in love Eleanor and Park stop trying to blend in and allow themselves to really be seen for the first time.

Similar reads: “The Spectacular Now” – Tim Tharp & “Paper Towns” –  John Green

This is by no means a definitive list. What are your favorite young adult books? Was it “Catcher in the Rye” or something newer? Tell us in the comments below!

Yoga Books and More: A Reading List Fit for a Yogi

Stacking Up and Defying Time (+1)Yoga is great for stretching. If you do it enough, you can touch your toes and improve your parallel parking skills by twisting to see behind you.

But, it’s also great for stretching and expanding things beyond your muscles—namely your mind. Through concentration and meditation, in particular, the mind becomes stronger and more agile, in the same way our muscles are strengthened by a Vinyasa class or trip to the gym.

Another way to stretch our minds is through svadhyaya or self-study, which encourages yogis to be students of their practice and the world. One easy way to do this is to read.  Since you’re reading this now, you’re off to a smashing start. BRAVO!

I recently had a request to share my favorite yoga and meditation books, so here’s a quick sampling of the ones I turn to most.

Modern yoga resources:

  • Living Your Yoga (Judith Lasater)
  • Eastern Body, Western Mind (Anodea Judith)
  • Yoga for Emotional Balance by my friend Bo Forbes
  • Shambhala Encyclopedia of Yoga by the late Georg Feuerstein
  • Mudras: Yoga in your Hands (Gertrud Hirschi)
  • Anything by B.K.S. Iyengar…

Classical yoga texts (each with multiple translations):

  • Bhagavad Gita
  • The Upanishads
  • Yoga Sutras of Patanjali

Meditation books:

  • Wherever You Go There You Are by mindfulness pioneer Jon Kabat-Zinn (and dad to one my dearest friends).
  • When Things Fall Apart by no nonsense Buddhist nun Pema Chodron

As an English major, former English teacher, writer, and proud nerd founder of the Om Gal Book Club, it’s no secret that I’m a major bookworm. I even have the knots in my shoulder and neck to prove it from lugging 2-3 books in my handbag at all times. I think it’s time for an e-reader…

And since they’re not all yoga books (not even close), I’ll share what else I’ve been reading lately and what I plan to read next.


  • Help, Thanks, Wow: Three Essential Prayers by the inimitable Anne Lamott
  • Lean In by Facebook COO and feminist superhero Sheryl Sandberg
  • Daring Greatly by Brene Brown, also known as the book that changed my life most this year.  (If you don’t have time to read the book, watch her TED Talk).
  • Love is a Mixtape by Rob Sheffield
  • Buddy: How a Rooster Made me a Family Man by my friend and editor of the Boston Globe, Brian McGrory.
  • Undiet by Candian gal pal and nutritionista superstar Meghan Telpner
  • New & Selected Poems of Mary Oliver (which I could read every day and still have my breathe taken away at least once on each page).

Up next…

  • Learning to Breathe by my friend Priscilla Warner
  • Running with the Mind of Meditation by Sakyong Mipham
  • A literature heavy hitter… like Infinite Jest or Anna Karenina. If I start now, I can finish by Christmas, right?
  • The September issue of Vogue—seriously, have you seen this thing? Magazine doesn’t cut it. Definitely a book.

What about you? What are you reading? Which yoga and meditation books expand your mind, and which works of prose or poetry stretch your soul and fill your handbag?

Originally published on my website, Om Gal.

Kurt Vonnegut’s 8 Rules for Writing Fiction

vonnegut_kurt0412I’ve recently become a fan of reading collections of letters (a form which is disappearing, now that we don’t write letters much anymore), and I read a recommendation somewhere to read Kurt Vonnegut’s letters.

From there, I was drawn to a collection of his short fiction, paradoxically named: Bagombo Snuff Box: Uncollected Short Fiction.

