8 reasons to light Hanukkah (Chanuka) candles, 1 for every night

The what’s up:

“So What?”  May be something you ask and wonder about when someone tells you something.

There is a reason why you ask this.  The “So What?” is very important part of what makes us human.  We are meaning seeking creatures.  Therefore, we ask this because we are looking for meaning or purpose.

It’s not enough to just know stuff or do stuff, we need good reasons for why we want to or should do something.

The story:

Some years ago, when Hanukka and Christmas and winter season were all a blur to me, a family member came to me with a menorah and said, “Here, it’s Hanukkah, light it up.”  And so I did.  The first night, maybe the second night and then forgot all about it for the rest of the 8 nights.

Years passed by and today I am clear on what the holiday of Hanukka is all about.

The explanation:

Hanukka, celebrates the survival of the Jewish religion and Jewish people.  The Greeks wanted to kill off the Jewish religion but keep the people alive.  Some Jews converted and changed their belief system, while others fought to retain the religion and the beliefs.  The temple was destroyed in the process and at the end of the war, a small jug of oil was found and then lit.  The oil was such small amount that it was a miracle that it lasted for 8 days.  And these are the things we celebrate.  The miracle of oil.  Being ourselves and staying true to our roots.

The purpose: 

Why light the candles for 8 nights?  Yes, it is to remember the miracle that happened there, (in Israel).

Now here is another set of reasons for every night.

  1. 1st night, light and pray for Gd to take away loneliness
  2. 2nd night, light and pray for peace and harmony in our home
  3. 3rd night, light and pray for the wellbeing of children
  4. 4th night, light and pray for motherhood, fatherhood or selfhood
  5. 5th night, now that the lit candles outnumber the unlit candles, light and pray to gain positive outlook on life
  6. 6th night, light and pray for becoming a good person, and staying on the right track
  7. 7th night, light and pray for, trusting Gd more, having more faith and less worries.
  8. 8th night, light and pray for the supernatural and for miracles to happen in your life.

Wishing you a beautiful, peaceful, meaningful holiday!

In the comments, share with us, some things you do to make it a meaningful holiday for you? 

And if you want some playful songs to get into the spirit and learn more, here are some links that will take you to videos on youtube.





Stop putting it off and start putting it on!

So you know that person who got a high score on that test?

Or that other person who was performing nicely on the piano?

Or that other person who made it really far in the spelling bee?

Or those other kids who get the highest test grades in class?

How do they do it?   Are they magical or something?

Read on to find out.

I am continuing my work in the business development class I am taking now.  This week I had to write a promise letter to the people I serve with my reading and writing tutoring or teaching.

That’s you, the parent or the student.

This assignment also urged me to stay consistent on my promise, like a good friend, and constantly deliver no matter what.

So I am thinking.  Yes, I should deliver, but what if no one pays attention or cares?  What if they make fun of me or think it’s stupid?  What if I am not good enough?  What if it doesn’t work out?

And that’s when I saw this:

And so I told myself.  Yes!!  When I do my work, I am serving Gd.  He doesn’t want us to be influenced by negative, and lazy powers that talks us down and away from our service or work.  He wants us to grow and prosper.  We have to find a way to overcome whatever that may be holding us down and move past our fears.  It’s not about other people.  It’s about us and gd.

But in order to serve, we must stay consistent and deliver our promise.  If I do something sporadically, you know, once in a while, then nothing happens.

If you have an infection and were given antibiotic for treatment, you have to take it consistently for set amount of days.  Otherwise the infection won’t die but will come back again and keep you sick.

And that’s when I saw this sign:


So there we go.  Here is my promise to you:

As this school year continues I promise this to the students and parents I serve:

  1. Weekly blog posts like these, except holiday. (Holidays are a time for rest, reflection and rejuvenation).
  2. Incorporate more art, meaning and emotional intelligence into my work
  3. Continue to serve the people of Queens with my tutoring and teaching services for reading and writing
  4. Summer programs
  5. Work on completing my books that I’ve been dreaming about writing and publishing.

