Using Music to Help Improve Reading Performance

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By Jessica Bonner-Gomez

In October 2019, it was reported that Alabama 4th graders ranked 49th (out of 52 U.S. territories) in reading on the nation’s report card. This rank is two levels below the former rank in 2017, indicating that reading proficiency has decreased.

I’m particularly concerned about Alabama 4th-grader reading performance because I am an Alabama educator. Aside from teaching English Composition I and II to college freshmen for 3 and ½ years, I have been tutoring students for the last 11 years in English and writing (the last 4 years include more focus on reading through my tutoring business, For Other Prizes Consulting).

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Further, this month I have finished my master’s degree in speech-language pathology, a field that helps students enhance their speech and language (including reading) skills.

Disheartened by the numbers, I attempted to understand why they were so low. I realized,...

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The Perfect Gift Can’t Be Wrapped

One of the most stressful parts of gift-giving holidays for me has always been shopping. I’m unsure if the reason behind my stress is because I think very practically about spending money or because I don’t like shopping. The act of shopping has always given me anxiety. 

Too many things and too many choices seem like a heavy burden for me. It truly kills the joy out of trying to gift someone something special. As I said, it might just be me, but I feel like the push for me to spend money is so prevalent and strong that I’m turned off to gifting. 

Can you relate? I’m sure I can’t be the only one to feel this way.

One of my main goals is for my children to not grow up to expect gifts for holidays or special days or to think that those events are all about gifts. 

It’s important for me that my children understand that the material things aren’t the main focus of any celebration and when I’ve tried to do a non-gift event,...

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Forgotten Heroes Living Among US

In 2013, a friend of mine asked me if I was interested in volunteering for an organization called Honor Flight Austin. This organization’s mission is to find World War II veterans who have never been to Washington, D.C. to see their monuments. While Honor Flight Austin’s main focus is WW II vets, they also make this trip possible to Vietnam and Korean War Veterans free of cost.

Honor Flight Austin provides free airfare, meals, and lodging for our heroes and they rely heavily on volunteers who are called Guardians so that each veteran is assisted for an entire evening and day in D.C.

As we all know, this generation of veterans is getting very old and one thing that Honor Flight Austin wants to do is to get as many WWI veterans to D.C. before they are no longer with us.

Although their highest priority is to make this trip available to WWII Veterans, they offer this trip to other able and willing veterans on a first-come, first-served basis and then priority goes to our...

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Stereotypes are disrupting our kids’ learning


He kept calling me a dumb Mexican because I have an accent, but so does Jimmy. He’s from France. I just don’t get it. I know English just as much as he does. I’m also not from Mexico.

-8 year old, Ana in Maryland

When adults hear about conflicts among kids such as Ana’s, they’re often dismissed as child bickery, a rough phase of childhood, or just part of being a kid. But if this scenario where between two adults, it would be considered harassment or discrimination.

So, why aren’t educators taking the time to teach kids to not use stereotypes in the classrooms? Sadly, schools also don’t strongly consider the effects of stereotyping (such as misogyny or sexual harassment) more seriously-and they should! They know they exist, but they don’t actively focus on this issue.


Subconscious stereotyping is important because

  1. it negatively affects academic progress
  2. some students are punished harsher than others
  3. these actions...
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Consider making this list


As the year comes to a close, a lot of people start creating their list of new year goals (download our free worksheet- Reflecting + Goals 2017). But instead of making ONLY your new year goals, consider making a list of all the things you appreciated this year no matter how many bad things happened to you in 2016.

Focusing on this will help you realize how many blessings you’ve had and that in the midst of not such good times, very good things DO happen. We must start appreciating what we’ve got before we start expecting more blessings.

This year, I got to travel back to Nicaragua, the country I was born in. It was a very expensive trip for my family because it was several of us. However, my husband insisted on going because I’d always say we’d go and the total trip expenses always seemed so high.

I’d always say we’d go next year and I have many excuses. Excuses like….next year because our savings would be larger and I’d feel...

