How Mobile Libraries Can Boost Education In South Africa

the key factors to achieve a high literacy level in a country – Patricia Furstenberg

How Mobile Libraries Can Boost Education In South Africa

Some of my most cherished memories involve books. Being read to, excited to hear my father mimicking different characters in the story; later on, thrilled to read on my own. Books, the touch and feel of them. Cradling the book you thoroughly enjoy and that sunken feeling when it’s over.

Most of this world’s amazing people were thirsty readers, drawing inspiration and strength from books. Oscar Wilde, Nelson Mandela, Agatha Christie. What would they have become if it wasn’t for the books they were fortunate to read? Where would you be now without the books that made you?

“Be a lifelong student, read as many books as possible.” Nelson Mandela

For us, books are within easy access; a library down the road or at school, online book retailers or the mall’s bookshop and second hand bookshops. We’re lucky, although we probably take it for granted, to have been brought up in a culture of reading. Because reading is linked to academic achievement, emotional intelligence and self-esteem.

South African learners still have limited access to libraries

And the two main reasons are: lack of infrastructure and the bad management of funds.

My previous article: “Does school attendance guarantee literacy?” concluded that access to reading material from an early age, together with school attendance and government funds for learners are key factors in attaining a high literacy level in a country.

There aren’t enough libraries

Learners in primary schools with a library fulfilling minimum standards (which can be as little as a box of books in one classroom, as decided by the South African Department of Basic Education):

Provinces ranked according to schools supplied with a library, with one being the highest extent and nine the lowest extent:

The 2009 UNICEF report stated that 53 percent of SA learners were in non-fee schools, completely dependent on funds from the government. The funds are allocated per learner, depending on the poverty of the area around the school and are amended annually.

Schools that have acquired the full set of funds, by province:

Schools that have acquired the full set of funds by province

Where do we stand, worldwide? The World’s Most Literate Nations (WMLN) ranks countries on their populace’s literate behaviours and their supporting resources. They use five categories as indicators of the literate health of nations: libraries, newspapers, education inputs and outputs, computer availability. “This multidimensional approach to literacy speaks to the social, economic, and governmental powers of nations around the globe.” On Libraries ranking South Africa scored 51.5, with position one as best and 61 last.

To paraphrase Francis Bacon, if children can’t have access to books, then let the books come to the children.

Clever Solutions

1. Mobile libraries and librarians

This is exactly what SAPESI (South African Primary Education Support Initiative) does. With the support of the SAPESI Japan offices they source and export mobile libraries (MBs) to SA. These facilities are contained in medium-sized busses and will travel around provinces providing poor communities with free access to books and a librarian. Each bus carries 2,500 books in all 11 official languages, catering for children between the ages of six and 11.

Japan, a country with an area three times smaller than South Africa, has 530 MBs. In 2016 South Africa had approximately 50 MBs visiting 885 schools across the country. SAPESI aims to have 100 MBs that will serve 2,500 schools by 2025: at least one in operation in each of the 96 education districts across South Africa. SAPESI hopes that the learners’ families will be encouraged by these efforts and support the children’s reading efforts as “reading is the basis of all learning.”

Since 2008 SAPESI is also supported by Sony companies from Australia, Canada, Hong Kong, Malaysia, New Zealand, Singapore, South Africa, United Kingdom and the United States. The total number of English children’s books donated so far is 170,000. Sony Corporation in Tokyo contributed funds to SAPESI in order to purchase a further 13,200 children’s books in languages indigenous to South Africa.

In addition to supplying books Sony also supports the “VAIO Bakkie”, an IT training project using Sony’s VAIO laptop computer, whereby pupils enjoy learning practical computer skills, even at schools without computer facilities.

2. Improvise and reuse refurbished containers

The South African Mobile Library Association (SAMLA) together with EDSA (Education for Democracy in South Africa) have joined forces to bring the knowledge and love of reading, story-telling and drama to townships and squatter camps of the Western Cape. A children’s library has been set up in three refurbished containers in a central location in Gugulethu Township.

3. Wooden mobile bookshelves

Mobile Library Solutions, “Masixhasane”, is another mobile library initiative doing their bit at eradicating illiteracy in SA schools. They build mobile libraries that fit through a door and are ready to use: wooden mobile bookshelves stocked up with books sponsored by worldwide organisations.

Percentage of learners with library access as presented in the 2014 report for basic education:

Provincial indicator values for library access in South Africa as presented in the 2014 report for basic education.

Mobile libraries, early results

In 2014 research done by the University of Free State on schools in the rural areas proved that primary children from schools serviced by mobile libraries showed a significant improvement in their English reading and speaking capabilities.

The use of Mobile Libraries helps on multiple levels, study proves. Patricia Furstenberg

The children were able to converse comfortably with us in English and also read from their library books with ease and comprehension. By contrast, children from some schools that have not had access to the mobile libraries had very little understanding or use of English.” says Dr. Lynette Jacobs, Head of the School of Education Studies.


Sony Group employees send books to children in South Africa.

