Controversies about Intelligence, IQ, and Children’s Education — Guest post by Dona Matthews, PhD, and Joanne Foster, EdD

Beyond Intelligence

Intelligence is a much more interesting, variable, and dynamic process than a lot of people realize. The more that’s being learned about the brain, the more cognitive scientists and neuropsychologists are emphasizing the active and evolving nature of intelligence, and the diversity of developmental pathways that can lead to higher levels of competence and achievement. Intelligence changes over time, and parents can help foster its development by ensuring that their children have plenty of opportunities to learn. Ability is spread much more diversely across the population than the demographic distribution of IQ scores would suggest, and is much more amenable to environmental influences like family life and day-to-day experiences.

IQ scores have little to do with working intelligence. They don’t begin to measure how effectively children adapt to different environments, how well they learn from experience, whether they’re likely to invest the hard work over time that’s necessary for success, or how they deal with obstacles. An intelligence test score can reflect how well a person understands complex ideas and is able to perform certain kinds of reasoning tasks on a given test on a given day, but it’s not a great measure of that person’s functional intelligence. Nor does it have much to do with whether or not someone needs advanced academic programming.

Although we have dedicated much of our professional lives to ensuring that kids with advanced academic abilities get the learning opportunities that match their abilities—aka, gifted education—we have to admit that sometimes identification and programming options are delivered on the basis of innate, elitist, and stable notions of intelligence. However, educational practice is changing for the better as more and more teachers and school administrators recognize the nature of intelligence, including how it develops, and various implications for those who have high-level abilities or other special education needs. Parents and educators are finding creative approaches and exciting strategies to ensure that all children’s learning needs are met—at home, in classrooms, and within the community.

For parents, the exciting news is that their children’s intelligence is more interesting and dynamic than IQ begins to measure, and that meaningful educational experiences can be found in all kinds of easily accessible and sometimes surprising places, without the complications of a ‘gifted’ or other label, or for that matter, costly financial burdens.

In Beyond Intelligence: Secrets of Raising Happily Productive Kids, we discuss exactly what that means in practice. We write about the nature of intelligence and creativity; review current evidence on how ability develops across the life span; describe the roles of mindsets, motivation, resilience, and effort; and discuss the ways schools and the social environment can be chosen and adapted to help children discover and follow their passions. Our emphasis is on practical recommendations for parents, from their baby’s birth, through to their young adult’s need for guidance and (respectfully detached!) support. It is empowering to realize that intelligence changes over time, and can be developed with nurturing, respect, and access to rich, variable, and challenging learning experiences.



Dona Matthews has taught at several Canadian universities and was associate professor at Hunter College, City University of New York, where she was the founding director of the Center for Gifted Studies and Education. Her previous books include The Development of Giftedness and Talent across the Life Span.

Joanne Foster teaches educational psychology courses at the Ontario Institute for Studies in Education of the University of Toronto. Dr. Foster contributes to the journal Parenting for High Potential. She’s also the author of Not Now, Maybe Later: Helping Children Overcome Procrastination.

Visit the authors’ website at

A Goodbye Playlist from Publicity Director extraordinaire, Laura Repas

Today is my last day working at House of Anansi. I got the job here in Fall 2002, and barring two years of leave, I’ve been here since. I don’t know how to say goodbye to my friends here, to the memories, to the place that introduced me to my husband, some of my closest friends, and to many, many of my favourite books. So I’ve made a playlist to help me out!

1 – Hey Ya! – OutKast

In 2003, the year this song came out, our then-publisher Martha Sharpe started wearing a super-cute, bright Kelly green sweater. I immediately went out and bought a similar one, and she was cool enough to not mind me biting her look. We called our new favourite colour ‘André Green,’ after the cardigan André Benjamin wears in the video for “Hey Ya!”. Subsequent Anansi staffers started calling their Kelly green stuff ‘André Green’ too, because Andre is awesome, and none of could remember who the Kelly person was. Also, this is the best pop song ever recorded.

2 – French Navy – Camera Obscura

I met my husband, Ken Babstock, right here in the Anansi offices the first month I started work. Various work events kept bringing us together over the following months, as if Anansi was trying to make us fall in love. This song reminds me of him every time I hear it.

