Mary's Meals

Mary’s Meals

A Nickel’s Worth

What can you do with a nickel?  Could you change the future?  Could you build bridges?  Could you save lives and fuel dreams? You can if that nickel finds its way to a Mary’s Meals collection campaign.

 

Founded on the principle that food+school=hope, Mary’s Meals feeds over a million children each day and has revolutionized the war on hunger.  The concept is so easy, anyone, including young children, can make a difference.

 

How Mary’s Meals Works

In 2002, Magnus MacFarlane-Barrow, founder of Mary’s Meals, was on a service trip to Malawi.  There he met a young boy named Edward.  Edward’s one life wish was to have enough to eat and go to school. Out of this request, the idea of Mary’s Meals was born.

 

Inspired by the words of Mother Teresa, “If you can’t feed one hundred children, just feed one.” Magnus set out to feed children one good meal a day at a place of education, thus feeding their bodies and minds.  Soon he was feeding 200 children a day in Malawi with 93% of all donations going directly to feeding children.

 

The simple porridge, Likuni Phala, is served in large plastic mugs to the children each day. The mugs are so prized that many children wear them on strings hung around their necks so as not to lose them.  This simple blend of ingredients is prepared in a dedicated kitchen built at the school by Mary’s Meals

 

All of the kitchens are staffed by local volunteers and supplied with local goods to create a simple, but highly nutritious porridge for the students of the school where the kitchen is housed. Using local sources keeps the cost of feeding down while investing in the community.  By coming to school, the children receive life saving food, and a life altering education.

 

The Little School with Big Dreams

In 2014, a small, Catholic school in New York embarked on a mission to build a Mary’s Meals kitchen in Malawi.  Inspired by the movie Child 31, the students held nickel drives and fundraisers.  In just four months, they raised the $11,500 to build a kitchen at Dzungwi school, Malawi but it didn’t stop there.

 

Mary’s Meals became such a part of the school’s culture that a Mary’s Meals club was born.

Throughout the year, the children meet dressed in their signature blue Mary’s Meals shirts to sort and count the money raised each month to feed keep the kitchen running.  As part of the club, students learn more about their sister school in Malawi, exchange letters, videos, and photos; and even learn to play the same games that entertain their faraway friends.

 

Last year, St. Stephen St Edwards School raised over $20,000 by collecting deposit cans and bottles, holding nickel drives, selling popcorn each Wednesday, selling giftware, and more.  Through their efforts, a second kitchen was adopted in Liberia that is now fully funded by the club.

Building Bridges One Nickel at a Time

The Mary’s Meals Club has built a bridge for children in a semi-rural town to learn and grow.  Their worldview has expanded, and their connection to others on the opposite side of the world has solidified.  The efforts of serving and understanding have benefited the children in the club as well as those they fundraise to feed. Likewise, the simple meals that are being provided in two countries thanks to this club are building bridges to the bright futures for the recipient children.

 

This is what One Planet, One People is all about.  Journeying together in hope and knowledge to a promising future.  Building a bridge isn’t hard.  Just start one brick at a time, one child at a time.  Inspiring youth to serve others and support global education is one of the greatest lessons we can offer.

 

St Stephen-St Edward school has not just found a hobby, it has discovered its mission.  It is currently one of the largest and longest running fundraising campaigns for Mary’s Meals in the world.  It all started with a simple idea, let’s help bring hope to a child in need.

 

How are you spreading the light of education to the world?  Be the spark that chases the dark. Help those most in need and build a bridge to a better world!

When does learning begin?

Better Late Than Early?

We all want our children to be happy and healthy.  Additionally we want them to grow up to be successful adults.  Successful adults with good jobs and stable economic futures.  We want them to be highly educated and well rounded.  Parents want the best for their kids.  And education is the key to this happiness.  A great education gives our children the head start they need to leap into successful lives.  Education is an essential part of any good life plan.  So what is the best?  And why do many kids struggle and fail?  Most parents agree that private education is the way to go.  College prep is the key to college success.  Academic challenge is the only way to turn children into successful adults.  And in order to achieve this level of academia, children are starting earlier and earlier.

