Encouraging Curiousity

How do we develop curiosity? How do we introduce our children to this strange, difficult to describe trait that is shared by some of the most successful and interesting people in the world? Recently, I read through this article from Book Riot and author, Rachel Cordasco, makes quite a compelling case that books are the perfect place to start developing this quality. Cordasco proposes that we should have no restriction on our children’s reading selection. This freedom of choice lets them openly explore different genres, time periods and writing styles based on their interests. In turn, this freedom helps reveal a “kaleidoscopic diversity of human experience” and opens their eyes to the world as an “infinitely fascinating place.”

And why is this important? Because many young people today are trapped in a negative environment and need a place to get away. This escape often comes in the form of video games and television but can rear itself into more violent or criminal activities. Imagine the difference it would make if young people are able to look around knowing that adventure is everywhere. And imagine how liberating it is knowing that even when your own world feels frustrating, that you can pick up a book and lose yourself in a different world.

Cordasco writes that “discovery through reading is a universal experience, one that enables readers to imagine other lives and other worlds.”A good story immerses you so fully that you are taken along for the ride. You don’t just imagine visiting these places, but you are actually there. There’s no separation.

Perhaps then, the best way to let our children experience this world is to let them explore it for themselves. Walk them into a library and let them see beyond just a place that can help with their studies, to a land where every direction is a new adventure.

On the List! Pt.2

Our vision for the Lost Boyz Library Project includes providing a well-rounded collection that will excite and educate. This includes the addition of some classic titles, that are not recent releases. We feel that it is still important to include some of these books because the themes and lessons that they hold still are relevant to young people today.  Here are a few of the books from our wish list and why we want to include them in the library:


House on Mango StreetThe House on Mango Street by Sandra Cisneros tells the story of a young girl, Esperanza Cordero, growing up in Chicago. The story is broken up into vignettes which provide insight into the lives of the protagonist and those who surround her. The book manages to address important themes such as poverty, sexuality, the importance of education, identity, and more. This honest and hopeful coming of age story continues to be a great feature for young readers.



To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee has garnered renewed interest lately due to the recent release of the follow-up novel Go Set a Watchman this year. However, Mockingbird still holds strong as a classic that is used across classrooms To Kill a Mockingbirdand book clubs to this day. Following the story of Scout, this thought-provoking book deals with issues of racial inequality, moral standards, and a young girl’s journey to understand it all in a book that remains a staple.



Lord of the FliesLord of the Flies by William Golding follows a group of young boys on a deserted island. The story examines themes of friendship, human nature, morality, and innocence. This book provides a great insight into the dynamics of young characters while also portraying exciting action that will keep readers intrigued.



Charlotte’s Webb by E. B. White is a long-beloved children’s book that continues to be enjoyed by all ages. The story Charlottes Webbexplores themes of friendship, life and death as it chronicles the relationships between  Wilbur (the pig) and Charlotte (the spider). While a book about animals may seem silly for some, the beauty and tenderness of the story still shows important aspects of friendship that can be carried throughout life.

Telling our Real Story

The call for #WeNeedDiverseBooks and #WeNeedDiverseAuthors can be heard loudly over social media and has been gaining increased publicity lately. And why not, the more this issue is discussed the more it can be made apparent that a lack of diverse views and people in literature isn’t an honest portrayal. And there is no other time more influential when the diversity of characters is needed than for children and young adults.

These feelings were sparked after reading an article in the Huffington Post, “It’s Hard to Be What you Can’t See”. The article examines representation in children’s books and finds that “even as the number of Americans of color has continued to grow rapidly, the percentage of books reflecting them has not: with the annual total hovering around 10 percent” since studies began in 1994. The article goes on to reiterate the fact that not only is it important for children to feel accurately represented in the books that they read but for everyone to be able to embrace the diversity around them.

At some point it becomes important to think about what message we are passing to children by not allowing them to identify with images while simultaneously encouraging them to read. Are we creating the best space for children to feel encouraged in learning? Not simply whether we are tolerant of other cultures, colors and conformities, but are we really open to learning from others, crying and laughing with others and representing our true selves?

