What do you want in a blog? What makes you read blogs? Do you follow some bloggers more than others? I find blogging difficult, but like helping other writers and parents or teachers with questions about school and children. Let me know how I can help you.
As I grow older, I have to accept the fact that I will be losing some of my friends. That is always very hard to do. It is harder when it is one of your former students. I know some people think teachers don't care. Boy, are they wrong. I can't speak for every teacher, but I can tell you that when I hear of one of my 'children' suffering, hurting, in some cases leaving this life, I still see them as the child they were, and wish I could protect them from the pain that is a natural part of life. Before Facebook, only a few children would still be in my daily life once they left my room, but now I get to see many. I love to share their joy, their pride, and I'm grateful to have this opportunity to show them I still do care. Thank you for caring about your old teacher too. I enjoy your humor and hope I bring a little humor into your lives as well. Happy Thanksgiving.
my suitcase before he sucks us into whatever this thing is, but I’m dragged toward that door like I’m a rag doll, flying behind this strange dude, without any chance of breaking free.
Did he say, Monstrovia?
I grab the door handle and hang on. “I’m not going in there! Where’s my uncle?”
“Ye’ll be perfectly safe,” He’s yanking me through the door.
“I don’t think so!” I keep trying to pull away, but before I know it, I am inside and the door slams. “I’m not ‘special. I don’t belong here!”
He’s pulling me so fast I’m almost flying!
“We’re nearly there,” he shouts.
“Where?” I’m shook-up by the size of the inside of this thing. It is gargantuan! But that’s not what’s causing me to stare. He’s dragging me past the strangest creatures I’ve ever seen. There are snake-headed bipeds racing around. They look like they’re on roller skates! A trio of bearded gnomes in dark green vests give me a puzzled look, like I’m the ‘weirdo’. A knight rides by on a unicorn! “Am I dreaming?” I ask my ‘guide’, as I’m almost crushed by a giant frog-thing hopping over us. Froggie sticks his tongue out at me and hops into the crowd.
This can’t be for real? I’m in a different world. I don’t see one other human being. “WHERE ARE WE?” I try to make myself heard over the racket.
“I told ye before, Monstrovia.”
“I’ve never heard of it!”
“Shhh, Master Brodie.” Bumbernickle pauses before two bear-like creatures wearing tan uniforms, with badges that announce they are Monstrovia Security.
“We don’t need no more ‘Humans,” one growls, aiming a rifle with a pineapple shaped barrel at my face.
“’You’re a human,” Bumbernickle explains in a low voice.
“I know I am. This is ridiculous--”
“SILENCE!” The bear’s breath is like a blast of garlic. “You’re coming with us!” He grabs my arm. “WE DON’T LIKE YOU.”
Not five minutes in this crazy place and I’m in trouble! So what else is new? Isn’t that why I’m here? If I hadn’t gotten in trouble with Principal Feeney maybe Mom would have taken me to China with her.
“We don’t like humans,” the huge guard says as he drags me away.
I don’t like ‘whatever’ he is either.
I’m being arrested by these ‘goons’ when Silas pipes up. “Gentlemen….”
They look around to see who he means. I do too.
Bumber…whatever, whispers, “Fellow Monstrovians, have ye never heard of Jasper Doofinch, Esquire?”
The guards glance at each other and then at me. “Sorry, Mr. Doofinch, sir, we didn’t know it was you.” It’s like magic. They look terrified.
Now is not a good time to tell them I am not Mr. Doofinch, but his nephew. I guess my uncle must be super important if just the mention of his name sent these two hairy beasts into a ‘tizzy’.
“Don’t let it happen again,” Bumbernickle says, and pulls me past the guards before they can recover.
I can’t believe they didn’t arrest me. I let out a big breath of relief. Who knows what kind of monsters are in jail in Monstrovia? I hope they don’t come after me when they realize their mistake.
I am now in a cavern. The lights coming at me are the glowing eyes of more Monstrovians. They are all sorts, and everywhere, rushing at me like I’m in Times Square! I thought Uncle Jasper lived in Key West. This is definitely not it! This isn’t anywhere in America I know about.
“Here be your ‘chariot’, Master Brodie.”
I can hardly breathe as I stare at my… ‘chariot’? It looks like a yellow mushroom on three large wheels. “Is this your car?”