Now a lot of this may seem scary and time consuming and overwhelming.  It doesn’t have to be.  Much of these activities aren’t as time consuming as we imagine them to be.  We can start by making a schedule or a consistent effort with only 5-10 minutes a day.

I would like to hear from you.  Share with me in the comments:  What is something you’ve been putting off for a while? What is that something you can start to do every day for 5-10 minutes a day? 

27 years later, the secret is revealed!

For years I’ve been asking or just wondering on what makes someone really good at what they do.  What does it take to be great at something?  As a kid I’d ask my parents about people who were considered great or people who were famous.  “How do they become so well-known and admirable?” I’d ask.   I was told that these people are just really amazing and exceptional at what they do.  I interpreted that to mean, that being great is being perfect.

If someone is amazing at something, doesn’t that mean that he or she is flawless?


Upon recently joining a business development class, I have realized something I’ve been pondering for 27 years.  I finally figured out the secret to greatness and attracting people to your work.  The secret is being obsessed with your work and really truly believing in what you are doing.

Once again, if you want to make a change it has to start with you.  You know how you can’t really change others.  You can only change yourself?  Well, the same concept applies here.  If you want others to love and respect what you do, you have to be the first to start the love and respect for your work.

If you don’t, then no one else will.

As an English teacher and a reading specialist, I absolutely love my work.  I love how the English language comes together through Latin and Greek prefixes, roots and suffixes.  It’s amazing how we can pull apart words and then replace some parts and create whole new words.  (Check out this workbook I put together on Latin and Greek roots, prefixes and suffixes.)

I totally love creative expression.  It amazes me every time how words can be put together to paint a picture.  It is even more amazing how words can be used to change the course of history and how people think and function.  (Have you read, Martin Luther King’s speech, I Have a Dream?  It is such a delicious and oh so beautifully written speech.  Go read it now.)

Additionally, I love studying emotional intelligence or learning about human emotions and why we function as we do.  To read literature, means you have to do character analysis, which means you must understand people and their emotions.  I can read and learn about this all day, all night and all year.  (I just finished reading books by Steven Pressfield, titled, The War of Art and Do the Work.  Both books focus on the idea of resistance and how resistance holds us back from shining and doing our best.  For example, think of Hamlet, the dude is facing resistance all through the book or think of Lion King’s Simba.  Ahh, you see how literature analysis and personal development go hand in hand.  Love it! :) )

Last but certainly not least, I love art.  Drawing to be exact.  I love to draw stuff.  It is so much fun.  And then I love to enhance my drawing with wisdom filled quotes that I put together thanks to the literature and personal development books that I can’t get enough of.  (I am working on putting together a book now.  Samples will be shared with you soon.  Can’t wait!!!).

From now on, what I love, I am offering to you.

On the top right side of this website, check out my reading/writing classes, test prep classes and soon to be available, workbooks and fun books.

In the comments below, share with me, what it is you love oh so much that you wish to share with the world? 

Sending you much love and reading!

“I read it but I don’t get it. What can I do?”

How do I motivate my child to read more? 

I read it but I don’t get it.  What can I do? 

I want to read, but I don’s get what I am reading.  What should I do?

These are just some of the question I get asked most often as a reading specialist.  Upon researching, teaching, learning and then researching some more, I have come up with the following strategies to answer these questions.  When the child better understands what he/she reads he will be more motivated to read.  These can be applied for all ages that read, 5 to adulthood.

Strategy 1: Read before you read. 

Before you start reading, take a look at the cover, the title, the author and the back cover. What do these reveal about the book before you are about to start reading? What are the pictures on the cover? What’s the title all about? What is the summary on the back? Who is the author? What kind of stuff does this author write? Once you answer these questions, ask some more questions about the book, make predictions… then proceed.  This is similar to watching a movie.  Before you go watch it you may read the reviews, watch the trailer, learn about who is the director and the actors.  How does this help?  It allows the reader to understand what he or she is about to read.  This understanding contributes to better comprehension of the content.

Strategy 2: Read while you read.

