Stereotypes: No longer in literacy or hockey players

I love things that defy convention or stereotypes.

Captain Oiler or Captain Environment?

When he’s not playing hockey, Andrew Ference is an environmental activist. He created the NHL’s carbon neutral program, bicycles to practices, and is involved in various activities promoting green living.

 

 

A Rocket Scientist Playing in the NHL?

There are several former hockey players who, during their playing years, were involved in activities or professions that one wouldn’t normally link to an athlete.

Joe Juneau graduated with a degree in aeronautical engineering before starting his NHL career with the Boston Bruins. In short, he was a rocket scientist playing professional hockey. Since his retirement, Juneau runs a hockey program in Northern Quebec for Inuit youth, with a major focus on academics.

 

 

Hockey, Politics, and Literacy

The NHL has produced a former player and a former coach who have served as federal politicians: Ken Dryden was the Liberal MP for the Toronto riding of York from 2005 to 2011; and Jacques Demers has been a Senator since 2008. Both have notable ties to literacy.

Ken Dryden is better known as the goalie for the Montreal Canadien’s Stanley Cup teams of the 1970s. During his playing years, Dryden finished his law degree.

At the height of his career, Dryden published his first book, Face-off at the Summit, his memoirs on the 1972 Canada-Russia series. After retirement he published five more non-fiction books covering the topics of hockey, education and politics. His most famous, The Game, was adapted into a 6-part documentary by the CBC.

A more direct link to literacy is the story of Jacque Demers. Demers had a twenty year coaching career in the NHL, highlighted with a Stanley Cup win with the Montreal Canadiens in 1993. Throughout his career, Demers had a dark secret – he could not read or write.

Demers was a product of an abusive home and dropped out of school in the 8th grade. He masked his secret and the shame of his low literacy skills with a gregarious personality and a passion for the game.

During his coaching career, Demers employed tricks to compensate for his limited writing and reading skills. He would tell his players that he wasn’t a big “Xs and Os” type, and would position the players on the ice rather than write their names on a hockey diagram. When ordering food on the road, Demers would insist on eating at the same restaurants, where he memorized the menu items by their numbers.

Near the end of his hockey career, Demers was the General Manager of the Tampa Bay Lightning. The GM position involved negotiating and reviewing player contracts. Demers’ personality allowed him to negotiate contracts with ease. When it actually came to draw up the contract on paper, he would defer the task to his assistants.

By 1984, at the beginning of his second marriage, Demers revealed his dark secret to his new wife and his adult kids. Everyone was stunned and amazed that he was able to craft a successful hockey career with this limitation. Demers decided it was time to address his limited reading skills and enrolled in a literacy program.

By 2005, Demers revealed publically his struggles with literacy, and how he overcame them with the support of his family. Now retired from hockey, he began a second career as a literacy advocate. In 2008, having raised the profile of literacy in Quebec, Demers was appointed to the Senate and is still a Senator today.

From a literacy and life perspective, Demers is a Senator whose story is uplifting and inspirational.

Why Lullabies Work

Parents and other caregivers have been using lullabies to sooth babies and put them to sleep for generations, because, usually, they work. They are not magic spells but there are a number of things going on, when we sing lullabies, that help to soothe and comfort babies.

  1. Your beautiful voice – you might not like it, but babies are in love with the voices of their close family members. It won’t last forever, but at least for a few years your baby would rather listen to the voices of his parents, siblings, and other caregivers than anything else.
  2. Your rhythm – babies can actually hear before they are even born, and the steady rhythm of mom’s breathing and heartbeat have made a big impact on your baby. Any regular rhythm (especially ones similar to a heartbeat) will put babies at ease, perhaps reminding them of simpler times before they were born and everything became strange and new.
  3. Your excellent taste – when you sing the songs and rhymes that you like, your baby can hear it in your voice and see it in both your facial expressions and your body language. If you are happy with your repertoire, your baby will love the experience.
  4. Your love of “the classics” – babies really are not trendsetters; they tend to like hearing the same things over and over again. If you are consistent in what you sing to your baby, they will appreciate the familiarity and feel more comfortable as a result. When you want to relax, you fall back on your favourites; you don’t charge into new and unfamiliar styles, and babies are no different. Speaking of which, if you regularly sing a song to an unborn baby, they will remember the song after birth and you can bet they will be fond of it.
  5. Your expert delivery – this is not rocket science. Gentler, slower, quieter tunes are usually more relaxing than songs that are aggressive, fast, and loud. I say “usually” because if your baby is used to hearing something loud and fast, she might be soothed by that instead.

