Why You Should Expand Your Vocabulary

expand your vocabulary

Do you find yourself utilizing the same word repeatedly? Do you have a hard time expressing yourself clearly? Have you ever wanted to find a more direct way to speak or convey your thoughts to others? All of these happenings and thoughts could be clues that you desire to expand your vocabulary.

But these aren’t the only reasons people should actively work towards refining and expanding their language ability. In fact, they only scratch the surface in terms of reasons for anyone to actively seek to improve their communication skills and expand their vocabulary. From advancing your communication skills, to connecting to people, to having a deeper understanding of the world around you, there are practical and beneficial reasons for actively expanding your vocabulary.

Words Are Our Tools

“Words are instruments, they are tools that, in their different ways, are as effective as any sharp edge or violate chemical. They are, like coins, items of great value, but they represent a currency that, well spent, returns ever greater riches.”

Tim Radford, Address Book: Our Place in the Scheme of Things

Words (after individual letters) are the basic tools humans have for conveying our messages to each other. The words that we choose to use and the way we string them together make all the difference between a message being clearly received by the recipient, or not. The idea that words can be used as social tools is explored in the linked psychology paper.

Think about a time that you had to have a difficult conversation with someone – perhaps with a boss or a loved one that you were upset with but didn’t want to hurt. When it was your turn to speak, did you angrily say whatever words came to mind recklessly? Or were you careful, pausing before speaking to ensure your message was delivered gently? Believe it or not, even if on a subconscious level, you understood in these situations that your words were powerful and had the ability to either make or break the situation.

Salespeople are a group of people that are acutely aware of the power of words. They are trained, or some instinctively know, to stay away from words that sow doubt in the minds of their buyers and will tend to use words that breed positivity or make a buyer feel good about what they are buying.

In each of these instances, the respective speakers are aware of how their words can affect the outcome of the situations in which they are participating. Whether it is completing a sale or having a heart to heart with a loved one, or conducting a professional conversation at work, the words used during these conversations are important, and most people understand this – even if it isn’t something they actively think about.

Expanding your vocabulary to be able to use the precise word needed in any given situation can greatly increase your chances have having the situation work in your favor.

“Language is the key to the heart of people.”
― Ahmed Deedat

When working to connect with people, the words that we use can help bring those connections closer.

Perhaps you have heard the idiom, “you are speaking my language.” There is so much truth to that phrase and there are instances where knowing the vocabulary of the person with whom you are speaking will undoubtedly help you to connect with that person and ultimately achieve whatever objective you are seeking.

Perhaps it is simply to make new friends, court a significant other, complete a sale, or successfully deliver a persuasive message to different people, speaking the language of the people with whom you are trying to connect can lead to better results.

One of the best ways to “speak the language” of your audience is to learn the basis of their language – their vocabulary. So if that person is into music, social justice, manages a company or had a different point of view than you, you need find the way they speak or think, and cater your message to that way of thinking. That task will include needing to understand their vocabulary and the concepts to which they subscribe. But of course, their concepts might be explained using specialized jargon – jargon that you would need to know in order to connect with your audience.

If you want to connect with different people, for any reason, expanding your vocabulary to knowing and understanding theirs is the first best step.

“So avoid using the word ‘very’ because it’s lazy. A man is not very tired, he is exhausted. Don’t use very sad, use morose. Language was invented for one reason, boys – to woo women – and, in that endeavor, laziness will not do. It also won’t do in your essays.”
― N.H. Kleinbaum, Dead Poets Society

As the late, great Robin William’s character Mr. Kleinbaum so eloquently proclaimed in the above quote – using less advanced vocabulary is in some ways an act of laziness. Especially given the technological advances that have flourished since that inspirational film was released.

Finding the exact word needed to properly convey one’s thoughts is easier than ever now that the internet and Google have been invented. And when it comes to wording a message in the exact way needed to meet an objective, taking a few seconds, or minutes, to search the right word is the least that could be done to get the message right.

Sometimes, crafting a message, even in everyday discussion, can be a labor of love. Adequately preparing can reap rewards ten-fold.

Do your self a favor, take the advice of Mr. Kleinbaum, and use the appropriate advanced word to further your message. Take the time to expand your vocabulary and you can’t go wrong.

