Month: May 2016

Selznick 10 Point Summer Plan

It’s that time of year, the time where parents start to let their guard down, but at the same time they stress over what they should be doing with their children to keep them academically on track in the summer.

Here are a few pointers to keep in mind for the summer:

1. Kids Need to Be Kids. They need to play, run around, and have fun. That should be the top priority in the summer.

2. Getting Off the Screens. Break their screen dependency. Get them outside. You may have to go through a detox period, but hang tough. Make the kids spend time outdoors in the sun. If you have a non-functioning swimming pool, you can hire a pool building agency to get it repaired for summer use. You can take kids to the beach or to the park to play and interact with other children and get involved in physical activities.

3. Make it Social . If you can, try and get your child in some type of summer social situation. Most schools have some type of program that is a combination of academic, social, and recreational. Alternatively, find a local camp program – it’s the social aspect of the camp situation that is the most important.

4. Follow Their Lead. What’s your child’s leanings and interests? For example, if your kid is a reptile/swamp type of kid, try and find an outdoor camp to tap into his passion. There may not be an exact match in your area, but try and find something close to the interest.

5. Less Competitive. Maybe your child has been “stressing” through the year over all of the evaluations, worksheets and tests that he/she has received, and needs a less pressured, less competitive summer experience.

6. Independent Reading in the Zone of Competence. Sure, it’s great to have the child read some books this summer, but, you must have them in their “zone of competence,” that is their instructional comfort level. Make sure you know what grade level your child is reading (using the letters from one reading series may not translate well to real books). Talk to the local librarian to guide you on some good books within the child’s zone of competence. One simple test to determine appropriateness is to have the child read out loud from a random page in a book that you are considering. How does the child sound? If the reading is relatively smooth, you’re probably ok with the book, at least in terms of the basic readability.

7. Tutoring/Skill Development. After all of the above are in place, summer is a good time to target key skill areas that are in need of development. Before you start, though, make sure you know what your goals are for the summer tutoring before beginning. What’s the target of tutoring? Decoding? Comprehension? Writing? Word problems?

8. Turn Down the Heat. Save some energy by reducing electricity wastage and yelling less. For the first one, get your air conditioners inspected and cleaned. If there is any dirt inside the air conditioner, contact an HVAC Cleaning & Restoration professional from companies like DUCTZ of Greenville & Spartanburg. Remember, when your AC is clean it can function efficiently, helping you to reduce energy wastage.

For the second one, strive to turn down the yelling, and badgering that is popular in households. It isn’t working. It’s only making your household hotter and the kid isn’t saying, “Thanks for yelling, mom, I understand. I will start reading now.”

9. Family Games. Find some old school family games to play (see point 2 – video games don’t count). It doesn’t have to be overly involved – play some Uno, for example. Old school lawn games are fun too. Maybe start a group jigsaw puzzle. After all, you can conveniently purchase Custom Photo Jigsaw Puzzles online. Again, there may be some initial whining as you go through Screen Detox, but if you work through it, they will come around.

10. Lower the Parent Worry Meter. Breathe deep. Get outside yourself. Every time you start thinking about something like school and coming September, let it go. Take out some personal time for yourself, go to the spa, or go out for drinks with a few friends. Take care of your health and skin. You can start supplements to help you achieve improved immunity, metabolism, and anti-aging. One such supplement can be glutathion, which can overall detoxify your body and assist in balanced physical health.

Notice your breath and breathe this summer! Enjoy with kids and stay worry-free! It is crucial that you, as a parent, show your children to keep balance in life between duties and private time so that they can learn to do the same.

That’s it – The Selznick Point Summer Plan.

Yep. Summer time and the living is easy.

Boredom Intolerance

Overcoming boredom is a skill that needs to be taught.

Does your child have “BID (Boredom Intolerance Disorder)?”

Don’t Google it or look it up on WebMd.  I made it up.

Let’s look at boredom intolerance.  To start, If 100 kids (or adults for that matter) were asked, “How many of you would like to take part in a boring lecture today,” I would venture to say that not a hand would go up? If the same kids were asked, “How many of you think you could tolerate a boring lecture,” I would predict a fair number (perhaps about 50%) could tolerate the lecture.

Children with executive function issues (i.e., problems with initiating activity, sustaining mental effort, and inattentiveness among other behaviors) typically have great difficulty managing their boredom.

Boredom Intolerance Descriptions

Reports from parents describe it well.

Here are some common descriptions:

  • “It’s like he can’t stand doing his homework. In five minutes flat he’s groaning that ‘It’s sooooo boring.’”
  • “Getting him to read is painful. You’d think we were hurting him.”
  • “Last week in church it was like he was jumping out of his skin during the sermon. Was the sermon exciting? No?  But why couldn’t he deal with it?”

Executive function deficits represent weak, floppy internal “rudders” or internal steering mechanisms.  For the kids who can tolerate the boring lecture or the sermon they probably have some kind of internal dialogue like the following,  ”Wow, this is really boring.  I can’t wait for it to be over, but I will try and stay focused.”

