Wednesday, July 30, 2008

Wednesday - Lost in the Pages (Review: Girls on Track)

It was spring of 2004 when I first encountered Molly Barker's book Girls on Track, right after its release. I was finishing my Master's Degree in Teaching, rounding out the end of a school year teaching 3rd grade, and pregnant with my first child. I wasn't running anymore (I was walk/waddling), but I was looking forward to my return to running.

I clearly remember the girls in the program Girls on the Run being excited to see Molly after school on day, waving copies of the book in the air to have her sign. "Molly, Molly! We have your book," they cheered. Molly is the founder of the international program Girls on the Run and is the mother of two great kiddos, one of whom I had the pleasure to have in my science class. With her two kids at my school, our GOTR girls got to visit with her from time to time.

I didn't realize at the time, mostly because my brain was near capacity with everything requiring MY attention and my body was busy growing a baby and dealing with the hormones that help, but Molly's book captivated those girls because they knew who she was (and LOVED her positive energy and encouragement!) and it was about girls. But it wasn't really written FOR the girls, it was written as a guide for parents to help their girls "achieve a lifetime of self-esteem and respect." So, as excited as those little runners were, I'm hoping that their parents were even more excited to have the book in THEIR hands, as I'm pleased to have it at my disposal now that I'M a parent of a little girl (my second child).

Written in a remarkably open and honest fashion, Girls on Track is filled with insight and personal stories that bring the book's lessons to life. Barker's witty and down-to-earth language makes the book a hard one to put down. Reading it is very much like having her in the room with you, chatting over a cup of of decaf latte (or whatever your drink of choice is . . . ) or out for a conversational run. It is especially fun to read when you know what her beautiful Southern voice sounds like so you can imagine her reading it . . .

Molly talks of her own childhood, its ups and downs and the low, low downs of her adolescence - ALL of which led to getting her stuck (and later unstuck!) in "the girl box" (a term Molly coined and describes in great detail throughout the book) and in a cycle of self-destructive behaviors. One day, on a run (no coincidence here, folks!), Molly had a breakthrough and found the power to leave The Girl Box. The book talks about how she literally turned her life around and then created Girls on the Run to help young girls discover their inner strengths and build healthy self-esteem, hoping to save them from the pain and trials she underwent - or to help them create the tools to shatter their own boxes.

Filled with anecdotal stories from her childhood, about her experiences as a mom, and of girls from the program and the lessons they learned (and that Molly learned FROM them!), Molly examines the workings of weak and strong interpersonal relationships. She asks us to examine them from all angles and think about what we can do to strengthen and value communication between adults and kids so kids can strengthen their own skills with adults and their peers. These stories are the meat of the book and really bring the theory she presents to life.

This is really two books in one, as Molly embeds a How-to Book in the fifth chapter by providing curriculum for mothers and daughters to experience together. It is essentially the backbone of the Girls on the Run program adapted for mothers and daughters. The 10 week plan walks moms through growing and learning experiences, discussing emotions, health, beauty, beliefs, letting go, making amends, love and . . . you guessed it, physical fitness through running (and games!!). Each lesson includes:

- an introduction experience
- questions/guidance for processing the lesson's topic
- warm-up activity
- stretch
- workout
- final processing/debriefing

I've talked with moms who have followed this journey with their daughters and they've been pleased with the experience. Even the moms who are non-runners looked forward to the time they spent with their girls on the lessons and surprised themselves with how much they enjoyed the running element, too.

My daughter is only 18 months old, so I haven't had the opportunity to use the curriculum myself yet, but you can bet I will in about 7 or 8 years. In the meantime, I'm passing along the book to a neighbor who is looking for a way to connect with her 11 year old. I couldn't think of a better way to do it.

Girls on Track is available through Amazon (very few things are not these days!), but if you are looking to make DOUBLE the impact with a copy of the book, please order it directly through Girls on the Run. For those of you who may not know, most authors are not rolling in money. True! Many publishing companies aren't even breaking even to bring you the books you love (the little companies with BIG heart!). When you order books directly through publishers and authors the money stays with those folks so they can bring you more of what you love. And, in this case, profits from the book will also help spread the Girls on the Run program. Looking for an added perk? Many authors will sign the books when you order through them!

Now that I'm off my soapbox . . . you are wondering . . . what book is next, Brianna?

Carol Goodrow's newest title: Kids Running: Have Fun, Get Faster & Go Farther

Until then . . . happy running & happy reading!

And, yes, we went for a family run yesterday - 30 minutes, 2.8 miles. Slow and steady with two kids in a jogger with a bit of rain drizzle, but it was good!

1 comment:

runner Girl said...

I have such an issue with reading about running- it just makes me want to get out there!!! Runner's world is perfect- short snippets of advice I'm looking for at exactly the right time I need it!