There are many other organisations supporting the mobile library initiative with the same vital purpose: to instil a love of reading thus improving literacy and overall academic performance of the children of South Africa.

Written for and published on Huffington Post SA on 4 May 2017

You might also like to read:

Does School Attendance Guarantee Literacy?

How To Raise A Child With A High IQ

Please follow and share:
0

Left Or Right Brain? How Discovering Your Child’s Learning Style Can Help You Help Them via @PatFurstenberg

Left Or Right Brain? How Discovering Your Child’s Learning Style Can Help You Help Them

Your child is a left-brain; he’s got a logical mind, he understands numbers and sequence, that’s why he’s so good with mathematics and sciences. My daughter is no good at mathematics, but she’s a right-brain, she’s creative and imaginative.

Is it correct to label our children based on common beliefs? Left-brain and right-brain, there is so much more to it than aptitudes towards the science or the arts.

Karl Lashley was the first neuropsychologist to map the human brain, especially those areas of the brain responsible for specific functions and to research the way people study and learn new facts. Based on his initial findings, further studies have established that the left hemisphere is in charge of language (vocabulary), memorizing and recalling, following instructions. The right hemisphere is in charge with visualization, imagining, comparison, as well as comprehension and interpretation.

The right-side, left-side dominance becomes evident from an early age. The older we become, the more evident it is, except that grown-ups also learn to compensate and, if they are lucky, they will choose a career path that aligns with their dominant hemisphere.

On a school level, the situation is different. There is no choice, thinker or dreamer, they are all crammed in the same classroom, following the same curriculum. And the curriculum seems to favour the left-brain students.

Left-brain academic subjects focus on logical thinking, analysis, and accuracy.

Right-brained subjects focus on aesthetics, emotions, and creativity.

Until the day that the education department will embrace and support this natural, dual way of thinking it lies in our hands as parents to support our children.

Often right-brain students will appear as under-achievers as the educational curriculum might not be challenging enough for the way their brain is wired to think.

Mathematics and science require the learning and use of formulas, of a specific sequence of facts. Languages and Social Sciences require students to memorize vocabulary and grammar rules as well as lists of facts and numerous dates. Furthermore, mathematics or maths literacy are listed among the compulsory subjects required for all degrees offered by the Faculty of Law, Faculty of Natural and Agricultural Sciences, Faculty of Humanities or Faculty of Theology.

Wonderful news for left-brain pupils, but what about the right-brain ones? The dreamers and the thinkers that see the big picture, yet tend to struggle remembering small details? The David Karp (founder of Tumbler), Evan Williams (Blogger creator and former Twitter CEO) or Simon Cowell (Britain’s Got Talent)?

These right-brain dominant students, although just as gifted and as clever as their left-brain fellows, are often seen as under-achievers because they struggle to remember a formula or a historical date. Few right-brain pupils might just be able to expand their natural brain functioning, thus over-compensating the restraints of their brain design — by applying themselves to the extreme.

It is important to understand that a pupil’s cerebral inclination will play a role not only in the type of information he or she is more likely to absorb but also in the way he or she will best absorb that information.

Although left-brain students can absorb the details and the numbers, they might struggle to step back and “get” the big picture. These students may need to know from the beginning what is the end goal, what is expected of them before the study process even begins.

Right-brain pupils benefit from the use of images and colours when studying. Using simple drawings when learning is highly beneficial as it involves their dominant right-brain, the creative hemisphere in the process, thus supporting their left-brain.

Until the day that the education department will embrace and support this natural, dual way of thinking it lies in our hands as parents to understand our children’s hemispheric dominance and distinctive brain wiring and to support them, as all children are gifted and unique, whole individuals.

Curious about your brain dominance? Take the hemispheric dominance test.

This article was first published on the Huffington Post SA on 14 November 2017.

You might also enjoy reading:

How Mind-Brain-Education Can Aid the South African Education

Here’s How To Get Boys To Read In 5 Easy Steps

Please follow and share:
0

Mind-Brain-Education Secrets: Strategies to Benefit Students and Teachers #MBE #mind #brain #education #educhat #knowledge #strategy #students via @PatFurstenberg

Mind-Brain-Education Secrets:  Strategies to Benefit Students and Teachers

1. What is Mind-Brain-Education (MBE)?

MBE is a young science started at Harvard University 25 years ago by uniting the fields of neuroscience, psychology and education. MBE brings together cognitive neuroscience (studying of the mind and its processes), behavioral science (studying the interactions among different organisms in the world) and professionals in the education field. MBE takes the latest discoveries in brain science and applies them in education, revealing new, more appropriate teaching methods lined up with the latest studies and the demands of the 21st century.

2. Why is MBE important to me, a parent, teacher or student?

The human brain, the most complex organ in the human body, is the centre of our nervous system. We need our not only brain to move, make use of our senses or regulate the functions of our body but also to speak, think, learn, and interact with the world around us.

Let’s think of the brain as the engine of a car. By understanding the basic aspects of engineering we can reduce its fuel consumption, saving money and lengthening the life of our car.