“A man with a scant vocabulary will almost certainly be a weak thinker. The richer and more copious one’s vocabulary and the greater one’s awareness of fine distinctions and subtle nuances of meaning, the more fertile and precise is likely to be one’s thinking. Knowledge of things and knowledge of the words for them grow together. If you do not know the words, you can hardly know the thing.”
― Henry Hazlitt, Thinking as a Science

It can be argued that the more words you know, the more minutely concepts could be understood which ultimately results in a more robust knowledge base. Just like words are the basic building blocks of communication between humans, they are also the basic building blocks of our knowledge and our thoughts. The higher level verbiage we use translates into a higher level thoughts and thought processes. These higher level thought processes can lead to an expanded understanding.

One example that illustrates this point is the way most science text books are set up. At the beginning of every chapter is a list of vocabulary words that will be utilized during the chapter study. Understanding the meaning of those words and the context in which they are used will help a student to understand the material better.

While it is true that everyone has different learning strategies, I am hoping that I presented enough evidence here to support the idea that expanding your vocabulary is a beneficial activity that can help enhance your life in many ways. From creating or deepening personal relationships to achieving goals and having a deeper understanding about the world around you, expanding your vocabulary is the best first step anyone can take to increase their knowledge.

Do you agree? Do you think it is beneficial to expand your vocabulary? Why or why not?

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Filed under Language Arts, Learning Guides, Vocabulary Words

How to Participate in a Book Club

So you joined a book club, now what?

Perhaps a friend or coworker suggested a book club for you, or there is a book that you have wanted to read for a while and coincidentally an organization is running a book club with your book of choice, so you signed up.

But now the pressure is on. What is the best way to participate and contribute to the book club?

First and foremost, unless you have signed up for a particular duty related to the book club, your main goal for the book club should be your own personal enrichment. It is okay to be selfish with this! You want to get the most out of this book club for yourself. If you do this well, you will find that oddly, it could help others in the group.

What Tools Do You Need

  1. Time – This seems obvious, but be sure to give yourself time to read the book, but also enough time to digest what you read. I will detail this further later in this blog.
  2. Physical notebook or digital notebook – you want to use this tool to gather your thoughts about the reading piece.
  3. The book- you don’t necessarily need to purchase it. You can borrow from the library or a friend.

Get the Most Out of It

“To read without thinking is like eating without digesting.” –Edmund Burke

  1. If your book club provides guide questions, by all means use them! You want to read the guide questions before each chapter. Then, while reading try to find the answers to those questions. Doing this could prepare you for the discussion when the book club meets.
  2. When you are reading, if there is something that really moves you, take a moment to write about it in your physical or digital notebook. Perhaps it is a line that makes you think deeply; or it resonates with something that happened in your own life. Either way, when what you are reading evokes a strong emotion in you, take the time to explore that emotion and write about it. You should notate the particular quote that had an effect on you, along with the page number. The write your thoughts. Some writing prompts for that activity are as follows:
    • This quote made me (angry, sad, happy, nostalgic, etc.) because……
    • This quote reminded me of a time when x happened to me……
    • This saying reminded me of my (friend, family member, loved one, etc.)
    • This quote reminded me of a scene in another book I read. Compare the two.
  3. Write down any questions you have. Maybe something that a character does makes no sense to you. Write a question about it. Maybe you question why the author made a particular choice? Write that question down and bring it to the discussion. You never know, someone else in the group may have the same questions.
  4. Summarize each chapter when its done. If you take no other notes, a great way to take organized notes is to simply summarize each chapter once complete. Doing so can help you navigate through the book quickly while discussing.

What if you Didn’t Read the Book?

Don’t panic. It’s okay – it happens sometimes. Still attend the meeting. If you are put on the spot, just be honest. But listen to what other people have to say about the book. Even though you didn’t read it, listening to other people’s insight can still help you have an understanding of the themes and lessons learned through the story or narrative. And perhaps it will motivate you to read the book. 🙂

I hope that this covers the basics of participating in a book club. If you have any questions or need some further advise, feel free to comment below.

Happy Reading!

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How to Overcome Reading Challenges

One of the biggest challenges I have heard people express about reading is being able to stay focused to complete the paragraph, page, chapter or – the entire book. Even if it is a book or article that covers a topic that readers have an interest in, they still can’t seem to find a way to stay focused.

