Feeds:
Posts
Comments

Dialed In

I have lost track of an exact number but I am well over 50 classes visited this fall. I wrote before about my goal to not just do a walk through, but have some sustained time in classrooms.  And there have been amazing takeaways from the classes I have visited.  One visit, now a few weeks ago that I continue to think about was my visit to the robotics program at West Vancouver Secondary.  I first wrote about robotics just over 3-years ago (HERE) as our then new Robotics teacher was taking his show on the road to various elementary schools sharing his passion about robotics.

Flash forward to today and the robotics program is booming.  This past weekend we had 33 teams competing in a competitive robotics tournament, and we have grown from an after school club to an at-capacity high school academy and a jam-packed elementary program.  This post, though, is not about the success of the robotics program by the numbers, it is about the hour I spent in the robotics area and what I saw.

The students were dialed in like nothing I have seen before in school.  It was crazy.  There were two rooms full of students across the hall from one another, with two teachers and every student was fully engaged.  Here are some of the specifics:

  • Students arrived early to maximize their time
  • I am pretty sure the high school students had phones and other electronic devices but I did not see one student using electronics off-task
  • Students were working largely in groups, and called on other students if they were stuck or needed some expertise
  • Part-way through there was a class (team) meeting and the students largely ran the session as they discussed the most recent competition and the upcoming schedule
  • Much is made of the notion of “flow” – every student I spoke with and observed seemed to be in this zone
  • Students I spoke with said they would regularly choose to stay until up to 8 PM Monday to Thursday to continue to work on their robots
  • There was a sense of individual and team pride – they were working for themselves and they were part of something much bigger and had responsibilities to this larger team

I often get asked, What does student engagement look like?  It looks like 60 students working together with teacher support on short-term and long-term goals.  It was crazy.  And the photos I have included in the post only do it partial justice.  When people say that students today just do what they are told, lack initiative, are micro-managed by their parents and are not gaining real world skills – I call BS.   I have so many great examples that tell me something different, and anyone who has seen our robotics students in action know the kids are going to be OK.

If I wanted to grow my blog audience, I could probably just write about youth sports, they are typically my most popular posts with anywhere from 2X to 10X the audience as when I write about other topics.  One in particular – Is There a Future in School Sports? gained a lot of attention, and was also published by the AASA (the School Superintendents Association) in their School Administrator Magazine.  Few topics I write about find people as polarized, passionate and wanting to engage.

I don’t hide my love of school sports.  I think they are a wonderful part of our community.  I loved playing as a student, I see the joy my children have and this is year 32 where I have been involved as a coach or administrator with school and youth sports.

So, a lot of people talk with me about the future of youth sports, school sports and ideas to reverse the perceived trends of decline in both.  This post is about ideas, some of my own, some suggested by others, some a combination of the two, that are not just the little changes around the edges – but larger changes.  I find too many people involved with sports organizations and responsible for making the rules often fall into two camps 1) they love the rules more than the kids so they think the answer to a problem is always more rules or 2) they are completely self-interested, and look to rules and structures that benefit their sport or their school without larger perspective.

My goal here is simple – we want more kids playing, more teams competing and more adults coaching.   So with that background here we go.  In no particular order:

Change the seasons

I think school soccer is smartly done.  They run boys in the fall and girls in the spring.  I know lots of people who coach both.  We all know how difficult coaches are to find so this makes a lot of sense.  Why not follow this for other sports? I would look to the two largest sports – basketball and volleyball.  Rather than both running all levels and both genders in single seasons – why not do girls basketball and boys volleyball in the fall and then do boys basketball and girls volleyball in the winter.  Or vice-versa, or alternate them.  You would absolutely get some coaches to double-up.  And this would also help with officiating challenges.  I know, club programs would not be happy in either sport, but they would adapt.  And Ontario has found a way to make this work, so there is an example out there.  I think the same could be done for girls and boys rugby as well.