He gives another maniacal laugh, tosses my suitcase into the mushroom, and throws me inside before I can make a run for it. “Strap yerself in, Master Brodie. Safety first. It’s a jungle out there.”
That mushroom takes off like a rocket, knocking me almost out the window. “Hey, slow down!” I strap myself in and hold on.
“No time. Like I says, it’s a jungle out here!”
The roads are a jungle, a racetrack on ten levels crisscrossing the sky. The highways are alive with speeding vehicles, many resembling this maniac’s ‘mushroom’, but others even stranger. A huge, metal elephant-shaped ‘bus’, roars by with five octopus-creatures hanging on to tall spikes on its top. “Get out of the way, slow-poke,” the elephant shouts.
I turn away, afraid to look, as we zip around these ‘vehicles’ while they zip around us. I’m in a crazy video game, bouncing around, about to crash and burst into a million molecules at any instant…with no extra lives!
“We’re ‘ere,” Bumbernickle blasts, minutes later. He slams on the brakes catapulting me nearly off the seat, even with the belts on. “Dis ‘ere is de grand ‘ome of Mr. Jasper Doofinch, Esquire!” He scurries to my door and pulls it open.
“Do I have to pay you for that ride?” I ask, trying to find my stomach.
“Glad you enjoyed it, but no need. Yer uncle is a respected man in dese parts. E’s a ero!”
“’Ero? Do you mean ‘hero’?”
He shakes his head so hard I think it is going to fall off. “Exactly, Master Brodie, E’s a ‘ero!”
Mom called Uncle Jasper a hero too, just before she left for her new job in China…right after she popped out I was going to spend my summer with my Uncle Jasper in a suburb of Key West. Some suburb! Inside a buoy?
“Who?” I asked when she first hit me with this unwelcome news.
“Your uncle Jasper. I told you about him a thousand times.”
“No, you didn’t!”
“Of course, I did.”
“No, you didn’t.” I knew almost nothing about this so-called uncle of mine. The truth is Mom never talked about her brother, except after some of our fights. Then she’d grumble, “Your Uncle Jasper is just like you. He loves to argue. Only he’s successful at it!”
“Now out ye get, Master Brodie.” the mad driver yanks me out of the mushroom. “Yer Uncle is a fine man. You’ll soon get over his …er…‘peculiarities’.”
‘Peculiarities’? How much more ‘peculiar’ can Mom’s brother be than this character? “Sir, could you take me back to the airport? I’ll pay you by mail when I get back to New York?” I must be desperate to ride in this maniac’s ‘car’ again.
He lets out another maniacal laugh and guns his motor. “Good luck, boy!”
Doesn’t anything move slowly around here? I’m alone in the middle of ‘nowhere’. But ‘nowhere’ is Monstrovia. I don’t know where it is, so how can I find my way back?
I hear a strange screeching noise and my eyes shoot up to the sky. Almost hidden by the sun, I spy a long black flying serpent. It’s heading in my direction.
I have to get indoors, but I don’t like the looks of the red brick building I’ve been dumped at by that maniac, Bumbernickle. It could be a prison, three stories tall, thick black bars on the windows, and a tall black fence with spear tips ringing the perimeter. The spiked tips of the fence remind me of the spears knights used to fight dragons. Dragons? I’m letting my imagination run wild, but no way do I want to find out what else might be lurking at night in Monstrovia.
The serpent is getting closer. I feel the wind stirred up by its huge black wings. I have no choice. I pull at the gate and it opens easily. Seeing more serpents, I drag my suitcase on a brick path toward a gargantuan pair of doors.
A plate on the wall by the doors catches my eye. It reads in large, black, letters:
J.D. Doofinch, Esq.
Defender of Monsters, Fictional Folk, Etc.
Below it, I see in much smaller print,
Monsterlish spoken here.
They love the dark and isolated places from which they can ambush their innocent victims. Cruel and consumed by evil drives they hunger to unleash their violence on the weak, the isolated, never caring about the damage they cause and the terror they spread. They lust for blood and destroy countless lives as they devote their existence to hurting others.