 

Most private schools promise academic excellence which translates into success in adult life.  Children in these systems start learning as early as two years old.  The expectations for these children include reading early and math skills by first grade.  This path seems to be the most effective way to give our children a prime opportunity for the educational needs required for lifelong success.  But what happens when our kids don’t respond to this system?  What do we do if our children are not meeting these expectations?  How do we raise babies that are labeled “late “or “slow” or “falling behind” to become successful?  As a parent hearing these terms can make us feel like we failed them.  Somehow having a lovely bright child marred by the label “slow” means they are cursed to life of fast food jobs or retail.  Having your child labeled as a “late developer” creates a great deal of fear and pressure on both parent and child.  This pressure is usually met with a litany of  intense tutors and educational programs in addition to traditional schooling.   The key is to push these late kids to catch up.

 

But what if the label is wrong?  What if the system is wrong?  What if your child is perfectly capable of that excellent education and that picture perfect life we all want for them?  What if the key isn’t a highly intense series of tutors and programs?  What if pushing harder is actually making everything worse?

 

Finland is consistently ranked the best educational systems in the world.  How? They teach all grades and abilities in one large room, rarely have homework, and usually test once later in the teen years.  Compared to US educational systems this is basically insane.  But it works.  These children have greater analytical and cognitive skills than most American students.  Finnish children are more capable of detailed critical thinking methods. Why?  What makes these students become better prepared adults with so much less education?

 

Dr. Raymond Moore has written many books about homeschooling and learning techniques.  The most well known of these books is Better Late Than Early.  Dr. Moore was a well respected expert in the home school movement.  Some claim Dr. Moore launched all home schooling movements and credit his lobbying for the existence of governmental acceptance to home school programs.

 

Dr. Moore found that 70 percent of all students presenting with behavioral problems that interfered with learning were subjected to early learning pressures.  Over 7,000 studies, including several headed by Stanford University, were conducted and showed that children that remained in happy homes out of the school system until age ten succeeded academically often far past children their own age.  These children had access to self directed learning until the ages of 8-10, then returned to a class environment with similarly aged peers.  Within a few months the stay-at-home children caught up and eventually surpassed their classmates on academic levels.

 

The significant difference is that these children achieved the same, and in most cases better, academic success as their peers but stay at home children did so with no anxiety or behavior issues.  Children that were allowed to develop longer at home in a happy environment became lifelong learners that love education and seek it out more than those that are enrolled in a traditional educational system.  These children seek to find the why and the how versus traditional education students which seek the correct answer based on testing standards and work from a memorize aspect rather than a learning aspect.

 

So how do you know when a child is ready for traditional classrooms?  What are the developmental signs to look for?  What needs to be on the checklist?  Well the first thing is that there is no checklist.  Children do not work on schedules or from bullet points.  They are kids with individual needs and personalized learning styles not programmable robots that can be fed data and respond on command.  If you know your child and know your ultimate educational goals then knowing when formal education is needed  becomes clear.

 

The most important aspect of learning is the ability to reason.  To think things out.  To see solutions and work the issue until they are reached.  Analysis, critical thinking, problem solving – all things that make for a good adult.  Previous generations called this common sense.  Before a child can be expected to learn the fundamentals of the three R’s they must be ready to think.  Most believe that a child needs to know how to follow directions, sit still, play well with others but what does any of that have to do with loving the art of learning?  So, is it better to allow a child to develop and revel in natural curiosity before teaching them the alphabet?  Children that can see the endless wonder of the world will continue to seek it.  Having a sense of what comes next, consequences, and results are not just for discipline.  These skills make for amazing learners.  Once a child can use logic and has a deep sense of logical thought they are ready to challenge that  aspect of learning.  After all,  literacy and math are basically finding and using logical patterns.

 

Parents all want their children to succeed.  Even if it is in fast food jobs or retail.  If my Suzy is a waitress, then I want her to be the best darn server that establishment has ever known.  And I will be proud.  But just in case Suzy is going to be a lawyer it is more important that she can reason and use logic than it is she start school at two years old and read by four.  This could give her the developmental edge over her peers she will need to carry her into the Supreme Court.