If this describes your reading experience, don’t worry – you are not alone.

The good news is there are several strategies you can utilize to break through this reading setback.

  1. Set your reading environment. If reading is truly a challenge for you, take the extra step of making your reading time and environment conducive to your goal. Sit somewhere that is comfortable and quiet. Make sure the electronics are off or set on silent. Perhaps you could put some peaceful instrumental music on low volume for background noise, if you feel it won’t be a distraction for you. Have any beverages such as coffee, tea, water – or wine if you are of age, and your snack of choice within arms reach to limit any need to get up in the middle of your reading session.
  2. Set your reading intention– Before you start reading, close your eyes, breath deeply for a few breaths. Tell yourself, either in your mind or out loud, “I will read 10 pages today,” or whatever the goal is for the reading session. Say it at least three times. Open your eyes and get to work.
  3. Use your finger to guide your eyes. This may seem like a juvenile method, but it really works well. Sometimes our eyes are lazy. It is so easy for them to wonder to any little distraction that makes its way into your reading environment. By using your finger as your guide, you are forcing yourself to stay focused on each word as your finger passes it. If you are new to reading, do this exercise for short time. For example, perhaps just have the goal to do this with three sentences at a time. Then work your way up to a paragraph at a time. Then two paragraphs and so on until you feel comfortable with it.
  4. Use guide questions – Now that we have found a way to keep our eyes from wandering, we have to find a way to keep our mind focused. Guide questions are a great way to do that. Generally you want to read guide questions before you start reading. The goal is to find the answers to the guide questions while reading. In this way, you are giving your brain a job to do. Reading then becomes a way to find specific information, rather than an activity of deciphering what feels like random information.
  5. Creating questions– If guide questions are unavailable, create your own questions. This can be done by turning chapter heading and subheadings into questions. Then dedicate your reading time to finding answers those questions. Additionally, you can use the 5W questions (who, what, where, when and why) plus how, to create questions for yourself before you begin each and every reading segment. When you take this route, sometimes you will find the answer and sometimes you wont, but either way, it gives your mind a job to do while reading, which can make it easier to focus.

If you aren’t a fluent reader, getting into reading may take some intention and work. However, once you overcome those challenges, reading can be rewarding. Being able to learn on your own time is empowering as is using your brain to complete all the complex processes involved in learning new information through reading.

I do hope these tips work for you! Feel free to comment your experience below.

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What is Metacognition?

If you have ever declared you are a “hands- on learner,” or knew that you learn by reading, doing, writing, or discussing with someone, congratulations, you have taken part in metacognitive thinking! Essentially, metacognition is having an awareness of how you learn. It is when someone takes the time to think about how they think.

By taking the time to think about how you learn and then utilizing strategies that are most effective for your learning style, you are setting yourself up for a more successful learning experience than someone who doesn’t use metacognitive skills.

If you are looking to improve your metacognition skills, there are three areas that you can focus on: planning, monitoring, evaluating. (Teal, 2012) For the sake of this article, we will use the activity of researching a new topic as a guide for implementing these three steps.


Metacognitive planning means to identify the task at hand as well as the resources, tools or strategies needed to complete it. One technique is to ask questions to confirm understanding. For example, in order to identify the task at hand, ask yourself, “what exactly does my teacher, manager, coworker or teammate need from me?” Ask for confirmation if you aren’t certain you understand what is being asked. It seems like a simple step, but making sure you understand what is asked of you will save you from wasting time working on unnecessary tasks. Sometimes I employ this question before asking any other questions. Make sure you know your objective.

The next stage of planning is identify what process needs to be completed in order to accomplish the task or similarly what tools are needed to meet an objective. Sometimes this understanding may be immediate. For example, a student proficient at locating information in a textbook will use headings and subheadings to quickly identify information asked of them. Similarly, an HR admin may automatically know which programs to use to pull an employee time report without giving it too much thought. Other times, the process or tools needed to meet an objective are not so apparent.

If you are presented with a new situation and aren’t sure how to proceed, go down the checklist of questions below.