Too often our children read the words out loud perfectly but have no idea what they mean or they will read books and while doing that drift off into thinking about other stuff, then a page or two later, have no idea what they just read. So what to do to help stay focused while reading so they actually read while they read?  Have a conversation with the author as you read.  What does that mean and how do you do that? The author wrote to communicate something to you, so you can communicate back. Here are 3 things you can do: 1. As you read and if you find something interesting, note it by writing a “Yes! or a Wow! or Interesting,” next to that passage or sentence.   2. If you read something that confused you or you want to know more about, put a question mark next to it.  3. If you read something and connect to it or connect that information to something else that you’ve read, note it. Such communication with the author allows for deeper comprehension and more joyful reading.

Strategy 3:  Read after you read.

What does this mean? Once you finish reading the book, you may have more questions or thoughts about the topic that you read. Questions may have come up as you were reading on other matters that weren’t addressed in the book you were reading. With these new thoughts and questions in mind, investigate for a new book to read so you could find answers.

Reading is a cycle, similar to other cycles of life such as the life cycle.  You start off with reading before you read, reading while you read and end with read after you read and then again go back to read before you read and so on.  Applying these strategies will help contribute a deeper understanding and therefore create a habit of reading.

Museums improve reading comprehension

For this week I was planning on posting a blog post on 5 steps to better reading comprehension but instead something else, very exciting happened. Yesterday, on New Year’s Day, I ended up at the American Museum of Natural History in Manhattan. All members of the family were home and we all went.

Getting together to leave the house to go wasn’t the easiest thing. Because you know……one kid doesn’t really want to go because he is busy with the rainbow loom, the other wants to watch Curious George and the other just wants to sleep. After talking, explaining the benefits and some frustration in between, we finally we got dressed and left. And at the end of the day, we all enjoyed it very much.

Back to the trip. It was amazing! The exhibitions there were spectacular. We visited the Poison exhibition and it discussed the when poison is helpful and harmful, the history of poison and the role poison plays in our lives through history and literature.

There were so many more exhibitions there, including the cycle of life in animals and the cycle of water, and all that’s outside of earth, the universe. Wow, wow oh wow. It was just amazing.

Education Next magazine published an article on how visiting museums improves children’s critical thinking skills. And for sure it does. I can totally see how. There is so much we learn through textbooks and when we go to museums the information in text books comes to life and becomes more real. Therefore it is more comprehensible. Therefore I can think better because I understand better and more. So it makes perfect sense.

Now how about we organize a trip to the museum for your kids? It will be amazing fun! Let’s do it in February during mid-winter recess.

This will be a small group. Up to 6 children. The cost will be 75 and that includes entrance fee, transportation, parking and of course my guidance and teaching on all the exhibits we visit. Each child will bring his own lunch and snack. We will be there for most of the day. Pick up at 9am and drop off at 4pm. It will be amazing, educational fun!!!

Is your child(ren) in? This is for children ages 6-14 and limited to 6 kids only. So sign up as soon as possible.  Send me an email or call to tell me you are interested.

Enjoy your Thursday that feels like a Monday. :)

Oh and the post of 5 steps to better reading comprehension is coming up next week.

Your everyday life can help improve your child’s reading comprehension

Reading comprehension is key to success in learning.  Think about it, how do people young or old learn?  One of the most common and predominant ways we communicate is through literature.  Therefore one of the most common and predominant ways that we learn is through reading.  If you can read, you can learn anything. 

In school your child may be learning various reading strategies.  How can you as a parent help your child improve his/her reading comprehension?  What can you do at home?  Before we answer this question there is something very important we have to learn and realize.  I am currently in Queens College working on attaining my master’s degree in Literacy.  This fall was my first semester.  My professor emphasized how background knowledge is key to comprehension.  Without background knowledge, students/children will have a hard time comprehending the text. 

So here is what you can do to help your child build his background knowledge and as a result improve his reading comprehension. 