We desperately want all children to aspire to be strong compassionate and understanding adults. We want all children to be able to see a life for themselves beyond K-12, and college, but is there a vision for them to focus on? Are there narratives within literature that can help to inspire them?

We must highlight the importance of more diverse books in order to show the real story.


5 Types of Books for Kids

It’s known that exposing children to reading at an early age will help enhance their neurological, psychological, linguistic and social development. As a parent, educator, librarian, or community-leader, you might wonder what types of books are best to boost this development.

Here are five of my favorite types of books to encourage literacy and inspire a love of reading:

  1.  Books That Match a Child’s Interests

It’s enjoyable to read about topics that align with your own interests. Hearing this seems like common sense but it may be somediverse-poetry-1-400x597thing that we forget when picking out books on behalf of children. Asking a child what topics they would like to learn more about is a great way to allow their voice to be heard, express themselves, and explore aspects of their identity.


  1. Poetry Books

Poetry is a powerful means of presenting a story as it speaks right to the emotions of the reader. For kids, learning the power of words when arranged in a certain manner will lay the foundation not just for creative wording but for other forms of imaginative thinking.


  1. Books You Enjoyed When You Were Young9780060254926

First of all, there is no guarantee that a child will like all the books you did. However, there is always that curiosity of wanting to know why you loved a particular book, what it is that drew you in, and what they can possibly get from it. This adds a whole new layer of attraction.


  1. Books that are a Little Advanced for their Level

From board books to picture books, then chapter books and beyond. A kid might be ready for a more advanced type of book at any time. A good way to uncover their advancement is to expose children to books that are a bit higher level for their age. When they are ready, they will just find themselves not putting the book down.


  1. Board Books

For the very youngest who might not have a clue whether a book is some kind of treat or something to practice their board-books-ripping skills on, a board book is the best place to start. It will (hopefully) withstand all their destructive attempts, and it is easy for the kid’s tiny hands to interact with books for the first time during a read-to-me session.



These are just some types of books that will give children an affirmative early experience with literature, positively affecting different aspects of their development and encouraging future use of books. You can read up on other types of books that children should be exposed to in this article, which inspired this post. Can you think of any other types of beneficial children’s books not on the list?

On the List!

We would like to use these occasional posts to provide more insight about books on our Amazon Wish List for the Lost Boyz Library Project. Hopefully, this will convey our vision for this library project and inspire other educators as well!


Dr Seuss



Most people can remember Dr. Seuss books from their own childhood. And they continue to be great for all ages!  Dr. Seuss books provide an entertaining foundation to language development for beginning readers and remain favorites as children grow-up. These are books that will keep a young child’s interest, invoking rhymes and wordplay to entertain.







Firebird is a book written and inspired by Misty Copeland. Copeland is a skilled ballet dancer and the first African-American woman to be promoted to principal dancer at the history of the American Ballet Theatre. The beautiful pictures in this wonderful book are sure to inspire other young dancers and promote self-confidence.







Bippity Bop Barbershop details the experiences of a first-time visit to the barbershop for a young boy. This relatable and well-illustrated book explores this important experience in life while also celebrating the beauty of hair.





Do you have any suggestions of books we should add to our library wish list? Leave a comment with your recommendation and why.

Poverty is the Gun.

As I read through this article, I was blown away by its powerful and fearless message.  I cannot recall a time when a writer made an equally audacious and courageous statement.  “Poverty is the gun”? Could this possibly be accurate? Has society come to the point where we must speak so loudly for others to wake up and listen?

If gun violence is merely a symptom – or as I like to think, a result  – of a deeper, systemic crisis taking place in cities, we have a lot of work to do to uncover the culprit.  But first, it is important to link gun violence to its underlying emotional contingent: anger on the surface, and a vast well of sadness lurking beneath.

Where does this sadness stem from? Sadness is a result of loss and deprivation, and when children are deprived of opportunities from a young age, they have few creative outlets to work through their own challenges and experience personal growth and development.  They sit on their sadness until it becomes too much of a burden to bear.