1. Confirm the intended outcome.

2. Identify the best processes and tools needed to accomplish the outcome.

3. If you are having trouble with step 2, solicit assistance from your classmates, coworkers, teacher or managers.

So, if you were tasked with writing a paper – and you never wrote a paper, nor do you know anything about the topic at hand, your first step would be to 1. write down all the questions you have about the topic and 2. write down all the resources you may want to consult in order to find answers to your questions. The list of resources you create may look something like this:

  1. Library -physical or digital
    1. section of library that’s relevant to your paper topic
  2. Websites – usually ones ending in .gov or .org
  3. Peer-Reviewed Journals
  4. Individuals to interview
  5. Associations dedicated the topic.


Monitoring can be challenging step in the metacognition process because one has to objectively record what takes place during the process of completing the task at hand.

As you work through your project, either keep a mental note or actually record the steps you take while completing the project, along with the results of each step. This can be done with journal-style entries or with a form specifically created to record data.

If you have ever participated in the scientific process, this step is exactly the same as recording the results. The only difference is you are the basis of the science project, which can make it difficult if this is the first time you are observing yourself.

It may be helpful to create a data recording sheet, that outlines objective questions and outcomes, prior to commencing the project. This will help keep assessments objective.

In the case of writing a paper, a way to monitor what is working in your research approach would be to record how useful each resource is in answering the questions you have about your topic. You could create an excel spreadsheet, word document or a learning journal that records the outcome of each resource used. The notes you take could be as detailed as you would like, however the more detailed the notes are, the better off you will be when you work on your next paper.


Finally, once your learning project is complete, it is time to review your notes and reflect on the process as a whole. You can evaluate by answering some basic questions, as outlined below, or reflect in a journal-style entry. After reviewing the results of this learning project, you may want to conclude with how you can improve your learning process next time.

1. Were you successful on the first try?

2. Did you understand the task at hand?

3. Did you choose the correct tools/ resources to accomplish your task?

4. Were you partially successful? In other words, if you were to do this project, would you keep some of the strategic steps you used, while changing others.

5. Did you have to change your method or strategy mid-project?

Specifically, as it relates to researching a topic, evaluating the notes taken in the previous step can help guide the next research project. For example, did any resources lead to a dead-end? Did one type of resource prove to be more useful than originally thought? Was interviewing someone more stressful than originally thought? Take the time to review how each resource helped or hindered your research process.

All in all, taking the time to think about how you think will save you time in the future and refine your thought process on future learning projects.

Being conscious about the way you learn is a skill that you will employ each and every time you tackle a new learning project. By consistently honing your skill of learning, you will become a better learner.

But don’t just take my word for it, there are plenty of books out there that explain the learning journey of individuals as well as the mechanics of how learning occurs. Sometimes, when we read how other people worked through their learning journey, it can inspire us to take up our own.

This awesome book teaches children about the pliability of their brain with the focus of maintaining a growth mindset. This book teaches readers what their brain is capable of and tips on how to learn. Hint – it involves asking yourself questions!

If you are ready for a book with a little more substance, with techniques that dive a little further than what the tips in this article provide, this is the book for you. In this book, Saundra Yancy McGuire delves into the tried and true techniques she has used as an educator over the past decade or so. She has an entire chapter dedicated to Metacognition.

If you prefer to read about someone else’s learning journey, “The Art of Learning” by Josh Waitzkin is an excellent read. Josh was known the world over as a chess wiz kid and his story was told in the movie, “Searching for Bobby Fischer.” In this book, he details specifically how he was able to learn about chess to become a national champion, and how he applied similar strategies to later study martial arts.

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Goosebumps Book Club 2020

Learning w/ Leigh and Sub Culture present the Goosebumps Book Club for readers grades 3-5.

What better way to introduce the next generation to the excitement of the 90’s than through reading R.L. Stine’s beloved series Goosebumps in a sandwich shop that is so 90’s their menu is bound by a Trapper-Keeper?

The schedule for the book club meetings are below along with links to register for the individual club meetings as well as affiliate links to purchase the books.

October 21Welcome to Dead House – suggested sign up by October 12

November 30Stay Out of the Basement – suggested sign up by November 15

December 28 Say Cheese and Die – suggested sign up by December 12

We will kick off the book club on October 21st at 7pm at Sub Culture on 260 Newark Ave. Jersey City, however we encourage everyone to register by October 12th to give enough time to read the book.