Understanding how the brain develops and functions we can learn how to better make use of its massive power.

The development of the human brain follows a natural, biological process yet it constantly changes, developing and adapting to our experiences, be it emotional, physical or educational. So not only does the educator needs to teach content, but he also has to be mindful of the ways in which he teaches and use subject-tailored methods to ensure a better educational outcome.

Understanding why each individual’s brain is unique means that we understand that each one’s brain develops at its own pace and that teaching can and should be tailored to individual needs.

The concept of brain plasticity is vital to grasp as well. The brain’s plasticity means that our brains are permanently remodeling themselves by cutting old, unused neural pathways and strengthening new ones, reinforced through practice. This is a fantastic trait of our brains; understanding its mechanism and how to make the most of it can have positive, long lasting effects on individual’s education and long term life goals.

Understanding how the human brain evolves from birth through childhood, teen years and going on throughout our lives, allow teachers to prioritize and plan the educational curriculum accordingly. This is crucial in aiding students to focus in class and in developing effective, intelligent methods that help them remember more information, easier.

Analogical reasoning, or considering the ways in which two ideas are related, is the way in which our brains make sense of new concepts, by explaining them based on what we already know, connecting and comparing new information to old one. A classic example of analogy reasoning is comparing the structure of an atom with the solar system:

“The nucleus is the sun and electrons are the planets revolving around their sun.”

Relational thinking means finding meaningful patterns in new situations and using this to make a decision, for example a physician correcting his diagnosis by taking into consideration the abnormal symptoms displayed by his patient. The bases and neural pathways for analogical and relational thinking are laid during childhood and until adolescence and they are crucial skills needed by the 21st century work force.

3. How do I use the MBE knowledge?

Understanding how our brains differ from one person to another based on our genes, personal abilities and the context of our upbringing is an important factor to consider in the 21st century educational field.

Although MBE is still a very young science, it is vital to understand that brain science, psychology and education are strongly interrelated and that modern, 21st century education cannot happen without 21st century psychology on one side and 21st century brain science on the other side. MBE shines a spotlight on the uniqueness of each individual’s brain, on how its biological mechanisms influence how we learn and that our past experiences and the environment also affect our brain’s development and learning. MBE helps us understand how powerful our brain is, how much we can actually do with it and how we can better use it to our advantage.

Using the MBE knowledge might not bring a change or show improvement overnight. As with any cognitive skill, it takes time and practice as well as a clear idea of the desired outcome.

The knowledge MBE reveals can be used in:

  • helping to develop the critical cognitive skills needed by Generation Z;
  • understanding the brain-based causes of different learning disabilities such as dyslexia and how to apply the latest research in identifying these children at an early stage and helping them achieve their best in school by providing them with the necessary cognitive and educational support ;
  • understanding that, although we all have genetic predispositions and abilities, these have little to do with our success as a learner. With the right support, stimulation and a suitable learning environment even a modest background can be maximized beyond expectations;
  • preparing graduates in this new work field, with US Universities already offering master’s degrees and a doctoral programme in MBE. There are also short term study alternatives available. In Africa, the First Mind-Brain and Education Seminar already took place.

4. How is MBE different than what we knew about education before?

We know that the best time to learn is when the brain and the nervous system are still maturing during childhood and through the teenage years. MBE shines a light on the importance of the school curriculum as well as the methods of teaching. MBE explains why laying down the physical wiring (neural connections) during the formative years will only benefit the young generation later on when such neural connections, already in place, need only be reinforced. For example in the relational thinking field when the neural pathways and connections formed in the brain are laid out during the formative years, before adolescence.

21st century jobs require novel skills. We work less with our hands and more with our brains while being required to learn and remember more and more information. MBE can help us better accumulate this information, integrating it and manage its volume, filtering and remembering it. Here is where we understand why good analogical and relational thinking skills play such an important role, more than ever before in the history of human education.

5. How can MBE help you acquire a 21st century job?

We all agree that in order to succeed in the 21st century student’s knowledge must now go beyond the “three Rs” (“reading, writing, and ‘rithmetic”.and basic computer literacy. No student in the history of education has ever needed to cover such a multifaceted array of topics.

Chances are that in your family or at your office there are at least four generations present, working side-by-side. But different generations of employees will have different motivations and would have required different skills when they first entered the workforce.

Mind brain education - Comparison of qualities, values, qualifications of different generations, Patricia Furstenberg
Mind brain education – Comparison of qualities, values, qualifications of different generations, Patricia Furstenberg

According to Global Digital Citizen and the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development, OECD, the most important 21st-century skills students will need are:

  • Problem Solving
  • Creativity / Innovation
  • Analytic Thinking
  • Collaboration / Team work
  • Oral and Written Communication
  • Ethics, Action, and Accountability
  • Diversity (global thinking and global citizens)
  • Information Technology Application
  • Leadership
  • Lifelong learning / Self Direction
  • Social Responsibility

Only innovation in the classroom will help students gain these 21st century skills and MBE can provide educators, parents and students with the knowledge and the tools on how to acquire them. There is still a huge gap between the skills required by 21st century companies and the skills taught in schools. This gap exists because technology evolves in leaps, becoming challenging to keep up with while incorporating it in the school curriculum. This is why teaching students how to learn, how to accumulate information in a proficient way and how to make the most of the power that the human brain has will equip them with the basics needed to face the challenges of a 21st century work field.