3 – Communist Daughter – Neutral Milk Hotel

My close friend Colleen Wormald was our very first intern in the newly-independent Anansi of 2002. That’s how we met. We sat across from each other for four months and discovered we shared a brain. Sure we were separated by an age gap, ethnicity, and some minor socioeconomic stuff, but other than that, it was like we were the SAME PERSON. Not only has Anansi employed me all these years, it also conveniently laid a few soulmates in my path. She introduced me to this beautiful Neutral Milk Hotel CD, and we liked to go to the tiny Dundas Street bar of the same name as this song, when we could fit inside.

4 – Everyday I’m Hustlin’ – Rick Ross

This song reminds me of Sarah MacLachlan, our president and publisher. SURE Ross has some unsavoury controversy around him, and sure we’re not in Miami, and certainly not dealing anything illicit (honest), but every day Sarah Mac is hustlin’. She has an inspirational amount of energy, a talent for seeing all the angles, swears like a thug, and has ALL THE HUSTLE.  Change one word and lyrics can even work:

I’m into distribution, I’m like Anansi
I got them motherf***ers flying across the Atlantic

5 – Have You Ever Had It Blue – The Style Council

Years ago I nicknamed my female colleagues at Anansi the Lifestyle Panel. I found that if I wanted to make a decision about where to eat, what to buy, what shoe looked best with what pants, and other such questions, I could put it out to the group here and get the best feedback. Once I bought two pairs of boots on sale and stomped around the whole office with a different boot on each foot and had everyone here vote on which one they liked better so I could decide which one to return. You don’t find that level of patience and taste just anywhere. I’ll miss my friends. There’s no song I know to describe our relationships, but the name Style Council sure fits.

6 – Dick in a Box – The Lonely Island featuring Justin Timberlake

Do you have a beloved Christmas song that puts you in the mood for the holidays? Is it “Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas” – so sad yet hopeful, poignantly sung by Judy Garland? Is it “Little Drummer Boy/Peace on Earth,” the duet by Crosby and Bowie, their surprising, cross-generational pairing feeling so moving, so right for the season? At House of Anansi we always get into the spirit of the season with a delicious potluck lunch, a staff gift exchange, and “Dick in a Box” on a loop in the boardroom.

7 – We All Lose One Another – Jason Collett

Once, at an IFOA event for our Broken Social Scene book, I tipsily promised the lovely Jason Collett that Anansi would publish anything he may want to write, ever. Novels, lyrics, recipes, pensées, anything. I really feel I should set the record straight… Offer still stands, Jason! Just call Sarah Mac.

8 – 1 2 3 4 – Feist

While we’re on a BSS tip, Sarah Mac introduced me to Leslie Feist when she was one of the judges of our BSS short story contest. Our conversation went like this:

Feist – Have we met before? You look really familiar.

Repas – I don’t think so, but maybe. I’ve been around.

Feist (knowingly, with a hint of ennui) – Yeah, I’ve been around too.

I swooned.

9 – Jenny and the Ess-Dog – Stephen Malkmus

When I first saw Patrick deWitt’s author photo I thought he looked like my long-time crush Steve Malkmus, from Pavement. Then I MET Steve Malkmus in a park in Berlin, and realized he looked nothing like Patrick deWitt. But he was still an indie-rock dreamboat, and genuinely friendly and cool, totally worthy of a two-decades-and-counting crush. And DeWitt’s not so bad either.

10 – Annabel – Goldfrapp

This song is based on Kathleen Winter’s gorgeous novel, Annabel. It was such a pleasure to work on that book, and to get to know Kathleen.

Also, there is an album called February by Joanna Barker, which was partly inspired by Lisa Moore’s novel of the same name. Joanna’s not on Grooveshark, so I couldn’t put her on the playlist, but I recommend her CD. And Lisa Moore is a great friend, and my absolute favourite person to take a drive with, hands down.

11 – To Sir With Love – Lulu

The time has come for closing books
And long last looks must end
And as I leave I know
That I am leaving my best friend

The lyrics say it all, I don’t know a more fitting farewell song.

