A Kids Book About: The Podcast

Yonina Talks About Perseverance

Episode Summary

Yonina Schnall Lermer, author of A Kids Book About Perseverance, talks about reframing something you “can’t do” into something you “can’t do”...yet.

Episode Notes

Yonina Schnall Lermer, author of A Kids Book About Perseverance, talks about reframing something you “can’t do” into something you “can’t do”...yet.

A Kids Book About Perseverance (view book)

Full Book Description:

What if you found out there was a tiny word that could change your frustrations into opportunities? When we tell ourselves, “I can’t do this,” we give up. But when we say, “I can’t do this…yet,” we’re opening ourselves to the possibility of growing through challenges, also called perseverance. Join this author in practicing perseverance, adding “yet” to your vocabulary, and learning the value of continued effort toward the things you love, even when it gets hard.

About the Author:

Yonina Schnall Lermer (she/her) is a licensed New York state teacher with a masters in elementary education. Yonina has taught almost every grade level and subject in elementary and middle school, and served as a literacy curriculum coordinator, teacher mentor, and summer camp head. She coaches parents to become advocates for their kids and is passionate about helping others “fail forward.”

*If you want to be on a future episode of A Kids Book About: The Podcast or if you have a question you’d like us to consider, have a grownup email us at listen@akidsco.com and we’ll send you the details. 

Episode Transcription

A Kids Book About: The Podcast

Yohina Talks About Perseverance



Matthew: What is perseverance?

Julia: Perseverance, to me, is like when you're trying to make a goal, but you can't do it. Or you've made a goal, and you can try a new one.

Jonah: In my eyes, perseverance is going for your goals and achieving them. Or completing things that you have wanted to do or that you found challenging. 

Yonina: Perseverance means to keep doing something, even though it's hard. It means to keep doing something, even though it's going to take a long time to succeed. 

Matthew: Welcome to A Kids Book About: The Podcast!  I’m Matthew. I’m a teacher, a librarian, and I’m your host. 

The voices you heard just a moment ago were from Julia, Jonah, and Yonina. 

Each week we talk about the big things going on in your world with a different author from our A Kids Book About series. 

Yonina: Hi everyone. My name is Yonina Schnall Lermer. And I'm a teacher. I'm a mom. I've been a camp head counselor. I love kids. I'm always around kids.

And I am also the author of A Kids Book About Perseverance.



Matthew: Hello, listeners! Oh my goodness we have a fellow teacher on the podcast! It is always so much fun to talk to other teachers. And you should know… WOW do we love teaching you!

Yonina: I teach fifth grade math, which is nobody's favorite. Nobody, they say to me. Fractions? Decimals? 

And I say, “No, no, no. You just haven't been in my class yet. I promise. It's a lot of fun. A lot of fun!”

Matthew: As teachers, it’s our job to make each of you feel welcome in our class or library. We strive to engage you, to inspire you, to make you feel connected and valued and capable! It’s also our job to teach you and, therefore, to push you to keep going, to tackle new things, and to grow. And that’s what perseverance is all about. And that helped to inform Yonina’s “why” in writing A Kids Book About Perseverance.

Yonina: So because I spend a lot of time with kids, kids in camp and kids in school and my own kids at home, I started to notice that kids were giving up very quickly about lots of things. Small things, like everyday life things, tying your shoe, putting on your coat.  And bigger things like just solving math problems, being able to find a pencil when you need to write something down. (Notice I put that in the bigger things cause that is a bigger, important thing.) To really, really much bigger things, especially as kids get older, they just were waiting for someone to come and help them and just someone to swoop in.

And kids today are very lucky that they have a lot of adults in their lives. Most kids have adults in their lives that love them and really do want to help them. And, I want to say, rush to help them out of love. And our kids are just, they're giving up too quickly. 