No, I’m not talking about vampires, but bullies. Bullies are the vampires of our society and schools, causing scars that never go away. I know because I was a bullied child. So I dedicate this tale of bullies and vampires to the brave victims, their families and friends, who, like Esme and her friends, find ways to fight against these venomous Crypt Creeps. Always remember, you are not alone.
IF YOU ENJOY THIS SAMPLE, PLEASE VOTE FOR MY NEW FUNNY BOOK AT https://goo.gl/ZwP5of
AND GET A FREE COPY IF IT IS PUBLISHED. THANK YOU.
Thank you again to my sons, Josh, Keith and David, who have been amazingly helpful at editing and helping me prepare this book. Thanks to my former students who still inspire me to create wacky lessons for them, and to my great Children’s Authors Team, (CAT), that helps me ‘sharpen’ my work. And finally, but not ‘leastly’, to my wife, Linda, my little vampire fighter.
To all of you, I hope you enjoy this battle between the forces of evil and good.
Esme pulled away from her mother’s kiss. It felt icy-cold on her cheek. She felt as if she had just touched dead fish. Her eyes landed on her mother’s normally lustrous hazel eyes and saw they had turned black and hollow. She had seen eyes like these before…in her mirror only a few weeks ago. When she had almost become one of them.
“Esme? Why are you looking at me like that?” her mother asked in an emotionless voice.
“I’ll be back in a little while. I’m going over to a friend,” Esme replied, her mother’s rancid breath making her squirm.
“Must you go? I’m a bit hungry. I was thinking of having a little bite.” Her mother’s tongue ran over her teeth.
That’s what I’m afraid of, Esme thought, backing away even further from lips that now appeared to be throbbing on either side of her mother’s mouth. “Don’t you have a date tonight,” she asked, wondering how many of her mother’s dates after the divorce had been with living men. What a strange thought? Esme shivered.
“I want you to meet my new boyfriend. He’s a famous doctor.”
At the word, ‘doctor’, Esme froze. Could it be? Nah! And yet, Mom has that strange haunted look. She gazed at her mother’s face, twisted into a sinister white mask. A half smile looked thin and forced.
It can’t be! He wouldn’t dare! That creep! Not my mother! And yet it would explain a lot of what Esme had seen happening to her Mom these last few weeks. It would explain the vacant eyes that strayed into the darkness of night, the dented cheeks and rigid, skeletal, jaw bones. And oh yes, the long lashing tongue. Is she going out with a doctor or a lizard, Esme wondered, and laughed at how silly she was being. A lizard? But a lizard would be better than the vampire or his creepy friend.
“Esmeralda,” she heard the familiar, hypnotic, voice of the doctor echoing in her brain, but it turned out to be her mother, eyes nailed onto Esme’s throbbing throat. “Come closer, dear, sweet, pleasingly plump, Esmeralda,” her mother coaxed.
“I’ve got to go,” Esme said, shuffling away from the table.
Her mother was blocking the door.
Esme again shivered at the incredible iciness of her mother’s touch, the sallow tone of her complexion, the dullness of her eyes. She stared at her mother’s thin figure, even thinner than it had always been. Esme knew her worst fears, crazy fears, might not be so crazy.
“He’s a wonderful man, an amazing doctor,” her mother said, her eyes still fixed on Esme’s neck as if it was a chocolate covered cherry.
Esme felt another even worse spidery chill as her mother painted a description too close to her memory of the insane so-called ‘doctor’ who had almost turned her school into his very own vampire feeding ground. “Mom, does this doctor have thin white hair surrounding his mostly bald head,” she asked, afraid to hear the answer.
“Yes. He is so cute! He has the wispiest little hairs on his adorable, bald head. I could just hug him to death.”
Or vice versa, Esme thought, still praying she was wrong. “Does he have a roly-poly belly and a funny accent…like in the Dracula movies?”
“Why yes. He’s so funny when he says, “I vant to drink your blood.” It’s a little joke between us.” Her mother tried to smile, but couldn’t even fake it. “He looks like a beardless Santa Claus. Truly adorable. Chubby…like you, dear Esmeralda.”
Esme felt panic building insider her, but there was still hope. “Is his name Dr. Ghoulish?” She held her breath. There had to be a million doctors out there with wispy white hair and European accents. I can hope, can’t I, she thought, clutching at straws, praying it wasn’t the creep she had met in the crypt.