This hybrid in-person/zoom event will have a cap of 6 in-person attendees until further notice.

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Around the World Reading Club

On September 20, 2020, Learning w/ Leigh will be launching the Sunday Morning “Around the World” Reading Club.

Each week, this reading group will travel around the world by reading one children’s literature book that represents a specific country or region of the world.

In addition to gathering via zoom at 11:00 every Sunday morning, students and parents have the option to participate in suggested activities provided by Learning w/ Leigh upon registration to the class, or to sit back and enjoy the story and participate in the discussion.

The first two Sundays are free as a kick-off special.

Starting in October, the courses will be $5 per session or $15 per month per household.

The proposed schedule thus far is outlines below. Some or all of the links below are affiliate links:

September 20 – Believe in Your Dreams by Edison Jaquez

September 27- Sonia Sotomayor: A Judge Grows in the Bronx by Jonah Winter

October 4- When Stars are Scattered Part 1 by Victoria Jamieson and Omar Mohamed

October 11- When Stars are Scattered Part 2 by Victoria Jamieson and Omar Mohamed

October 18- All About the Harvest!

October 25- It’s Halloween!

November 1- TBD

November 8- TBD

November 15- TBD

November 22-TBD

November 29- TBD

But this is only the beginning!

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Meet the Artivist

This weekend, I had the opportunity to speak with an artivist. He was captivating, passionate, knowledgeable, helpful and dedicated. During our 40 minute conversation he dropped so much knowledge on me, I felt I had taken a crash course on the modern civil rights movement that included historical and political facts sprinkled in for fun. He proudly announced that his home town of Paterson, NJ was a stop in the Underground Railroad and that it was the birthplace of the American Industrial Revolution, and that is just the tip of the iceberg.

Not only was I thankful to have learned from him, but I was motivated and inspired by the energy and dedication Jaquair Gillette puts into his words when discussing causes that mean the most to him. He has a way of communicating the heart of issues he is focused on that makes you understand their urgency and want to help.

The Issues that Matter to Jaquair Gillette

Where can I begin?  It is hard to narrow it down because Gillette is well versed in almost every social ill that is occurring in our modern society. From Walmart’s methods of double dipping from the government purse, to the gentrification of New Jersey, socialism for the rich, individualism for the non-rich, equal justice, economic inclusion and assassination politics, he is basically a walking encyclopedia of social justice knowledge.

Not only is he aware of the issues, but he can point you in the direction of an organization that works to fix the issues he is concerned about. He doesn’t just talk. In the past he has been involved in petitioning for various causes, donating to causes and participating in the marches and rallies from New York to, Washington D.C and Los Angeles. He stays involved in the issues through both his art and the work he does his community. 

Through our conversation, Gillette discussed organizations that are involved with equal justice and economic inclusion.

Equal Justice organizations:

Economic Inclusion organizations/activities:

One of the ways that Gillette advocate for these causes is through an organization he founded with two friends called, “The R.E.B.E.L. Experience.”

What is The R.E.B.E.L. Experience?

As described on their Facebook page,”The R.E.B.E.L. Experience as being created to produce creative content that not only entertains, but inspires, culturally and morally educates, and elevates the beauty and truth of the human experience and its possibilities through film, television, theatre, new media, art and music.”  R.E.B.E.L. is an acronym for Reach Everyone by Expressing Life. And they live up to their name.

One look through their Facebook profile and YouTube page, it is clear they like to keep their finger on the pulse of conscious art of the local, grassroots variety. They advocate for the arts, perform at venues in the city and in New Jersey, showcase different types of art such as graffiti and the spoken word and so much more.

The organization was founded in 2012 with three founders Jaquair Gillette,  Akiba Rhodes and Sean English. The three founders are surrounded by a family of individuals who make up the crew – operating the cameras, sound and lighting equipment. Since its foundation they have worked to produce enlightening content that uplifts local individuals and projects a message of hope and guidance for those wishing to get involved in the various causes that are showcased in R.E.B.E.L.’s films.