Please follow and share:
0

How To Raise A Child With A High IQ by @PatFurstenberg

Raising a child is the most difficult job in the world. The decisions made by parents will model and impact upon the child’s emotional and intellectual well-being.

Parenting is a full-time job on its own, without the added pressure of medical literature, in-law advice or trying to keep up with that perfect family always posting on Facebook.

“Once upon a time I was a perfect parent. Then I had children. The End.”

In his book “Brain Rules For Baby“, developmental molecular biologist and dad Dr John Medina, bridges the gap between what scientists know and what parents practise.

  1. Baby’s IQ during the 1st trimester of pregnancy

An adult human brain contains about 100-billion neurons formed before we are born. The embryo’s brain produces approximately 250,000 cells per minute, most generated as early as week three and during the first four months of gestation.

Take an BMI Certified IQ test here.

All throughout your pregnancy, stay away from potentially harmful substances like smoking, drinking alcohol and taking drugs – even over-the-counter drugs. Always ask your doctor or pharmacist.

Scientists studying human evolution attest that morning sickness kicked in as an ancestral mechanism forcing the mother to stay away from toxic, potentially spoiled or exotic foods that might harm the embryo. One of the hormones inducing morning sickness is also a stimulant for the development of neurons in the embryo’s brain.

  1. Baby’s IQ throughout the pregnancy

A mother’s weight gain during pregnancy is vital to the well-being of her unborn baby. A study shows that a foetus’ IQ grows in proportion to its weight gain while inside the mother’s womb. A pregnant woman with healthy weight gain, good nutrition and a healthy lifestyle will influence the weight of her newborn positively.

A pregnancy vitamin supplement rich in folic acid and omega 3 is indicated.

And food cravings?

Studies have proved that food cravings are stress related, not pointing towards a vitamin deficiency. An anxious woman used to giving in to chocolate during stressful times will most probably go on craving chocolate whenever she hits a stressful time during pregnancy.

  1. A stressful pregnancy and baby’s IQ

If a pregnant woman is stressed, anxious or depressed, this can affect how the baby’s brain will develop. Research shows that the child will be at greater risk of slow learning or behavioural problems such as ADHD.

Severe stress suffered by mothers during pregnancy can have the following consequences for the baby:

  • Change the foetus’ body temperature, making the baby more irritable in the womb;
  • Reduce the baby’s IQ (by up to eight points);
  • Affect the baby’s motor skills, attention span and concentration – visible from six years of age;
  • Affect the baby’s own response to stressful situations; and
  • Even reduce the baby’s brain size.

“Researchers at Douglas Mental Health University Institute and McGill University followed more than 150 families after a severe storm, and found specific markers on the DNA of children whose mothers were pregnant or became pregnant soon after the disaster, providing rare evidence of how maternal hardships can have long-term genetic consequences.”

A good solution to reduce stress is being active.

Staying active during pregnancy

Women who have an active lifestyle and engage in regular physical activities during pregnancy have an easier birthing experience – shorter and less painful.

Pregnant women are advised to stay active and do mild exercise, without pushing it too hard.

During the third trimester, the best sport for a pregnant woman is swimming. It is a low-impact sport and keeps the pregnant woman’s body temperature constant, so her uterus does not overheat.

Attention!

  • Intense physical activity will reduce the blood supply to the uterus, which will decrease the oxygen supply to the foetus.
  • If the pregnant woman’s body temperature is raised by more than two degrees Celsius, this can negatively affect the cerebral and visual development of the foetus during the third trimester of pregnancy.

Family relationships during pregnancy

Dr John Medina points out that during the first year of the baby’s life, the number of hostile interactions between the new parents is often on the rise. Specialists believe that this can be harmful to the baby, which is very sensitive to external factors at the beginning of its life.

A prolonged exposure to hostility can have a negative impact on the baby, lowering its IQ and its ability to manage stress later in life.

During the first year of life, a baby’s main cognitive focus is on survival. Once the baby forms an attachment with its main caregiver, its brain can develop normally, resulting in a happy, sociable baby able to manage stressful situations.

If the baby cannot feel this trust and safety, then the genetic code tells its brain to develop in a different way – with a negative impact on its social, emotional and educational prospects.

The ingredients that contribute towards the making of a clever child:

  • Breastfeeding can raise a baby’s IQ by up to eight points;
  • Talking to a baby and a child about various topics will expose the child to a wider vocabulary;
  • Playing games with your child will stimulate the child’s mind;
  • As will engaging your child in music and sports.

Raising a child is the most difficult job in the world. The decisions made by parents will model and impact upon the child’s emotional and intellectual well-being, the character of the future adult. Yet it is good to acknowledge that these decisions are unique to each family, and each parent can adjust their parenting skills at any time throughout this roller-coaster journey.