Her mother shook her head. “No, dear, not Ghoulish. No. That’s not at all right.”
Thank goodness! Esme breathed a sigh of relief. Her worst fear had been erased. It wasn’t him. It wasn’t the ruthless king of the vampires, the maniacal blood-sucker who had pretended to be a diet doctor to hide his evil scheme to turn the students in her school into anorexic mush, too-weak-to-fight against him. So many were fooled into becoming his always ready source of fresh, young, blood. They had sacrificed their souls to be thin and popular, she thought, still not believing how far she had gone to be just like them. Those days are over…or are they? Can I ever be sure?
Her mother said softly, “No, dear, Esmeralda, not Ghoulish. You pronounce it like ‘gosh’. Like gosh, he’s wonderful!”
“Gosh?” The chill Esme felt racing up her back was like the touch of Dr. Ghoulash’s six inch long fingernails. Ghoulash rhymes with gosh!
”Oh gosh no,” Esme groaned. “Not again! The Crypt Creeps are back!”
“Dr. Ghoulash? Mom, please say it isn’t so?” Esme’s hand was gripping the top of the kitchen chair tightly, wishing it was the mad doctor’s stubby neck. “Are you sure it was Ghoulash…like rhymes with ‘gosh’?” Esme asked, her mind refusing to believe this could be happening again.
“Yes, dear, his name is Dr. Ghoulash. He is the most marvelous man, a true genius. His diet will make even you lose weight. Look! It’s working wonders for me.” Mrs. Jones twirled around, as if modeling a fancy dress, but her movements were clumsy. She seemed barely able to complete the pirouette without teetering. When she faced Esme again, her eyes were black pits. “You should start seeing him, Esme. You’ve been putting on all that ugly fat again.”
“I’ve lost a lot of weight, Ma,” Esme said, backing steadily toward the door.
“Oh, but my doctor has a miracle cure,” Esme’s mother said.
“I’ll be right back,” Esme said, her eyes watching for any sudden move as she inched her fingers to the door knob. “I’ve an idea, Ma. Why don’t you stay home tonight? Watch a good movie? Nosh on some chocolate bars? Mmm! You love chocolate.”
“Not any more, Esme, my plump little morsel. I have other cravings now.” Esme’s mother stared at her daughter’s neck and inched forward.
Esme had seen that look on Alexa, Pam and Latisha, the three sinister girls who had made her life miserable with their bullying. “Mom? Mom? MOM! Snap out of it!”
“Esme?” It was as if her mother was seeing her daughter for the first time that evening. “What happened? Why are you looking at me like that?”
“Mom, are you alright? Are you back?” Esme looked deep into the bony face. She saw what was left of her mother, her once lustrous red hair, now black and stringy. Her once full lips, now thin, upper lips pulsing rapidly. “Mom, you need help.”
“Esme? Yes, please help me?”
Esme reached for her mother’s hand, but stopped when her mother added with a cruel sneer, “I am so hungry…and you are so juicy.”
Esme wanted to dash out the door. She wanted to run away from this creature that resembled her mother, but was on the edge of becoming something else. Esme knew what it was. She had almost become such a creature herself when she had fallen under the control of the fiendish Dr. Ghoulash. “Mom, concentrate! You can fight it!”
Her mother’s hand reached out and tightened on Esme’s wrist.
“Mom, let go! You’re hurting me!”
Her mother’s eyes cleared again. “Esme, I need help. Help me? I don’t know how long I can hold out. It comes and goes.” Her eyes gazed pitifully into Esme’s face. “Esme, you won’t tell? Promise me, you won’t tell anyone? They’ll put me away…I’ll be lost forever.”
The fear in her mother’s voice bit into Esme’s heart. She thought she saw a flicker of her mother in the pleading eyes. “No, mother, I won’t tell.” Esme knew she was lying, but who could she tell that would be able to help them before it was too late? If it wasn’t too late already?
Her mother sagged into a kitchen chair. “I feel so tired, Esme…tired and thirsty…always very thirsty.”
“Stay here, Ma. I’ll be back soon.”
“I need my Dr. Ghoulash,” her mother said. “He can help. He always helps.”
“Just stay here,” Esme repeated, and eyes watching for any sign her mother might spring into an attack, she inched toward the door. “Please, stay right here? Promise me?”
