Friday, October 2, 2015

Kids & music: The most inspiring documentary I've ever seen

I just came out of this newly-released documentary about a music teacher who helped kids living around a Paraguay landfill make instruments from the garbage, and learn to play them. He coached them into an orchestra that now tours the world. The organization appreciates donations. The documentary (or story below) will bring tears to your eyes. Seriously.

Story: A poverty-stricken town in Paraguay built on landfill has used rubbish to create an orchestra that is getting worldwide attention...

Thursday, October 1, 2015

Award-winning young-adult author coming to Toronto

Nobody sleeps through my school presentations! Especially not boys, who particularly like my 17 bestselling adventure and extreme-sports novels. 

Hey, Toronto: I'm coming your way the week of May 9, 2016. That means schools can book me for author presentations that week starting now!

To book me, go here:

For more information on my presentations for fourth graders through high-schoolers, here's a flyer:

I'll have a new middle-grade book out by then from Orca Currents (more info on that in the near future)

from my flyer:
Award-winning Pam Withers speaks about her best-selling “extreme sports” adventure books – which are particularly popular with boys. They’re riveting; so is their author as a speaker. What else would you expect of a journalist, editor and award-winning speaker who is also a former outdoor
guide? Even boys are impressed that she has kayaked the Colorado River through the Grand Canyon. She speaks to more than 15,000 children per year across North America.

Her lively presentation for grades 4-9 includes:
• Short readings
•Tales of her own adventures
• Humorous anecdotes of how she researches her material
• The patience & persistence it takes to achieve success
• Special encouragement to boys
• The importance of rewriting & accepting criticism
• Tips on writing & getting published
• Extreme-sports video clips

“Our students are still talking about Pam’s visit! She’s a very engaging speaker. Her combination of book talks, personal experience, video clips, props, and audience participation, kept our large audience attentive and wanting more!”
Trudy Griebenow, Librarian, Sunnyside Elementary, Idaho Falls, ID.

“Extremely well received by our first through sixth-graders. Even the youngest were captivated by her real-life stories, readings, and video clips!”
Catherine Pavlik, Librarian, Hollywood Hill Elementary School, Woodinville, WA.

“Exciting, informative, fast-paced, and thoroughly engaging to our entire middle school!”
Mary Raymond, Librarian, LaConner School District, LaConner, WA

Thursday, September 24, 2015

What is your child's learning style?

Kids learn in different ways, and parents and mentors who know this end up being more effective in relating to and teaching them.

There are three “learning styles”: auditory, visual, and kinesthetic.

Auditory learners like it when parents read in a dramatic way, encourage them to talk more than write, and give directions aloud.

Visual learners understand best after being shown; they especially like diagrams, charts, pictures, films, to-do lists, and written directions.

Kinesthetic learners like to touch, feel, and experience. They thrive on skits, field trips, and hands-on learning.

Everyone starts out as a kinesthetic learner in kindergarten. Some gravitate to visual around second or third grade. In late elementary, some gravitate to auditory. We use the word “gravitate” rather than “evolve” because no one style is better than another.

But here’s the kicker: Auditory learners form forty percent of the school-age population, and they’re mostly girls. Kinesthetic learners form twenty-five percent, and are mostly boys. Parents and teachers (the latter are especially likely to be reading/writing oriented) often interact with students in their own preferred style, rather than the one best for the child, but adults who become aware of this can make simple adjustments to help the child thrive.

Numerous websites offer do-it-yourself tests to help individuals figure out their best learning styles (yes, most people have more than one). One site, which prefers the term “learning preferences,” even has a version for kids ages twelve to eighteen, and splits the “visual” category into “symbolic visual” and “visual text” (www.

