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Trying to Cultivate a Bookworm

By Farheen, Viva Learn Content Contributor

I suppose one of the great problems of this day and age, for parents anyways, is trying to cultivate a bookworm; or, at least, a child who doesn’t see books as the last avenue people resort to when life has seemingly been leached of all colour and happiness. And that is understandable: reading sometimes requires patience and the ability to become a breathing, beating corpse for a number of hours.

As one who has observed this issue in my own household, the one thing I can say with absolute certainty is that simply telling, ordering, demanding, or begging your kids to read will not make them lifelong readers. Setting an example, on the other hand, will.

It’s a simple case of “monkey see, monkey do”. I myself come from a family in which I am the sole possessor of an obsession for books. I visit libraries and bookstores as often as I can, and am the keeper of a sizeable collection of books at home; many are gifts, many I’ve bought myself and a few I’ve filched from my uncle’s collection. My three younger siblings don’t remotely display the same passion for mere words on thinly sliced trees as I do, but what I’ve noticed over the years is that if I escape into a book, they will follow suit. While I read Anna Karenina my little brother will dive into another one of Captain Underpants’ adventures and my baby sister will flip through Kevin Henkes’ “Chrysanthemum”. My other sister, to whom even vacuuming is preferable over reading, will even condescend to sniff at the next book in The Lunar Chronicles by Marissa Meyer.

The bottom line, dear parents, is that you must create an example and an atmosphere if you want your children to adopt certain habits, whether it be reading or something else. In the case of cultivating a bookworm, keep books around the house, make weekly trips to the library and designate a certain time for reading alone, in which both you and your child read. We are all products of our environment; as parents you have the power to shape and control your child’s environment but what you mustn’t forget is that you are as much part of the setting as a creator of it.

lao tzu

The Importance of Self-Reflection

(By: Farheen, Viva Learn Content Contributor)

The Chinese philosopher Lao Tzu once said, “When I let go of who I am, I become what I might be.” Profound as that quotation is, what does it mean and, more importantly, how can we apply it?

What does it mean to let go of oneself? What does it mean to become something one might be? I may not necessarily be correct, but here’s what I think: people always have and always will struggle with that immortally perplexing question of “Who am I?” It’s a fairly difficult question and one that takes a lifetime and a few more years to figure out. At different points in our lives we may delude ourselves by imagining that we have the answer, only to realize a few seconds; minutes; hours; days; months; years later that identity is like a little squirrel: you know, the one you thought you had a connection with as a kid, and then realized that it had no intention of being tamed and becoming a friend?

One must accept the fact that identity is just a construct. We, as a species, love to put things in “boxes” and it’s definitely off-putting when one can’t find boxes big; small; wide; narrow enough for the multitudes of kaleidoscopic objects we collect throughout our lives. So, then, dear reader, what is the point of trying to confine yourself to a box that may seem comfortable at first, but then starts poking you in all the wrong spots and bores you with its perpetual stagnancy? What would be gleaned from even trying to answer the question, “who am I?” I believe that what Lao Tzu was trying to say is to let go of the notion of “identity” so that one may develop as infinitely as one wishes. But wait! you might say. Where would one find such a manual, that’ll help me reach this state? And all I can say is, “it’s on your head, genius.”

More specifically, inside your head. Self-reflection is the key, the manual. Take a few minutes out of every day and reflect on what you did today, how you treated the people around you, whether you are happy with where you are now, whether you need to change your thought process, whether you are friends with the right people, whether it’s time to learn something new, whether you need a change in lifestyle, etc. Don’t be afraid to criticize yourself, and don’t be wary of the fact that it may take time to apply these changes to yourself. All things take time; time is a gift, therefore it must always be treated with thanks and appreciation.

I wish you all good luck on the journey that is life. I won’t wish you a safe journey because then you may just curl up inside a warm, comfortable box and sleep away during the travel. So then, allow me to wish you a journey full of new people (nice and grumpy), new places (beautiful and ugly), and waters that are sufficiently tumultuous enough to soak any back-up boxes you may have brought with you.

How to Be a Better Public Speaker (for Students)

By: Farheen, Viva Learn Content Contributor

Public speaking sucks. That’s just a fact. Alas, it’s a necessary evil: teachers can’t get enough of it, parents love seeing their kids on display, and – as I was told by my English teacher – out in the “real world,” it’s a multi-million dollar skill. Figures; all the things that are generally despised are good for you, like eating vegetables.

As much as I complain about it though, I’m not a bad public speaker, and that’s not because my speeches are particularly good or awe-inspiring but because, after years of observation, I’ve developed, what is termed “stage presence”. Of course, communicating worthwhile material is a fantastic idea but the way in which that material is communicated is, arguably, more important. If you can hold people’s attention for a longer period of time, they are more likely to listen to what you have to say, and that is the goal: to get people to listen to what you have to say.

So here’s how you do it:

  1. Realize that the audience hasn’t shown up to chuck tomatoes at you: There is no need to be afraid of the audience. They are there to listen to you and your ideas/views/opinions.
  2. Fake it till you make it: Walk on to the stage with confidence, even if you’d rather weep in a dark dingy corner. Look your audience in the eye and even try to smile before you begin speaking. The more confidence you exude, the more the audience will straighten their spines and become excited to hear what you have to say and hence, actually listen.
  3. Realize that you are a human being: What’s this? Dry lips, clammy hands, and a heart that’s probably accelerating at a pace that’s clearly not heathy? Good news! This proves that you are a human being and not a robot. Use this to your advantage. Don’t be afraid to employ hand gestures; don’t worry about stuttering every now and then; walk around a little bit; if you want to chuckle at a joke you’ve just made, even if the audience doesn’t, go for it! Make fun of yourself afterwards too if you like! This will help not only you loosen up and become more confident, but will establish you as a human being in front of the audience, not a robot: nobody wants to listen to an uptight, tight-lipped, monotonous droid. Would you?
  4. Tableaus are only cool in a play: Don’t freeze up if you forget a few words from your immaculately memorized speech. Turn it into a pause and make something up; no one will know as long as you say those words with confidence (remember: fake it till you make it). In fact, I’ve found, that it’s probably a good idea to not memorize your speech completely. Remember the key points and what you generally plan to say about them, but there’s no need to ingrain every single “and”, “therefore”, “you know what I’m saying?” in your brain: not doing so will give you a more natural speaking style thereby, establishing a more human presence on stage.
  5. Remember that you’re awesome: Refer to the above heading.
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