In the Introduction, Vonnegut provides his rules for “Creative Writing 101“:

  1. Use the time of a total stranger in such a way that he or she will not feel the time was wasted.
  2. Give the reader at least one character he or she can root for.
  3. Every character should want something, even if it is only a glass of water.
  4. Every sentence must do one of two things—reveal character or advance the action.
  5. Start as close to the end as possible.
  6. Be a sadist. No matter how sweet and innocent your leading characters, make awful things happen to them—in order that the reader may see what they are made of.
  7. Write to please just one person. If you open a window and make love to the world, so to speak, your story will get pneumonia.
  8. Give your readers as much information as possible as soon as possible. To hell with suspense. Readers should have such complete understanding of what is going on, where and why, that they could finish the story themselves, should cockroaches eat the last few pages.

However, Vonnegut notes, “The greatest American short story writer of my generation was Flannery O’Connor…She broke practically every one of my rules but the first. Great writers tend to do that.”

I’m a Flannery O’Connor freak, so I was very happy to see that Vonnegut loved her work, too. In fact, in a weird synchronicity, it was my admiration for O’Connor’s collection of letters, The Habit of Being, that got me reading letters in the first place.

What do you think of these rules?

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My friend Colleen Wainwright, a/k/a Communicatrix, told me about a plan to launch an app camp for girls on Indiegogo. Great project.

Are you reading Happier at Home or The Happiness Project in a book group? Email me if you’d like the one-page discussion guide. Or if you’re reading it in a spirituality book club, a Bible study group, or the like, email me for the spirituality one-page discussion guide.

6 Iconic American Novels to Read for Independence Day!

Screen Shot 2013-07-02 at 1.48.00 PMThe number one lesson of “best of” lists is: It’s nearly impossible to make a “best of” list. Especially when you’re talking about American literature. This country may not make the best cars or electronic dance music, but we’ve produced some amazing works of literature over the years.

If you went through American public school education – and even if you didn’t – you’re bound to have read many of the classics: Catcher in the Rye, The Great Gatsby, Of Mice and Men, etc. Here is a list of 10 iconic American novels that may not have made it into your formal education, but which are certainly worth reading.

From a wide range of authors, decades, and thematic settings, these books paint a rich, complex, and often troubling picture of this amazing country many of you out there call home. It might not be the light beach reading you’re looking for on July 4th, but take some time this weekend to reflect on the true importance of our national holiday. And grab one of these epic works to help you commemorate the day.

  1. Invisible Man by Ralph Ellison. Set in the mid-twentieth century, this book tells the story of an unnamed African American man making his way through a harsh and inhospitable world. From growing up in the South, to attending a prestigious black college, to seeking out work in New York City, the man encounters antipathy nearly everywhere he turns. A poignant look at racial tension in this country dating all the way back to our founding and straight through to modern times.
  2. Grapes of Wrath by John Steinbeck. Caught in the dusty, impoverished South during the Great Depression, the Joad family hits the road for California. Like so many families before them, and so many who would follow, the Joads find nothing but further pain, poverty, and misfortune in their quest. Lush descriptions, noble characters, and gripping scenarios will get you through this long and sometimes traumatic book.
  3. In Cold Blood by Truman Capote. To be honest, this book isn’t a “novel,” but it still makes the list. Here’s why: Journalistic, stark, and six years in the making, this is not only the best crime book ever written, but one of the greatest American works of literature. It tells the horrific story of a quadruple murder by two deeply troubled men who, by the end of Capote’s sensitive re-telling, you almost empathize with. Or maybe not. Give it a read and tell us what you think.
  4. My Ántonia by Willa Cather. Young Jim Burden goes to live with his grandparents after his parents die, and he soon falls in love with the free-spirited neighbor girl, Ántonia. Though written from Jim’s perspective, the novel is organized according to the stages of Ántonia’s life, from girlhood through motherhood. Her struggles mirror the stark nature of the American prairie, which Cather illustrates so adeptly, and both are juxtaposed against Jim’s own privileged, modern existence. You’ll fall in love with the characters as much as you do their environment.
  5. Blood Meridian by Cormac McCarthy. If you’ve never read McCarthy before, then be forewarned: His books are exquisitely written and often disturbingly violent. This book is no exception. The protagonist spends much of the novel among a notorious scalp-hunting gang in the mid-nineteenth century Southwest. And make no mistake, scalps will be cut, babies will be killed, and your stomach will turn more than once while you read this classic work. But as a portrait of the American West, in all its vicious rawness, it doesn’t get any better than this.
  6. Dune by Frank Herbert. This list wouldn’t be complete without a science fiction novel, and Dune is one of the best out there. Set in an intergalactic future in which “spice” is the number one prized commodity, this book is both mythic in proportion and intimate in human dimension. Paul Atreides is the young hero gifted with super-human powers that will, hopefully, help him save civilization from the evil forces out to destroy it. (And when you’re done with this one, there are 5 sequels to keep you reading for weeks to come.)

