Testing is overrated

Let me begin by saying, I unfortunately don’t have a clear alternative to testing to offer. I just know when it comes to literacy, testing can’t be our only measure of reading growth. Reading growth cannot just be defined by a set of discrete skills, measured by standardized tests. The debate between what is tested and what is valued has been going on for years. I can remember my father (Dr. of reading instruction) talking about it in the 70s & 80s even. And the debate rages on. What makes matters worse is it seems that even the literacy experts can’t agree on what test is the best to use for assessing specific reading skills. If the experts can’t agree on what test is best, well… 

To better demonstrate, imagine assessing the growth of a basketball player only by testing their individual skills periodically, outside of live action; jumping, quickness, dribbling, shooting, passing, etc. etc. Put them in a game with other players, you’ll find out quickly. I’m here to tell you that some of the best basketball players I’ve played against wouldn’t have “tested” very well, and most definitely not at the top of any individual skill. 

Assessing literacy growth by the accumulation of skills and strategies alone doesn’t suffice either, it’s not the entire picture. Reading growth can’t be distilled down so easily, it’s more dynamic than this. 

It must be remembered that teachers aren’t teaching reading, they’re teaching people to read, they’re teaching READERS. 

Just like in basketball, growth in literacy involves way more than the measurable, it’s the intangibles too.

So, what are some of the unmeasurables – aspects not tested – which matter and indicate growth? 

Here are just a few:

  • discovering a new author
  • finding a new series
  • self-identification as a reader
  • motivation to read 

What say you? Please share and comment below.


Mirrors & Windows

Up until literacy became my life’s work, I never really reflected on the books presented to me or available to me when I was growing up. Specifically, the characters in the books. Every character was white, looked like me. In general, the only characters of color were slaves or butlers. 

Meanwhile, where I grew up, Dover, DE, our community was diverse, many shades of people, from many different backgrounds and cultures. I enjoyed that about my town, I didn’t think anything about it, these were my neighbors and my friends, my teammates. I’m very grateful I had that experience. It was reflective of the actual world we live in and best prepared me for the real world. 

As an adult, I look back and imagine if every character in the books I was presented or asked to read as a child didn’t look like me. How would that make me feel? Would it get me fired up to read? I’m pretty certain it wouldn’t make me feel very good AND definitely NOT get me fired up to read. 

In recent years, there’s been a significant and meaningful push for children’s books to be MIRRORS & WINDOWS for all children. At Bernie’s Book Bank (an organization I founded), it’s become a major focus as we want children to be seen, acknowledged, celebrated AND we for sure want to get them fired up about reading. We know, if they can’t relate to the story, they won’t read it. 

What does mirrors and windows mean?

Like mirrors, children see themselves in the books they read.

Like windows, children see others through the books they read.


Word of the week

Culture is a big deal at Freadom.

As such, we start each day with personal reflection and prayer.

No business occurs until we do so. We believe it’s the only way we have a chance to succeed.

It reminds us why we do what we do and puts us in the right state of mind to serve, to do hard things.

Each Wednesday morning is a little more special, we host our Freadom Family Aerie (eagles’ nest), otherwise known in the “professional world” as an “all staff meeting." 

Our motivation to fight for literacy for all is both emotional and practical, but emotion is the lead, no doubt. To this end, this Wednesday, our focus was on compassion. Compassion towards each other, compassion towards our partners in business, compassion towards our customers, compassion for the people we serve AND compassion towards our enemies – unlimited, unqualified and without expectation. 

Now, let’s be real, this is VERY hard.

You could argue, unrealistic, even impossible.

However, we believe striving to be compassionate to all, making it a priority, in all ways, always, will bring us closer to God and consequently closer to who we want to be as human beings. Ultimately, compassion for others, even when they may not “deserve” it, is best for us too.


On this day in history…

1804 | Lewis & Clark begin expedition of the Louisiana Purchase with Sacagawea

1878 | Vaseline is granted a patent (US Patent 127,568)

1888 | Brazil abolishes slavery

1908 | 1st passenger flight in an airplane

1917 | 3 children see a vision of Virgin Mary at Fatima – Portugal

1938 | England soccer team beats Nazi-Germany, 6-3

1942 | US Women’s Army Auxiliary Corps (WAAC) founded

1948 | PM David Ben-Gurion establishes State of Israel

1955 | Micky Mantle hits 3 consecutive HRs of at least 463 feet

1960 | USSR launch 1st (unmanned) space capsule

1961 | Bus with 1st group of Freedom Riders was bombed & burned in Alabama

1973 | US Supreme court approves equal rights to females in military

1983 | “She Blinded Me with Science” by Thomas Dolby hits #5

1991 | World’s Largest Burrito created at 1,126 lbs

2012 | Stanford University scientists develop prototype bionic eye

2013 | Brazil becomes the 15th country to legalize same-sex marriage

2018 | Chinese mountain climber and double amputee Xia Boyu reaches the summit of Everest



Where’s Spring? And why is fall all in lower case?

Exactly. Where IS Spring? And, why is Fall so short? 

I’m not sure where you’re reading this from but I’m writing from Chicagoland.

We had winter, seemed like forever.

Then it rained and was 40 degrees, seemed like forever.

Then, in a matter of 2 days, it went from 40 to 80 degrees, wait, what?

And, if the last few Falls are any indication of what the Fall to come will be, that won’t last long either until we’re right back into Winter. 

It’s been said, in Chicago, there’s two seasons; Winter & construction/summer. BINGO. 

Sadly, my two favorite seasons are Spring and Fall. How about you?


Ziggy, from the vault

As you know by now, my son 7-year old son Ziggy is an endless source of comedy.

Recently he had the sniffles. In general, he takes being sick in stride, but I really appreciate his mentality towards it. In this instance, he had grabbed a tissue and about to blow his nose, but before he did, he exclaimed. 

“I’m going to make this snot go out of business." 

You GO Ziggy!

It’s a great reminder to us all, it’s all about how we choose to approach things, adversity included.

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