Don’t waste that time!

It’s true! Sometimes, some of us do know what we’re talking about!

Our book, “Voices Matter,” consists of people’s thoughts and opinions. When it came to the topic of youth violence, one of our members was quoted thusly (on page 48):

“If we’re looking for long term answers to the issue of youth violence, I think we need to demand more from our schools. Because children spend so much time at school, that’s where they can build their self-esteem, nurture their skills, develop their minds.”

“The school has a child for six or seven hours a day, ten months a year, and that’s a big chunk of time that can be used to counteract negative influences.”

That’s easy to say, coming from a layperson (and he knows who he is).

So take a look at what an expert has to say:

“Whatever he’s going home to, you can do the kid a heck of a lot of good six hours a day, five days a week, nine months a year … We tie our hands behind our backs when we focus primarily on things about which we can do nothing.”

The expert is Ross Greene, an American psychologist who has developed a disciplinary method that is the subject of an article in this month’s Mother Jones magazine (link posted at the end of this article).

The premise is simple: when a child mishaves, talk with him/her to figure out the reason(s) behind the behavior. Once it’s pinpointed, work with the child to develop alternative ways to deal with it next time. Sometimes, it’s no more than a child acting out because of hunger. The solution? Give them a snack.

When the child gets to discover the motivation behind their action, and develop a plan to modify it, they are rewiring their brain to act differently in the future.

This goes contrary to the belief that the only “reward” for misbehavior is punishment, but it’s tough to argue with results.

Two juvenile detention facilities adopted Greene’s methods, over the objections of staff. Both institions saw a dramatic decline in incidents, injuries (to staff and youth), and recidivism (youth returning to the institutions).

The article goes on to show how this method is working in a Maine classroom. Spoiler alert: it’s working quite well.

Maybe it’s just me, but I can’t help think that this method might be useful in our own schools. How are the schools dealing with disruptive behavior now? Doesn’t this method seem like it could produce better results?

Comments are welcome!

Here’s the link to the article:

Mother Jones article: “What If Everything You Knew About Disciplining Kids Was Wrong?”

Homeless in Jane and Finch

I just found an article that gives some insight into how youth can fall between the cracks. Naomi Nichols was researching community safety in the Jane-Finch area. She hired a sixteen year old resident as a youth researcher. Over the course of the project, this youth became homeless.

Many of the circumstances faced by this youth could take place anywhere in Toronto, but the second paragraph has particular relevance to Jane-Finch. This is where Ms. Nichols mentions how neighbourhoods like Jane-Finch are divided into area with boundaries that few youth dare cross.

The author concludes that this story “illustrates some of the interplay between housing and homelessness, education, youth justice, family dynamics, and community safety.”

It is certainly worthwhile reading for anyone interested in these subjects. Click here to read the original article

Jane-Finch mini-documentary

And now for something a little different.

This is a mini-documentary about Jane and Finch, produced by a Ryerson student, Eunice Kim. I believe it aired on the Ryerson radio station.

“I tried to capture the spirit of Jane and Finch and its amazing people through the power of radio,” wrote Eunice in her description of the clip.

She did this by talking to members of a certain Jane-Finch community group. Yes, this means you get to hear me mangle my words a few times during the course of this recording. It turns out that I’ve got a voice made for silent movies.

Obviously, I can’t really be too objective about this mini-documentary. Having admitted that, I think it’s quite polished and worth a listen.

If you like what you hear, this mini-doc was nominated for an upper-year award at Ryerson. Show Eunice your appreciation by voting for it here.

How to improve our children’s reading and writing skills?

Here is some interesting news concerning childhood literacy and education.

On February 24, 2015, there was a press conference held in Toronto to present the results of a Model School project. The Martin Aboriginal Education Initiative (MAEI) sponsored the cost of teacher training by the Ontario Institute for Studies in Education (OISE) for schools located at Walpole Island and Kettle and Stony Point First Nations in Ontario.

The program started by training the teachers how to properly instruct reading and writing. The project schools then set up a ninety minute period at the start of every day dedicated to reading and writing.

The pilot program started in 2010, and cost about 1.5 million dollars to run until it ended in 2014. Close to five hundred students from kindergarten to Grade 6 participated.

The results were eye-opening. Prior to the program, only 33 per cent of third grade students at these schools met or exceeded provincial standards for writing. Four years later, 91 per cent of Grade 3 students had met or exceeded those standards. Compare this to Ontario-wide results, where 70 percent of Grade Three students meet or surpass those standards.

OISE’s Dean Julia O’Sullivan said “the results were phenomenal by any stretch of the imagination.”

It is curious that a key component of the program was to train teachers how to properly teach reading and writing. Is this just a problem with teachers at those particular schools?

One wonders because Grade 3 results for ten schools located in the Jane-Finch area show that only six schools have 70 percent of students meeting or exceeding the standard in either reading or writing. Three schools meet the 70 percent standard for both.

What accounts for the differences? Is it a question of how various teachers have been trained? A question of how resources are shared between schools within the same area? If this pilot project was brought into these Jane-Finch schools, would we see the same “phenomenal” results?

Eliminate Food Banks!

