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Book Review

Lighting Their Fires: Raising Extraordinary Children in a Mixed-up, Muddled-up, Shook-up World

Many readers will know Rafe Esquith from his bestselling Teach Like Your Hair’s on Fire. He has spent his professional life teaching 5th graders in room 56 of Hobart Elementary School in Los Angeles.

In that first book he introduced readers to his extraordinary students, but he is quick to say that children aren’t born that way. Rather, he says, they become extraordinary as a result of parents and teachers who instill values that guide them not just in school, but for the rest of their lives. Esquith says the remarkable academic and extracurricular feats of the students of room 56 do not happen by accident or luck—they are the product of hard work on the part both of the kids and of those who guide them.

In his new work, he expands on the techniques presented in the first book. Framed by a class trip to a major league baseball game at Dodger Stadium, the book moves inning-by-inning through concepts chosen to help children build character and develop enriching lives. These concepts include: punctuality, focus, decision making, taking pride in what you do, selflessness, humility, patience, and teaching kids to grow.

Esquith’s message is that if we can make our kids better people, they will be better students; the habits of extraordinary students are just one expression of the habits of extraordinary people. The author says is all a matter of filling a kid’s backpack with the right tools.

He uses examples from classic films and great books to bring alive the valuable lessons unfolding all around children and shows how they can absorb these lessons. Whether he is stressing the value of sacrifice or the importance of staying true to oneself, Esquith holds up the value of hard work and patience (and avoiding television) as essential building blocks in every young person’s life.