Automatic Eligibility for Some Sports

The next story I hear about someone transferring schools so a competitive advantage can be gained in curling, will be the first.  We have transfer rules that apply to all sports, but really the bulk of concerns are in football, volleyball and basketball.  As a start, exempt all primarily individual sports like cross-country and wrestling from transfer rules and consider extending the exemption to team sports.  If a student changes school in grade 12 and wants to swim, ski, or run – let them – no appeal, no extra process.  Focus the resources on those sports where there are concerns of recruiting and competitive advantage.  With changes in education, more students are going to be more flexible with their learning plans and likely more shifts in schools.  We also know sports are a great way to connect students to a school – getting to play sports in a new school should be encouraged, not always subject to a one-year penalty.  And yes, I get the challenge of sports like football, basketball or volleyball becoming regional all-star teams – but let’s then focus on them and not worry about the cross-country runner or ultimate player. This would get more kids playing – that is a good thing!

Make Fair Play a Thing

One of the arguments I make for school sports in an era of great growth of club sports is that they allow school-values to be applied in ways that we may not see in community sports organizations.   In many sports there are no cuts made – for example I think in almost all schools everyone who comes out for rugby, cross-country, swimming or wrestling is on the team.  So, I will focus on two sports again – and again the big ones – basketball and volleyball.  What if, as some local associations have done, we mandate at younger ages some fair play rules.  Here is how it could work:  in basketball you would need to have at least 10 players on the team and for the first half or three-quarters you would play shifts (this is already done in a number of places).  Then the end of the game could be open substitution.  This would apply some school values – increasing participation, and also make it different from club or community programs which are often win with the best players while the others watch.   If more kids play, they will keep playing.  One of the reasons kids quit is they sit on the bench.  And I am told by some this model would mean we don’t know who the best teams are then.  Wrong.  We would know and maybe even more than ever as it would require you to have 10 players not just 5.  Some coaches do this kind of system already but if we mandated that all grade 8-10 basketball teams had to shift at least 10 kids in the first half, and all volleyball teams had to play at least 12 players one set each, I think our numbers would grow.  And yes, there would need to be some caveats for schools unable to field these numbers of players.

Play for Your Neighbouring School

Here is a controversial one.  If your school does not offer a sport, play for the next closest school that does.   If the goal is more kids playing more sports, why not.  It is often too much to ask all schools to offer all sports.  Just as students are taking courses at multiple schools why not also sports at multiple schools.  This is fraught with challenges, including the worry that some teams would fold to create all-star teams at others and actually this might lead to fewer students playing, but it is worth exploring.  I know the concerns around competitive advantage – but maybe those with students from another school would play up a tier, or be their own tier.  Some sports are dying.  And we want students to have the option to stay at their home school.  This would be challenging, but interesting.  (Not to distract from this one, but I think it is poorly thought-out to not make it easy for middle-school kids to play up for their catchment school – remember the goal is more kids playing more sports.)

Pay Attention to the Cool Cousins

The Olympics get it.  It started with Beach Volleyball, then Rugby  7s and at the next Olympic Games it is 3X3 basketball.  These offshoots of traditional sports have grown immensely in popularity.  And while there is some crossover in each with their traditional cousins,  they also tend to draw some different athletes to the sports.  Rugby is beginning to do some 7s competition between schools, and I think all three of these (and I am sure there are others) are worth considering.  What if beach volleyball and 3×3 basketball each had a weekend in the spring (ideally before other sports have their provincials) where there were High School Provincial Championships.  I do think there is something to wearing a school uniform that is different.  This would help grow these sports, engage some students in an additional sport at school and help keep our school sports relevant.

Think Activities Not Just Sports

I am sure there are others, but let’s use robotics and eSports as the examples for now.  There are inter-school robotics competitions played throughout the fall and winter (the first one was this past weekend).  These are schools competing with each other and winners being recognized with awards and getting the chance to advance to further competition.  This sounds a lot like what we are doing in sports.  And I think eSports is fascinating.  There will be eSports teams in our schools within the next couple years (there may be already).  We are already seeing them in the United States. So where should they fall for regulation and coordination.  They could go on their own, or we could broaden the tent of “Sport” to “Activities”.  I know this is a huge shift but there are probably other competitive activities between schools that could be included.

Hold the Community Accountable

If you have been involved with school and community sports long enough, you have probably come across the softball coach who says she wants multi-sport athletes but then says if you play school volleyball in the fall and don’t come to off-season training you won’t be eligible for the rep team next spring.  Or maybe the soccer coach who also thinks that students should play a range of sports, but won’t allow his players to play school soccer because they might get hurt.  I am not exactly sure how to hold these people accountable.  But, for example, what if schools and communities gave preferential gym and filed rental rates not based on one’s profit or non-profit status, but on their commitment to encouraging students to play multi-sports including any school sports they want to play.  This is large conversation – and an entire future post around the hypocrisy of many in the “we want multi sport athlete” community.  It is silly that students cannot play school sports – largely between 3-5 PM because of rules set by community programs.