Do you agree with this philosophy? Have you experienced different?

MeetOurTeam

Get to Know – Jennifer

Recently, one of our GLD crew created her introduction video. For those who would prefer to read it, you may continue below!

 

Hi I’m Jennifer Elia! I’m from New Jersey and this is my first Global Learn Day and I’m so excited to be a part of this team! When I was a child I loved to read. I mean, I still do but I would read anything that was put in front of me. In fact, I would read the same cereal box every morning just because it was words and it was there and so I couldn’t resist it!

But, my favorite book was Madeline. You know the big house in Paris all covered with vines. I wanted to be Madeline and I begged my parents to send me to boarding school in Paris so that I could live there and be just like her. That book had such an influence on me that all I wanted to do was learn to speak French! And when I got to Middle School I got that opportunity and I studied it all through high school. I became a French major in college and then I was a French professor for twelve years. Now, I’m a home school mom and so learning and education is a part of my everyday and still so important to me. It is something I really enjoy.

I think back about my education and I have had so many amazing teachers and professors, many of whom I’m still friends with today in person and on Facebook. But the biggest influence to me in terms of learning was my mom because from the time we could sit at the table we were doing lessons every morning for a couple hours. We read books. We did math problems. We did SRA kits, which we thought were the coolest thing. Even though we didn’t realize that this wasn’t what everybody did in the morning, when they were home, on their summer break or in preschool. We cooked. We made diagrams. Um… Diaramas. She would take us to the library twice a week and we would have to check out a certain number of books and read them and then we would write book reports and Venn diagrams and do character studies.

It was just such a part of my childhood and it really taught me the value of learning and how great it is to be able to teach something to someone else and enjoy everything that you are learning. So, even though I wasn’t home schooled as a child I always say that my mom is the one who taught me how to home school because she taught me the joy of learning and teaching and how to bring everything to my children and make it important.

When I finished school I realized that I still wanted to learn, even though I had learned so much I enjoyed it. Growing up my best friends were a dictionary, my Time Life Atlas and then the encyclopedia which I would stay up almost all night reading and then just do cross references with it and there was so much in there. It was just such an incredible resource to have in our home. So I realized that I didn’t want my learning to end. There was still so much out there and learning doesn’t have to end because there is just more than you can ever take in. It’s like a good book that you just don’t want to keep turning the page and learning more and more. Novels come to an end but the best thing is that learning never does because you can always pick something else to learn about and there is always new information. Even if you are studying history there’s more books than you can read. And that is why I am always learning, I always want to learn. My mom always used to joke with me that I would never have brain problems because I am always wanting to learn something new. She was actually impressed with how many things I constantly study even though I have always considered her my mentor as far as learning and teaching.

My current learning obsession though is gardening. I have been reading about it for the last few years and finally built my own 800 sq ft garden last year. And so, I am reading about different kinds of plants, how I can use them, what to plant where, how to help my soil, how to get rid of pests, how to be more organic, be more productive and make the soil healthier for my family and my children. My garden is my hobby but it is also a help for my family.

So, my question for you is… What have you learned today? And, what book really changed your life and want to be a life long learner. I’m so glad that you are here and hope that you come along with us. Thank you and take care.

When does learning begin?

Learning Begins When?

When Does Learning Begin?

When did you learn to read?  How about learning to tell time?  How old were you when you learned your multiplication facts?  We measure learning in stages and many consider learning to begin when formal education does.  In fact, learning begins much sooner.

 

In a recent study, researchers discovered that significant language learning occurs 10 weeks before birth.  We have know for a long time that babies in utero are experiencing all that is around them, however they are also acquiring language skills that will fuel their development after birth.

 

The four arts of language–listening, speaking, reading, writing–are the building blocks of education.  The language arts are what allow us to study all the other disciplines and synthesize what we have learned.  They are also what fuels collaboration and the ability to problem solve.

 

Early learning happens rapidly and without formal instruction.  Children are soaking up all that is around them. Experiences, and the lack there of, greatly shape not only the amount of learning but the potential for learning in the future.  Likewise, we cannot wait for a classroom to educate our children.  Research has shown that the most significant indicator of future learning, is a child’s first five years. This is when the hardware of the brain is built and connects laid.  In addition, the child’s approach to learning and others is solidified.