Clearly, knowledge of learning preferences or styles offers parents and children themselves valuable insights for learning more easily and effectively, and preventing that downward spiral
in self-confidence. Schools that provide alternative teaching methods and non-traditional approaches to these learners often foster success. We recommend reading Thomas Armstrong’s The Myth of the ADD Child. Stories abound of students labelled as failures in traditional schools, who happily begin to flourish in non-competitive, collaborative environments. Locating a program structured on Adlerian philosophy or multiple intelligence theory is indeed a boon for a child struggling with ADD/ADHD and/or LDs.

Excerpted from Jump-Starting Boys: Help Your Reluctant Learner Find Success in School and Life, by Pam Withers and Cynthia Gill (Viva Editions). All references (footnotes) contained in the book.

Wednesday, September 16, 2015

Free presentations on turning around underachieving boys

Next week I'm giving four free presentations on helping to turn around underachieving boys, based on my book Jump-Starting Boys. All my books will be available for sale and I'll be there to autograph them. Here's where I'll be presenting around the Vancouver Lower Mainland, BC, Canada:

Monday Sept. 21, 7 pm: Yarrow School, 4595 Wilson Rd., Chilliwack, BC
Tuesday Sept. 22, 7 pm: Terry Fox Library, 2470 Mary Hill Rd., Port Coquiltlam, BC
Wed Sept. 23, 7 pm at George Mackie Library, 8440 112 St., Delta, BC
Thurs Sept. 24, 7 pm Ladner Pioneer Library, 4683 51st St., Delta, BC

Hope to see you there!

Friday, September 11, 2015

The adventure gene

Richard, Cynthia and Anita Miller, 1955
I just got this precious photo from my older sister, and figured it's worth sharing. It made me reflect on how adventure runs in our family. My parents spent their early years above the Arctic Circle in Allakaket, Alaska.,_Alaska
My mother, being a nurse, would take a dogsled across the frozen river to deliver babies -- all while expecting me herself (wearing a beaded fur coat with a wolverine hood, made by locals.) The toddler in the photo is my older sister Cynthia. I'm in my mother's tummy!

Friday, September 4, 2015

A whale of a birthday

Pam, Steve and Jeremy Withers
A few weeks ago I had the best birthday ever. Why? Not just because my husband and son took me out to dinner on the ocean-side deck of the Springwater Lodge on Mayne Island, British Columbia, but because as we were dining, an orca and her two babies swam by, then breached (leapt) for us. Just to wish me happy birthday, of course. No, they're not in the photo. But they were there celebrating, truly!

Sunday, August 30, 2015

Kids and online learning

I had a student as both a fifth- and sixth-grader, who had no confidence in himself in math. He has ADHD and could not focus long enough to get through a math problem that involved more than a quick answer he could do in his head. The first few months of fifth grade, he struggled. He hardly did any homework and would come late to school (math was the first lesson of the day). He broke many pencils as he erased and pushed too hard out of frustration. He was about two years behind in our curriculum.
Then our class began doing online math with the Khan Academy, which provides free online videos on everything from arithmetic to physics, and allows viewers to earn badges and points as they work their way through them at
Now he was able to get immediate feedback on his answers, and he began to want to do more, to receive the badges everyone else was getting. He loved the fact you could take hints or be shown the answer without having to look ‘dumb’ in front of the whole class. With coaching from me when he was stuck on a module, or even from other students he was comfortable talking to, he was one of the first to log on every day, the first now to ask me questions, and gained in confidence every day. Once he started taking his math education into his own hands, he wanted more.
When he was ready to apply the knowledge to real-world projects, activities, and situations, he really shone. He was finally confident enough in his skills to work collaboratively with others. Before this, he would sit back and let others do the work. He took pride in his projects, in learning more and showing me his progress. When we met each week to discuss his goals and reflections, it amazed me how articulate he was in his own learning, successes, struggles, and goals.
—Kelly Rafferty, teacher at Santa Rita School, Los Altos, California

Excerpted from Jump-Starting Boys: Help Your Reluctant Learner Find Success in School and Life, by Pam Withers and Cynthia Gill (Viva Editions). All references (footnotes) contained in the book.