“You’ll find him for me,” her mother asked.
“I’ll find help.” Esme closed the door carefully. She was afraid if she slammed it the noise would alarm her mother and she would not let her leave. She locked it with her key, praying her mother wouldn’t be able to get out. She had thought of staying to be sure her mother didn’t leave, but knew if the ‘vampire’ fever was raging, there would be no way to stop her. A thirteen year old girl’s strength is no match for the strength of whatever her mother would become once her soul, was lost. Esme relived in recurring nightmares the horrible acts she had almost committed with her surprising strength as she had almost become a…crypt creep!
”No I mustn’t think of that! Not ever!” Esme ran through the streets, fighting the urge to cry. She knew once she got to her best friend, Viola’s house, she would break her promise to her mother. She would be willing to break every rule she had always believed in to free her mother from the vampire’s evil control. She swore she would use any trick or weapon she could find to fight and defeat the evil blood-sucker, and free her mother from his powerful clutches.
“How could I have been so wrong about anyone,” she asked, remembering how she had first thought Dr. Ghoulash, (rhymes with ‘gosh’), was so wonderful, a genius who had actually discovered a way to make a fat, seventh grade, girl, lose weight, almost instantly. “Of course, I’d jump at a chance like that,” she mused, shuddering at how she weighed nearly two hundred pounds before blackmailing her bullies into letting her join the Midnight Diet Club.
Esme was almost down to one hundred fifty pounds now, but it was so much harder without the Doctor’s sinister diet. “I was almost beautiful.”
“You were almost a vampire,” her conscience reminded her.
Esme sighed. The all too real image of three, tall, slender girls, Alexa, Latisha and Pam, the bullies that had tormented her mercilessly, flashed across her brain. “I was one of ‘them’.”
To be thin again? It was still tempting. It was so tempting she had to fight it all the time. Even weeks later, Esme found it was difficult to fight the desire to have a perfect body, to be accepted, popular, no matter the risk…no matter the awful price.
As confident as she was becoming, with the help of Viola, Esme still envied the three girls, who had been her heartless enemies. Alexa, the leader, with her model’s body, and snotty look-down-at-your-nose, cruelty. How that girl had tormented her, teased her, hounded her, pushed her around. She, more than any other, had driven Esme to desperate actions.
And what Alexa didn’t do her brutal side-kick, Latisha, would complete with cruel joy. Latisha, black and sinewy, was like a panther. She was a knife with a brutal and violent nature that would make a wild tiger proud. She was the trio’s enforcer, always eager to enjoy the pain of others. I hated her, Esme thought, always fearful Latisha might show up again.
Esme suspected the blood-lust held Latisha in its tight grip more than the others. She had seen it in Latisha’s wild eyes. The picture of those savage eyes appeared in her nightmares frequently, flashbacks to that horrifying time in the crypt. She knew Latisha would not have hesitated in tearing her to pieces if Alexa, or Dr. Ghoulash, gave the order.
Alexa and Latisha had been solid, impenetrable, walls of hate, which is why Esme had focused on the third member of the sinister sisterhood, Pam. Smaller, less slender, weasel-like Pam, was the newest member of the ‘club’. She was ‘the weak link’. She was also the only one of the three who had remained in school after the confrontation in the cemetery. Alexa and Latisha vanished after that showdown, their homes put up for sale. Nobody knew where they were. Esme was just relieved they were gone and the bullying was over at last.
“To think I wanted to be one of those creeps.” Esme sighed, dismayed at how her envy of the ‘three ghouls’, as Vi called them, had blinded her to their true nature. “How close I came.” The worst part? Esme knew if she didn’t have Vi, to help her fight the ever-present gnawing temptation, she might still someday be turned…but turned into what?
Esme remembered Alan warning, “They’re all vampires.”
At the time she didn’t believe him. They never said what they were…what Ghoulash was. But what else could he have been? If it looks like a vampire, talks like a vampire, reeks like a vampire… seeks blood like a vampire….
Esme was distracted by her swirling thoughts, her memories of what she had almost become. She didn’t notice she made a wrong turn. She was no longer running. She was tired, still recovering from her battle with the devilish Doctor and his fiendish crew. “And how about that ghoul of ghouls, Ignor,” she said aloud, still not realizing she was going the wrong way.