 

A study by the National Center for Education Statistics showed that the gap in achievement existed from the beginning of kindergarten.

 

“Children’s brains and children’s attitudes are formed in the first five years of life, and children’s opportunity to learn is affected by the homes in which they grow, the communities in which they grow, their respect for learning, their respect for teachers,” says Ravitch. The makings of the achievement gap are already there on the first day of school, and it’s correlated with “different ethnic backgrounds, where poverty and affluence matter a great deal.” (source)

 

The conclusion, learning begins at home and within those first moments of life.  Education is not just a system or a progression through grade levels, it is the development of attitudes, knowledge, and brain connections that lead to a deeper understanding of the world, ability to evaluate data, and the desire to know more.

 

Education for all is not just an economic boon, it is an opportunity for a brighter future for all.  Through an appreciation for lifelong learning and access to educational resources and opportunities, the next generation will have the groundwork laid for their higher achievement.

 

Just as education does not begin in school, it does not end there either. This is why events like Global Learn Day are so vital to the improvement of every citizen of the world.  By lifting one, we lift them all.  We must each choose to never stop learning and pledge to bring the fortuity of educational enrichment to those who still lack this basic need.

 

As One Planet, One People, we have the opportunity and obligation to keep the tide of innovation going but never lose sight of the small steps that have huge impacts.  Exposing babies, still in the womb, to quality language that is free from violence, stress, and excessive volume. By supporting families, we are educating the future.

 

For as Diane Ravich points out, “There is a kind of a wiser understanding of how children grow and develop and learn that recognizes that children’s first educator is their family, and that nurturance really matters.”

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Overcoming Obstacles

NELSON MANDELA

Overcoming Educational Obstacles

 

Many of us are lucky to have had the biggest obstacle to our education be ourselves. There was a time that this wasn’t the norm. For much of human history, we have had to overcome significant obstacles to obtain knowledge. In the US, many have heard the “I had to walk five miles uphill to get to school”. Perhaps, our grandparents were trying to impress upon us the gift that our ease of education is. There are still parts of the world that haven’t knocked down as many of these obstacles though. Places that educate based on some factor that the individual has no control over. Places where war has prevented education from being a safe thing, as shown in this article.

Admittedly, this is old information, but the concept that in 2016 WAR was what prevents children from receiving an education is heartbreaking to say the least. Not enough has changed to make that untrue in 2017. Education, which we firmly believe builds a bridge for children to access a better future, should be available to all people. Nelson Mandela emphasized the importance of distance education to overcoming obstacles in South Africa and the same is true all over the world. You can listen to his speech here.

 

Today, there are opportunities for children in primary and secondary schools to learn via distance education. Additionally, schools around the world offer distance education options. This opens the door for those who are homebound, unable to travel great distances or unable to handle the stress or stimulation from a traditional education to overcome and achieve their educational goals. Nelson Mandela recognized this two decades ago but as a people, we are just beginning to fully embrace it. If we could provide distance education options (even books for them to learn at their own pace from) to the South Sudanese children mentioned above, we would be opening them to a whole new world. Hopefully, that would be their bridge to a better future.

 

Organizations like War Child, support mothers and children in war torn countries. One of the most important ways is to educate them. This way, they can read the important signs…

Danger – Landmines

Putting it in perspective, no obstacle I have met is half as hard as a child in Sudan. It’s time to build bridges and share with those around us the ways we have found that help us overcome our educational obstacles.

How do you overcome obstacles? Feel free to suggest a distance education provider!

5 Reasons to Stay Up-to-Date

Why Stay up-to-date?

Staying up to date in this ever changing world can seem overwhelming. Technologies often seem to become obsolete as readily as they are introduced to the market.  However, there are reasons to stay up to date not just in the technology field but in our personal education. Here are five good reasons to keep striving to know more.