So that’s my playlist for the end of my Anansi era. If you need me, I’ll be the one crying on the Queen streetcar.


The Anansi crew all put our cellphones together to gather up some of our favourite picture of Laura throughout the years. We’ll miss you, Laura! It’s the end of an era.

The Gifts of Summer: Boredom, Discovery, Creativity, and Engagement — Guest post by Dona Matthews, PhD, and Joanne Foster, EdD

 Beyond IntelligenceSome parents dread the approach of summer, envisioning that their kids will do nothing but stare at screens all day or complain of boredom. Others prepare ahead of time by signing children up for a full schedule of activities designed to keep their bodies moving and their brains engaged. Still other parents try to find a middle ground where their kids have enough activities so their muscles and minds continue to work and grow, with lots of free time mixed in. That happy middle ground is where kids learn that summertime can bring the joy of creative self-discovery.

Increasingly, caring parents are scheduling their children’s time tightly, hoping to give them an edge in a competitive world. But there’s strong evidence that the competitive edge over the long term goes to those who’ve had ample time to engage in imaginative play, exploration, collaboration, and invention. And although there’s a place for technology in children’s lives, too much time on computer games, television, smart phones, etc. can encourage lazy habits of mind, where a child comes to rely on entertainment and activities created by others, instead of creating his own fun and discovering his interests.

What happens when kids are given enough free time—without technology—to feel bored? As long as they’re also getting enough stimulation, care, and guidance, unscheduled time provides opportunities to find out what they enjoy doing, and what they want to know more about. It’s also a great way to learn to manage feelings, behaviour, time, and intellectual focus, all of which are important for achievement and fulfillment in the long run. Kids who spend time making secret hideouts, inventing stories of pirates, paupers, astronauts, and circus clowns, and thinking about what to do next, are much more likely to take ownership of their own learning. Summer can be a wonderful time to cultivate the self-discovery that precedes high achievement in all fields.

What to Do When a Child Says, “I’m Bored!”

Sometimes ‘I’m bored’ means ‘I’m up for some challenge and excitement’—but it can also mean ‘I need a bit of tender loving care.’ So if your child lets you know she’s bored, stop what you’re doing, look her in the eye, and give her a snuggle. Slow yourself down, and take enough time to find out if she wants to talk about anything. If she seems emotionally okay, here are some practical ideas and constructive responses to a child’s expression of boredom:

  1. Ask what needs doing. Sometimes just asking if there’s anything that needs doing is enough to get a child thinking creatively. If not, move on to one of the other items on this list, depending on whether you think he needs a job to do, or requires some help getting started on an activity.
  2. List some chores. Make a list of age-appropriate household chores the child can do when he’s bored. From the right perspective, chores can be fun, so in addition to emptying the dishwasher and cleaning the bathroom sink, the list might include sorting out the toybox, walking the dog, or making decorations for the next family gathering.
  3. Help her get started. Maybe she needs a hand getting out the art supplies or the sports equipment, someone to take her to the park or library, or some other physical support or materials in order to do something meaningful and productive.
  4. Make a Great Ideas jar. Brainstorm things he enjoys doing. Write each one down, and put it into a jar labelled ‘Great Ideas.’ Whenever he’s bored or looking for something to do, he can reach in and see what idea he gets, or he can poke through the entire jar until he finds something appealing.
  5. Tell her to go outside and play. Spending more time outdoors in the summer, preferably in natural settings, can be the healthiest boredom-solution of all, especially for children who spend a lot of time indoors during the school year. This may require attention to safety considerations, but it’s important to make it happen. Even the same-old neighbourhood park can have a new feel at different times of day—in the evening, during a drizzle, or when the sun rises.
  6. Create a summer calendar together. Mark in upcoming excursions, as well as daily and weekly schedules, so your child knows what’s happening day to day and what to look forward to. If there’s a trip ahead, a calendar can be a catalyst for planning and anticipation.
  7. Suggest she read a book. A trip to the public library can be an investment in happy reading hours during the week. You might also suggest starting a kids’ book club, scheduling family reading times, or writing book reviews for kids’ journals.
  8. Create a home science corner. You can find ideas for simple home science experiments at
  9. Put together an artist’s activity box. Collect odds and ends for pictures, cards, collages and other works of art: glue, coloured paper, ribbon, cardboard, wool, popsicle sticks, paper clips, sprinkles, cotton balls, scraps of fabric, tinfoil. And here are some recipes for playdough:
  10. Create a music-making centre. Your child can make musical instruments out of paper tubes, wax paper, and a rubber band, or with sticks, tiles, wood, plastic, or different sized pots. Put a kazoo, harmonica, or recorder in the box. Ask him what rattles, rings, or makes other interesting sounds, and throw those in, too. Encourage him to create and perform his own songs.
  11. Make a puppet show kit. Include old socks, buttons, felt, feather boas, and big picture frames.
  12. Assemble a drama box.  A carton for theatrical productions might include old hats, make-up, shoes, scarves, shirts, sheets, purses, gloves, and props.
  13. Create a writer’s activity box. Include here the essentials for creating a journal, newsletters, joke books, short stories, poetry, scripts, and letters.
  14. Make a section on your bookshelf for activity books. Include crossword puzzles, games, Sudoku, brain teasers, treasure hunts, and how-to basics on topics like drawing cartoons, building birdhouses, and decorating cupcakes

