Friday, February 28, 2014

Uniquely Portable Magic

I got so many nice responses to the bibliography I put up for reference after a keynote I gave in Chicago, lots of sentiments such as "I love knowing what other people are reading!" so I thought I'd extend the thread. Now that I can read again (no concussion symptoms for a MONTH!) I'm going in big. Here's what I'm reading this week, starting at the top:

1. Dan Ariely's The (Honest) Truth About Dishonesty: How We Lie to Everyone--Especially Ourselves. (Harper) I found out about this book via James Lang, who wrote another book on honesty, Cheating Lessons. I wrote about that book for the Atlantic, and figured I'd go back to the source, as Lang is a big fan of Ariely. So far, it's fascinating. I'm about halfway through, and I particularly liked chapter two, "Fun With the Fudge Factor." Great book.

2. Amy Sutherland's Kicked, Bitten and Scratched: Life and Lessons at the World's Premier School for Exotic Animal Trainers. (Penguin) I'm a voracious reader of nonfiction, particularly life experience/adventure nonfiction, so I was shocked when I heard about this book at Dan Jones' reading for Love Illuminated at the Brookline Booksmith and realized I had not read it. I purchased it that night and have been devouring it. Amy heads off to Moorpark Exotic Animal Training and Management Program and, of course, a book results. She wrote about her experiences using some of these training techniques on her husband for Dan's New York Times column, Modern Love, and got a book deal out of that, which resulted in What Shamu Taught Me About Life, Love, and Marriage: Lessons for People From Animals and Their Trainers. Both books are a blast. I'm loving them. And, of course, now I want to enroll in Moorpark.

3. Melissa Atkins Wardy's Redefining Girly: How Parents Can Fight the Stereotyping and Sexualizing of Girlhood, from Birth to Tween. (Chicago Review Press) I have to admit to a reading bias here: I tend to read books about boys more often than I read about girls. I have two boys, my house is saturated with testosterone, and I've never been a very girly girl myself. That said, I really enjoyed Melissa's book. It gives practical advice about how to avoid inadvertently stereotyping or sexualizing girls. Melissa has some great ideas, and a perspective I don't think about much at home, but certainly have to pay attention to in the classroom (and there's a specific section for teachers). I've even shared some of her thoughts with my older son, in an attempt to get him attuned to the issues girls face, and how men should think about girls and women. I interviewed Melissa for my Atlantic piece on baby talk and upspeak, and her insights were invaluable. If you have a girl, or are a teacher, you should absolutely read this book.

4. Nathalia Holt's Cured: How the Berlin Patients Defeated HIV and Forever Changed Medical Science. (Dutton) Nathalia and I share an agent (the fabulous Laurie Abkemeier, but I found out about this book through my husband, Tim Lahey, an HIV physician and writer. A long, long time ago, in a land far, far away, I was an HIV researcher with Duke University and the CDC, so this is the one medical topic I can actually wrap my brain around and sink in with some comfort. Not that I needed the background knowledge; Nathalia does a fantastic job of clarifying and summarizing some really challenging material for a lay audience. I highly recommend this book if you are a fan of science writing (me! me!) and want to understand where things stand regarding HIV medicine and our pursuit of a cure.

NB: The title comes from Stephen King's On Writing, one of my very books in the world. In it, he writes, "Books are a uniquely portable magic."

Thursday, February 27, 2014

At the Core of Things

This week's offering at "The Parent Teacher Conference" is a post I've been thinking about for a while. Parents often whisper questions about the Common Core, usually under their breath, as if they are ashamed that they never really paid attention when their kid's principal explained the details of the CC. I wrote this little primer to fill in knowledge gaps, and help parents understand what all the screaming and yelling is about.

Saturday, February 22, 2014

Hangin' with Maria Montessori in the Windy City

Thanks so much to the Association of Illinois Montessori Schools and Near North Montessori for hosting me at such a fantastic conference. I knew going into this weekend that I would be preaching to a thoroughly converted choir, that Montessori teachers are advocates for their students' autonomy and the power of intrinsic motivation. However, I had no idea I'd meet such a smart and dedicated group of teachers and administrators. I was moved and inspired.

Here's the bibliography for my talk, including all of the books and studies I specifically mentioned in my talk to both parents and administrators, and the keynote for teachers.

Thanks again, and please, email me at if you'd like to be on the mailing list for intermittent news about my articles and my book, The Gift of Failure: How the Best Parents Learn to Let Go So Their Children Can Succeed, due to come out in August of 2015 from HarperCollins.

Books referenced in my talk:

William Shakespeare, Henry IV, Part I

Study: inflated praise makes children with low self-esteem feel worse.

Not referenced, but also interesting:

James M. Lang, Cheating Lessons: Learning from AcademicDishonesty (kids don’t cheat on tasks for which they are intrinsically motivated)

Sunday, February 16, 2014

Get Thee a Husband

I get to be the proud wife today, as Tim Lahey has made his New York Times debut (in digital AND Monday's print edition!), on the ethics of videotaping patients in hospitals. You can read the article here.

If you are interested in medical ethics or his ramblings on everything from medicine to poetry, read his blog, Murmurs.

Thursday, February 13, 2014

Be the Change

Okay, so don't actually know what Gandhi would have said about recess, but I do want to be the change he spoke of with this one.

Earlier this year, the American Academy of Pediatrics issued a policy statement asking schools to stop benching kids during recess for academic or disciplinary transgressions. The reasons are simple: the kids who get benched are the kids who need recess the most.

It was a great move on the part of the AAP, but as far as I can tell, no one is listening. Please - please - pass this one around, email it (ideally from the blue envelope icon on the post itself), tweet it, Facebook it, send it to your children's teachers. Motherlode editor and writer K.J. Dell'Antonia and I feel this one is really important, and we both hope we can be the change with this piece.

Please help. The article is here.