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The Power of Persistence

In 2007 I was already a mother to a 15-month-old baby girl and by the end of that year, I had given birth to my second child. I was in the military about to get out after ten years of service. So, I was excited about becoming a civilian and being able to take care of my family.

The plan was something like this. I was going to take a few months off after giving birth to my second child. I would find a good job in a different state because I didn’t want to stay in Maryland and I would carry on with my life with my little family. Oh, how wrong I was! When life throws a challenge, it really throws it hard!

So, I left the Army one month before I gave birth at the end of 2007. My hubby (Henry) and I had a nice nest egg in case something happened. Henry was doing great in the real estate field despite some injuries he experienced during his military service.

But life gave us a twist! 

In 2007 the housing market started crashing…along with everything else. It hit some...

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Surviving a lifetime of being bullied! by Kishva Daniel

Surviving a lifetime of being bullied!

As a child, I was bullied, and it was a long process for me to recover. I was teased, made fun of and told that I would never be anything. This was by my family from birth throughout my early adult years. I also endured years of being jumped on and beat-up by my cousin for no reason.

This resulted in me being shy and my self-esteem was very low. I was also teased in school because I was skinny, and my teeth were crooked. As a result, I walked with my head down and I never smiled. There were so many days that I would come home and just cry.

I was doing poorly in school because I was suffering from depression. I vividly remember one day I was in health class and a classmate told me that I was skinny enough to hula hoop in a fruit-loop. I was called grandma and told me that I was homely! which hurt a lot. That was just a tiny bit of the things that were said to me.

Unfortunately, I was struggling with being bullied. I stayed faithful and knew that...

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The Joyy of Breaking With Society’s Expectations

How I broke the rules in Turkey and move to California!

It sounds crazy to leave your whole life and start over in another country, facing all of the challenges…

Let’s start at the beginning of my story:

It was 4 years ago, when I felt lost. I wasn’t happy and couldn’t enjoy my life even though I had a great job, and lived with my wonderful family… Something was missing in my life, I wasn’t satisfied and felt I needed  purpose. Although, I didn’t know what it was at that time, what I did know was that I believed there was more to this life right in front of me. 

I knew I didn’t fully agree with my societies rules, And I was so tired of doing the things that didn’t bring me Joyy. One day I said to myself “enough is enough, I need to do something.” 

I didn’t know what to do and who to talk to. I just had a feeling that I wanted to go to the United States. I could never fully explain the...

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7 Tips For A Good Friendship

Friendship is not about how long you’ve known the person. It’s about those who have been a constant in your life. It’s about those who were there for you in good and bad times and about the ones who remain true to you behind your back. Friendship is loyalty and honesty, even when you don’t want to hear the truth. That’s real friendship.

In my early 20s I had a couple of friends who were always around when they’d break up with their boyfriends or when something rough was going on in their lives. But as soon as there was a new love interest or things would improve in their lives, they’d grow distant again.

I wouldn’t hear from them unless I’d call to check up on them, and I did this for quite a few years.

I’m sure some of you have had a friend like this at one point or another. You know, that friend who only comes around when they’re feeling lonely or when things aren’t going so well for them.

Years later, I...

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Connecting Through Cultural Diversity Awareness by Kim De Silva

by Kim De Silva

Learning more about Latin American Culture: My Summer Project Plans

Our world is shrinking as technology and modes of transport bring us ever closer. Ironically, while globalization has made it easier for us to connect with one another, we’re also experiencing a greater sense of “them vs. us” as culture clashes form barriers between peoples. 

Forget “The Wall”. If we’re not willing to learn about one another and try to understand those who are different, we’ve essentially built up our own wall that no machine will ever be able to pull down. Knowledge and empathy, however, can create an unimpeded pathway between us. 

I live on the Caribbean island of Trinidad (and Tobago) and as a lecturer in Latin American Studies, my daily life essentially is creating a connection between different peoples.

Currently, our island is receiving an influx of Venezuelan immigrants who are seeking refuge from their own homes. It’s...

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