Conclusions

So, there is the list.  Seven ideas to challenge thinking around school sports.  And yes, with just a couple hundred words on each, they are at the 30,000 foot level, and easy to poke holes in without more detail.  And also true, they all require more scrutiny.  So, which ones resonate with you?  What else would you suggest? I intentionally left off ideas with a big financial burden – I think no matter any of our personal feelings, there is no huge cash infusion coming for school sports.   If we can agree on a collective goal of more young people playing school sports, more schools fielding more teams, and more teachers and community adults guiding our teams – what could we do?

 

Fun times hiking the Grouse Grind with Rockridge Principal Judy Duncan and more than 100 Grade 9’s earlier this fall.

If you are an administrator you have probably been asked some version of “you must really miss teaching and the kids in the classroom?”  It is often said in a way to make you feel guilty somehow, that taking a job as a principal or vice-principal, although may have more responsibility and a greater scope to your work, the insinuation is that you have lost the best part of education.

The official correct answer for “Do you miss the teaching?” is “yes”.  You are supposed to say that working with kids in the classroom is the best and I miss it every day.  Even though it is an unfair question, you are still supposed to answer it in the affirmative.

Well, when I get asked this guilt-inducing question – I say no.  No, I don’t miss teaching.  Teaching is awesome.  Most of my best friends are teachers, my parents were teachers, most of the smartest people I know are teachers.  And I loved it!

I am surrounded by teachers and I still love teaching in a K-12 classroom when I get the chance to do it.  But I don’t miss it.  Just because we love something doesn’t mean we need to do it forever, nor does it mean we miss it when we do something else.  And I don’t define teaching as something strictly with a finite group of students in the classroom over a 10 month period of time.

I have been thinking about why I loved teaching.  It comes down to purpose and satisfaction.

I actually get amazing purpose and satisfaction as an administrator.  Both at the school and district level there are significant chances to make a difference and have a great sense of accomplishment.  It is different, the feedback is far more immediate as a classroom teacher – you know right away from the students how you are doing and the difference you are making.  This satisfaction is not as easy to see, but just as powerful in other roles in the system whether you are working with one student, a group of students, teachers, parents or others in the community.

In many industries as you are successful you move up a ladder – that is far less true in education.  Education is one of those funny jobs around the notion of promotion.  It is not really true that becoming an administrator after being a teacher is a promotion.  They are two different jobs and while some people are good at both, I have seen great teachers become mediocre administrators and teachers who were just OK in the classroom become excellent school and district administrators.

And the suggestion that you are removed from young people once you become an administrator is just not true, at least not if you don’t want it to be true.  I have been in about 30 classrooms so far this fall – working with teachers, learning with and from students, and ensuring I know how the decisions I make are influencing teachers and students.  You can be the administrator who is removed from kids, I guess.  But that would be your choice – we all make choices on how we spend our time in our work.

I love my current job, but I often tell people my absolute favourite job in the system was high school principal.  Being in a school of 1400 students, with over 120 adults coming together everyday – exhausting, exhilarating, challenging and on most days a lot of fun.  And never once did I think I had given up “kids” for a job.  This feeling continues to this day in my current role.

As we finish-up celebrating National Principals’ Month (October), here is to all the great school and district leaders who are working with and for students everyday. I am lucky to work with so many awesome ones in West Vancouver!

I do spend a lot of time in classrooms.  What I have noticed in recent years, it is often the same classrooms in the same schools.  And often it is just a really quick walk through as part of a tour.  I wanted to do something different this fall.  So here is part the email I sent to every teacher in our district:

I am hoping to be more purposeful with getting into classrooms this fall.  I know to make the best decisions for our district, and to be the best advocate for our students and staff, I should better understand the modern classroom – I have been in district office in West Vancouver for 12 years, and it is easy to lose touch with the changes in classrooms.  Thus, I am hoping some of you will invite me into your classes.  I find I visit many of the same classes over and over, and I am hoping this request will get me into a number of different classrooms.