* The information in this article is NOT intended to replace a one-on-one relationship with a qualified healthcare professional and is not intended as medical advice.

This article was written for Huffington Post SA.

Huffington Post SA
HuffPostSA

You might also be interested in:

5 Simple Steps to Turn Your Boys into Bookworms

Here’s How To Get Boys To Read In 5 Easy Steps 

 

Please follow and share:
0

Two Authors. Worlds Apart. The Jennieration – Pat Furstenberg

Two Authors. Worlds Apart. Serendipity on their Side.

What is better for an author than to do a book signing event? Maybe a book signing half way across the world?

Better than a book blog tour?

When my new book publisher asked me to do a book signing at an historic book shop in some quaint little town within the state of Ohio, I didn’t hesitate for a second to agree. First, because I’d never set foot in the New World and I was so curious to find out if everything in North America is really ‘bigger than life’ as they say! But more importantly, because the bookshop where I’d been asked to do my signing could only have been a plan of pure serendipity or fate.

*** 

Of all the bookshops all over the world I was about to walk into hers! Jen, with her uncurbed enthusiasm. Talented author Jennifer Lopez!

*** 

So now, here I am at this very moment, nervous with excitement for the experience. I’m holding a red rose, searching among the myriad of busy Americans around me, for Jen and her red rose.

I know people do look a tad different when you meet them in person as apposed to their website or Twitter, so I’m hoping she’ll recognize me. We’re to meet for coffee first, here at this small and chic (I am impressed) coffee place right next to the bookshop. It feels like I’ve stepped into a world of times past. The coffee shop is one that’s been there for a very long time and has that old vintage feel. I see large windows at the back of the cafe- there are people looking down. I remember then, Jen saying the bookshop and café sat right atop a waterfall. I could hear it now—despite the bustle. Wow. This was definitely not what I imagined the U.S.A. to be like. Maybe because we aren’t in a large city.

And yes, I’ll answer your question before you even speak; we decided to meet like this for the fun of it! Is there a more exciting way for two writers to meet, I’m asking you?

*** 

There she is. We walk toward each other unable to contain our smiles and laughter.

Jen hugs me tight and says,

 “Finally a real hug instead of a virtual hug! You are so precious Pat.”

We tap our roses together and chuckle.

“Come on Pat, I’ve gotten us a table. The café will be clearing out soon- as the afternoon rush is over.”

The waiter sets down our two cups of expresso.

PAT: Ahhhh… It’s chilly here so this is perfect Jen. We’ve wanted to chat about so many things, but with our kids, family and writing, well—we just never have the time. I love your humanitarian efforts and you know it’s something we both feel passionate about. I’ll never forget when your Middle School ESL students read my book HAPPY FRIENDS and how they responded. It felt so great to hear that my little book had been appreciated in such a way.

JEN: Pat, it was so awesome to experience. Then, when your book JOYFUL TROUBLE came out, it spoke on such a deep level to both kids and adults alike. Ella and I were thrilled to write our endorsement for the cover. Are you so excited to be signing today for all your special animal stories?

My coffee’s gone cold, or is this the second cup already? We’re too engrossed in discussion to notice.

PAT: I can’t even begin to express my happiness Jen. Talking about JOYFUL TROUBLE (now in Large Print) is so fun—maybe because it is based on a true family story. Also it really seems to appeal to young and adults alike. I think it’s his human nature that makes the dog such a huge success. Through his sheer size, he commands respect. He reveres his sailor friends and has a loyalty towards them that is unsurpassed. The things he does…well, dogs do have this rare quality about them, to sense when they are needed. But Joyful Trouble is also a peaceful dog (almost As Good as Gold), a contrasting quality with his size.

Perhaps the fact that there is no self-interest in Joyful Trouble’s actions—yet they leave the reader astounded. I am grateful for its positive impact.

JEN: It sure does have a positive impact, Pat. Animal stories reach into the hearts of readers because of the unconditional love and tenderness their actions express. They themselves are lessons we humans can learn a lot from.

PAT: How did you develop such a tremendous love of Culture, Jen? I’ve always seen & admired it—so I have to ask.

JEN: I think we both feel it within us, Pat—you know? I’ve known culture is strongly rooted in you as well. Even your efforts to convey acceptance and the love of differences in HAPPY FRIENDS was tremendous. Maybe it’s something so deep, it’s a challenge to explain. I can’t say mine came from upbringing, because I didn’t grow up in a family completely immersed in this appreciation. So, I guess I’m inclined to feel as if my love if culture and the ‘uniquenesses’ of the world were just innately present and then grew. Every time I would interact with someone from another country, see a beautifully unique face from the rest of those around me, hear a new language, or be invited by a friend to take part in a cultural family celebration—it touched me deeply—all of it…

As I grew older, I read more and more about the cultures of our world, the rich traditions and the beauty in differences. I was magnetized by the sheer simplicity of cultures different from my own and how this very simplicity took nothing away from the people—in fact—it contributed tremendously to people’s happiness. It was as if there was no drive compelling me more so, than this deep reverence for culture. I believe my writing is an extension of this reverence for a simpler life and that kind of genuine happiness. That’s why I love HAPPY FRIENDS. Anyway, eventually I had to go, to live, to be a part of it for myself. Once I’d experienced the deeply endearing qualities of life and people in Italy, Spain and Mexico—I was forever changed. I felt myself connected, rooted forever-more in these distinct and beautiful cultures. What about you sweet Pat?