 

  • The technological changes are not only something that techies need to be kept informed of. These affect our everyday life and change the face of both education and business.  The advancement in technology is happening at breakneck speed. It may seem impossible to keep abreast of every innovation.  However, general knowledge of the newest mainstream devices and software is beneficial to understand the changing marketplace and make yourself more marketable in your chosen field.

 

Strive to encounter and test out as many new technologies as you can on an ongoing basis.  Even if you do not master them all, you will benefit from the exposure should one of them become commonplace as touch screens and mobile apps have.

 

  • Continuing education helps advance careers and keep individuals highly employable if something should happen with a current employer. Aside from the software that may change your job requirements or how you work; there is always something more to learn to do your job better.  Continuing education enriches your understanding of your field and gives you an advantage in a tough market.  Continuing to grow and learn will not just benefit your resume but your overall achievement in your career.

 

  • Educational practices are ever changing and even those who take a classical approach to education are discovering new benefits and methods to aid all students to learn. Being up to date in the educational field provides new strategies for teaching and deeper understanding of how students learn.  In addition, understanding educational practice and policy allows you to better advocate for the education of the children in your home, state, or country.  It also lends itself to better providing supplements and extracurricular activities to enhance what is being taught and make up for what may be lacking.

 

  • Staying up to date on geo-political news and needs of neighbors near and far is essential to serve the world well. Conquering any crisis requires information. How much harder is it to overcome a problem if you do not even know it exists?  Keep informed of what is going on in the world to the best of your ability.  Use the information you acquire to make judgement calls, protest injustices, and aid worthy causes.  Better informed citizenry leads to more stable nations, accomplished initiatives, and greater aid to those in the most need.

 

  • Being current builds bridges and fuels ingenuity. As the adage goes, “The more you know, the more you grow.” Feeding your brain with the latest studies or newest breakthroughs gives you an advantage to soar higher, more quickly.  Innovative bridges are built in the brain, these in turn become bridges in knowledge, opportunity, and unity.

 

Being in the know not only helps you see how to build a bridge but where it is most needed.  Grow your future, help mankind, and deepen your understanding by continuing to learn and keeping up to date.

 

How do you stay up-to-date?

Education

Education in the Past

Education is Our History

Education is a part of human history since the very first moment.  It has taken on various forms, however education is what has pushed civilizations forward and changed the course of history.

 

The education of young in the ways of survival was not only a tradition, but a necessity.  Every generation passing their knowledge and skills onto the next to ensure the prosperity and continuation of a tribe or family.

 

About three thousand years ago, the written word was born. Hyroglyphics, Cuniform, Sandskrit were among the first languages used to record ideas and knowledge.  The development of writing and reading created a new class of literate people as well as a new job, the scribe.  Across Africa, Asia, and the Middle East, the tide of education was changing thanks to a piece of papyrus and a stylus.

 

As civilization advanced, so did the definition of education, giving way to great thinkers and teachers, such as Socrates.  Socrates is still known as one of the greatest teachers to have ever lived.  Nearly two and a half millennia later, his style of educating is revered and employed by professors.  The dawn of higher education ushered in the value of thought.  No longer was it considered enough to know how to survive, man had learned to thrive.

Formal Education

Over the next thousand years, formal education in schools began to take root as the private study and generational tutelage continued in the home.  In the early middle ages, these cathedral schools led to the development of universities, coming from the Latin for universitas magistrorum et scholarium, a community of teachers and scholars.

 

Thinkers and motivated self-learners, gathered to discuss, ponder, and debate.  Thought and written word collided to birth the greatest learning tool the world has ever known, the book!  While books remained rare for centuries the ability to read became a hallmark of success in elite circles and ruling classes.

 

As the production of books became more readily available, the literacy rates exploded.  Self education came to the masses.  Families read together for entertainment and education.  The art of forming letters in ink was taught by tutors and practiced regularly.  Reading and writing became the building blocks of every education.

 

Literacy rates have continued to climb. “While only 12% of the people in the world could read and write in 1820, today the share has reversed: only 17% of the world population remains illiterate.” (source) The 19th century saw the ability to read become universal in the western world with near 100% literacy rates.