What’s your favorite American novel? Let us know in the comments section below. Happy reading!


Read the previous post in our book series here!

11 Books to Read This Summer (Plus The World’s Longest Book Domino Chain)

Screen Shot 2013-06-19 at 4.31.05 PMIn addition to barbeques, travel, and outdoor excursions, one of the activities on your summer to-do list is probably reading – at least we know it’s on ours! Summer is a particularly pleasant time of year for reading, what with the nice weather, bright natural light, and long lazy days. Bring a novel along to the beach or on a picnic; pack that lengthy biography for an international flight; recite poems to your love in between baseball innings. Whatever the time, place, or your genre of choice, now is the time to read something you’ve had your eye on since Christmas but got too distracted to begin.

We aren’t the only ones who think summer is a great time for reading. Many public libraries around the country launch summer reading programs to inspire kids who might otherwise get caught up in television reruns and video games. To support this cause, two Seattle college students decided to build the world’s longest book domino chain and make a video demonstrating their project. They teamed up with the Seattle Public Library to construct a 2,131-book domino chain, whimsically filmed with frozen vignettes of people reading in various “settings” next to the chain. Check it out!

Giddy joy is palpable in the crowd when the domino chain comes to an end – and the sweetness of that, alone, might make you want to visit the library! There are so many reasons to read (improve your mind, expand your vocabulary, enhance your imaginative skills) and so many books out there waiting to be explored.

To kick off our new book series, here are 11 of our favorite books to recommend for your summer reading:

  1. Dandelion Wine by Ray Bradbury: A quintessential summer book about a boy growing up in a small Midwestern town. Not as dull as it sounds, we promise! This is a magical and lovely book about youth, curiosity, and the quotidian beauty of life.
  2. Narcissus and Goldmund by Hermann Hesse: A young man leaves his monastery in search of adventure and the meaning of life. He delves into the world of the senses, experiencing all the pain and pleasure that comes with sexual experience, artistic endeavors, and exploration.
  3. Dharma Bums by Jack Kerouac: Buddhism, beat poetry, and booze. If you’ve read On the Road then you’ll have an idea of what you’re getting into. This book is considerably slower-paced and more contemplative, but we think overall more enjoyable.
  4. One Hundred Years of Solitude by Gabriel García Márquez: A magical realist tour de force, this is an absolute must-read. Put aside any expectations of order and tidiness, and let yourself be swept away by this epic tale.
  5. Buddha by Deepak Chopra: This is a lush re-telling of the story of Gautama Buddha. From growing up a blessed child of privilege to forsaking all luxuries and comforts, Buddha will capture your heart as the book captured ours.
  6. Far from the Madding Crowd by Thomas Hardy: A classic and deeply satisfying story of love and redemption. Hardy really isn’t given the credit he deserves as a great author, and even when he is, this particular book is often overlooked. Don’t make the same mistake!
  7. The Clan of the Cave Bear by Jean M. Auel: Definitely the strangest of the bunch, this book takes place in prehistoric times and tells the story of a young Cro-Magnon girl rescued by Neanderthals. Historical placement aside, this is a powerful coming-of-age story with particular relevance to girls and women.
  8. The Virgin Suicides by Jeffrey Eugenides: There couldn’t possibly be anything romantic about the suicides of five sisters – except the exquisite book in which they take place. This novel is not for the feint of heart, but its beauty will echo around in your soul for years to come.
  9. A Tree Grows in Brooklyn by Betty Smith: If you’ve ever wondered what it might have been like to grow up in an Irish-American home in 1940s Brooklyn, then look no further! The sister-brother relationship is what particularly moves us in this honest and patient coming-of-age story.
  10. The Red Tent by Anita Diamant: Woman power, as told by Dinah, the only female descendent of the Biblical Jacob. This is a harrowing but inspiring tale of love, tragedy, identity, and women’s empowerment. And a highly interesting take on the Biblical narrative.
  11. The Hobbit by J.R.R. Tolkien: To be honest, the entire LOTR series is what we really love. But this light and engaging prequel is perfect for your lazy summer afternoons. And with the new preview out for part two of Peter Jackson’s cinematic re-telling…

Keep track of the books you’re reading and share your progress with your friends by creating a #books intent on Intent.com! Click here to see Mallika’s example.