I would love to come to your class – whether it is to observe something you are teaching and students are learning, act as a resource, co-teach, or otherwise engage with you and your students. It could be for 10 minutes or a full lesson.  Email me directly your thoughts and we can look to set something up.

Of course, I am not sure if 2, 20 or 200 of you will take me up on this offer – but hopefully I will get back to you quickly, even if we cannot set it up until later in the fall.

I know we have amazing things happening in our classrooms and I want to better understand these connections we are making with our learners.

The uptake has been awesome.  I have dozens of classes set over the next several months – performing various roles from observer, to field trip chaperone, to co-teacher, to subject expert, to lead teacher.  Already I have been in about ten classrooms – covering almost all the grades across a number of schools.  Here are a few of my quick takes of things that have stood out as I have spent time with these classes:

Learning is happening outdoors.  Two of the experiences I have been part of have been completely outdoors (and both times in the rain).  No longer is outdoor learning reserved for just PE – in the classes I was part of, students were doing science, math and social studies outside.

Students (at least at elementary)are regularly given breaks to get some exercise.  It might be jumping jacks or doing a lap of the school in-between lessons.  There is a real appreciation that students can only spend so long sitting in one spot.

Cell phones are not distracting.  I know this goes against the conventional wisdom out there.  In the various high school classes I have been in so far, I have not really noticed them.  It may be because of the expectations created in the classes or schools, or because of the high level of engagement in the lesson but I have not seen students on their mobile devices.

Google Classroom just is. I am so impressed with how seamlessly teachers move from their digital spaces to the face-to-face.  And students (at least those in upper intermediate and high school) have all had devices and they are managing their various class spaces.  In three different classes I have seen students co-creating online with shared documents in class.

There is a great sense of independence and guidance.  I have seen a number of classes where teachers have set the learning goals and then students are working at their own pace.  It is true differentiation in class with students at different places and working at different speeds and the teacher acting as a resource when needed.

Students are wrestling with big issues.  Whether it is power and authority as it relates to the History of Residential Schools for intermediate students or math students collectively tackling real world problems, students are getting time to unpack big, hard questions and work through them with other students.

Grade 9 is still grade 9.  I have been with three different groups of grade 9 students so far.  And there have been some awesome things in each of the classes.  There have also been examples of students pretending to work when the teacher comes over, boys responding to a teacher prompt with a joke in an attempt to impress their friends, and a variety of other 14-year-old behaviour.  It is good to know that some things don’t really change.

Self-regulation strategies are everywhere.  I am always interested in what, if anything, is on the walls in classrooms.  In every elementary classroom so far there have been some sort of cues around self-regulation – whether it is reminders of breathing exercises or the zones of regulation, there are visual reminders for students about how to get in the zone for learning.

These are early days, and a side benefit of these visits is probably a lot of blog posts topics to keep me busy this year.  I am so impressed with the confidence of our students and the passion of our teachers.  It is very reaffirming.

My Paul Simon Post

It is hard to believe it has taken my 329 posts to finally have one about Paul Simon. On the occasion of his latest album, In The Blue Light, seemed like the right time.

I should preface this by acknowledging my extreme bias. Paul Simon has been my favourite artist since elementary school. I have grown up with his music and in recent years his concerts have taken me from Oregon to Montana to Nevada.

As has been widely reported, Simon is retiring from touring this month after a final set of concerts in the United States.  And just as he is retiring he has released his latest album. None of the ten songs on his album are actually brand new, they are rather new arrangements of songs (at times including new lyrics) which Simon has described as clarifying these songs, and sharing with the audience works that may have just disappeared (they are not typically in the 50 or so Paul Simon songs one hears on the radio or at concerts) but they have been given new life.

Randy Lewis described the project in the LA Times:

The project constitutes a rare instance of a pop musician engaging in a practice more common for visual artists, who sometimes return to a particular work time and again, adding a new color, shape or texture in the pursuit of some ever-evolving ideal. It’s the polar opposite of one fundamental aspect of recorded music, which freezes songs at a specific moment in time.

This quote, and really this project, got me thinking and connecting to some of what we are trying to do in education.  Listening to Simon talk about the project made me think what he has doing at 76 is what we want students to do with their work in school as teenagers and pre-teenagers.

We really freeze things in time in education.

Assignments are submitted and that is that.  A mark is given and everyone moves on to the next assignment.