Esme saw the giant’s gaunt face flash before her like a huge neon sign. What is he? He isn’t a vampire…what kind of creep is he?
Esme stopped walking, staring at the darkening sky where she thought she had seen the monster’s face again. “It isn’t real. It isn’t. Won’t these nightmares ever stop?”
“Not as long as your mother is in danger,” a voice reminded her.
Esme wished she could turn around, go home, and forget everything, but knew she couldn’t, not as long as her Mom needed her. “Where the heck is Viola’s house? I should be there by now?”
WHAT IS DR. GHOULASH'S INSANE PLOT? CAN ESME DEFEAT HIM AND HIS BODYGUARD, IGNOR AMOS? WHAT IS THE SECRET TO FIGHTING BULLIES?
Please vote for my new book so we can share these and more exciting adventures with Esme and her bully-fighting friends.
I never liked the color pink,
It wasn't for boys like me.
I know that sounds old-fashioned now,
But that's what we believed.
When my wife wanted our bedroom pink,
I quickly said no.
I could not bear the girlish air
Of a room painted so.
It was funny how that color
Never seemed right to me,
I guess it was socially ingrained
Part of my history.
But now I will gladly wear pink,
In honor of my wife,
And all the cancer fighters
Who save so many lives.
Now I will wear pink with pride,
For all the world to see,
Together we can turn the tide,
And cancer will cease to be.
Mark H. Newhouse
In baseball, there are winners and losers. We expect and accept that. It is part of the rules of every game. There must be a winner so there must be a loser. It makes it tough on the losers though, until they realize there's another year. You can always win again if you learn from your mistakes and try hard. Sometimes it takes a long time, but when it happens, as in the case of the Mets this year, it feels amazing. That is why I always think of them as the 'Amazing Mets." As Yogi might have said, "They came to a fork in the road and took it." As a long-time Mets fan, I'm excited that at long last they feel like winners and hope they make it all the way to win the World Series.
In life, we also have winners and losers, but unlike with baseball, some 'losers' never get a chance to become winners. In some cases, they are branded losers as early as pre-school now. In a very frightening way, we have come to accept the idea that some children must be labeled as losers, almost as the Mets were. I read about them every day and can't believe how readily we all accept this system where labels are branded on kids by endless testing and the accompanying pressure cooker climate of our schools. Unless kids feel they have a chance to win, we will keep having explosions and losers. But as Yogi also said, "It ain't over until it's over." I believe we can make a difference and rise again. Let's go Mets!
NEVER FORGET 9/11
My grandson was here, such a beautiful child,
Such innocence in his eyes and always a smile.
Suddenly he gazed up at me,
With that look that spells curiosity,
And though he was only seven,
He asked, “Grandpa, were you here on 9/11?”
“Of course, I was,” I replied,
Remembering those who died,
Honoring, as I will always,
The heroes that rose on that day.
But suddenly it occurred to me,
That those who weren’t alive to see,
What happened on that awful day,
Might let those memories fade away.
I wondered if years from when the towers fell,
There would still be those who would remember and tell,
How when they destroyed our twin towers,
We became united in our finest hours.
How we joined our hands and voiced our prayers,
For those who had died or become heroes there.
How we joined together in our grief,
Praying as one for relief.
How an act of hate made us all friends,
How in freedom’s name we refused to bend.
So I sat my grandchild on my knee,
And began to tell 9/11’s history,
For as the years go racing by,
And new towers rise to the sky.
9/11 must always be,
A symbol of the strength of our liberty.
SEEING WHAT WE READ
My goal is to help every parent and teacher who reads this to explore a strategy I used to help hundreds of underachieving students improve their comprehension skills and learn to enjoy reading without painful drills and a cycle of failure. Give it a try. It worked for me.
Reading requires us to use our comprehension skills and add our imagination to fill in the gaps that cannot be supplied by the author. A movie lets the director and cast do most of the work for us. Reading requires us to become active partners and visualize not only what the author is supplying, but also what he isn’t. You can be ‘lazy’ while watching television or a movie, but you must be actively involved to fully understand what you are reading.
It is this active role which may explain why to the ‘good’ reader the book tends to be better than a movie. But how can this help us with the under-achieving reader?