They have a talk series called “The Soapbox” that delves into social issues and concepts that relate to artists defining who they are and the importance of their craft, individual spoken word pieces advocating positive life choices, local art shows and activities of local artists. In many ways the organization’s YouTube page is like looking through a window into the world of elevated, conscious, uplifting artistry.

“3rd & 4th Chapters”

R.E.B.E.L.’s  latest work “3rd & 4th Chapters”  was inspired by the plan to obtain civil rights and full immersion into American society for black Americans as outlined by the late Corretta Scott King. Chapters 1 and 2 of the plan have already been accomplished. Chapter 1 is ending slavery and Chapter 2 is ending the Jim Crow laws of the South. Chapter 3 – Equal Justice and Chapter 4 – Economic Inclusion are still outstanding.

The short film follows a character who grew up in a rough area, but was able to achieve success. He works hard to bring positive change to his old neighborhood, yet faces unforeseen obstacles from unlikely places. Ultimately, life changing choices must be made by unsuspecting people that will either help or hinder the cause. The film will have you guessing until the end what will happen.

“3rd and 4th Chapters” is a powerful reminder that even though so much time has passed since Chapter 3 and Chapter 4 were outlined by Mrs. King, fulfilling those chapters have not and will not be a straight line from point A to point B.  There will be obstacles, some from outside a community and some inside the community. However, change is inevitable as long as people stay dedicated to the cause.

Gillette’s hope when making this film is to bring awareness to the challenges that face people who have the desire to bring positive change to under-served communities; the goal is also to motivate people to get involved with helping to fulfill the remaining chapters as outlined by Mrs. King. There is so much work to be done and every little bit helps.

What is next for The R.E.B.E.L. Experience?

With their latest project only having dropped less than two weeks ago, the group has several projects already in the works.

Several projects are in the works. One, a short film entitled 21 Eagles, which is a piece that coincides as one of several prequel pieces to a later feature heist film entitled Jersey Auto. The feature will film showcase the cultural institutions and characteristics that make the state unique while addressing and economic issue that effects small businesses and consumers alike. 21 Eagles is inspired by true events and the effects of gentrification of the state. The film will touch upon the “Home Rule” in New Jersey that has allowed for the creation of a staggering number of municipalities that all require state resources to keep afloat.

What is Jaquair Gillette up to Next?

Jaquair will continuously be working to create and connect with people who create things that matter. He has a spoken word performance coming up at the Nuyorican Poet’s Cafe on April 18, 2020. He also will be acting in a short 5 episode web series titled, “The American Jungle.” A great way to keep up with him is to follow his Facebook page.

And last but not least, he would like to give a shout out to the Sophisticated Sisters of Omega Phi Chi!

Thank you, Ja. We appreciate it. 😉

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Happy Black History Month!

Happy Black History Month!

Happy Black History Month, everyone! With this February being a leap year, we get one extra day to enjoy great novels, poems, plays and essays written by authors such as Langston Hughes, Ralph Ellison and Frederick Douglas, Barack Obama, Toni Morrison, Alice Walker, James Baldwin, Maya Angelou, Angie Thomas, Ta-Nehisi Coates, Christopher Priest and many, many more. I am very excited!

This February, commit to celebrating Black History Month! Take time to read a book, poetry, essay of a new Black author – or your favorite author. Below you will find a list of books, websites, plays and events happening in February 2020. In honor of Black History Month, I have gathered some resources and compiled the below list describing how you can celebrate Black History Month:

  1. Read!! – Read as much as you can. All different genres – both fiction and non fiction. Below are Booklists to get you started.

2. Write about what you read! Whether you write a full essay in your journal or on your blog, post about it on facebook, twitter, instagram, snapchat, or text a friend or participate in an online group – react to what you read.

The response should explain how the particular writing changed your perspective or made you feel. Or you can compare what you read to a similar experience yours. There are no real parameters or requirements for the response. Just your personal reaction to what you read, in what ever form that takes.

3. Go to one of these events:

4. Tell a friend!! The works of literary art and historical documentation are important for everyone to read, understand and appreciate!

So how are you celebrating Black History Month? Learning w/ Leigh is offering a book club for children entitled African American Heroes. I hope to see you there.

