There is a proven way to help children learn and it’s free: Read aloud to them.
Young children who have lots of stories read to them enter kindergarten as much as 14 months ahead in language and pre-reading skills. According to educators, while listening to stories, children learn a more sophisticated vocabulary than they are likely to hear elsewhere, while also picking up grammar, syntax and general knowledge. The more children under five are read to, the richer and deeper their language capacities become (with positive effects later in English, math and other subjects.)
Even better, it works for students 12 to 13 years old, too!
In a study lead by the University of Sussex, 20 English teachers read novels to poor-to-average students for three months. Morale and test results soared. Children who once hated English lessons were practically racing into the classroom to find out what happened next. When given reading comprehension tests, average readers made 8.5 months of progress while poorer students made 16 months of progress.
The simple act of a teacher reading aloud a few times a week produced students who were happier, more motivated and more capable academically.
My Irish ancestors always viewed the glass as half empty.
I have a tendency to do the same, which isn’t unusual since people are influenced by the way they were raised. Yet I’m trying to change, since optimism helps us be more resilient, have better pain management, stronger immune function and longer lifespans. Fortunately, experts say that optimism is a style of thinking and not a fixed personality trait.
I’ve always enjoyed trying a new style.
Psychologists believe that it’s possible to boost optimism with practice: They suggest starting by limiting the negative elements in your life. Fill your social media with people and organizations making a positive impact. Spend more time with people who are optimistic. Listen to upbeat music. Try meditation.
Of course, when your car doesn’t start or your boss frustrates you, negative thoughts can wear you down. But experts advise us to get out a piece of paper (I have plenty) and write down three things about the situation that could help you see it more positively. (I’ll let you know if it works.)
Full-time optimism may be impossible to achieve, but I’m setting small goals to make me feel less pessimistic. My glass is beginning to look half full.
Renee Garrison is an award-winning author and president of the Florida Authors and Publishers Association.
Planning the Florida Authors and Publishers annual conference is exhausting work, but the benefits are worth it. There are speakers, networking events, name badges and swag bags, along with the President’s Book Awards Celebration to honor excellence in the publishing industry. I hope those who attend learn a ton of new things and are inspired by our workshops! That’s why I have a few suggestions on how to make the most out of FAPACon 2022.
Tip #1: Plan which sections to attend
Writing conferences like FAPACon share an agenda with attendees at least a few weeks before. I circle any talks, panels, or round tables that interest me. That way, I can “relax” during the conference itself and focus on the sessions and networking without worrying if I’m missing something important.
If different sessions run at the same time, I find a “conference buddy” to share sessions with — each of us taking notes and then sharing the important information with each other. (Some conferences also record sessions live, so you can access the replays later for the ones you missed.)
Tip #2: Find your peers
As writers, we can spend a lot of time sitting alone in front of our computer. And while we tend to have our social media friends, and gatherings, nothing beats meeting other writers in person — especially if they write in the same genre as you.
But how do you find those peers and approach them in the first place?
If your conference doesn’t have genre- or topic-specific meetups as part of the official schedule, create your own: Look for a Facebook group or other forums for attendees to chat in. Post something a few weeks before the conference asking: “Are any other historical fiction authors coming? If so, I’d love to meet up!” Set it up on the first day, so you’ll find your peers and be able to enjoy the rest of the conference in good company.
Tip #3: Make the most of the bar
I meet the most interesting people at conferences by hanging out at the bar — and that’s usually where I have the most insightful or productive conversations. Bars, lobbies, and coffee shops are where people go to relax during a conference. There, it’s much easier to strike up a conversation, mingle, and get to know other people.
Do you want to talk to one of our speakers? Most people will try to intercept them after their talk, which leads to massive lines trapping the speaker inside the room when their talk is finished. They may be exhausted from their workshop, and eager to leave the room. Offer to get them a drink (or a coffee) or just politely ask whether they’ll be at the bar (or in the lobby) later, so you can chat with them in a more relaxed setting.
I’ve always envisioned being buried in a cavernous mausoleum, with a large bar and seating area. (That way I know my kids would visit.) However, I just learned of a new option: reefball burials.
A “reefball” is a large mass of rough concrete in the shape of a ball. Holes are deliberately left in it to allow fish and other creatures to use it for feeding, security and development. The cremated remains or “cremains” of an individual are incorporated into an environmentally safe cement mixture and installed in a marine environment that can benefit from an artificial reef. (I wouldn’t be fish food.)