So whether you sing traditional lullabies, the latest pop favourites, or the jingle from that terrible commercial that you just cannot get out of your head, you can probably make them work for you and your baby if you keep even a few of the above in mind.

And on those nights when lullabies don’t work, when you’ve sung everything you can think of, and tried everything that you can imagine to calm them down, and they just keep screaming… that’s when you need to sing for you. Your heart will slow down to match the beat of the song. Your breathing will slow down and your body will relax. It won’t solve everything, but you will be calmer which is good for you and for your baby.

Our Library is Waiting to be Discovered

Tucked away in a corner of a light industrial business park in west Edmonton is a gem of a library for beginning adult readers and their tutors. This small, specialized library (3,522 items) is cosily housed at the Centre for Family Literacy (CFL). In it you will find a section of workbooks, specifically written for adult learners, that explain and offer practice in phonics, grammar, vocabulary, spelling, composition, comprehension and fluency – all of the skills that must be mastered in order for one to learn to read fluently. These particular workbooks are not found in the Edmonton Public Library.

Especially good is The Active Reader, a series of workbooks from Foundations to Level 5 focussed on reading and writing, written by Linda Kita-Bradley and published by Grass Roots Press in Edmonton. Each book contains articles, with photographs, on five broad subjects – people, relationships, health and safety, the environment and significant Canadian historic events and people. They are up to date, relevant and engaging.

Across the aisle from the workbooks is the fiction section. We have over 1,330 novels on our shelves. The reading levels of the books range from F1 to F9 (approximately equivalent to grade levels). Most of the novels have been specially written with the adult literacy learner in mind. Vocabulary is basic, sentences are short and the page count is lower than mainstream fiction. Good Reads and Rapid Reads books are well-written, engrossing mysteries for the middle level reader. Gail Anderson-Dargatz, Louise Penny, Deborah Ellis (Good Reads) and Gail Bowen, Richard Wagamese, and Medora Sale (Rapid Reads) are just a few of the writers in these series.

I love what Neil Gaiman says about fiction and why he thinks it is important:

“Fiction has two uses. Firstly, it’s a gateway drug to reading. The drive to know what happens next, to want to turn the page, the need to keep going, even if it’s hard, because someone’s in trouble and you have to know how it’s all going to end . . . that’s a very real drive. And it forces you to learn new words, to think new thoughts, to keep going. To discover that reading per se is pleasurable. Once you learn that, you’re on the road to reading everything. And reading is key.”

The second thing that happens when we read fiction, according to Gaiman, is that it builds empathy. When we read fiction, we see through others’ eyes; we experience events that are worlds away, far from our own experience, our own time, place, and gender. Reading fiction changes us, he says. Read the whole article:

http://www.theguardian.com/books/2013/oct/15/neil-gaiman-future-libraries-reading-daydreaming

There are also sections on mathematics, science, the trades, life skills, and resources for tutors. One shelf is devoted to workbooks written for English Language Learners. Workbooks and audio tapes geared to the GED, IELTS, and TOEFL exams are popular. The non-fiction section contains a little of everything.