In our book, “Voices Matter,” the subject of food banks is mentioned:

“Look at the Food Bank – now you can’t choose what you want, they give you prepackaged bags … people don’t use everything because it’s not what they like.  A lot of the cans are dented.  People don’t want dented cans because the inside of the cans are coated with chemicals …  The Food Bank gives you what they have.”

There are a host of issues that go with any food bank.  This includes collecting and storing the food, finding people to manage and distribute the operation, and the lack of choice – as mentioned above.  When you go to a food bank, you take what they give you.

How can food banks be improved?

Maybe the best improvement would be to get rid of food banks altogether.

There was a recent article in the Toronto Star (link provided below) that describes a program set up in Woodstock, Ontario.   In a nutshell, “Food for Friends” uses cash donations to fund gift cards that can be used to buy groceries.

Recipients ate able to choose whatever non-taxable items they want.  This program seems to eliminate most, if not all, of the issues with food banks.

As I read the article, I thought that this sounds a lot like a version of the American food stamps program.   Why aren’t we adopting this for use in all our communities that need it?  Please share your thoughts in the comments.

Here’s the article:

Free 3D Cover Maker

FREE online 3D book cover generator   Creativindie Book Covers FULL

This is too cool to not share right away. I wanted to create a 3D image of our book (“Voices Matter”, that is) for use in various places.  So I did the Google, and I found a great free resource.  It’s easy to use, and you can see the results for yourself.  And yes, it is free.

I took a quick glance at this site, and it looks like a great resource for authors.  Check it out sometime!

Here’s the link to the Cover Creator:

The Voluntary Sector

We put together our book, “Voices Matters”, for a number of reasons. One reason was to bring up issues and concerns related to our community. Now that our book is published and available for sale (not too subtle a plug, is it?), we’re looking for answers and information.

The role of government and providing services was mentioned on pages 154 to 156 (yes, another shameless plug). Michelle Dagnino, the Executive Director of the Jane/Finch Community and Family Centre has written a great article on this topic. I’ll post the link at the end of this post.

In the interests of transparency, I am a member of the Centre’s Board of Directors. I have heard Ms. Dagnino make many of these points at various times. She pulls them all together in this article, which saves me the trouble of collecting and transcribing the scribbles I’ve made listening to her.

The article opens by explaining the importance of the voluntary sector, and how this sector is being hard hit by government cutbacks.

Once she outlines the problems and challenges facing the sector, Ms. Dagnino offers three suggestions to improve the situation. And they are great suggestions. They are so great that I will not summarize them here, but instead urge you to read the article.

Before I present the link, let me toss in my two cents. I agree with every suggestion made. The only suggestion I would add is that in order to bring any of this to fruition, we need to get people engaged and putting pressure on all levels of government. I think a key function of the voluntary sector is to pull people into their communities, and give them a greater sense of purpose. They need to know the issues, and how to make their voices matter.

And with that last shameless plug out of the way, here’s the link:

Our book is on sale!

This is interesting. has put our book on sale. It’s selling for $13.50 (U.S), which is ten percent off list price.

I have no idea how long this will last, so let me summon my inner salesman and suggest that you buy now.

Here’s the link: Voices Matter


Two great books for self-publishers

Two weeks ago, I wrote a blog that sought to fill creators with the urge to forge forward. If you didn’t read it, you can find it here:

Go ahead. I’ll be here when you get back.


See?  I didn’t go anywhere.

Near the end of that article, I suggested people be persistent and “Get books on marketing.”

But I did not mention any specific titles.

So let me mention two books that I’ve found really helpful in a number of ways. Better yet, if you’re not quite ready to shell out for copies, both authors provide lots of awesome free resources.

The first book is Unleash the Artist Within, by Bob Baker. This is just one of the many books written by Bob, and he hit it out of the park here.

“Unleash” contains twenty eight lessons, with the idea that in four weeks, the reader could transform their “creative talents into more recognition, more profit and more fun.” As you can see, Bob has a way with words. His writing style is engaging, friendly and practical.

I could go on, but I’ll let Bob sell you instead. Go to and you’ll find all kinds of free information there.

The second book is “Sell Your Book Like Wildfire”, by Rob Eagar. The title suggests that this book has a more narrow focus than “Unleash.” However, the author has recently released a video that suggests the principles in this book can be used to sell anything. I’d have to agree.

On his website, Rob claims “this is THE bible of book marketing.”  The basic premise is that you need to determine the value of your book. Once you do that, the book is packed with all kinds of marketing ideas to help you find your audience, and sell to them. This includes how to prepare for interviews, how to use Amazon, and marketing tips for fiction.

If you go to, you’ll see that there is all kinds of great free information. Make sure to sign up for the weekly newsletter.

I own both books. I feel that “Unleash” works really well as a motivational tool and a creativity booster, with a lot of good marketing ideas. “Wildfire” is all about the sale, and may be the only book you really need from a marketing standpoint.

These are my two “go-to” books. If anyone has other suggestions, let me know about them in the comments.

Thanks for reading!


Here’s the book!

Voices Matter

This is the result of our first foray into self-publishing.