Imagine – a final resting place that helps restore marine environments and establishes new habitats for fish and other sea life. A Sarasota Company, Eternal Reefs, is the only firm in Southwest Florida currently providing such a service. There are more than 750,000 reef balls in oceans around the world, according to the company.
It’s nice to think that, even after my death, I could support marine life long into the future. Plus, my kids love boating, so maybe they would still visit…
Some people snoop in their friends’ medicine cabinet. I prefer to peek at their bookshelves.
If you want to understand someone’s true personality, take a look at his or her library. The books that they read offer a psychological profile of their tastes, interests and values. I believe book-centered rooms are the ultimate escape, the place to head for to think and read, regenerate your spirit and ideas.
· The library is a room of secrets. Add a hidden compartment to your bookcase, something Mr. Holmes would approve of.
· Books you love to read, plan to reread or need for reference, should never be out of reach.
· Standing on chairs or beds is no substitute for a sturdy, stable library ladder.
· Two comfortable chairs and good lighting are the most important elements of a well-stocked library.
Kathryn Knight is an international award-winning author, independent publisher/First Freedom Publishing, genetic genealogist, American historian, keynote speaker, and cemetery preservationist. For over thirteen years, Kathryn documented more than 20,000 hours researching the first recorded Africans to arrive in the English settlement of Virginia in 1619. In addition, Kathryn is a board member of the Florida Authors and Publishers Association.
Tell me about your background. Where you grew up, where you live now, education, work experience? Share some interesting things about yourself that we should know about.
I use the pen name K.I. Knight. My literary works includes Fate & Freedom, a five-star Gold medal historical trilogy detailing the lives of the 1619 Africans, as well as my nonfiction work, Unveiled – The Twenty & Odd: Documenting the First Africans in England’s America 1619–1625 and Beyond, for which I was awarded the Phillis Wheatley Book Award by the Sons and Daughters of the U.S. Middle Passage. I have also written in or contributed evidence for several Historical journals and genetic how-to manuals.
I’m a board member for several national nonprofit organizations and a member of numerous genealogical, historical, and literary societies. I’m a mother of three adult children and live in North Florida with my husband, Tom.
What inspired you to write this book? What is the story behind the story?
Let’s call it an addiction! My addiction began with the realization my husband descends from one of the earliest Africans to be brought to America.
Then I hit a brick wall. A brick wall is a term many genealogists use when they are out of leads or avenues to find a potential ancestor. Thirteen years later and over 20,000 hours of research, I was ready to start writing a historical trilogy most Americans knew nothing about.
What has been your biggest challenge or obstacle?
Biggest problem, there wasn’t a lot of documented evidence. I had to start from scratch!
What has been your biggest “aha” moment or success?
In 2015, I began to collect DNA from descendants who believed they too were related to the first Africans to be brought to Virginia. After three years of collecting DNA and analyzing the genomic patterns, I happened to run my own DNA sample and realized I, too, was related to the same African ancestor as my husband. This ancestor was the heroine in the Fate & Freedom Trilogy. What a surprise this was!!!
What authors do you like to read? What books have had a strong influence on you or your writing?
I read a lot of history books. My favorite historian is John Daly Burke. President Thomas Jefferson gave Burke a special appointment to write The Early History of Virginia. His work is remarkable.
Do you write every single day? Any writing rituals?
I do not write every single day. However, I do work with DNA daily.
What are your interests outside of writing?
I’ve been told I’m an “earthy person.” I spend most of my off-time gardening, taking care of animals, and working Investigative DNA cases.
Share some tips for other Authors or Aspiring Authors: What would you do differently? What would you do the same? Please share anything you think would be beneficial to those reading this.
The Same: The 20,000 hours of dogged research it took to discover a 400yr. old hidden truth wasn’t an easy task. I can only say, when your passionate about something, follow that passion. Hard work pays off in many ways.
Different: Not sure I would do anything different.
In many areas, Covid-19 cases are declining and that means friends will be arranging more get-togethers. With Saint Patrick’s Day parties fast approaching, it’s time for us to remember how to be a good guest.
1. RSVP. The number one gripe I hear from friends who host parties is that people don’t RSVP, or they do and then don’t show up, so it’s almost impossible to tell who is coming and how much food you need. If you get an invite to a party, and you think you’d like to go, click ‘yes’. Really, it’s not that hard.
