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It’s National Reading Month: Let’s Celebrate Books & Baseball


March: Time to Celebrate Books &  Baseball

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It’s National Reading Month and in NYC the temps are warming up. School teams have started baseball practice, and the first pitches will soon be thrown  at Yankee Stadium​ and Citifield​!

The National Endowment for the Arts’ annual Read Across America finishing its tour and  President and Mrs. Obama supporting the Open E Books Initiative, a government  private corporate partnership designed to provide access to $250,000,000 of digital content free of charge to institutions that assist children who are underprivileged or who  have learning challenges.


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What a terrific way to put Common Core in its place: For one afternoon, place appeals for ACT, the ‘New SAT’ and other standardized test accommodations aside,  and pore over a great new release rather than planning summer college visits for you and your  11th grader!  Let’s take the advice of and take 15 minutes to enjoy the pleasure of a  good read.


It’s time to head over to your local book-store and pick up something fun to enjoy – or to read with someone else.  One of my  favorite  haunts is The Corner Bookstore. Insider tip: Set up an account for your child, who will join  thousands of other UES locals from decades past with index cards tracking their reads and balances — all lovingly archived in wooden files behind the counter that displays  the snazziest vintage cash register around.


Reading Recs for Those with Baseball on the Brain

The White House should have total consensus on its Open Ebook Initiative:  It’s a great time for kids and adults alike  stretch their imagination and their mental muscles just as in these weeks the athletes fine tune their Spring Training drills! Here’s a sampling of title we hope you will enjoy:

For the 7-13 Year Old Set  Counting the Minutes till Opening Day:

Dan Gutman​’s latest ‘Baseball Adventure’ release, Willie & Me. It’s the latest in Gutman’s series which  links baseball and history. The series hero, Joe Shostak’s time travel adventures take place with the rub of a baseball card. Parents may enjoy Gutman’s earlier piece, Roberto  & Me, where Joe’s time travel takes him to a  late 1960’s Jimi Hendrix Concert!




For the Budding Sabermetrician:Screen Shot 2016-03-17 at 9.10.20 AM

Preorder MLB Network​ sportscaster Brian Kenny‘s ode to analytics, Ahead of the Curve with a taste here from last week’s SABR’s 5th Annual Analytics Conference.  I spoke with  Brian about his mantra: Analytics shape critical thinking on and off the field. We talked baseball, critical thinking,  and metacognition: Here’s what he had to say about why baseball is such a great way to engage our kids:

For Mommies Dashing Around Town……..

for last minute spring break reads can grab the handy paperback (Birken Bag friendly)  Primates of Park Avenue:A Memoir, Wednesday Martin​’s intriguing, dramatic. and humorous take on UES/UWS life and  parenting,


Reading Skills Grow When Reading is Fun

Summer Reading

Enjoying reading and improving fluency happens when books are engaging and when we can read them at an independent, comfortable reading level. This  can be a year-round experience, but spring and summer vacation lend themselves to family time and more relaxed opportunities to live literacy through our passions.



Reading Levels
Stages of Reading Development (Chall)

Professor Jeanne Chall, my Harvard Ed School mentor from 30 years ago would want us all to remember that reading is a developmental process that can be systematically taught  but  is best fostered gradually and in naturalistic ways. It starts with talking to our kids when they are babies and is a lifelong process, just ask the entrepreneurs, lawyers, physicians and writers I teach as they fine-tune their skills to advance their passions and their professional aspirations. Let’s remind ourselves, our students and children to enjoy books that are not always ‘a stretch’ – This is essential to honing reading and ensuring fluency grows and that reading remains  a fun experience. Check out these Ivy Prep tips for  improving reading comprehension.


Baseball Harvard

We invite you to share this blog, and to comment it, and jot us  a note – whether about your favorite books  or places you’ll be enjoying  them this spring. And then… head outdoors with your kids to enjoy the beautiful day and…. PLAY BALL!

Pre-College with a Broader Vision


The key to growth is the introduction of higher dimensions of consciousness into our awareness.—Lao Tzu

51+XSdHdy7LThese Duke booties are a sports-fashionable way to launch a diehard fan who can dream in his or her parents’ arms of an exciting college future. From early on, parents are conscious of the transition and promise that college holds for their children. As we and our children follow the NCAA brackets or enjoy college reunion weekends, the paradox of college looms large: the wonder of potential and the challenge of gaining acceptance at the school of our child’s dreams. In recent time, this paradox has generated significant anxiety among college-bound students and their parents alike.

Recent New York Times articles highlight some patterns observed in college counseling offices and on campuses across the country. Turns out (and is it really any surprise?) that the college years are replete with stressors, be it routine ones like adjusting to lecture halls and the dorm room; unexpected losses like saying goodbye to a chronically sick pet; or the issues around work, money, and relationships that arise throughout adulthood.

College as the Promised Land
By the start of upper school, most adolescents crave a positive college experience. As they slog through readings about the French Revolution and master the Spanish preterit, they overhear siblings and friends sharing stories about their college experiences, and they can’t help but yearn for their turn. So they manage the academic demands of reaching that goal, while close friends and family around them are so encouraging of their efforts that they may overlook or minimize the stress and anxiety that accompany them. College is idealized in our culture as the promised land after high school, and yet so many young people are faltering at its threshold, as well as once over it. What is it about the exertions required to get into college, and to thrive once there, that overwhelm the excitement and expectations of this much-anticipated time?