 

The thirst for knowledge and the premium placed on education led to the push for education for all and the advent of public schools.  While the fight for education for all continues, significant progress has been made.  Access to basic school supplies, uniforms, and books being the greatest hurdle for many who desire an education.

The face of education has changed drastically from family lessons of survival to socratic societies, medieval universities, and one room school houses to modern, computerized classrooms. Despite these changes in how we approach teaching, the essence of education is the same.  The goal of every generation must still be passing on vital information, skills, and tools to inspire independent thinking, just as our early ancestors and Socrates did.  Self education, literacy, and the art of writing are just as important now in our digital age as they were in the days of hand copied manuscripts.

 

Educational implements have changed but true and good education never will.  It is the bridge from the past to an ever changing future bolstered by critical thinking, creativity, exploration, depth of knowledge, and quality literature. This is our past, this is our future, and we must never stop until every child has the opportunity to learn and dream.

Education is Building Bridges

Education and Building Bridges

Building Bridges

Imagine living on a tiny island, just big enough for your home, but too small to land a plane.  What if this island were surrounded by pounding seas and forbidding boulders?  The unnavigable waters would hold you hostage.  You would own your own island but have no access to what you need.  The shore would be in sight, but so very out of reach.  What would you dream of each night?  A bridge!

 

The bridge that connects the most people and solves the greatest hardships is education.  At the principle level, education fundamentally changes our brain.  Our mind is rebuilt and shaped through what we learn.  We become different people, capable of greater feats and more aware of the world beyond us.  This bridge takes us from simple knowledge to the power to use it and create new knowledge and ideas.  With the personal gift of education, we build a bridge from our simple self to our full potential–it is a bridge that never stops growing as long as we keep laying bricks and stringing supports by our studies.

 

As we break free of our ignorance, education bridges the gap to other people.  We gain not only facts by empathy and analytical capability through a solid foundation.  We can compare and contrast our own little world with those far beyond our reach.  Education immerses us in a world that we would never be able to cover by foot, a world that we may never physically experience, but we can grow to understand through our continued quest for deeper understanding.

 

Education builds bridges from the past to the future by rooting us in lessons learned, and inspiring us to innovate in ways never dreamed before.  Our education is the key to an odyssey that reaches to whichever shore where we can strive to land.

 

Beyond the personal gain, and the benefit to the future, education builds a bridge out of poverty.  It lays a path out of despair.  Education provides the superhighway to a better world.

 

As we build our bridges to solve problems, become more employable, and enhance our life experience; we must remember those who are still waiting at the toll bridge, struggling to see past the gate and start building a bridge of their own.

 

When we speak of being One Planet, One People education is the key to our unity.  Through continued study to understand the hardships, obstacles, and geo-political hurdles that our fellow man must face we build a blueprint of what could be. Let us pick up this blue-print and make it reality.

 

By supporting and funding education for those who need it most, we can get every child on the path to a sturdy bridge building career.  Find a way today, to lay the first brick of a bridge for a child in need so that we can all cross the threshold into a safer, healthier, more unified and peaceful tomorrow.

 

How have you helped to build bridges of education? Join us for Global Learn Day 2017 and

Building a Good Foundation

Foundations

Every Bridge Needs a Good Foundation

The Golden Gate Bridge is not only an iconic landmark, it is a feat of engineering.  The soaring red towers are easily recognized by people around the globe.  Everyone marvels at it great span, and the intricate design of its supports. However, without the ever important, but not as photogenic, foundation, the Golden Gate would be in the San Francisco Bay.

 

Like all bridges, the bridge between cultures, countries, and concepts requires a strong and well laid foundation.  In education, this foundation is built by experience, experiments, and general knowledge.

 

The greatest foundational pillar of education is reading.  Through reading bridges can be build to every subject across the curriculum. Fine literature provides the bricks and mortar for bridges to other lands and creative imaginations. With reading, we can become life long, independent learners.  We can also grow to understand our neighbors down the street and on the other side of the globe.

 

This call to well founded education is part of our mission.  Educating the promise of tomorrow and encouraging them to never stop learning, while also bridging the gap between those with educational opportunity and those lacking the basic freedom to an education.