THE ACHIEVER VS UNDERACHIEVER READER
I always loved reading because I was successful at filling in the gaps that can’t be completely ‘fed’ to us by an author. As an author myself, I count on the reader’s imagination to bring my characters, locale and plot elements to life. In a movie, or television program, we sit and basically accept what we are given, although we may use what we are ‘fed’ to anticipate the ending, as in guessing the end to a mystery. We don’t need to visualize much because it is all on the screen for us.
In observing my struggling students, I became convinced that what may define the difference between a ‘good reader’ and a ‘bad’ one (I hate that term but use it for convenience) is that the ‘good reader’ can fill in these gaps because they actually ‘see’ what they are reading. This ability to ‘see’ what we read is visualization.
CAN VISUALIZATION BE TAUGHT?
It is the missing ‘sense’ I believe every child can learn to use to become a successful reader. It is like a vitamin V for reading and all areas of learning. It was this belief that children who can ‘see’ what they are reading will achieve success, and like reading, that changed my entire approach to teaching and which if you teach your children may help them succeed without you spending one extra dime for expensive teaching materials.
What is strange to me is that we seem to recognize instinctively the importance of visualization in teaching subjects like math and science. Experiments in science, using pizza slices in teaching fractions, are just two examples of how we try to involve student visualization, and even physical learning abilities. We also ask them to ‘see’ word problems. In some cases, we ask them to ‘draw’ the problem before solving it.
I think we assume every child is born with the ability to ‘see’ what they are reading, but some of our behaviors may actually work against this important skill.
I can’t remember any teacher guide or work book page that dealt specifically with teaching a child to ‘see’ what they read. Visualization isn’t the focus of reading skillbooks (workbooks) or texts, and may not only be the sense we often neglect, but sometimes inadvertently extinguish in our well-intentioned efforts to teach our children to read quickly and complete tasks on time. Our kids are in such a rush to finish their ‘work’, and we value speed so highly, that only those with the ‘gift’ already use it automatically.
VISUALIZATION: THE NEGLECTED SIXTH SENSE
To put it simply, if I can teach every child to visualize, ‘see’, what he/she is reading, shouldn’t comprehension increase?
If a child can’t ‘see’ – let’s call it “V”- if a child can’t ‘V’ what they are reading, how can they understand it and enjoy it? In more practical terms, how can they pass comprehension tests?
My hypothesis became: teach a child to ‘V’ and comprehension should soar. That simple objective was the lightning bolt that changed my methods of teaching forever.
I want every child to be successful so I am hoping sharing my secret reading strategy, maybe not so secret, will be of help. Have a great school year and send me your comments and ideas.
MY SECRET READING STRATEGY
A SIMPLE DISCOVERY
I was in a movie theater when I heard a woman echo my feelings by saying, “The book was better than the movie.” I had always wondered why that seemed to be the case whenever I read a book and then saw the movie. It never occurred to me that this could be the clue that would change reading instruction, in fact all instruction, for me, and that I would use this simple discovery to help thousands of students in my sixth grade classes and even in my college courses for future teachers.
WHAT WAS THE DISCOVERY
I asked myself why I often felt the book was better and came to the conclusion that reading got me more involved. I had to ‘see’ what the author was describing rather than having it ‘spoon-fed’ to me on a screen. In other words, in reading, I am forced to visualize what the author wants me to see. It hit me like a bolt of lightning that what may define the ‘good reader’ from the ‘bad reader’, the ‘achiever’ from the ‘under-achiever’ is that the better reader is able to ‘see’ what he is reading.
This seems so obvious, but I had never seen this in any basal reader or workbook. I wondered if so-called ‘under-achieving’ readers could be taught to see what they were reading. I made this my new goal in reading instruction and that changed everything.
It takes some restructuring of your instructional philosophy, but you don’t need new books, expensive machines and no batteries are required. Good readers do this automatically, but even they seem to benefit when they understand the process. I used this simple goal to help countless sixth graders, some reading as low as second grade, to become better, sometimes avid readers, and sincerely hope it helps you help your children. I truly believe getting kids to ‘visualize’ what they are reading and learning can be highly useful in all areas of learning, but is essential to help ‘under-achieving’ readers.
Next week: How to Teach Visualization
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