PAT: Well, I am so excited to visit America! I find it interesting and stimulating to see new places and be among people of a different culture. It’s quite diverse here, which is exciting to see. The way individuals think and their attitude towards the simplest facts in life is of great interest to me. When I grew up in Romania we didn’t have much access to the world outside its physical borders due to political restrictions and regulations. So other cultures were like a forbidden fruit. You would get what you could from movies, from books, by reading foreign author’s works and learning about their respective countries. I was lucky enough to be able to travel after the fall of the Berlin wall and the fall of the Communist regime. I felt like a sponge, ready to assimilate everything I saw. From art and music to the way people live and spend their free time; their national imprint and the way climate influences their lives. Everything was fascinating…

South Africa is the rainbow country. People from many nationalities live in harmony, or so we try. We have 11 official languages. What people share is their humor, the fantastic foods, the blue sky and the love for music.

It is a country that has inspired many artists and writers and it definitely influences my writing. Although my roots remain Romanian as does my heartbeat, I say.

JEN: I love that! Oh my gosh- it must be incredible living in Africa and still having that depth of appreciation for your own culture. Not only that, but you explain it so beautifully—something that affects so many: the desire to truly know the world—but be restricted from this possibility in its purest form. Media and the movies can actually taint one’s perspective regarding the truths of a culture. Thank goodness for good cultural literature.

PAT: Yes, you know, when I grew up I would study about famous Romanian people of culture who left to further their educations in ‘The City of Light,’ Paris. This was the beginning of the 20th century. And they all missed the blue sky from back home, the way the birds sing, the way the air smells. I could not understand that longing – until now. That is culture to me, being rooted in your own. I guess it is the way our hearts have been wired.

JEN: So interesting…all of it. And really, I feel we could talk forever. Are we still okay on time Pat? I don’t want you to arrive late to your signing?

PAT: We are just fine, it’s not until 7:30pm and I set aside this time to be with you. Let’s share a pastry. How does the Raspberry Custard Tart sound?

JEN: You picked my favorite!

I raise my hand and motion to the lad behind the counter. He smiles and points. He heads over with two forks and the tart.

JEN: So, children inspire your writing as does making a difference. How did you get to be such a dear one? Huh?

PAT: I think when we have our feet firmly grounded in our roots, in what drives us—as you say—(the moral compass), then all we want is to make a difference. Having roots is very import for our children. And books can help a great deal in discovering one’s roots. Because books tell stories and stories do have a source. Before ‘the story’ was printed, it was told—at the beginning of its time—and it went from mouth to mouth. Each story was sparked by one previous to it. Each is rooted in an old folk tale, somewhere in a forgotten corner of the world…

Just as Joyful Trouble and Happy Friends, my stories- depict unusual friendships between animals. Friendship regardless of differences…

Animals and children have this special gift of seeing beyond boundaries; to them there are no boundaries. Nothing stands and nothing should stand between a child and their hopes and dreams and life learning…

With Animals, when they look at each other, they see the possibility of friendship, especially baby animals.

Children, when they look at each other, they see beauty and they see the possibility of a friendship or the excitement of learning.

JEN: YES!! So then the nature of an animals’ emotional intelligence is essentially what draws you to write about them? There is such a clear undeniable connection between the purity and selflessness of children and animals.

PAT: Right and since we now live in a hyper-technologically-driven world, what was important yesterday might not have the same value tomorrow. The world is most definitely changing.

IQ- Intellectual Quotient, was of high value… yesterday.

Today, Emotional intelligence- EQ is what our children need to excel in life. Being aware of your feelings and of the feelings of those near you, knowing how to express them and how to put your feelings into words.

Animals can sense things long before we do. They can read our emotional cues; this is why writing about animals is so exciting and attractive to me. Animals have no boundaries when given the opportunity to thrive in an environment, they do not shield their emotions, they do not misunderstand them.

Giving animals human qualities in a story can have an amusing effect but in the end it isn’t the real life. Because animals are so much more emotionally intelligent than we know…

Children can easily relate to animal stories because children have an innate desire to care for and look after those smaller than themselves. Care, as they are being cared for. And who out there, is smaller than a child, but a baby animal or, at least, a furry character from a book? It’s why so many generations of children loved Winnie-The-Pooh, or Paddington Bear.

JEN: You yourself have proof of this beautiful truth in the story of Joyful Trouble. I love this because there are some who don’t acknowledge the keen emotional intelligence of animals. Their potential to contribute to each human’s life is unfathomably beautiful. My sister would love you as well. She has a highly intuitive sense related to animals and for this I admire her. Another fellow humanitarian- she cares for animals and advocates for them as you do. Pat, we just connect on these ideals and it makes me overjoyed…

Do you enjoy the Raspberry Custard Tart? It feels such a privilege to share with you and I still can’t believe we are sitting here together!