How Will You Make This Summer Your Own?

booksinsuitcase Friday was the last day of school for my two daughters. They wore special outfits, I took pictures, lots of excitement.

The last day of school is always bittersweet to me; it’s fun to head into the summer, but it’s always a little sad that another year is over. I’m always reminded that “The days are long, but the years are short.”  (The one-minute video I made about this feeling is probably the thing, of everything I’ve ever written, that resonates most with people.)

The end of the school year is also significant to me because I still measure my own life by the school calendar. September is the other January–which is why, for my second happiness project in Happier at Home, I did a project from September through May. September is a new beginning, and the June/July/August season feels separate from the rest of the year.

So now that school is over, my summer has started–but fact is, my summer is a lot like the rest of my year. We go on some family trips, and my daughters’ schedules are different, but my work and routine, and my husband’s work and routine, don’t change much.

But I want the feeling of summer in my life, and so I’ve made a resolution: every weekend, I’m going to read a book for pleasure. Pure pleasure! I read a lot, all the time, but often I read books for research, or because they’re interesting to me in some way, even if they aren’t exactly “pleasurable.” But on summer weekends, I’m going to read only what I LOVE. Books that I can’t put down, books that I’ll race through in a few days. And if I don’t love a book, I’m going to stop reading it (another new resolution for me).

In The Enthusiasms of Robertson Davies, Davies wrote, “Every man makes his own summer. The season has no character of its own, unless one is a farmer with a professional concern for the weather. Circumstances have not allowed me to make a good summer for myself this year…My summer has been overcast by my own heaviness of spirit. I have not had any adventures, and adventures are what make a summer.”

Reading is my adventure, it’s my cubicle and my playground–and this summer, I’m going to make sure to spend a lot of time on the playground side.

How about you? How do you plan to “make your own summer”?

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A thoughtful reader pointed me to this delightful article about the tiny secret doors in Ann Arbor, Michigan. I love miniatures (see Happier at Home, chapter nine!), and I loved seeing the photos of these tiny doors scattered around town.

Are you reading Happier at Home or The Happiness Project in a book group? Email me if you’d like the one-page discussion guide. Or if you’re reading it in a spirituality book club, a Bible study group, or the like, email me for the spirituality one-page discussion guide.

Is It Okay to Put Down a Book You Don’t Enjoy?

booksingiantpileOne of the most important elements of my identity is my identity as a reader. I love to read–really, if I’m honest with myself, it’s practically the only activity that I truly love to do.

As part of that identity, I’d developed the habit of finishing every book I read. Once I started, I felt committed. A “real” reader like me finishes books and also gives authors the benefit of the doubt (“maybe this book will get better after the first 50 pages”). Right?

But I realized that I was spending a fair amount of my precious reading time reading books that didn’t really interest me. I’d finish these just because I felt as though I “should” and for the bragging rights of being able to say that I’d read them.

I decided to set myself a new habit: Stop reading a book if I don’t enjoy it. (I consider getting valuable information from a book as a form of “enjoyment,” even if I don’t particularly enjoy the experience of reading it.)

I’ve put down several books over the last few weeks–and it is such a relief. More time for reading good books! Less time reading books out of a sense of obligation.

Do you feel as though once you start a book, you must finish? Or do you put down books half-read? I’ve heard speculation that using an e-reader makes people more likely to stop reading a book. Do you find that to be true?

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50 Inspiring Children’s Books with a Positive Message

*Written by Julie Handler

“The more you read, the more things you will know. The more that you learn, the more places you’ll go.”―Dr. Seuss

With technology developing at a record pace and kids mastering iPads before they’re even out of diapers, it’s more important than ever to instill the love of reading in our children.