Every new life stage brings challenges, and therefore growth opportunities. But the trend of intense anxiety among college-bound high schoolers and students on campus is a truly worrisome development. As one head of college counseling put it: “Anxiety has surpassed depression as the most common mental health diagnosis among college students.” Lost in our discussions and concern is a recognition that Upper School could be (1) a time for inculcating thinking skills that lead to independence; and (2) a training ground for stress management techniques that can ease the transition into the greater expectations of college life.

At Ivy Prep, we work with students, families, schools, and other specialists to help students optimize their pre-college time—at home or at boarding school—toward preparing for this transition. We promote solutions and strategies to ameliorate their anxiety and stress because they exist and they are available. We owe it to our kids, whose booties and toddler-sized college jerseys hang framed above their desks, to teach them these tools and help them anticipate the bumps that are a given in any big life-change. There are strategies you and your children can learn and practice right now—from both the brain-behavior world and straight out of the Citifield dugout—that can help you prep for this change with confidence. Our approach to college planning is based in the here and now, meaning, getting students skills and tools starting today, and which they can hone and use for the rest of their lives.

College is often the first real transition students encounter, and it can be needlessly tougher if students or their parents have spent the high school years focused primarily on mastering information or relearning course material rather than also on acquiring strategies and systems for independence and growth. While our children are in high school, with faculty who know them well and provide guidance and support, there is a unique opportunity to coach and expose them to metacognitive strategies, that is, methods for self-awareness of one’s own thought process.

Research in learning and emotional development suggests that if we are aware of how we think and approach an experience, we can use those insights to aim for other goals with success. Not surprisingly, self-awareness, plus lots of practice, is also the theory behind training on the sports field as well as managing sports-related stress. Training students in self-awareness and managing stress in the high school years results in new skills that will pay off in college, and in life beyond.

Executive FunctionsLearning to Learn
Thinking about stress management is the first step to achieving this goal. Pre-college students are used to strategies that help them learn information “for the test.” They typically don’t care about the theories behind what they are learning—if it’s not on the test, there’s no room for it in their brain. But pre-college time is also when students can begin to work on their executive function strategies so they can transfer them to a college setting later on. Students need to shift away from test-oriented performance and toward a broader vision that emphasizes how to actually think. Students can move from merely acquiring information to developing an internal instinct for approaching any stage of the learning process if their routine includes:

  • Review of content and skill-building within the basic 3R’s
  • Understanding how to attack a task.
  • Awareness of your learning style.

Research in transfer of training strategies, plus feedback from former Ivy Prep students out in the work force, demonstrate that metacognitive approaches work. The strategies transfer as self-awareness and skills increase, and honing those techniques reduces stress so the path toward college and professional development is more enjoyable than burdensome.

Ivy Prep’s next post will share tips on how to make this critical shift in thinking—a shift you will be glad you made for yourself, your child, and your family.

How to Juggle School Demands During the Holidays

Harvard University’s Center on the Developing Child recently published a guide for parents and educators about the development of executive functions during childhood.

Credit: Shutterstock
Credit: Shutterstock

The guide, Enhancing and Practicing Executive Function Skills from Infancy to Adolescence, links the changes in the child’s growing brain to developmental expectations and strategies for school and home.

The Harvard publication’s section on The Adolescent Brain is particularly helpful and reminds readers about teens’ increased capacity for planning. This change reflects increased frontal lobe development and gradually increasing ability to regulate feelings about stress.

Harvard’s take home? Teach teens to set goals, plan how to actuate those goals, and self-monitor  which strategies contribute to  their success. Harvard and Ivy Prep emphasize the role of verbal mediation, or using self-talk strategies for  breaking down a task and for self-monitoring as one way to accomplish these goals. A terrific resource for information about verbal mediation is Dr. Jane Healy’s Your Child’s Growing Mind.

December is an ideal time to commit to developing these executive function skills as a step toward less stress and greater independence. Although the advent calendar is counting down the days until Christmas and our students are dreaming of down time during  holiday break, at school this is a time when exams, papers, and greater expectations for reading and memorization increase.  Students and families juggle these realities while they also  desire a chance to enjoy holiday celebrations, which in turn further increases the need to multitask.

Harvard’s three-point plan for executive function skill-building becomes even more important and sets up our students with techniques to ease their way into the new year as cumulative exams await. For that reason, we have designed a program that offers a taste of these strategies in December with ongoing fine-tuning and practice after the new year.

Credit: A Screenshot of Harvard University's Center on the Developing Child Report: "Enhancing and Practicing Executive Function Skills with Children from Infancy to Adolescence", pg 12.
Credit: A Screenshot of Harvard University’s Center on the Developing Child Report: “Enhancing and Practicing Executive Function Skills with Children from Infancy to Adolescence”, pg 12.

Ivy Prep’s Weekend Study Skills Workshop offers practical coaching for these very executive functions that this Harvard publication discusses. This workshop is designed to provide scaffolding for students using actual course assignments each student has, with an eye toward the individual student’s learning style and the instructional approaches of  the specific school that each student attends.

This workshop is offered to  students in grades 8-12 (maximum enrollment: 8). Please contact us at for more information about this new weekend program and our 30 years of tried-and-true individualized instruction.

Note: Dr. Rebecca Mannis (HGSE 1985) is an appointed member of the Harvard Grad. School of Education Alumni Council.