2. Offer to bring something. Chances are good that your host will say you don’t need to bring anything at all, just yourself, but offering anyway is standard party etiquette. It’s also a way to help your hostess defray the cost of the party, which sometimes can run pretty high. And if you are asked to bring something, for heaven sakes, don’t take it home with you at the end of the night (unless your host specifically asks you to).
3. Talk to people you don’t know. Sure, all your friends are at the party. But these are people you’ll see again — how will you meet NEW people if you just stick with your group all the time? Go by yourself to get food or drink — this is a pretty natural time to chat up people you don’t know. Talking to new people is also a HUGE favor to your hostess, who will have to worry less about guests who don’t know a lot of people at the party.
4. Say thanks. Throwing parties is lots of fun, but it’s also hard work. And when you work hard at something, it’s nice to have somebody else say: hey, thanks. Good job. Traditional etiquette dictates that you send a mailed thank-you note to your host. If that seems like too much effort, AT LEAST thank your hostess when you leave (and again in an email or text message the next day.)
The one thing I remember most about the south of France is the fragrance of it. Inhaling deeply on a stone terrace in Nice, I discovered the air was scented with lavender and maybe a bit of eucalyptus that grew nearby. It was amazing and left me utterly relaxed! I’ve never found anything like it in a bottle – and I’ve spent a decade searching.
How can simply sniffing something in the air have such an impact?
As The Mayo Clinic points out, some studies have suggested that aromatherapy can benefit our sleep patterns, help us cope with anxiety and depression, and improve the quality of life for those with chronic health conditions and pain. Avid aromatherapy fans use essential oils for a variety of purposes:
Setting a tone of a room (think: relaxing or energetic)
Scent diffusion alternative to candle-burning
According to scientists, when we enjoy what we smell, a domino effect happens because of how the body is wired. Enjoyment of the scent helps the pupils to dilate, and the body will produce chemicals that can encourage the smooth muscle of blood vessels to relax. That’s when your blood pressure lowers, and heart rate slows a little, which is a signal of calmness and relaxation.
A friend (who knows nothing of my quest to duplicate the fragrance of Nice) gave me a candle called RELAX, which is scented with lavender and cedar. I light it while I’m writing and editing. While it may not be identical to the south of France, I’m getting close.
Apart from my Great Aunt Margaret’s stuffing, my favorite part of childhood Thanksgivings in New England was watching the Macy’s parade. My sister and I waited until the end, when Santa Claus arrived to officially open the Christmas season.
In particular, we loved the balloons, but we didn’t know their history. 1927, puppeteer Tony Sarg suggested introducing inflatable balloons to the parade. That year, Macy’s featured Felix the Cat, a 60-foot-tall toy soldier, and a 20-foot-long elephant, all manufactured by the Goodyear Tire & Rubber Company, in Akron, Ohio. The helium inflatables, a bit more fearsome than those of today, grew larger and more complicated with each passing year. Some contained their own sound effects—like a barking dachshund—and others needed as many as 50 handlers on the ground, with a Pinocchio requiring 20 handlers for his nose alone.
Eventually, the balloons were fitted with slow-release valves so they could be let loose into the sky at the end of the parade, averting a logistical nightmare on the ground and simultaneously creating an airborne sensation.
In another feat of well-calculated promotion, Sarg offered a reward to anyone who returned a wayward balloon to Macy’s. The ensuing races to find and give them back were so heated that they became news in their own right—one woman, trying to catch Felix the Cat on the wing of her biplane while aloft, crash-landed her way onto the front page of the next day’s New York Times.
Thankfully, that tradition ended – like so many others. Today I buy my stuffing at the grocery store, but I make it as I watch the parade. Happy Thanksgiving!
Call it the affliction of a former fashion editor, or the result of living in a state with four seasons for a decade, but I had so many articles of clothing that I woke up to a loud crash of my closet rod collapsing because of the weight.
You’d think that would have been my “come-to-Jesus” moment, but it wasn’t. What finally got me to bring garbage bags into my room was a recent move in sunny Florida and the patient support of a friend. It boiled down to guilt: These pieces had designer labels and the cost of each had been ridiculous. (I knew that because the tags were still attached to many of them.)
Still, it makes no sense to keep outdated slacks and dresses that no longer fit my style simply because they were expensive. If I got rid of all the constantly-ignored-and-skipped-over clothes, the pieces I actually wear wouldn’t look so wrinkled. There would be enough space between the hangers.
Dozens of bags were donated to charities or delivered to consignment stores.