And so I wanted to write this book so that I could help kids and adults talk about what happens when we run into some obstacles. When we run into obstacles, like we just said, that are small, like just being able to tie your shoe, which can be really frustrating when you're first learning how to do it, to when you're posed with some kind of problem, whether that's your math problem that you have to do for homework. Or a bigger problem you're trying to figure out, should I go to this friend's party? Or should I go to, um, you know, the other event that's going on? How do I figure out, you know, how to talk to my friends? 

We have all different kinds of problems that happens in our lives, and it's really important for kids to practice having those problems. 

The thing is, is that they're not really fun. Problems are not fun. People don't like having problems. People don't like feeling challenged. And that's where I got to, to write this book. I said, “I want to be able to talk to kids about what it's like to be challenged and how to persevere.”

Matthew: Listeners, I have a very serious question for you. And it’s, I think, a really, really good one to ask your grownup, too. Doesn’t matter if that’s your parent or your aunt or uncle or your coach or your teacher. First, though, I want you to answer it. 

Okay. Here’s my question:

Why do we give up? 

No, really. Why do we quit things? Perseverance is about not quitting the thing, so I want to better understand why we would quit in the first place.

Yonina had some thoughts.

Yonina: That's a really, it's a really good question.

So I'll tell you like this. There's a simple answer that I love saying to my students. And that is that it's just easier. And when we have other people do things for us, it's just easier because the alternative is to feel uncomfortable. And nobody likes to feel uncomfortable. 

And so what I write a lot about in the book is the idea of feeling comfortable being uncomfortable, which sounds really strange and off the wall and wacky when kids first hear it. They say, “What? What are you talking about? What does that mean that I should feel comfortable feeling uncomfortable?” 

And that's where we introduce a new word in the book called stamina. And that's a word that a lot of kids have heard if they're on a sports team or, you know, they've, they've had to practice something. I know some teachers in their classrooms have reading stamina. 

And stamina is when our minds and our bodies are able to do hard things for a long period of time. And that's how we can achieve something if we're able to do something hard for a long period of time. But the thing is that if we never practice it because it's just so uncomfortable and it's just, we just don't want to go there, it's, it's, and we stick to what's easy, then we'll never build our stamina.

So in a classroom, you might have reading stamina. Let's see how long we can read quietly by ourselves. for a runner who wants to go to the Olympics, right? We'll take it to the other extreme. Every day, they'll run a mile, then two miles, and three miles. And that's hard. And it's uncomfortable. When you're running that extra mile that you didn't run before, that's hard. When that extra minute, the teacher says, we still have to be quiet for another 60 seconds, even if you're not even reading, but you know that it has to be quiet in the room, that's really hard. But that's how we build stamina.

Matthew: Let’s take a quick break. And when we return, Yonina will talk about effort, stamina, and the power of “Yet”.

Yonina: It's a small word, but it's a really powerful word because it totally changes the meaning of what we're trying to say.

So when we call out, “I just… I just don't get it”, which kids love to say. It's like very important to know that if you're going to be in a classroom. “I don't get it.” That's kind of announcing that that's it. I don't get it. It's not my responsibility anymore. I don't know. See you later. But when we add the word yet, you're kind of declaring that you don't understand it, but you'd really like to. And that if you keep going a little bit more, and perhaps if you do feel a little bit uncomfortable, There's a chance that you will. 

And so we can add the word yet to lots of things. I don't get it yet, right? I don't understand this. I don't understand this yet. 

But there's a really important piece that we have to acknowledge and, and, and I'm gonna tell you that I didn't know this for a very long time. I was telling my students all the time, “Guys, we're gonna add the word yet! Anytime they said, ‘I don't get it’”. I looked at them and they said, yeah, yeah, yeah, I don't get it yet. And for a long time, that's what I did. And my students started to learn and understand that if they try really hard, that they'll succeed. 

And one day I had a student that came to me and said, “You know, I tried doing something and I tried it again and I tried it again and I tried it. I really did. I added the word yet. I listen to you when you talk. That was a nice thing to say, but I, but I, I did not succeed.” This student was talking about a specific thing actually outside of school that he and I had been talking about, and he was very angry with me. He said, “You told me that if I keep trying I'll succeed, but I didn't.” So, he was kind of like, heh heh, you know, like, you're, you're wrong. 

