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!

National Cancer Survivors Day [guest post by Dr. Sarah Boston]

On the cancer badness spectrum, there is a sweet spot where you can really own the title survivor. I like to give my canine cancer patients bandanas that say “Cancer Survivor” because it’s cute and it makes their owners happy during a bad time.

I put the canine survivor bandana on sometimes when we have a case with a very poor prognosis. It is often received with a look from one of my students that says, “Come on Boston, who are you trying to kid?”, but the way I see it, you are a survivor until you are not. There are times when I feel unsure that my thyroid cancer is worthy of the status of survivor because my prognosis is so good and I am doing great. But for some reason, this title matters to me.

My intern’s brother-in-law was recently diagnosed with a thyroid mass. I sent her all of the information that I could to try to help him navigate the experience. When I first found a fast-growing mass in my neck that I thought was cancer, the most frustrating part of it all was to have to sweat it out while multiple doctors told me that it probably wasn’t cancer. It was crazy-making. When I talked to my intern about my experience, she said, “But you just had a benign thyroid adenoma, right?” And for some reason, I had an overwhelming need to correct her “No, it was a carcinoma. I had thyroid cancer.” Why is it so important to make this distinction? Why do I need people to know that I am a survivor?

When someone is going through treatment, there are usually some signs to alert you to cancer; but as the hair grows back and the scars and the trauma fade, it gets harder and harder to identify the survivors. A lot of my canine cancer survivor patients, however, have three legs (and their bandanas of course), so they are bit easier to pick out of a crowd. Maybe human cancer survivors could all get matching tattoos or rings? Maybe if people knew that I was a cancer survivor they would stop asking me if/when I am going to have kids. They might assume that I didn’t have children because of the cancer (not true) and would stop being so judge-y about my barren state. Everyone is nice to cancer survivors. People also inherently like Canadians and veterinarians, and I am a Canadian veterinarian cancer survivor, so everyone would be nice to me all the time if I could just find a way to let them know. Maybe we could get cancer survivor discounts too? I’m just saying that cheaper movie tickets would be a bonus of survivorship that I could really get behind.

This past week, I was in a consultation with an adult couple and their dog with a large sarcoma on her hip. The dog’s grandma was in the room with us, sitting on a chair between the couple. Granny was essentially inert for the entire discussion of the plan for their dog. She looked like she was sleeping with her eyes open while we talked about the staging CT scan and the potential for surgical excision. The male owner told me that he was having a hard time with all of this because he was a cancer survivor, to which I replied, “So am I.” He wasn’t expecting it. He was a testicular cancer survivor. I am glad that he survived and even more glad that he did not choose to show me his scar. This group cancer announcement roused something in Granny. Out of nowhere, she started to bawl hysterically. She was inconsolable. Between sobs, she kept saying, “Cancer! So . . . much . . . CANCER!!” Her son explained that her husband had died of cancer. Now she was in a room with the dog with cancer, owned by her son with cancer, being treated by a vet with cancer. It was too much.

Somewhere in Granny’s grief and exasperation about cancer, I realized why being a survivor is important, and why I need people to know that it wasn’t just a benign lump on my neck that I am telling them about. I instantly connect with other cancer survivors because we are all veterans of the war on cancer. Three of us in that room — the dog, my client, and myself — will all survive our cancers. We need to remind people that even though cancer is all around us, and it’s devastating sometimes, some of us will survive it. National Cancer Survivors day matters because we need you to know that we are still here.

Lucky Dog by Dr. Sarah BostonLucky Dog
How Being a Veterinarian Saved My Life

What happens when a veterinary surgical oncologist (laymen’s term: cancer surgery doctor) thinks she has cancer herself? Enter Sarah Boston: a vet who suspects a suspicious growth in her neck is thyroid cancer. From the moment she uses her husband’s portable ultrasound machine to investigate her lump — he’s a vet, too — it’s clear this will not be your typical cancer memoir.

Dr. Sarah Boston is an associate professor of surgical oncology, department of small animal clinical sciences, at the University of Florida. She has practiced veterinary medicine in various parts of Canada, the U.S, and New Zealand. She lives in Gainesville, Florida, with her husband, and their dog Rumble and cat Romeow.

30 years of Word Worth Books — Guest post by David Worsley


Tricia Siemens and Chuck Erion opened Words Worth Books in 1984 in uptown Waterloo, when Kitchener-Waterloo was a manufacturing power, and the area was growing quickly.  Both Chuck and Tricia brought a wealth of complimentary talents to the job.  Tricia had an accounting background, and Chuck was a whiz with computer networks who could fix or build most anything.  Both of them were also voracious and eclectic readers.

The store thrived until the Chapters rollout of the mid-90s when we took a serious hit.  Staff hours were cut, inventory shrunk, as people flocked to the new discount-kid on the block.  There were weeks when we had fewer than a dozen special orders; there were days when we had fewer than a dozen customers.  Through that time we wondered if we could make it, but put our nose down and learned to be smart and lean with our inventory.  Where we couldn’t offer discounts, we could offer taste and curatorship.  Where we couldn’t offer volume we could pivot on a dime.  We became vocal and visible members in our community.  A few years later our numbers recovered to pre-Chapters levels and we all got raises.

Chuck and Tricia retired a few years back and after working at Words Worth for years, Mandy Brouse and I took on the shop in 2011.  We moved the store to its current location last year and are now a couple weeks from the store’s 30th year in business.


Moving the store was both a lot of work and great fun.  A bunch of our favourite customers came out to help, and a scary undertaking had the makings of a big party.  It brought out the notion that a community-focused bookstore can bring people together toward a common purpose, and through their efforts another bookstore was saved from going under due to exorbitant rent.

Which brings us to the state of play today.

Contrary to the steady drip of gloomy bookstore-related news, digital reading is not shuttering bookstores.

It was high rent that made it hard to operate an independent bookstore in the 80s and it’s very much the same today.  Add to that warehouse-style discount stores and the central fact of Amazon has come to mean that independent retail of any kind is simply harder to do now.  If there’s been a single change in the industry, it’s in the sleight of hand that Amazon has pulled off, with the notion that books are “widgets” with very little inherent value, and should be priced as such.

When I reflect on my years with Words Worth it’s tough to think of a singular highlight.  I’ve met more great writers than most people, have never worked with someone I disliked, and have seen a lot of people at their very best over the years.  Our customers remind us that there is an awareness of– and an emotional connection to– locally owned businesses, and I believe that’s especially true with bookstores.  Additionally, having smart and passionate publishers to keep us in great new books, having a crack staff (which we’ve been blessed with for years) and a supportive community (blessed twice) will keep the store viable for the foreseeable future, and as we enter our 30th year, that’s plenty to be happy about.


David Worsley

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