PAT: It’s yummy and I could sit here all day. It’s like the café cleared out for us to have this time.

JEN: That’s because they’re all getting ready for your book signing—is what’s happening! You know what- We also have this funny Elephant connection-you and I do. I just remembered this. The little elephant, Pete- in your Happy Friends book. My sweet daughter, Ella and I loved Pete and the cute story behind his becoming part of the book. —Ella herself has the Elephant’s namesake because of the deep emotional intelligence these stunning animals exhibit throughout their lifetimes with loved ones and the matriarchal strength that guides their family.

PAT: I know. I love the cover of your Fearless Thinkers book with the two Elephants. That book is a help to many families, aspiring to take a different path with parenting. It is evident that you wrote the book with the intention of helping others too. Elephants sure are an inspiration for both of us Jen. And yes, my idea to write about an elephant came not only from the plastic, old, yellow toy elephant (Pete) we have at home, but also from my mother’s interest in elephants and what they symbolize: courage, wisdom, strength, family. Perhaps the fact that elephants have a matriarchal family also influenced my decision!

But Pete, our yellow toy elephant with a twinkle in his eyes, was just sitting quietly on his shelf… until one day when he couldn’t keep quiet anymore and told me that he had a story to tell. Could I help him?

Turns out, my children’s book- Happy Friends was just that.

JEN: I know. So super sweet. The simplicity of that inspiration!! Well, let’s take a quick walk down to the waterfall so we can take in the sounds of nature and you can prepare for this evening’s events. The time has flown. I did mean to ask what your future plans are though Pat. We can’t leave without knowing what’s next—besides time with our kids—of course.

PAT: Well, I have lots of children’s books in my plans for the future, most of them about dogs! Fun stories, some sad ones as well—they are based on true events. One needs to raise awareness about animals’ feelings and their status and import in our busy lives.

JEN: Yes, I agree. Your FOUR latest books (that you’ll be releasing in the next few weeks) after your well loved-Happy Friends and Joyful Trouble, remind me of the tremendous stories you hear of around the world about Unlikely Animal Friends. They are utterly heart-warming. There’s been so many beautiful reviews and guest posts for your books. We loved your cover reveals for: Puppy, The Lion and the Dog, The Elephant and the Sheep, The Cheetah and the Dog. OHHH! What treasures!

PAT: Thanks Jen. I hope they will be cherished in many homes for years to come. You know, I wanted to ask you the same thing—what’s next for you in your writing and in your career? You keep so busy with your Spanish Interpreting, your writing and your Homeschooling of Ella to boot! Do you plan to continue all of this?

JEN: You know how we are. Where there’s a passion- there’s always a way. So my passion to support the Spanish-speaking Cultures is ongoing. It’s as if it were embedded in my DNA. My hope is to continue my involvement in bridging the language and cultural gaps with TheJennieration.com through Interpreting and Translating. It is always incredible for me to witness others embracing the rich family traditions, ideals and work ethic of Latin Americans. They are some of the most tremendous people—and precious neighbors in Central and South America. Here in the U.S., we SHARE the very same continent—all of us in ‘The Americas’…and our American Continent’s farthest points reach both the North and the South Poles. I do plan to continue my writing, editing and proofreading. How can we not? It is our fuel, right?! Words, language and communication equate to passion and connection with culture. My own upcoming books… well one has been in the works for quite some time. The program has existed for 15+ years and I am finally putting it into book form. A writer’s work is never done though- so I keep making the tweaks.  When I am fully satisfied, you’ll be one of the first to know.  It’s a rapid Spanish Language Instruction book—an intrinsically Easy-to-Learn Spanish Program—different than any out there I’ve seen in my own research over the years… The other is a series of short stories called: Empathy Power. Much like your true animal stories, these are powerful due to their truth—each carrying a unique message. As an educator, my hope is for them to captivate while they educate. Time will tell my friend…

Well Pat, now it’s time we take that walk. I can’t wait for your book signing!

PAT: I can’t either Jen. Thanks for sharing this time with me, this has been incredible. I love conversations like these- where each of us can share a bit of ourselves, our deeper thoughts, our aspirations—and I just can’t believe fate allowed us this chance. The universe works in mysterious ways and far be it for me to question them. I’d rather embrace them and live to tell about them.

As they are about to leave the cafe, Pat looks back and smiles at the two spoons, two espresso cups, one plate with a bit of raspberry drizzle and the two red roses that were left on the table. She smiles and thinks….

HAPPY FRIENDS!

*****

Thank you for joining us today.

Read Jen’s Reviews of Pat’s books- Joyful Trouble & Happy Friends:

CLICK FOR REVIEW OF JOYFUL TROUBLE on AMAZON: 

CLICK FOR REVIEW OF HAPPY FRIENDS on AMAZON:

Initially published on Jen’s website. This is a collaboration between two authors.