When Boredom is a Sign for Concern

We’ve focused here on healthy summer boredom that can open the door to self-discovery and creative productivity. Sometimes, however, boredom is a cause for concern. Here are some of the most common reasons a child might use ‘I’m bored’ to mask something more serious:

  1. Not enough intellectual, physical, or social stimulation. Make sure the activities your child is doing during the day while you’re at work are sufficiently challenging to keep her learning and growing in areas that interest her.
  2. Too much challenge. Is your child expected to do too much in one area or another? Is it time to pare down the expectations?
  3. Insufficient focus on affection or attention. When life gets busy, time for easy affection and attention can get lost in the shuffle. Make sure your child is getting enough warmth and connection-time.
  4. More serious psychological problems. If you have concerns about your child’s psychological well-being, consider seeing a professional.

Summer Downtime Can Bring Exciting Opportunities

After you’ve made sure your child’s physical, social, intellectual, and psychological needs are being met, the best summer parenting advice is this: help your child welcome his downtime as an exciting opportunity for discovery, creativity, and engagement. For more about these ideas—and many other topics as well—see Beyond Intelligence: Secrets for Raising Happily Productive Kids. You’ll also find articles, blogs, and resources at


Dona Matthews has taught at several Canadian universities and was associate professor at Hunter College, City University of New York, where she was the founding director of the Center for Gifted Studies and Education. Her previous books include The Development of Giftedness and Talent across the Life Span.

Joanne Foster teaches educational psychology courses at the Ontario Institute for Studies in Education of the University of Toronto. Dr. Foster contributes to the journal Parenting for High Potential. She’s also the author of Not Now, Maybe Later: Helping Children Overcome Procrastination.

Visit the authors’ website at

Check your answers! Here are the authors in our #ReadWomen2014 video

Last month we asked you to identify the authors in this video. Hundreds of your responded, and one of you won a fabulous prize. If you didn’t get the package of books this time around, you might want to study up for next time, and so we humbly present the authors from our #ReadWomen2014 video: the women Anansi publishes (in chronological order).

Here goes!