 

Global Learn Day seeks to build good, solid bridges. Bridges between teachers and students. Bridges across oceans and continents. Bridges that span the old and the new, that bring together generations and point us to the future by embracing our past.

 

The bridges we are looking to build are ones that will stand the test of time and continue to grow. Our bridges need good foundations, though, just like the Golden Gate.   We strive to inspire young and old alike to delve deep into their knowledge base in order to share with others, but also to fortify that base with new learning and the motivation to grow.

 

Through continual learning and outreach to others, we can build a solid bridge that will one day envelope the world in educational unity.  There are so many who still need access to education, and many who are not using their access to the fullest potential. The foundation of our prospects and purpose can only be strengthened by coming together as One Planet, One People to learn more and pass on the richness of our knowledge treasure trove.

 

How can you help us fortify our foundation?  What knowledge do you have to share?  Have you learned something new today?

 

Come build along with us…never stop learning, always seek ways to share what you know!

Book with Reading

Literature and Learning

Literature and You, Perfect Together

Have you read a good book lately?  Literature is one of the hallmarks of a developed culture.  It synthesizes the values, beliefs, and societal make up of time and era.  Even books that aren’t explicitly historical fiction present a commentary of the lives and times the author experienced.

 

Andrew Pudewa, education advocate and founder of the Institute for Excellence in Writing, observes that like anything you can’t get out what you don’t put in.  Our brains are like computer processors, they need the reliable connectors and high quality coding to produce good results.

 

Reading opens door and worlds to children and adults. Through books we can explore times and regions that would be impossible for us to access otherwise.  Reading truly is fundamental as the old commercial jingle said.  It is the building block of our civilization and our future innovations. In his book, How Literature Plays with the Brain, Paul B. Armstrong observes, “Literature matters, for what it reveals about human experience, and the very different perspective of neuroscience on how the brain works is part of that story.”

 

Books Are the Way of the Future

With all the technological advances, it is easy to focus on the STEM curriculum in the hopes of raising up a generation prepared and enthusiastic about all that is possible in this high tech world.  However, it is important to have roots before we have wings.  Literature can give us those roots and the brain power to soar.

 

Science has shown that reading actually stimulates the brain in a way that it actually believes it is doing something that it is not. This is called embodied cognition.  This same principle is employed by athletes who use visualization as a manner to enhance their skills.  When a basketball player uses visualization, it triggers the same centers of the brain used to physically play the game.  In this way, embodied cognition truly takes our brain to the place and time of what we are reading, allowing us to experience and problem solve on a high plane that watching the same story on television.

 

Literature also teaches empathy and understanding of other points of view.  Theory of Mind is “the branch of cognitive science that investigates how we ascribe mental states to other persons and how we use the states to explain and predict the actions of those other persons.”  Studies have shown that children who have more literature read to them have keener theory of mind and are better able to empathize with others.

 

While reading is the important part, it also matters what we read.  As stated above, you only get out what you put in.  Informational reading is not the same as deep reading of literature. The reading of complex literature with the drama, suspense, and intricate details creates life like images in our brains that exercise our brain and expand our ability to think.  Decoding words is not enough, we need to be reading literature that pulls us into the story.

 

Falling In Love Is Literature

In a Time magazine article about the value of reading literature, it states, “The deep reader, protected from distractions and attuned to the nuances of language, enters a state that psychologist Victor Nell, in a study of the psychology of pleasure reading, likens to a hypnotic trance. Nell found that when readers are enjoying the experience the most, the pace of their reading actually slows. The combination of fast, fluent decoding of words and slow, unhurried progress on the page gives deep readers time to enrich their reading with reflection, analysis, and their own memories and opinions. It gives them time to establish an intimate relationship with the author, the two of them engaged in an extended and ardent conversation like people falling in love.”

 

How romantic is that?  Books are not only our escapes but the gym for our minds.  As we teach children to love learning we must also instill a love of fine literature to fill their minds with rich language and shape their theory of mind for the benefit of the world at large.  As One Planet, One People; providing the access to quality literature books to all children can go a long way toward building the bridges to a future of peace and harmony.

 

What has literature done for you? What piece of literature have you loved?