Were you a child who feared reading aloud in the classroom? Thankfully, I never was, but I can still recall how terrifying it was for some of my classmates. I’ll bet that fear led to an aversion to reading in general.
A program run by the Marin Humane Society through public libraries and described in the August 5-11, 2010 issue of Here (a free weekly about Marin and Sonoma counties) is aimed at helping children overcome this fear by having their audience be … a dog.
“‘When kids have to read aloud to their peers and their teachers, it’s extremely intimidating,’ said Darlene Blackman, the humane society’s community programs manager. ’The dog doesn’t care if you make a mistake, doesn’t know if you’ve made a mistake. It helps build confidence.’”
The idea has resulted in measurable increases in reading fluency among (human!) participants, according to a follow-up Marin study.
For a reminder of the strength of an individual’s idea, consider Betty Jean Lifton. Ms. Lifton, who died on November 19, 2010 at age 84, was adopted, a fact she learned at the age of 7. Ultimately, she rebelled against the system of “closed” adoptions — with its secrecy and sealed birth records — that was the norm and became, as The New York Times noted in its obituary, “an outspoken proponent of open adoption.” The first of her three adoption-centered memoirs, published in 1975, was credited with giving “momentum to the emerging adoption-reform movement.”
Reading between the lines of the obituary, Ms. Lifton’s pain is evident. Her books were called “searing condemnations.” She spoke of adoptees’ “deep feelings of confusion, grief and loss,” of individuals who were “a separate breed, unreal even unto themselves.” She herself was “long haunted by her opaque past.”
Yet her pain forged a life dedicated to “speak(ing) frankly about a taboo subject.” She became a counselor focussing on adoptees and their families. She “lectured widely about the potential psychological effects of adoption.” In addition to her memoirs, she wrote children’s books about adoption. She served on the board of the American Adoption Congress. From legalities to societal and personal attitudes, so much about adoption changed during her lifetime, and because of her life’s work.
“Ideas aren’t property, she writes, but ‘bread to be cast on the waters.’”
From a Penelope Green profile of Dr. Mary Catherine Bateson, anthropologist/author and daughter of Margaret Mead, in the August 26, 2010 issue of The New York Times (quoting from Dr. Bateson’s book, “Composing a Further Life: The Age of Active Wisdom”).
This morning my husband and I each wrote a letter of condolence to the people of Japan, and then brought our two letters to the consulate in downtown San Francisco.
Just an idea.
“Mark Twain was so struck when he first saw that ‘long, slim, sick and sorry-looking skeleton, with a gray wolfskin stretched over it,’ that he called it ‘a living, breathing allegory of Want.’ And Twain’s description itself was so vivid, it inspired the animator Chuck Jones to create that perennial failure known to cartoon-loving children everywhere, Wile E. Coyote of Road Runner-hating fame.”
From “Mysteries that Howl and Hunt,” a Science Times story about coyotes by Carol Kaesuk Yoon in the September 28, 2010 issue of The New York Times.
What does one do about the death of one’s child?
Consider Cynthia Barlow’s idea, which is described in a story she wrote in the August 7-8, 2010, issue of the Financial Times, entitled: “I bought shares in the company whose lorry killed my daughter.”
Yes, after Ms. Barlow’s 26-year-old daughter was struck and killed by a London cement truck — at a time when, Ms. Barlow writes, “I went into a deep depression and could have given up” — this mother bought shares in the truck’s huge parent company and attended its annual meeting. After she read out a statement about the accident and her daughter’s death, “Everyone went quiet.” Then, remarkably, unbelievably, the chairman asked the relevant corporate officer to work with her on safety issues. And he did.
Ten years later, “thanks to the adaptations we have made,” that company’s trucks “have stopped killing people.” Ms. Barlow has moved her efforts on to other companies. She also chairs the RoadPeace charity, “whose mission is to empower and support the families of those who are injured or killed on the roads.”
“‘That’s how everything starts: one guy who asks. Depends on the guy, of course,’ he said one day in a meeting. ‘I was thinking this morning, a caveman wakes up one day and has an idea, and there’s a butcher shop, and then time goes by and you get grocery stores and so on. The first butcher shop: some guy invented it.’”
From “The Merchant,” by Nick Paumgarten in the September 20, 2010, issue of The New Yorker (quoting J Crew CEO and former Gap exec Mickey Drexler on the genesis of retail ideas).