1. Margaret Atwood
2. Marian Engel
3. Anne Hébert
4. Doris Lessing
5. Erin Mouré
6. Jean Bethke Elshtain
7. France Daigle
8. Daphne Marlatt
9. Marie-Claire Blais
10. Lynn Crosbie
11. Ursula Franklin
12. Sharon Thesen
13. Janice Gross Stein
14. Lisa Moore
15. Margaret Visser
16. A.L. Kennedy
17. Sheila Heti
18. Suzanne Buffam
19. Margaret Somerville
20. Dr. Maria Tippett
21. Siobhan Roberts
22. Terry Murray
23. Elena Forbes
24. Gil Adamson
25. Lana Slezic
26. Lynn Coady
27. Maureen Medved
28. Elise Partridge
29. Shani Mootoo
30. Dr. Bonnie Henry
31. Emily Schultz
32. Heather McHugh
33. Helen Garner
34. Karen Solie
35. Zoe Whittall
36. Alison Pick
37. Kathleen Winter
38. Marjorie Harris
39. Tessa Virtue
40. Diana Athill
41. Georgia Nicols
42. Julie Booker
43. Karin Altenberg
44. Marie Michaud
45. Roberta Lowing
46. Alix Ohlin
47. Carrie Snyder
48. Clare Conville
49. Claudia Hammond
50. Deborah Levy
51. Erin Knight
52. Frances Harrison
53. Marie-Reneé Lavoie
54. Sandra Martin
55. Threes Anna
56. Cathi Unsworth
57. Charlotte Grimshaw
58. Maude Barlow
59. Camille Paglia
60. Hanna Rosin
61. Maureen Dowd
62. Caitlin Moran
63. Parinoush Sanie
64. Perrine Leblanc
65. Ru Freeman
66. Saleema Nawaz
67. Sara Peters
68. Théodora Armstrong
69. Sarah Lang
70. Anne-Marie Turza
71. Eve Harris
72. Nadia Bozak
73. Lynn Thomson
74. Elizabeth Renzetti
75. Sarah Boston
76. Monia Mazigh
77. Dr. Dona Matthews
78. Dr. Joanne Foster
79. Mareille Silcoff
80. Jacqueline Park
81. Sofi Oksanen
82. Adrienne Clarkson


How many of these authors have you read?

Congratulations, Julia! #ReadWomen2014

Last month we asked you to identify the Anansi authors in our #ReadWomen2014 video for a chance to win all of the books by women we publish this year. We were overwhelmed to receive hundreds of wonderful entries from keen readers. Best of all was Julia from Toronto who identified an incredible 81 of the 82 literary faces that flashed by her computer screen.

Today we packed up the first half of Julia’s prize: the first half of our contribution to the ocean of incredible women-authored novels, short story collections, essays, non-fiction, poetry, and everything in between being published this year. Have a look at our lovely assistant Cindy struggling to hold them.


If you’re keeping track, here’s what Julia can expect in the mail:


If you want to receive some of these in the mail too, use the code READWOMEN at to take 20% off the cover price!

And remember – orders of $35 or more ship for free in Canada!


WorldPride 2014 – Guest post by Erin Mallory, playlist by Jessica Rattray

Erin Mallory, Manager, Cross Media Group and Sales Assistant Jessica Rattray have your reads and groves for Pride.

Erin Mallory, Manager, Cross Media Group (left) and Sales Assistant Jessica Rattray (right)

WorldPride 2014 officially opens today in Toronto. This is the fourth WorldPride and the first one to be held in North America, so even more people are expected to descend on Toronto over the next 10 days than usual during Pride week. I expect that many of those people will be coming because of the broader, more issue-based programming the organizers have put together this year — like the 3-day Human Rights Conference — and others will be coming because they’re expecting an even bigger party than usual. This year also marks the 45th anniversary of the Stonewall Riots, so there is much to remember and much to celebrate.

My own relationship to Pride is complex. I fully believe in the importance of these kinds of events in raising awareness, gathering community, celebrating diversity, promoting freedom, and providing safe spaces for people who still, in 2014, can’t live openly without risking their lives. And while I have attended many Pride festivals over the years — in different cities and different countries, where I have marched and celebrated and volunteered — I think I’m done now. I’m not someone who really enjoys spectacle (of any kind) at the best of times, and as I’ve gotten older my tolerance for the noise, crowds, heat, line ups, and drunk people has dwindled very close to nil. I am my father’s daughter, no question about that. And beyond the physical discomforts, I also struggle with the increasing corporatization and mainstreaming of Pride as it gets further and further from the grassroots uprising that spawned it.

So, to celebrate Pride this year, I’m going to dive deep into my own safe space: a comfy chair on my own patio, close enough to the Village that I can hear the goings on, but far enough that the noise and crowds won’t distract me from my book. And in case anyone else is looking for a good book to celebrate with this year, here are six of my favourite Groundwood and Anansi books with queer content, and Jessica has paired the books with a perfect pride playlist for you to enjoy.