Although it’s never too late, the importance of getting kids to develop a love for reading early on often correlates with a love for learning, a passion for lifelong reading, and so many other positive traits that ultimately lead to the empowerment needed for success.

In our home we have acquired quite the collection of literary gems—in fact, we have more books than toys. I’ve happened upon wonderful books in all kinds of random places, so I’m always on the lookout. Of course, the library is always a great option, which we frequent at least every other week—a ritual which we started before the girls could even walk. Another one of my favorite places to find amazing books is museum bookshops. You would be surprised at the treasures you may come across there.

Since reading is a passion for us, we wanted to share some our favorite children’s books that contain a poignant, powerful message. If you know of a children’s book that has an inspirational message that is not on our list, please share in the comments below.


(in alphabetical order)

1. A Bad Case of the Stripes by David Shannon

2. All I See Is Part Of Me by Chara M. Curtis

3. An Awesome Book! by Dallas Clayton

4. An Awesome Book of Thanks! by Dallas Clayton

5. Beautiful Oops! by Barney Saltzberg

6.Buddha at Bedtime: Tales of Love and Wisdom for You to Read with Your Child to Enchant, Enlighten and Inspire by Dharmachari Nagaraja

7. Cookies: Bite-Size Life Lessons by Amy Krouse Rosenthal, Jane Dyer

8. Did I Ever Tell You How Lucky You Are by Dr. Seuss

9. Enemy Pie by Derek Munson

10. Fancy Nancy Poet Extraordinaire by Jane O’Connor, Robin Preiss Glasser

11. Have You Filled A Bucket Today? by Carol McCloud

12. I Believe in Me: A Book of Affirmations by Connie Bowen

13. I Think, I Am! by Louise L. Hay

14. If the World Were a Village by David J. Smith

15. Iggy Peck Architect by Andrea Beaty

16. Incredible You! 10 Ways To Let Your Greatness Shine Through by Wayne Dyer

17. Ish by Peter H. Reynolds

18. Limu: The Blue Turtle by Kimo Armitage

19. Limu the Blue Turtle and His Hawaiian Garden by Kimu Armitage

20. Little Pea by Amy Krouse Rosenthal

21. LMNO Peas by Keith Baker

22. My First Oxford Book of Poems by John Foster

23. My Many Colored Days by Dr. Seuss

24. Mr. Men 40th Anniversary Box Set by Roger Hargreaves

25. Not a Box by Antoinette Portis

26. On My Way To A Happy Life by Deepak Chopra

27. Oh The Places You’ll Go by Dr. Seuss

28. One by Kathryn Otoshi

29. One Love by Cedella Marley

30. Only One You by Linda Kranz

31. Peaceful Piggy Meditation by Kerry Lee Maclean

32. Press Here by Herve Tullet

33. Spaghetti in a Hot Dog Bun: Having the Courage to Be Who You Are by Maria Dismondy

34. Stand Tall Molly Lou Mellon by Patty Lovell

35. Thank You, World by Alice McGinty

36. The Dot by Peter Reynolds

37. The Gift of Nothing by Patrick McDonnell

38. The Giving Tree by Shel Silverstein

39. The Kissing Hand by Audrey Penn

40. The Little Engine That Could by Watty Piper

41. The Lorax by Dr. Seuss

42. The North Star by Peter H. Reynolds

43. The Three Questions (Based on a story by Leo Tolstoy) by Jon J. Muth

44. The Very Fairy Princess by Julie Andrews & Emma Walton Hamilton

45. The Weaver by Thacher Hurd & Elisa Kleven

46. The Yellow Tutu by Kirsten Bramsen

47. We are all Born Free by Amnesty International

48. You Be You by Linda Kranz

49. You Can Be Anything by Gary Craig

50. Zen Shorts by Jon J. Muth

Julie Handler is a co-founder of Positively Positive. Follow Julie on TWITTER.