  • Educate your kid.  Share with him all that you know. 
    • o   For example, do you know how airplanes, cars, television and other devices and machines operate?  If so, tell them, teach it to them.
  • You don’t have to make special time for this, so don’t panic on where you will find the time to do this now.  Do it while you are spending time with your children eating, driving, cooking and other such activities. 
    • o   For example, when you drive down the LIE (if you are in NYC), tell them about LIE, how long it is and how it helps you get from point A to point B.   
    • o   Tell them about JFK.  Who was he, what happened.  Tell them about Jackie Robinson.  What so special about these people that we have roads and highways and airports named after them.  If you are not sure, look it up on google and share the knowledge. 
    • o   If you are cooking or washing dishes and if that particular food you are making or those particular plates you are washing carry some kind of significance in your family history, tell them. 
    • o   During dinner/breakfast/lunch table, teach them or share with them what you learned from watching the news, Dr. OZ, reading the paper/magazine/website.  Or what you learned at work about the work you do and or about how people interact with each other. 
    • o   Tell them about what life was like back where you came from, what your childhood/high school life/college life/ newly married life was like.  This includes where you lived, what were important lessons you learned, or what was common thing to do among people and why.  Tell them about what your parents and grandparents were like and what family traditions you shared and the holidays you celebrated.  What kind of work did your parents and grandaprents do and why? 
    • o   Do you have family members that served in the Army or War?  Have them share their experiences/knowledge.
    • o   Tell them what life was like in your days and what is different in your children’s days and what is still the same.
    • Tell them where you traveled and what you saw and learned there.  

You get the idea. 

By sharing such information with your children, you are helping your child with the reading comprehension.  Next time your kid reads something about other cultures, about war, about human interactions, he/she will remember what you told him/taught him and make a connection between what you shared and the book/text he is reading.  This connection is necessary for reading comprehension.  Without a connection, very little comprehension takes place. 

Put this into practice today.  For additional questions or help, reach out.  I will be glad to help.  If you have more resources to offer, please do so in the comments section. 

Happy Learning + Succeeding!

What does math have to do with reading?

When we think of math we think of numbers, computation.  However, much of the math involves reading comprehension so we know what numbers to compute.   Many students struggle with word problems because they don’t really understand what all those algebraic terms mean.  Here is something that will definitely help translate algebraic terms into everyday, spoken English.

I got this from purplemath.com:

Look  for “key” words. Certain words indicate certain mathematical operations. Below is a partial list. Copyright

  • ·         increased by
  • ·         more than
  • ·         combined, together
  • ·         total of
  • ·         sum
  • ·         added to
  • ·         decreased by
  • ·         minus, less
  • ·         difference between/of
  • ·         less than, fewer than
  • ·         Of
  • ·         times, multiplied by
  • ·         product of
  • ·         increased/decreased by a
  • ·         factor of (this type can involve both addition or subtraction and multiplication!)
  • ·         per, a
  • ·         each
  • ·         out of
  • ·         ratio of, quotient of percent (divide by 100)
  • ·         Is, are, was, were, will be
  • ·         gives, yields
  • ·         sold for

Here something more I got from Cuesta College’s Website on their Academic Support page:

Translating English Terms Into Algebraic Symbols

Sum +
Add +
In addition +
More than +
Increased +
In excess +
Greater +
Decreased by -
Less than -
Subtract -
Difference -
Diminished Reduce -
Remainder -
Times as much x
Percent of x
Product x
Interest on x
Per /
Divide /
Quotient /
Quantity ( )
Is =
Was =
Equal =
Will be =
Results =
Greater than >
Greater than or   equal to
Less than <
Less than or equal   to