And that's when I went back to myself and I said, I think there's a piece that we have to add here and I think it's a very important part of the book. And that is that sometimes we don't reach the “yet”. We don't. We don't always succeed, even if we try and even put in the effort. And I think sometimes adults forget that part when they're talking to kids. What do we do? When we don't reach the “yet”?

Matthew: We’ll be back in just a moment.



Matthew: Welcome back.

Today on the podcast we’re talking about perseverance with A Kids Book About author Yonina Schnall Lermer.

There’s a line I keep coming back to in A Kids Book About Perseverance that connects with what Yonina shared before we went to break. It goes, “Effort doesn’t always equal success. …We can work hard. We can build stamina. We can persevere. And we still might not achieve that goal. But that doesn’t mean we’re back at zero.” 

Listeners, talk to me about what perseverance has looked like for you in the past.

Jonah: When things were hard with my friends, I feel like persevering to try to work those friendships, to work back up, and then they ended up resolving and becoming well. I think that would be an example of persevering.

Julia: When I went roller skating for the first time, I was, like, was really nervous, and I felt like I was going to fall. But I didn't because I was holding something to help me.

Yonina: You know, it really is my favorite part of the book also. When we talk about the fact that effort doesn't always equal success, because that's a hard reality that adults have to deal with. 

And I think that that's what's so great about this publishing company, just A Kids Book About in general is because these kinds of things, adults and kids need to be talking about them together because on their own, I don't know if a kid can really reflect that way. They need the adult, the teacher, the parent in their life to talk about this with them.

And so this story that I told you about my student, it was all about the basketball team, which is why I included without saying his name, his little story in the book. And. You know, when he didn't make that team, I looked at him and I said, well, let's teach you a new word. Let's teach you the word pivot because it doesn't mean that you can't play basketball and it doesn't mean you're not good at basketball.

It just means that success is going to look a little bit different. And so what can we do so that you're still playing basketball because you love basketball, right? What can we do so that you still feel good about playing basketball? And we came up with some ideas. If there are other teams to try out for, if there are ways that you can teach basketball to other kids.

And my favorite part of the book is actually, it's got its own page there and it says, “Let success look different”. And after I was working with that kid, with that student, I actually started talking to a lot of my friends and I realized that adults struggle with this all the time. They make goals for themselves.

And when they don't work out, especially now, right, when you're like January 1st, everyone comes up with these ideas and these goals, and if they don't look exactly the way they set out to do them, it's over. It's failed. 

With this student, he had set out to make this basketball team. He had been waiting, uh, because you can only try out in fifth grade, and he already had his eye on the prize in like third and fourth grade. Two years! He's waiting for this boom doesn't make it so it means that clearly it's all over.

And what I started to learn as I spoke to my friends and adults and children is that if we allow ourselves to let success look a little bit different We'll realize that we actually have come very far. So for an adult it might be you know, I want to lose weight Well, you know what? Maybe just the fact that you took a walk every day for 30 minutes is success, right? And forget what it says on the scale. You know, now that you can teach other kids how to play basketball, you're still getting better at your skills, you're practicing them all the time, and now you're sharing that skill with other people.

So when we allow ourselves to let success look a little bit different, which is really hard to do by the way, and so that's why it's really good to be reflecting on this with somebody else. When we allow ourselves to do that, we'll find that we're actually more successful than we even realize.



Matthew: Letting success look different is such a powerful takeaway. But Yonina also shared something with me that feels like it walks hand-in-hand with self love. And that is that there are two major different ways that perseverance shows up in life: the want-to and the need-to. 