 

Please follow and share:
0

Why We Need A (New) Generation Of Readers in South Africa

Reading is linked to empathy, self-esteem and academic success, by Patricia Furstenberg
Reading is linked to empathy, self-esteem and academic success, by Patricia Furstenberg

Why We Need A (New) Generation Of Readers in South Africa

“Readers are leaders”, said one great teacher; leaders of their own lives. Being able to understand what is expected of us beyond our job description or mastering those psychometric tests in a job interview could be life changing situations. Turning that first date into a success or having the ability to understand (and survive) our partner’s emotional needs are, definitely, lifesaving situations. What all of these occasions call for are our wits and… empathy. So relax; you’re not the odd one out if, at times, you feel for your boss. You should be celebrating instead.

Here’s when and why reading comes into our lives.

You know that special feeling when enjoying a good book? At first the world around us seems to be fading away as we’ve happily secluded ourselves. Then, after closing that volume, we feel like we’ve just roused from a daydream. “Oh, this place is still here… Look, my family!” Not surprisingly to discover that we can connect with them on a deeper level because we can now read (surprise!) their emotions so much better: like under a spotlight!

Empathising with those around us is the epitome of human evolution. The scientific world refers to it as the Theory of Mind (ToM) and research shows that, apparently, improving one’s ability to “read” people’s emotions is as easy as picking up a work of literary fiction. Psychologists Emanuele Castano and David Comer Kidd proved in their scientific study Reading Literary Fiction Improves Theory of Mind published in Science just that.

“Theory of Mind is the human capacity to comprehend that other people hold beliefs and desires and that these may differ from one’s own beliefs and desires.”

By assigning different reading material to a number of participants and afterwards testing them Castano and Kidd have been able to measure how well the subjects identified emotions in others. The readers of literary fiction scored, by far, the highest.

TheoryOfMind-PatriciaFurstenberg1 – No reading or non-fiction reading will NOT improve the subject’s ability to detect and identify emotions in others (Theory of Mind, Castano & Kidd)
TheoryOfMind-PatriciaFurstenberg2 – Reading Popular Fiction insignificantly enhances the subject’s ability to detect and identify emotions in others (Theory of mind, Castano & Kidd)
TheoryOfMind-PatriciaFurstenberg3 – Reading Literary Fiction temporarily enhances the subject’s performance and his ability to detect and identify emotions in others (Roland Barthes)

Can You Read People’s Emotions? Take The Times quiz.

Why we need empathy – and books – in South Africa

From a parent’s point of view I certainly want my children to be successful in life.

Reading impacts greatly on a child’s evolving mind and, apart from its neurological, educational and psychological benefits, by improving their empathy reading helps children socialise at school and thrive in life.

Besides knowledge, sharpening a child’s empathic skills is just as important. If a clever brain is measured through its IQ (Intelligence Quotient), an empathic mind is measured through its EQ (Emotional Intelligence Quotient). A person with a high EQ will be able to better understand his own emotions as well as be able to better relate to the emotional status of those around him – thus improving his social skills and, eventually, the general social welfare of his generation.

Empathy is also proved to be crucial to a child in peer-pressure situations. Empathic children are less violent and develop into adults with a lower risk of emotional or behavioural problems later in life, violence and substance abuse included. (Did you feel as if you hated people?)

Reading is linked to empathy, self-esteem and academic success

Reading is linked to empathy, self-esteem and academic success

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

In a world where technology is omnipresent and social issues are on the rise; during a time when the rift between communities widens and the politics, not the civility, governs; when social indifference, not social compassion seem to be ruling our lives; when today’s major subject couldn’t be further away from tomorrow’s job and when employment policies, not work equity seem to rule, a new generation of readers, of emphatic human beings, is more in demand than ever before. “Fiction may change how, not just what, people think about others.” (Kidd, Castano)

5 Ways to foster empathy in our children

5 Ways to foster empathy in our children

5 Reasons why we need more good books in our lives

  1. Reading promotes empathy, helping us better understand other’s emotional state, a stepping stone to build meaningful relationships and more human societies.
  2. Reading promotes social welfare by bringing people together through enjoyable means.
  3. Reading develops consciousness; when one reads information is being absorbed on a conscious as well as unconscious way.
  4. Reading enriches our lives.
  5. Reading stimulates the intellect and the soul.

Surely reading literary fiction couldn’t be the only way to improve one’s ToM. Art, movies and musical performances also come into light.

I may not have read all the volumes of Hugo’s Les Miserables, but I remember watching the movie. The character of Jean Valjean still gives me goose bumps. Perhaps a 21st century musical production would be just as effective?

It would be interesting to find out if and how coming in contact with other works of art influences one’s empathic levels.

I would like to hear your thoughts on this subject.

Proposed literary fiction for your child

“I cannot remember the books I have read any more than the meals I have eaten; but they have all helped to make me.” (Emerson)

 

 

 

 

 

 

Read further on the Huffington Post South Africa, a post by Patricia Furstenberg.

Huffington Post SA

Please follow and share:
0