Translating English Words Into Algebraic Expressions

Ten more than x x + 10
A number added to 5 5 + x
A number increased   by 13 x + 13
5 less than 10 10 – 5
A number decreased   by 7 x – 7
Difference between x   and 3 x – 3
Difference between 3   and x 3 – x
Twice a number 2x
Ten percent of x 0.10x
Ten times x 10x
Quotient of x and 3 x/3
Quotient of 3 and x 3/x
Five is three more   than a number 5 = x + 3
The product of 2   times a number is 10 2x = 10
One half a number is   10 x/2 = 10
Five times the sum   of x and 2 5(x + 2)
Seven is greater   than x 7 > x
Five times the   difference of a number and 4 5(x – 4)
Ten subtracted from   10 times a number is
that number plus 5
10x – 10 = x + 5
The sum of 5x and 10   is equal to the product of x and 15 5x + 10 = 15x
The sum of two   consecutive integers (x) + (x + 1)
The sum of two   consecutive even integers (x) + (x + 2)
The sum of two   consecutive odd integers (x) + (x + 2)

You can print this out and highlight those that are relevant to your child based on his grade level.  Then hang it up where your child does his homework or have him keep a copy in his binder as a reference.

For additional questions or help, reach out.  I will be glad to help.  If you have more resources to offer, please do so in the comments section.

Welcome to 2013—2014 school year…

I am thrilled for this new school year, for the challenges it will bring upon and the new lessons it will teach us.  Veracity Learning is continuing to provide tutoring services in reading, writing and math in the Queens and western Nassau, NY area.  We have private home tutoring for children who want to catch up or advance in their reading, writing and math skills.  Through our tutoring our dear students become more confident and enthusiastic learners and as a result experience significant progress and success. 

New this year, we are working on offering Reading, Writing & Math tutoring for high school students, including SAT and college preparation and life preparation.  More details coming soon.  Stay tuned! 

Additional good news is that I am also back in Queens College to complete my master’s degree in literacy.  Upon completion I will become a licensed Literacy Specialist or a Reading Specialist.  This is great for me and you because over the past 3 years I’ve successfully helped many, many children significantly improve in their reading and as a result they were able to move on to next grade.  Upon receiving this degree I hope to help even more students by creating programs for children throughout New York and eventually, Gd willing, throughout the nation.  (Aah, the loveliness of dreaming big!) 

Wishing you a successful school year!  And remember to always learn well and dream big.  J

Reading, Math, Writing Tutoring, K-8th Grade in Fresh Meadows, NY

Too many children go from one grade to the next without sufficiently improving in their reading and math skills.  Somehow then school becomes harder, and it becomes more and more unbearable to do the homework, pay attention in class and get good grades on class tests and standardized exams.  To resolve this problem, Vera Borukhov, graduate of Queens College and certified teacher founded Veracity Learning Inc., a company devoted to a “practice and persevere” teaching method she developed herself.  After running a successful summer program from her home where students moved up in their reading levels and sharpened their math skills, she reached out to Utopia Jewish Center in Fresh Meadows, NY, to use their Minyan room during the after schools hours and on Sundays.  The 400 square feet room is used to provide intensive tutoring in reading, writing and math for elementary and middle school children, (K-8). “The problem is that too many children don’t put in enough time into improving their math and reading skills.  Most children are perfectly capable of keeping up with grade level requirements and reach beyond.  Time, effort and consistent practice are keys to success. ” says Vera Borukhov founder and director of Veracity Learning.  Therefore the classes are designed to be 2-3 hours long and are offered up to 5 times a week, to make sure that the child develops the ability to practice and presevere.  

As a matter of fact it is a “practice and persevere” based learning program.  “What makes Veracity Learning different is our approach.  Our goal is not only to assess and provide a learning plan with workbooks, but to also teach and mentor in developing good character and success –oriented habits.  Some of these include resilience, tenacity and positive thinking.  We approach learning in a way that students can improve and practice skills, in order to persevere throughout their entire life.  Many students go from approaching subjects such as reading, math or writing with fear, to approaching them with love and greater ease,” enthusiastically explains Ms. Borukhov

Classes are offered from 3:30—5:30 p.m.  & 5:30 p.m. –7:30 p.m. on Monday-Thursday.  On Sundays there is a class from 10:30 p.m. –12:30 p.m. and again from 1:00 p.m. –4 p.m.  Some parents wonder if their child could sit through a 2-3 hour class.  The environment that Ms. Borukhov creates is encouraging, motivating and the children work diligently.  Only one break is given and it is 2-6 minutes long.  The classes are designed to be intense and provide the improvement necessary.  The cost for the 2 hour class is $54 and 3 hour class $79.  Parents are welcome to sign up for 1-5 times a week.  Discounts are provided for those parents who sign up their children for more than 3 times a week. 