Yonina: So sometimes persevering is very easy because we've set our eyes on something that we really want. And it's not, there's no challenge or obstacle. It's just something we really want. Okay, like, like my friend, my little student who wanted to be on the basketball team. It wasn't that he was put in an uncomfortable position and had to persevere. It was something he really wanted. And that kind of perseverance comes easy because you're just already inspired and you're willing to work hard and you know, you go for it. 

So I think that for a large part of my life, that's the kind of personality that I had. So persevering was like, “Oh, okay. Like, no problem. I'll do hard things, you know, no problem. “

And I think that there's a different kind of persevering. There's persevering when we didn't ask for it. And we don't necessarily have a choice. right? Which is why you might have kids with their math problems. I laugh. As a math teacher, you know, I get, I get kids who are like, Oh, you know, when I say things. So sometimes it's as simple as that. Like, I didn't ask for this, but I, but I know you can do it. Let's talk about how.

Sometimes it's things in life that happen to us, right? You might have a relative that passes away. You didn't ask for that. And how do I cope with that? It might be a global pandemic that you didn't ask for that. And so you're forced to learn how to persevere. Okay. 

And so I think that for me, I had both in my life. I had instances where it was easy for me to persevere, and I knew what was happening because I was excited about it. And then there were things that were really out of my control, and I had to learn how to persevere. And again, I had to make sure that I had support around me. But it's something that you do have to practice and that you have to work on. 

Matthew: Our time’s almost up. I’m about to send you back out into the world. So let’s take a moment to remind ourselves of what perseverance might look like in our unique circumstances. And how it’s okay to know that success takes all forms. Reaching a different goal or milestone than the one you set out to achieve is still, absolutely, a valuable and worthwhile achievement.

Yonina? Are there any actions that we, the listeners, can take to help others around us (classmates, friends, family members) to persevere when they encounter challenges?

Yonina: I think that the best thing is to remember that it's important to give people some space to persevere, right? So some things that we can say are, you know, “That sounds really difficult. What you're doing is really hard.  What are you going to do about it? What's your plan?” Right? 

And what's nice about that is that It gives them the space to think about it, and it communicates that you want to hear, you want to know. If someone doesn't want to know something, they're not going to ask you, what's your plan? They're going to say, Oh, well, it's tough. Okay. Bye. You know, but if someone says to you, what are you going to do about it? It means that they want to know. 

And the most important thing for people who are persevering is that they know that they have. That support and that these are people who will cheer you on from the sidelines and they will help. You tell them how they should be part of the plan and they'll be part of the plan. But you got to come up with a plan. You got to think about how you're gonna take these steps. How are you gonna solve this? I think that's like the best thing to do for someone who is persevering.



Matthew: Thank you to Yonina Schnall Lermer, author of A Kids Book About Perseverance, for joining us today. Yonina had one last thing that I want to make sure you hear.

Yonina: I very much enjoy hearing stories of perseverance, hearing times that people use the word “yet”. And at the very end of the book, I encourage all my readers to try it and to get back to me because I want to hear all the things that they don't know and haven't tried and can't do yet.

And so I always like to include my email address or my Instagram account because I really want to encourage communication. I want to hear and I want to support, also.

So my Instagram account is called KidKoach, but with a “K”, K-I-D-K-O-A-C-H. And my email address is kidKoach1(at)gmail(dot)com, K-I-D-K-O-A-C-H-1 at gmail. com. And I really do want to hear. 

Matthew: Special thanks to Julia and to Jonah for lending their voices to this episode.

Julia: Hi, my name is Hi, my name is Julia. I'm eight years old. I live in Maryland. What's your favorite thing, Jules? My favorite thing is my family and my friends. 

Jonah: Hi, my name is Jonah, I'm 13 years old, and I'm from Maryland. My favorite thing is My favorite thing has gotta be hanging out with my friends or gaming. 

Matthew: A Kids Book About: The Podcast is written, edited, and produced by me, Matthew Winner. Our executive producer is Jelani Memory. 

And this show was brought to you by A Kids Co. 

Follow the show wherever podcasts are found and check out other podcasts made for kids just like you by visiting akidsco.com.