I could go on and paint a stark image of this cycle, but I am writing instead to offer a solution to this immense challenge.  As I read this article, I immediately began to think of a TED Talks presentation I watched a while back given by a visionary named Theaster Gates.  Mr. Gates revitalized a marginalized neighborhood in Chicago by offering a unique opportunity for the community.  He bought a dilapidated house, fixed it up with the help of his neighbors, and designed a range of art and cultural classes to offer to the community around him.

Mr. Gates used the principles of art – beauty, imagination, creativity, and joy – to give families a voice and allow them to celebrate the very elements that make us human.  When individuals like Mr. Gates makes feelings of joy a reality, the well of sadness begins to rise up depths and to be released.

The example above highlights how crucial it is to a provide balanced, holistic Education in urban communities.  We must create positive environments which teach children to express themselves in a constructive way, and if we can get to them before they witness the violence that pervades our current condition, we will begin to address the problem instead of worrying about violence as the result.

You can view the TED Talk  by Mr. Gates below. Also, feel free to comment on this post with ideas you have implemented or witnessed that offer children a new kind of education and break this cycle of violence at its point of origination.

Help Give Books to Chicago Youth

We’re helping an ultra at-risk youth baseball organization in Chicago called Lost Boyz to raise $5,000 for the purchase of quality books and educational materials to supplement their after-school tutoring services.

These kids, ages 4-18, live in the South Shore Neighborhood in Chicago.

LaVonté Stewart, a former college baseball player, founded Lost Boyz to use baseball and softball as a positive deterrent to gang violence during the Chicago summers. LaVonté tells the story of having to stop one youth game while a man chased another man through center field with a handgun.

Against this level of odds, Lost Boyz has managed to grow in five years from one Little League team to four boys teams and a new girls softball team.

Now, Lost Boyz is looking to increase influence with their kids by acquiring space in their neighborhood for an after-school library and tutoring center.

As many of you know, Experience Baseball has partnered with Lost Boyz for the past three seasons, hosting kids and family members to press box seats for Chicago White Sox baseball games and donating proceeds from our educational baseball lectures directly to Lost Boyz.

This year, to help get Lost Boyz started with a new center and library, we’re trying to help raise funds to purchase books, a few shelves, and educational subscriptions for Lost Boyz.

If you are able, there are three things that can truly help us out:

Chicago library South Side Baseball Lost Boyz

Boys from Lost Boyz at an Experience Baseball event at U.S. Cellular Field in Chicago on July 3, 2015.

Everything is tax-deductible.

We’ve spent time getting to know many of the kids over the last three years and they’re a hilarious, playful bunch of baseball fans who love their White Sox!

It’s difficult to think about how many of these kids have not had the same chances others have to access the books that instill love of reading and learning or to gather to play baseball “at the school” without fear of violence.

Lost Boyz is changing all that. And we’d like to help.

If you have any questions or comments, please feel free to email me directly at tobias@experiencebaseball.org.



P.S. If you would like to learn more about Lost Boyz, you can visit their website and follow them on Twitter.

Reading as Therapy?

A recent column in the Nevada Appeal discussed the “toxic stress” that children living in poverty encounter and how being faced with these stresses on a daily basis affects the brain, learning, and behavior. I was particularly drawn to this article because it later went on to discuss that, in addition to necessary social programs, reading aloud to children can help to combat this physiology stress.


However, with kindles, audio books, and the internet a simple click away for a portion of the population, it can be easy to forget that books are not readily available to everyone and libraries, specifically in low-income communities, are in danger of going extinct. In an article on the Huffington Post by David M. Rader, he stated that in low-income Reading Stairs newneighborhoods the standard is one book for every three-hundred kids as opposed to middle and upper-class neighborhoods where there is an average of thirteen books for every child. This is startling, as studies have shown that simply having access to books and reading materials directly affects future employment opportunities, income, socioeconomic status, and long-term education.


Even though the article focused on Nevada social issues, it still rings true in many other US cities, including Chicago. This particularly sparked my interest as I thought of the Lost Boyz Inc Library Project, an initiative to create a library for children ages 4-18 on the city’s South Side.  With over 90% of the children served by Lost Boyz Inc’s programs coming from low-income families, they not only face the stress of limited resources but also the threat of violence, in a city that has already experienced 341 homicides since January.  Lost Boyz’s has already helped many children with their beneficial organized sports, mentorships, and educational programs — we hope that the creation of a library will provide these kids with a safe space to learn and grow.