I have written before about portfolios, capstones, passion projects and other similar experiences that pull together learning across disciplines and across time.  Another theme that I have also covered is the efforts to make grading less an event and more of an ongoing conversation.  These conversations are about doing what Simon has done with his music – learning does not stop when a song is written or an assignment is submitted, there is great power in the ongoing tinkering.  Teaching students to be curious about re-imagining something they have written before in English, or coded before Digital Arts, or played before in band is really powerful.

I still remember a speech from my first-year History professor.  He said that if we used any parts of essays we submitted in high school for our assignments in his class that was plagiarism and we could receive a zero on the assignment and in the course.  More than twenty-five years later that still strikes me as odd.  There should be a place for taking one‘s work and making it better.  And it was my own work.  There could be great value in redoing an assignment in subsequent years, taking new learning and new perspectives and applying them.

I find with my work on this blog I often take posts I have previously written and re-think them with new perspective and in a new time. When I look at some of the posts I am most proud of, many have been the ones that were published a second-time – they are a little more clear in thinking, a little more thoughtful and better express the message I intended.

If one of the greatest songwriters of our lifetime can find ways to bring greater clarity to his work, it seems we all can.  Hopefully the trends continue and students in our schools will have more of these opportunities of continual refinement.

PS – You can listen to the new Paul Simon Album here for free – well worth it!

Shocking, but sometimes I am wrong.

Part of the job of the Superintendent, as I have described it, is to be looking around the corner at what is coming next. And I like to think I am often on-point with this crystal-ball gazing, but in case you might not know – sometimes my predictions have not hit the mark. As we start the new school year, let me share six examples of my mistakes:

1) Fencing – I got the idea to write this current post while writing a reference letter for Igor Gantsevich the head of our fencing academy.  I remember when Igor met me five years ago, and said he was going to build a fencing academy.  I was polite, but I was thinking “he is crazy”.  Maybe baseball, soccer, or hockey – but fencing?  Well five years later we have 31 students in our fencing academy and fencing is integrated into schools across the district.  The lesson here was to always invest in quality people.  We gave fencing a try because of Igor – he was a high character person with a great passion and drive.  Almost nobody could have done what he has done – and proved me very wrong. (HERE is a more complete post I wrote in 2014 on The Fencing Phenomenon.)

2)  Blogs – I have covered this one a bit before.  This is year 9 for the Culture of Yes, and I thought when I started, I love writing, and sharing and engaging with a public audience, so everyone else will as well.  Well, sort of.  We do have a lot of staff and students who keep a regular blog, but they have not become the “home base” as I might have thought they would for everyone in our district.  The lesson here was to be careful about absolutes – blogs can be a great way to connect with a larger audience, but they are not the only way, and not the way that make some people comfortable. (HERE is a piece from 2016 where I began to recognize that Maybe I Was Wrong About Blogging).

3)  Portfolios – When the 2004 graduation program was implemented, it included a portfolio requirement for all students.  Despite the initial excitement (I was part of that), within a couple of years, the portfolio requirement was removed.  I still think portfolios were a great idea (and are a great idea), but in 2004 I underestimated two key facts – the technology was not robust enough in schools to allow viable e-portfolio options and people were left to traditional binders which was cumbersome, and too little thought was really given to how best to integrate portfolios into the traditional high school program.  It was felt to be an add-on for students and staff.  Fifteen years later, and I think we are getting in right with elementary e-portfolio solutions like Fresh Grade – and the secondary efforts around Capstone projects. (HERE is a 2015 post on Bringing It All Together).

4)  Letter Grades –  I am more conservative on this issue than many people around me.  When we began to remove letter grades in grades 4-7 I expected a huge push-back.  It has not materialized.  Really, no letter grades has just become the norm.  My mistake here was underestimating the sophistication of our parents, and the trust they place in our teachers and schools.  Parents want timely, relevant feedback from the teacher and ways to support their child at home, and they trust schools are using the best research in making their decisions. (HERE in 2015 I described this conversation as A Healthy Tension).