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News Literacy Skill Building

As with any learning goal, working towards becoming news literate is a self-propelled process that takes commitment and vigilance.  Plotting out a strategy or to-do list can be a helpful guide to move through the layers of understanding.

Before you embark on this journey, however, understand that becoming news literate isn’t a simple skill that can be applied absent mindedly, like learning how to ride a bike or make a grilled cheese sandwich. Going though the process of becoming news literate will involve first facing the fact that, most likely, there will be a process of unlearning. Given how polarized Americans are, there is a good chance that some of the beliefs you espouse are biased.  And that is okay. We all have been influenced in one way or the other over the last decade or so. Just know that while working to be news literate, you may have to face your own bias. Be ready.

Now that you know what you are going to face, how do you create a learning strategy to master news literacy? Well to start off, you need to know where you are to understand where you have to go. The first step would be to assess your current level of news literacy.

STEP 1: What is my current news literacy skill level?

When it comes to learning anything new, any teacher, tutor or coach will want to assess a new student’s baseline. They have to understand where the student’s current skill level lies in order to come up with a learning strategy.  You will have to do this for yourself. Luckily,  there is a neat online tool to test your current news literacy level. Take this quiz prepared by The News Literacy Project. It is a 12 question quiz that focuses on what reports and photo journalists are allowed to do, their sources, how to spot ads and other aspects of understanding digital information. Once you have your results the quiz will help you identify in what areas of interpreting digital information you can use assistance.

STEP 2: Where can I obtain more information?

Now that you understand where you are, it will be easier for you to know in which direction your self study needs to go. The good news is, many universities and non partisan organizations are working to fight fake and biased news and provide a plethora of information to review. Some of those organizations are outlined in a previous blog post Basic News Literacy to Combat Fake News.  For the most part, each source provides steps to take when confronted with a information that seems outrageous or questionable.

The site on which you took the original news literacy quiz is another great resource: newslit.org.  They have great articles, other quizzes, news and statistics for those learning news literacy skills.  Also, be sure to sign up for their news letter, The Sift for current examples of fake, biased or misinformation. The news letter is a great way to stay up to date on the latest falsehoods sweeping the nation.

STEP 3: Classes

If you have come this far in your journey, and still want to continue, taking a class may be a good idea for you.  Coursera.org offers a course that is developed and taught by professors from State University of New York and the University of Hong Kong.  This is a 13 hour, six week course that dives into such topics as “Where can we find trustworthy information?” and “How to apply news literacy concepts in real life?”

The course can be found here: https://www.coursera.org/learn/news-literacy

You are able to either audit the course for free, or pay for the course in order to earn the certificate, and have your assignments graded by professors, etc.

Some other online learning options include the linked resources below:

Journalism School

Digital Resource Center

STEP 4: Apply

Now that you have gathered all the tools and knowledge available at this time, it is time to apply what you have learned.  To be accurate, application should be attempted after each news literacy lesson. Seek and Find.

This, quite frankly, can be the exhausting part at first until it becomes second nature. However, if you are committed to training your brain to strain the opinions, falsehoods and bias from the information you consume, it is necessary.

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Meet the Holistic Health and Life Coach

This week, I had the opportunity to talk to Alexandra Marrero, Holistic Health and Life Coach. Alexandra has spent the last several years on a journey to understanding the mind, body, soul connection and sharing what she has learned with the clients of her wellness business Restorative Health and Wellness.

Her journey started with physical fitness. Working to make herself feel better after the weight gain that customarily comes after pregnancy and childbirth. During the process of reaching her physical goals, she realized there was much more to learn with regard to feeling the best one possibly can. Physical fitness is only one piece of the puzzle. Caring for your mind and soul is also important to feeling great and achieving optimal performance in anything you do. Below, Alexandra explains ways to work towards achieving a mind, body, soul connection.

How do you define “holistic health and life coach? A holistic health and life coach is someone who focuses on all aspects of the body and the mind instead of just focusing on the symptoms that the client is experiencing.

Do you find that people have a misconception about what you do and if so, what is that? Set the record straight!
The biggest misconception people have is equating “holistic” to “new age.” It’s not new. Holistic and alternative care has been performed for hundreds even thousands of years. People also think that because I don’t use toxic or synthetic medicine, that what I do doesn’t work or isn’t real. My goal with my clients is always to add what is missing from their life. If something is wrong, it means the body isn’t balanced. I always ask, “what form of nourishment is missing, how can we create balance?”