You will even find a small Aboriginal section. Books on the Métis people are currently highlighted, as this is Métis Week (November 11-16). For more information about the Métis in Alberta, link to: http://www.albertametis.com/MNAHome/Home.aspx

How the Library Works

Tutors and learners are given library cards. Both get a tour of the library when they come to the CFL for their initial interviews. As well, during the tutor training sessions, tutors learn how to access the library on the computers at the Centre.

When a new tutor and learner have been matched, they meet in the library at the CFL. The tutor has a sheet with information about the learner and some suggestions about what workbooks might be appropriate. But these are only suggestions. Over time as the tutor and learner come to know each other, as conversations become easy and trust develops, learners explain their reasons for wanting to learn and their goals. Sometimes the goals are specific; a learner may want to be able to read the Alberta Driver’s Handbook in order to get a driver’s license. Others may want to upgrade and work toward their GED. Perhaps the goal is to speak and write English clearly.

Together learner and tutor take the beginning steps towards the goal. And there, right next to them is the library, filled with hundreds of adventure stories and mysteries just waiting to be read. Workbooks that build the skills underlying fluent reading, or explain the basics of mathematics, are within reach. They are all doorways to knowledge, to expanded horizons, and to the sheer pleasure and escape of getting lost in a book – of being someone else, of being transported to other worlds and other times.

The library, the whole world, is waiting to be discovered.

Making Sense of Allowances

Most parents choose to give their children an allowance. Two good reasons to give an allowance are:

1.  to teach children to manage their money, and

2.  to curb their constant requests for money.

Here are some things to consider before handing over those first dollars to an eager child.

When to Start:  Perhaps a good time to start is when your child realizes that money can buy the things he wants. That could be as early as 3 years old for some children. The sooner you start, the sooner the learning begins.

How Much:  The amount of the allowance will depend on how much you can afford to give, and the age of the child. Most parents don’t want their child to have significantly more or less money than other children in the neighbourhood or school. The allowance should increase as the child gets older, and it would depend on what your child is expected to buy with it.

Weekly or Monthly:  Most parents give the allowance weekly, as it is too hard for young children to manage their money over an entire month. Pick the day when the allowance is paid and try to stick to it. If your child asks for an advance, and you agree, it is a great opportunity to talk about loans (use of other people’s money), what they cost, how they are paid back, and what the penalty is for late payment. Be prepared for your children to ask for interest if you are late with payment of their allowance; it shows they are learning how debt works!

Connection to Chores/Grades:  Experts are divided on the issue of the connection of  allowances to weekly chores or good grades. Some feel that children should share the family workload just as they share in the resources and advantages of being in the family.  The logic is that if parents train their children to share and work together, it builds a giving, volunteer spirit, and if the children do their best to get good grades, the reward will be pride in their accomplishment.

Others argue that to link chores or grades to money will prepare children for the adult world of work for pay. It teaches responsibility and consequences. Some children may respond better to one method more than the other. Some parents use a combination where the allowance is independent of the chores but the children can earn more money if they do extra jobs.

The age and maturity of the child is also a factor. Small children need immediacy, and will not make the connection between putting away their toys on Monday and getting an allowance the following Saturday.

Saving and Giving:  Encourage (or insist) your children save a little each week. It will help them learn how their savings grow over time. They can save for short-term goals such as family birthday gifts, as well as long-term goals which might take a year or more.

There are opportunities to learn simple math such as how to divide allowances into parts – 1/4 for saving, 1/10 for charity, etc. Help your child calculate how many weeks of saving it will take before he has enough to buy the item he wants.

Sharing and helping makes everyone feel good. Giving a child an opportunity to see how his money is helping to make someone’s life better will make him feel wonderfully empowered. If you can, take him to the place where his money is being used, and show him the people it is helping, such as a centre where homeless people can get a meal.

Kids can learn decision making, patience and goal setting, and sometimes they learn by making mistakes with their money. If they learn the lesson with a small amount, they may not make the same mistake later in life when the stakes are higher.

Here is a link to further discussion on allowances.

http://www.oprah.com/money/Teach-Kids-Money-Management-with-an-Allowance