Happy Pride!

Erin Mallory




Valmiki’s Daughter

Shani Mootoo

I’ve had an author crush on Shani Mootoo since I read her first book in the late 90s and I was beyond thrilled when I got hired at Anansi in 2009 because they had recently published Valmiki’s Daughter. I read it in a weekend and was completely swept away by the lyrical quality of the writing. This book beautifully weaves together broad and sometimes difficult themes like gender, race, class, and sexuality with a lush and vivid landscape.


Mariko Tamaki & Jillian Tamaki

I am not a big reader of graphic novels but I picked up Skim because I thought my niece, who loves to draw and loves manga, might like it. She was a little younger than the suggested reading age so I  figured I would skim through the book (pun intended) to make sure it was appropriate. Instead, I was completely drawn in to the story and read the whole thing through. The illustrations are brilliant and evocative and the story is heart-breaking and heart-warming and heart-tingling. This book has opened my eyes to the beauty of graphic novels and I will definitely read more — at least more written and illustrated by the Tamaki cousins.

The Disciple of Las Vegas

Ian Hamilton

I love a good mystery novel, and I love a good mystery novel with a queer female protagonist even more. The Disciple of Las Vegas, the second Ava Lee novel, is my favourite of the series because Ava’s character gets more fully developed both in her personal life and professionally. Also, a good chunk of the action happens in Vancouver, my home town, and it tugs at my West Coast heart strings.

Girl From Mars

Tamara Bach translated by Shelley Tanaka

This is exactly the kind of book I wish I had come across when I was a teenager. I was an avid reader and knew I was different from most other kids, but I had no idea why. I’m certain that reading a story like Girl From Mars back then would have opened my eyes and my mind to the possibility that I was different because I was gay, and maybe that was ok. The charm of this book for me is that is doesn’t read like an after-school special. Instead it’s real and sexy and complex and fun and full of really big questions — just like the life of a teenager.

Maggie & Me

Damian Barr

I am a tough customer when it comes to memoirs because I’m cynical and have little tolerance for self-importance   — I find the whole genre rather self-indulgent (I know, I know,  this is more a reflection of me than of the genre itself) — but reading Maggie & Me was a genuine pleasure. This book  was entirely lacking in self-pity, even when the author was describing the bleakest and most traumatic events of his childhood. Damian Barr found the perfect balance between comedy and tragedy in recounting his life and I am glad that I went along for the ride.

Holding Still For As Long As Possible

Zoe Whittall

I love this book for its simple and real portrayal of queer and trans characters who are just living life. It’s refreshing to pick up a book and find characters that reflect my lived experience — and it makes me grateful that I didn’t have to navigate my early twenties via txt msg.


It’s fair to say that House of Anansi has always published great women writers, so when Joanna Walsh of the Guardian began her #readwomen2014 initiative we decided to do a Vida Count of our own. We were pleased and fascinated by what we discovered.

In 1967, our founding year, Anansi published Janis Rapoport’s debut poetry collection, Within the Whirling Moment, in the Young Poets series (YPS) and the young Margaret Atwood’s second collection, Circle Game, winner of the Governor General’s Literary Award, was published under the House of Anansi imprint (HAP 3).

This was an auspicious beginning to be sure, however, over the next twenty-two years Anansi published only twenty female authors. That’s not a high number, but in the ensuing twenty-five years, since 1987, the house has published more than seventy women writers — a 300% increase! We’re happy to report that women writers have very strong representation at Anansi, across all genres. Our women authors write about everything: health and wellness, science, history, astrology, memoir, poetry, and fiction.

We have decided to take up #readwomen2014 as our campaign slogan for the upcoming fall season largely because we have a plethora of fabulous women writers on our list and want the world to know about them. More importantly, we want everyone to read their books! So please take a look at what we have to offer you in the coming months. Enter our contest to win wonderful prizes. And please, please read and share these extraordinary writers! #readwomen2014

House of Anansi President and Publisher, Sarah MacLachlan


Enter to win!