Happy World Literacy Day from Experience Baseball!

Today marks International Literacy Day, established by UNESCO in 1965. Literacy Day aims to highlight the importance of literacy around the world. As per UNESCO’s website, “Literacy skills are the prerequisite for the learning of a broader set of knowledge, skills, attitudes, and values, required for creating sustainable societies.”

Literacy is still a major education initiative even in developed countries like the United States. A recent article in The Guardian highlighted the worldwide problem of illiteracy and the ways in which it negatively affects people’s lives and overall progress of a country.  The article, citing a report by the World Literacy Foundation, state; “People in rich and poor countries are “trapped in a cycle of poverty with limited opportunities for employment or income generation” because of illiteracy, the report said.”

In Chicago, the importance of improving literacy is also pertinent. In 2012, the Department of Education reported that 79% of the 8th graders in the Chicago Public Schools are not grade-level proficient in reading. While 53% of adults in the city have low or limited literacy skills, according to Literacy Chicago.

There is no doubt that the seeds of education are planted at an early age with simple things, like reading and access to libraries. Not only vital to literacy development and language skills, it also nurtures curiosity, creativity, and critical thinking. Still a huge inequality remains for children of low-income families and communities. Children in low-income areas often do not have access to quality reading materials, which creates an education gap that is difficult to mend.

Experience Baseball is taking steps to help educate and empower youth as we work to build a library for Chicago-based nonprofit, Lost Boyz Inc.  Lost Boyz Inc. was founded in 2008, and similar to our focus, also feature organized sports programs and youth outreach as a way to reduce violence, provide opportunities, and teach important life skills. The Lost Boyz Library Project will provide another avenue of community outreach and provide educational opportunities for the children that they serve in South Chicago.

You can help with our initiative by donating directly to our cause by using the Paypal button on the Experience Baseball homepage. You can also purchase books directly from our Amazon Wish list and have them sent to Lost Boyz Inc. We will be updating this blog with important milestones about this project so be sure to check back or sign up for our email newsletter.

We hope to make a library available to these children to enforce then mentality the reading, education, and ultimately success is available to them.

4th of July with Martha Black, White Sox

Join Experience Baseball in Chicago on July 4th as we host Martha Jo Black, daughter of 1952 N.L. Rookie of the Year, Joe Black, at an exclusive dinner and presentation in an event suite at U.S. Cellular Field.

Stick around and enjoy the White Sox vs. Seattle Mariners ballgame and Fourth of July fireworks in the suite.

Proceeds benefit our friends and partners at Lost Boyz, Inc. in Chicago.
Eventbrite - 4th of July with Martha Jo Black and the Chicago White Sox

A limited number of parking passes are available upon request on a first come, first served basis. Food will be provided at the event.

The event will begin at 4:00pm on Friday, July 4. Gate information and meeting time will be emailed to you upon ticket purchase.

Martha Jo Black

Joe Black: More than a DodgerMartha Jo Black is the daughter of 1952 N.L. Rookie of the Year and former Negro Leaguer, Joe Black. She is the author of Joe Black: More than a Dodger, available in 2015, the first biography of her father that “tells the story not only of a baseball great who broke through the color line, but also of the father she knew and loved.” Martha Black will speak about Joe Black’s life as a ballplayer, as a businessman, and as a father.

Martha Black is the Coordinator for White Sox Experiences with the Chicago White Sox.

Lost Boyz, Inc. in Chicago

Lost Boyz Inc. is a not-for-profit organization with a common interest in community development in disadvantaged neighborhoods. Their efforts are directed towards revitalizing organized sports, fostering learning and innovation in youth, promoting public safety, and stimulating local urban economies.

Lost Boyz stands as an organization focused on preparing low-income families and youth from the South Shore neighborhood to lead the future.

Eventbrite - 4th of July with Martha Jo Black and the Chicago White Sox

For more information, email tobias@experiencebaseball.org.