To learn more you can call 718-790-8911, visit www.veracitylearning.com, or come in for a trial class between the hours of 3-7 p.m. on Monday-Thursday and 10:30 a.m. -4 p.m.  on Sunday.  Utopia Jewish Center 64-41 Utopia Parkway Fresh Meadows, NY  11365. 

What does the, “I’m not good at it” statement really mean?

If I had to pick one statement that I’ve often heard and still hear from time to time, that troubles me the most is: “I am not good at…. (fill in the blank).”  To believe in and to say such statements is the pinnacle of self-sabotage.

In his book, Outliers: The Story of Success, Malcome Gladwell explains how people become successful; he defines success not as the magical accomplishment of an individual, but as the painstaking work of a community.  He provided many examples that supported his assertion.  As an educator, I found his discussions of schools, colleges, students and teaching methods to be very significant to the overall meaning of what success truly is.

Schoenfeld, a math professor at Berkley videotaped countless (college) students as they worked on math problems.  His favorite session was a girl ‘Renee’, who patiently attempts different approaches to solving one problem until she finally arrives at the right answer.  It took her 22 minutes to solve one algebraic math problem at the 8th grade level.

Is it normal or futile to spend so much time on one problem?

“Schoenfeld once asked a group of high school students how long they would work on a homework question before they concluded it was too hard for them ever to solve.  Their answers ranged from 30 seconds to 5 minutes with an average answer 2 minutes.”

In his course on problem solving, Schoenfeld teaches students to: “unlearn the mathematical habits they picked up on the way to the University.”  These bad habits included procrastinating and frantically working on a project the night before.  Shoenfeld explains, “I pick a problem that I don’t know how to solve and tell my students that they are going to have a two week take home exam.” This two week exam must be worked on for two weeks, from the day it is assigned to the day that it is due, not crammed on the night before due date.  He warns his students that if they don’t work on it for the entire time provided, they won’t be able to provide a solution and therefore fail.

Similarly, a student is often assigned a research project a month before it is due; often the assignment gets pushed back until the last few days before the due date.  At that point many students may become even more overwhelmed by the size of the project and the limited time at hand.  If a project is assigned a month in advance then the whole month needs to be utilized completing the many and various steps of gathering the research.  When students don’t make proper use of allotted time and expect the work to be magically completed in a short time period, they become confused, puzzled, discouraged and ultimately label themselves as someone who is, “not good at it.”

Many times we treat ‘being good at something’ as an innate ability, whether it is math or writing.  You either have it or you don’t.  Shoenfeld as a college professor and I as a teacher and founder of Veracity Learning agree that it is not so much about, “ability as attitude; you master mathematics [or whatever else] if you are willing to try.”  Gladwell further explains, “Success is a function of persistence, doggedness and the willingness to work hard for twenty- two minutes to make sense of something that most people would give up on after thirty seconds.

Frank Corcoran, teacher at KIPP Academy explains that their students learn and practice thinking skill exercises for a given amount of time without being rushed.  Frank further explains that in other schools, “Everything is rapid fire and the kids who get it first are the ones who are rewarded. Birthed from this notion is the feeling that there are people who can do math and there are people who can’t do math.  Extended time gives you the chance as a teacher to explain things and more time for kids to sit and digest everything that’s going on.”   (KIPP Academy is an example of an educational institution that practices longer school days with extended periods of math and English.)

When we patiently sit and work through solving a problem or completing an assigned project we learn an amazing lesson vital for successful living:  One can reach success and be good at whatever it is he/she wants to be good at.  Success is not attributed to fate and it is not granted to a select few.  It can be attained by anyone.  You can be good at anything you want to be good at.  Just give yourself the time.  Give yourself a chance.