5) – Discretionary Days –  I heard the push for discretionary days in the last couple rounds of contract negotiations.  I kept wondering where this was coming from.  While there is almost no flexibility in timing, those of us in education, have time at Christmas, Spring Break and in the Summer, which is a luxury many professions do not enjoy.  I thought the option of taking unpaid days throughout the school year is something nobody would take.  I was very wrong.  Apparently a lot of people will take days to attend a wedding, go on a trip with family or otherwise take time at a non-prescribed time of year.  I think I really underestimated the changing nature of our workforce – flexibility is something that is increasingly important – even if it means a bit less money.  As so many other professions are becoming more flexible, that is rarely possible in education, but administrators, teachers, and support staff share a mindset with those outside our profession that flexibility is a key driver for their work.

6)  Price of Computers –  I think it was 2002 when I was saying, within a couple of years you will be able to buy a computer for the price of a calculator.  Well, computer prices have definitely come down, but not to the point I would have hoped.  Most families are still spending at least $300-$400 for a computer that they use at school, and some are spending much more.  I think my error here was getting caught up in the hype around the One Laptop Per Child initiative and saw this as the start of a trend that never really took hold.  I do continue to believe that for students from about grade 4 up we need to find ways to get them regular access to a device whenever they need it, but unfortunately it is a more expensive proposition than I would have hoped.

We can’t always be right.  As I look at these six, it is interesting to see the biases I had as I looked at each of these ideas.

So, here is to another year of trying to look around the corner at what is coming next, and maybe being wrong once in a while, but like the students we work with – hopefully I will keep learning from successes and failures.

Save Your Books

This summer I have been on the hunt for Mel Martin Baseball Mysteries.

Actually my hunt for books in this series began in about 1982.  The Mel Martin series of books that combined baseball and mystery are a series of six – the first two published in 1947 and the other four published in 1952 and 1953.  Several writers contributed to them under the pseudonym “John R. Cooper”.

In 1982 I had two the books in the series, and they were treasured possessions.  They were my dad‘s from his childhood.  They had survived a fire that burned down his house as a child, and made it into my hands in elementary school.  In 1982, at age 9,  I was not much of a reader.  I was a struggling reader.  I remember being teased and marginalized in grade 1 for my weak skills.  My parents helped me every night.  My dad and I would read Hardy Boys books together.  In the beginning he would read them to me, and then over time we would read the books together – alternating pages we would read. Having read all the Aunt Gertrude and Chet Morton we could find (I loved the characters names in the Hardy Boys) we picked up The Mystery at the Ball Park.  Nothing like a book that combined the mystery of the Hardy Boys with my love of sports!

It was pretty cool that I was reading the same books in my childhood that my dad read when he was a child.  The books opened up conversations about growing up.  The language of the books (I still remember they called a fastball a speedball in the stories) were an entry point into the time of my dad‘s youth.  After reading the first two books I remember we spent a Saturday afternoon searching the used bookstores of Vancouver for the other four in the series listed on the dust cover of the ones we had.  There was no Amazon to search – so our search turned up empty.

Fast forward to this summer.

A home renovation unearthed some treasures, including the two Mel Martin baseball stories.  They had moved with me from my parents but been unopened in likely 35 years.  I passed them along to my younger son.  He loved them.

So, the hunt from 1982 picked up again searching for the other four books.

Of course the world-wide web has made this kind of searching a little easier.  We were able to find two at Powell‘s Books in Portland and pick them up while visiting the area.  Finishing those, a few more hours of internet searching found the other two at used books stores in Chicago and Miami.  And while the shipping fees were far more than the cost of the books, it was totally worth it.

My son loved the books.  And owning and reading all six – there was a sense of closure and completion.

The books opened up a conversation about my childhood with my son.

The books opened up a conversation with my son about his grandfather.

They were way more than just baseball mysteries.

I am so thankful my grandparents held onto my parents books from their childhood.  And I am so lucky my mom saved all of the books from my childhood.  We have hundreds of young persons‘ books on our shelves at home that moved from my parents house, many that had moved from their parents houses.  Some people fill their shelves with photos or trinkets from various adventures – we fill ours with books – they are our link to our history.

So, save your books.

I am not sure what this will mean in a digital age. I do not think this really works with e-books. And we use libraries, but we also buy a lot of books.  And we do not tend to give them away.  They are windows into the time we bought them, read them and shared them.  And we can hope that one day our grandkids are reading Hardy Boys, Mel Martin, and Harry Potter and the many other current day books our kids are reading.

I know my dad would be smiling knowing my kids are veracious readers – and some of his books are part of this story.