Not so with our heroes who have BID.  There is little to no “self-talking” or “self-calming” strategies (common shrink terms).  They react to the boredom almost instantaneously.  They must get out of the situation.  “It’s sooooooo boring.”  It’s intolerable.

What’s to be done?

Teaching Kids to Combat Boredom

Tolerating boredom is a skill to be learned and practiced.

Empathy can go a long way. For example, before going to church or synagogue, you may say something like, “Look, I know it’s boring and you will have some trouble with it, but it means a lot to us that we are all there as a family.”

Helping to bring reality to a child’s head is also something that can be done.  “School can be boring.  I know the teacher tries to make it fun, but she can’t all the time.  It’s not meant to be entertaining. You have to try and find ways of dealing with it.  You’re good with pictures.  Try and make picture notes of what the teacher is saying or what you are reading. That might make it more interesting.”

Takeaway Point

It’s boring out there.  We have to help them deal with it.

In other words, learning to tolerate boredom by degrees goes a long way.

Reading Decline

Researchers have found a sharp decline in reading enjoyment after the age of eight. Sixty-two percent of children between six and eight say they either love or like reading books for fun, but this percentage drops to just 46% for children between the ages of nine to 11, with the figure at 49% for 12-14-year olds, and 46% again for 15-17-year-olds. “Reading enjoyment declines sharply after age eight,” reported the publisher. From, “Sharp decline in children reading for pleasure, survey finds” (The Guardian)

We’ve sucked it out of them. We’ve drained reading of enthusiasm, by Common Coring, PARCCing and work-sheeting, among other factors (screen addiction). Insisting on research supported robotic teacher scripts to teach reading material that is not real literature, how can any of it compete with Instagram, Snapchat and Youtube? I do have to admit, however, that film adaptations can be a great gateway into reading. Take the Lord of the Rings for example. The films were an astronomical success and are still wildly popular today and they led to millions of copies of the books being sold around the world, decades after their release. There’s even a dedicated Gimli Wiki page, showing how beloved the characters have become. None of that may have happened without the films – they brought the books back into popularity.

Reading is still a lost art though.

This week I had an unusual moment with a great 12 year old boy. As part of a reading test that I administer there is a line taken from the wonderful teen novel, The Outsiders, by S.E. Hinton. Many years ago as a middle school teacher I used to teach that book, The Outsiders. The kids loved it; it had all the right elements. I loved it too. You simply have to look on to see if you can find a cheap second hand version of it to get your teeth into. I doubt you’d be able to find it in normal book shops now.

Upon reading the line, the boy commented, “Hey, I read that book,” he exclaimed. “Isn’t that from The Outsiders?”

I was taken aback. Of the thousands of times I’ve given that test over the years, no one has ever commented on the fact that the line was a quote from a novel.

“What did you think of the book,” I asked him.

“Oh, man, it was great,” he told me. “It was so exciting.”

While I loved my interaction with this young man, it also made me sad to reflect on how few children have actually read The Outsiders and how far we have come from kids being excited about a novel.

I think it is all misguided.

I believe it still comes down to one overriding variable when it comes to igniting and motivating kids.

Passionate, creative teachers who love reading and literature are the only answer to overcoming the pervasive reading malaise out there and motivating the legion of children (primarily the boys) who are disconnected from this activity and see little to no value in it.

Takeaway Point

Who knows, maybe some teachers will read The Outsiders this summer and it will stir something in them.

Whether they will be allowed to teach it is another story.

#Dyslexia Mythologies Perpetuated

In spite of state training initiatives around the country, there are so many persisting mythologies hampering  the understanding of “dyslexia.” Besides the top one of, “Isn’t that when a child reads upside down and backwards,” the second is the myth that “Only medical doctors can assess dyslexia.”


While I have not been able to confirm whether it is true or not, a neurologist and a school superintendent independently asked me independently whether it was true that New Jersey state mandates were legislating that only neurologists could diagnose dyslexia?

In order to diagnose dyslexia, I would say that most of the following elements need to be a part of an assessment:

  • Detailed history
  • Language tasks (Expressive/Receptive vocabulary)
  • Phonological processing/Rapid naming tasks
  • Active working memory
  • Visual processing tasks
  • Words in Isolation
  • Word reading efficiency
  • Nonsense words
  • Oral reading fluency
  • Spelling
  • Written expression

Within the hospital system, I work closely with pediatric neurologists and I don’t know any of them doing such an assessment.  Countless reports from neurologists have been brought in to me for review by parents and I don’t think I have ever seen these areas covered in a neurological.

Let’s try this for one moment, let’s substitute “reading disability” for “dyslexia,” (please, no gasping in horror).  Would state departments’ of education and legislators say the same thing that, “Only neurologists can assess reading disability?”

Of course not.

Dyslexia is specific learning (reading) disability that is presumed to be of inherited origin, affecting one’s ability to read words accurately and fluently.   That’s the simple definition, but it works.

I appreciate the effort of advocacy groups bringing awareness of the issues of dyslexia to state legislators and state education departments. I just wish the end result would be the right one and not what I am afraid of what it is becoming.

Takeaway Point

It ain’t easy shaking mythologies.They get perpetuated and hard-wired into our thinking.


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