How did you first learn about this field? What motivated you to engage in this type of work? Learning about this field, and getting to the point that I am now, was a nine year journey and counting. It started shortly after the birth of my second son. I was depressed, overweight and in a bad place. I knew I needed to make a change. I simply could not continue living life the way I did. I hated myself for my faults. I had underlying issues stemming from watching my father not take care of himself; and ingest medicines that never fully made him better. I understood when I became older that I didn’t want to live life this way. I wasn’t sure how to escape my depression and bad feelings. I started focusing on myself physically. I went to the gym and began losing weight and weightlifting. I began to feel GREAT! I replaced my old bad habits with my new hobby – working out. Eventually I progressed to understand and apply proper holistic, nutrition and lifestyle changes to my life. Feeling better lead me to understanding my mind better. I started to know myself more and what I needed to feel balanced, Finally, I worked my way into energy work, working on my soul and total balance and alignment. It became a lifestyle for me; and I love to share it with people. 

Generally speaking, when dealing with new clients, where do you find the most deficiencies with regard to their holistic self care?
Generally speaking, most people that I come across have mind/body connection deficiencies. Even though in this day and age more people are the most conscience about mindfulness than in the past, there is still the biggest deficiency between mind/body connection. Examples of this include running oneself ragged; allowing the mind to run on overdrive leaving the body feeling exhausted and helpless and not understanding why they feel  the way they do. It is important for people to stop and listen to their mental and physical cues and respond accordingly.

What are your go-to techniques to assist your clients with rectifying these deficiencies?
The basic techniques that I regularly suggest first to reestablish the mind body connection are to meditate and journal. Just like we wash the body on a regular basis we need to wash the mind. Journaling is also a great way to obtain mental clarity. The key to journaling is to be honest with yourself. Ask yourself straight forward questions and allow yourself honest answers. Journal long enough to get your ego to step aside and allow yourself to express vulnerable feelings. Getting your troubles written on paper allows you to do it in a safe way so you don’t feel like you are spreading negativity if you were sharing your troubles with a friend. 

How can people better understand the mind, body and soul intersection?
Everything is connected. For example, if we’re not honoring our true self, or our soul, and our needs it will lower our vibration. This will affect the mind causing us to make poor decisions, and therefore the body will feel drained and can experience physical symptoms. It is a cycle.
If someone wanted to learn, on a basic level, how these three intersect, I would suggest reviewing Paul Chek’s work. He explains this concept in layman’s terms so that someone new to this doesn’t feel overwhelmed or like they have traversed into “new age” territory.

From your perspective, what are the biggest issues individuals have with mind health?  (Is this different from the term, “mental health?”)
People may prefer the term “mind health” because they don’t want to confront the stigma associated with the term “mental health,” but ultimately the biggest issues people have, that I have come across is anxiety and depression.

When it comes to caring for one’s mind, what are the top activities to maintain its wellness? 
1. Focused Breathing 2. High Vibration Food 3. Meditation and 4. CBD.

What issues will people suffer from when soul health is neglected?
Someone who neglects to take care of their soul health will suffer a domino effect of symptoms. They will vary individual to individual. They can have physical, mental and emotional symptoms. 

What wellness techniques can one implement to improve soul health?
People can meditate, set boundaries, understand their limits and honor them. Honor their wants and needs.

In what way do people neglect to take care of their soul? Out of the three areas you focus on, body is the one in which, I believe, most people think they know how to take care of. What do you find is the biggest misconception most people have about taking care of their body? “I can eat whatever I want as long as I work out.” If you put trash in your body, you will still suffer negative effects – even if you workout. You can’t out work a bad diet. 

What is your approach to finding out a new client’s actual needs vs. what they think they need?
Asking a series of questions that focus on mind, body and soul. Tap into their energy and perform energy work.

Which service of yours is most popular among your clients? Card Readings and energy work.

Is there any message you would like to give readers that the above questions don’t address? Self care is not selfish – this especially goes out to the moms and parents out there. Self care is one of the highest forms of self love. When we practice self care it allows us to be a better version of ourselves that we share with everyone! 

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