* Above featured image taken by me of my two daughters

Lotus Bloom Child & Family Resource Center – Closing the Achievement Gap

Go Inspire Go (GIG) is proud to share this month’s Social Good Spotlight, to raise awareness of individuals and organizations doing good in their communities in order to inspire others to take action and ultimately make real social change. GIG believes everyone can find inspiration in helping others, whether it’s through doing small acts of kindness or working at an organization dedicated to making a difference. If you know of an individual or organization that you think should be featured, please email Marcia and help us forward their stories to inspire the world.GIG Social Good Spotlight: 
LOTUS BLOOM CHILD & FAMILY RESOURCE CENTER – Uplifting Children and Closing the Achievement Gap
by Marcia Estarija Silva

“Often times, I see parents and children smile more, talk more, and playing together more.  These are indicators that our participants are gaining new skills and building on their school readiness skills.” – Angela Louie Howard, Executive Director

What is Lotus Bloom Child & Family Resource Center?
Lotus Bloom is a multicultural organization based in Oakland, California that develops and provides a safe, loving environment for inner-city children and families, offering developmental play and art activities to children from 0 to 5 years of age.  Last year, the center served approximately 600 individuals, of which 144 children and 138 adults participated in its 0-5 year old multicultural playgroups.

What is Lotus Bloom’s mission? What big changes is it trying to make?
Lotus Bloom’s mission is to empower individuals to realize their full potential and transcend their dreams into reality. In education, the “achievement gap” refers to the differences in academic performance – academic grades, standardized-test scores, drop-out rates, college-completion rates – and is most often used to describe the performance gaps between students from low-income families and those who are better off. In Oakland’s San Antonio neighborhood, 86% of 3rd graders were not reading at grade level and kindergarten teachers reported that children entering school had no preschool or early care experience. To help fill this achievement gap, several local volunteers and social service providers came together to form Lotus Bloom in the Fall of 2006 to offer free access to playgroup and school readiness programs.

Counting and singing during circle time

How is Lotus Bloom using its power to help others?
Nationwide, the data is startling – 29 percent of 2-year-olds in poverty demonstrated proficiency in listening comprehension, compared with 39 percent of those at or above poverty, and 55 percent of those in poverty were proficient in expressive vocabulary, compared with 67 percent at or above poverty. The disparity increases in later years. Twenty percent of 4-year-olds in poverty were proficient in letter recognition, compared with 37 percent of their peers at or above poverty. Forty-five percent of 4-year-olds in poverty demonstrated proficiency in numbers and shapes, compared with 72 percent of their peers at or above poverty.

Dedicated to working with diverse populations and connecting people of different backgrounds to work collaboratively, Lotus Bloom promotes language development and early learning experiences through playgroups and classes, such as Asian Community Mental Health Playgroups, multicultural play groups by age, and Parent Child Yoga,. Many of these classes are free or offered or on a sliding scale of $1-$5 per child, per day.

Students learn about color mixing by blowing paint around on a canvas

What inspires Lotus Bloom to do this work?
“Seeing children and families make progress everyday inspires me to do the work, whether it is watching children play with other children, holding a pencil for the first time, or writing their first name,” said Angela Louie Howard, Executive Director.

The majority of the families that go to Lotus Bloom come from low-income backgrounds and third world countries and the concept of learning through play is a new concept to them. “I love to see parents in our programs get acculturated, learn new skills, new songs, count in different languages, and make new friends,” she said.

Getting their hands dirty on a field trip to Funk Town Farm, 
a local neighborhood farm in the San Antonio neighborhood

What is Lotus Bloom focusing on now? 
Lotus Bloom is working on a licensed community kitchen in order to help incubate small catering and food services within the community. The San Antonio neighborhood is plagued with fast food restaurants, such as McDonalds and Churches Chicken, and the organization wants to help the local neighborhood make use of their own cooking resources and build healthy and sustainable food programs. Food is also a great way to bring people together to share knowledge and culture and strengthen the community.

How can GIGSTERS get involved and support Lotus Bloom?
•Purchase a NSF certified oven/stove for their licensed community kitchen
•Volunteer and help by:
— Working on our backyard to build community garden
— Providing administrative support
— Starting and facilitating a parent leadership group
— Participating on Lotus Bloom’s Board of Directors
— Plan and administer two fundraisers
• Donate and provide financial resources to support our work

To volunteer or get more information on how to support Lotus Bloom, click here to fill out their contact form.

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