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We're born into this world and we each have to find our way, our place. For some it's easier than others, but we all have to do it. Schools teach kids the basics of science, math, reading and writing. But they don't teach much about life. We just expect kids to "pick it up" along the way.
Research shows it's critical to get kids thinking early about what's important to them and why. Setting and striving for goals helps children learn responsibility, how to break a large task into manageable steps, how to work with others to get what you want, how to handle stress, what's realistic and what may not be, and to believe in who you are and what you can accomplish.
In the LifeDreams workshops I do, I've come up with a simple three-step approach to getting young people thinking about their life dreams: 1) discuss; 2) discover; 3) do. The steps aren't necessarily sequential; you can move back and forth between them.
You have to start by opening an ongoing discussion about life, dreams, and goals. That's a pretty big topic though!
The book is a great starting point. It can be awkward to just say, "So, let's talk about your life." A book gives you a way to open a discussion and something to refer to that comes from someplace other than a parent's or teacher's personal opinion. The book is also a way to approach the topic in a way that's not "preachy" or "teachy."
celebrates the complex journey of life, highlighting all the hopes and dreams found along the way. It's about our personal, individual journey living our life, within the broader context of everything that has come before us and everything that will come after us. It's a gorgeous book that draws in children and adults through the richly-detailed art. It's illustrated by 15 top world illustrators, including two-time Caldecott Medal winners Leo and Diane Dillon. Picture books are an art form that reaches all ages. We live in a visual age, and art has the power to inspire. combines art and words to reach both your right and left brain. It has a poetic, multilayered story as well as quotes from historical leaders, innovators, and philosophers.
A picture book like is a concise way to introduce big ideas, like the choices and challenges we all face as we live our lives. Even high school courses – and some university courses – use picture books as a way to spark conversation on complex topics.
is multilayered. It has a simple story to it, accessible to younger children. But it also offers something deeper for older children and teens – and something new each time you open it. It's based on social science research and gets to the core essences of living and dreaming. It distills it all down to the basics that you can build on. For example, a very simple summary of all the social science research that's been done on how people achieve their dreams is "believe, do, think." As the text in says, that's "simple and not so simple all at once."
gives you all the basics, but it's in a form that adults and children can explore and read again and again. The idea is to bring yourself, your own experiences, and your own meaning to it. Lists and tips and information may or may not get into your head. But a story gets to your head through your heart, and what ends up in your head that way is more likely to be meaningful and memorable to you.
I encourage parents, grandparents, and teachers to explore and discuss with children and even teenagers. How well this works with teens depends on the relationship you have with a child and whether reading together has been established as a family pattern. I'm a big believer in reading aloud, even with older kids. Reading can take the form of family members sharing interesting parts of books they're reading, reading letters and e-mails that come into the household from extended family, reading articles from newspapers and the Internet, even sharing a cartoon you think is funny. I also love picture books as a quick family read for all ages. I know of some families who have a holiday tradition in which all generations share a favorite picture book after the meal. Some families, even those with older children, buy a special "Christmas" book every year and it's always a picture book. If these sorts of things happen in your household, then reading together is a natural extension. If they don't happen, you may want to start. You can also introduce the book in another way...
As an adult, buy for yourself. Leave it lying around your house. Pick it up casually every once in a while and read one of the quotes aloud and ask your kids what they think. Or talk about one part of the story and how it relates to something in your life. If you feel you absolutely can't even start this kind of discussion with your teen, then talk to your spouse or a friend in front of your teen so that they overhear the conversation. Open a discussion some way, somehow, and have it originate from the book. You may then find that your teen picks up the book when you're not looking and flips through it (I know a high school teacher who has a shelf of picture books in her class and finds that students "peek" at them when no one is watching).
Part of the discussion step includes not only getting young people to think about the hopes and dreams they have for themselves, but also for our world. There's a "big picture" aspect to dreams that you can explore using news headlines as a starting point. What bothers kids about the "way the world is" and what's happening in it? How would they like to make the world a better place?
So, you've opened a discussion. The next step is "discover." The process of discovery is also an ongoing one. The goal is to be able to answer certain questions. Your child may not have all the answers now, and answers may change over time. The important thing is to think about the questions.
What dreams does your child have? What do they want for themselves, their family, and their world? As says, "little dreams and big dreams" are important. Why are certain dreams and goals important to your child? What values do they represent? How does your child define "success" – money? friends? achievements? Ask them to name three people they feel are "successful" and explain why. What career or job are they interested in?
Children should begin becoming aware of their dreams and goals by talking to adults, pursuing hobbies and personal interests, reading books, surfing the Internet, watching documentaries, and doing some writing, perhaps in a daily journal. Older children can look for summer jobs in areas they're interested in.
It's also important to create a positive learning environment at home. Research shows that children raised in homes in which education is a high priority perform better academically and are more focused. Commented one teen in a workshop, "If the adults don't care, why should I?" Some tips: