Monday, December 28, 2009

Don't Mess with Me!!

A spy made a comment on my blog that bothered me so I put them in their place. My wife said I "ripped them a new one" but I don't think it was that bad. I'll ask you what you think, but first, here's the basic scoop:

In addition to being a motivational speaker for children, I'm also a professional speaker for adults. In fact, many of you are aware that I offer Teacher In-Service and Staff Development programs that are as fun for adults as my Texas reading school assembly programs are for children.

So I have this blog where I write about things related to school shows and summer library programs and I have another blog ( that is directed more at the clients who hire me for my speaking engagements. So I wrote a blog entry and this guy made a rather snarky comment about it.

But the guy isn't a client, he's a spy. He's another performer using an assumed name and he's no doubt bothered by the fact that my business continues to grow even though we are in a really bad recession.

Enough chatter, here's the link to the other blog entry: CLICK HERE

Scroll down to read what he wrote and then you can read my lengthy response. Feel free to comment either there or here (or both) about whether or not you think I was too hard on the guy. I promise that no matter what you comment, I will NOT be in the least bit mean to you.

Just don't mess with me...

Friday, December 04, 2009

Earliest Snow Ever!

So it's snowing now, like it has been all day. Several districts cancelled classes and even more had early release in an attempt to get the kids home before the streets got icy.

Library Rat productions was at two schools today (we have four performers so this is not impossible to be in two places at once). Both of our schools decided on an unscheduled early dismissal due to the snow. In Wharton ISD we were able to group everyone into 3 shows and finished up in the nick of time. In Spring ISD we were not so lucky and so one of us will be going back next Friday to finish up for the students who missed the show today.

But I feel partially responsible for this whole thing.

Back in 2004 I debuted a show called "Arctic Express" and that year it snowed on Christmas Day from Dallas all the way down to the Rio Grande Valley. It happened again the year before last with some snow down south and now it has happened again with the earliest snow ever recorded in this area.

I wrote a blog entry about this back in 2006 but it deserves being re-addressed.

As the world gathers this week to discuss global warming I'm actually out there DOING something about it! You can help by doing your part. While it is probably too late to book us for this winter season, it is definitely NOT to early to start booking for NEXT winter.

Contact the Library Rat for all your school assembly needs.

And let your PTA know about us. They have money to spend and need to know good places to invest it.

Monday, November 02, 2009

Fun Teacher In-Service

In 2005 I wrote a book called Kid Control that is now the foundation for a very funny powerful motivational Teacher In-service / Staff Development. If you think this is something that would work at your facility, call our office.

Sorry, this blog entry is rather commercial, but I do want to keep you all updated about what's going on and during this slow down, I've finally had enough time to put together some of these projects I've been planning for so long!

Saturday, October 24, 2009

Where the Wild Things Are

I keep hearing good things from all the reviews, but everyone I know who has seen the movie says it is too dark for children. But the book sort of had dark overtones, too. I guess I'll have to see it and decide for myself but I don't know if I should bring my 7 year old daughter or wait until I've seen it alone first.

I think sometimes they do just the opposite. Chris Van Allsburg writes pretty dark books but when they turn them into movies they seem to put a light, funny spin on things. But his books are really deeper I think.

I'm on a Chris Van Allsburg thing right now because we are debuting our newest show which is a tribute show to Chris Van Allsburg called Catch The Reading Express. I hope it to be a great winter celebration show as well as tie into the theme for public libraries this summer.

Wednesday, October 21, 2009

What's up with this weather?

It's supposed to be fall but it still feels like a muggy summer day. It was cool there for a while, and I know it will eventually come back, but I'd really like it to feel like fall for just a little bit. Houston, Texas is tough that way.

Most of you know that I do Texas Educational motivational school assembly programs and many of the people who read this blog have hired me to do their Texas summer reading club programs. I love doing these shows and I'm really excited about a new program that we're offering for THIS DECEMBER that will also be the program of choice for the Texas SRC in 2010. It is a tribute to Chris Van Allsburg and since so many schools do a unit on The Polar Express during December, this is a great tie-in.

It's just hard to get into The Polar Express mode when it is 80 degrees outside :-(

I'm thinking cold because I'll be flying to New York in a few days to visit a friend who is a New York, New Jersey and Connecticut school show presenter with a new program on the six 6 pillars of character education and he wants me to check it out. I'm looking forward to it. He's a great performer who has helped me in several of my shows.

Saturday, August 01, 2009

I got to see Taylor Mali live

Last week I was at a convention in Phoenix, AZ and got to see Taylor Mali recite his poetry live. You've probably read some of what he wrote as it circulates through e-mails around the world, but he deserves to be recognized for being the original author.

His CDs are very inspiring and funny. Here is a small sample of what he performed for us (this was recorded long previous to last week!)

Friday, June 05, 2009


Wow! It has been more than two months since I've posted a blog entry here! I have two excuses that I'll share with you because one is fun and the other is relevant. I'll leave it to you to determine which is which.

First, I've been spending far too much time updating everyone on my Julian Franklin Facebook page rather than here on my blog. That's good because if you're on FB then we can kind of keep track of each other in a very convenient way. So, if we're not yet friends on Facebook, send me an invite and we can catch up efffortlessly!

FYI: I'm also on LinkedIn and Plaxo as well so feel free to connect with me there if you want. I'm not on Twitter because I update Facebook every 1-2 days and that is more than enough "Julian Franklin" for anyone.

The second reason I haven't been posting is that May always kills me. Once the TAKS test is over everyone wants to hire a fun assembly program to reward students. I have two performers working for me now and we were all working pretty much every day in May and still had to turn a few schools away.

Don't stop checking here. I'll post stuff here more regularly again, but if you feel like you really need more regular updates then join me on the social networking sites. Then I get to check on you as well!

Summer Reading Club is well under way and I'll be writing about that very soon. We've already done 5 SRC programs so far in 2009..."only" 107 remaining!

Wednesday, April 01, 2009

Madeleine's First April Fool's Joke

So my 6-year-old daughter has a little bit too much of her dad in her. She's been dying to do a good April Fool's Joke since she really grasped the concept of the holiday last year. So she's been plotting this thing since she got a cookbook for Christmas and finally got to launch it on her mom this morning.

We took some pound cake (it's better with angel food cake, but the bakery was having a sale) and mixed food coloring in some icing until with got it the orange of processed cheese. We sliced the cake and trimmed it to look like slices of bread and put the icing inbetween like a grilled cheese sandwich. The result looks pretty convincing and my wife is pretty accomodating so she bravely bit into the strangest breakfast-in-bed ever offered. Braver still that this is April 1st.

Wednesday, March 18, 2009

Walking Barefoot

I love walking barefoot. It's really too cold this morning and I should have shoes on, but I don't care. The ground is wet and it has made my feet a little muddy.

Muddy and cold.

And there were some sticks and sharp rocks that weren't particularly comfortable to walk on.

But I like being able to FEEL the earth under my feet. I just feel more connected. This is not a spring time thing with me either, though it gets easier to indulge myself as the weather gets warmer. No, I'm a barefoot kind of guy pretty much all the time.

The first thing I do when I walk through the door each day is kick off my shoes. I'd do well in Japan or Korea.

Don't reply to remind me of the dangers of contracting worms, getting infections, or cutting my foot on broken glass. I'm well aware and am willing to take the risk.

Now, excuse me while I go back outside and explore the sights, sounds, smells, and FEELINGS of spring.

Monday, February 09, 2009

Reward or Inspiration?

Last week I had a conversation with a friend who provides Upward Awards Night Entertainment and another friend who does Arizona Reading School Assembly Programs. We discussed the value of rewarding behavior as a method of increasing that behavior.

This is a very important topic to me for several reason. Firstly, I make my living in large part by providing Bluebonnet and Accelerated Reader Incentives in the form of educational and motivational assembly programs. Secondly, my BA and most of my masters level coursework has been in the field of behavioral science in one form or another. When it comes to Kid Control: Behavior Management for Unruly Children, I literally wrote the book!

So the conversations I held with my friends on these topics were more than just academic.

I was impressed with the idea brought up by Tommy that when the reward is, in itself, an inspiration to continue the behavior, then it becomes a more effective behavior loop.

Think of the difference between exercising for three weeks so that you can eat a huge and fattening meal (rewarding, but not circularly reinforcing the original behavior), verses exercising for three weeks so that you can buy yourself some new workout clothes or a desired piece of gym equipment (reward AND circularly reinforcing of the original behavior).

The programs I offer as rewards and incentives are the same programs I offer as my regular Reading School Assemblies and also the same programs that I offer during my Family Science Night and Math Night Activities. These assembly programs are inherently funny and entertaining, just like Kyle who does some hilarious but very effective Arizona Family Science Night and Literacy Night Activities.

I think doing a program like this (i.e. Inspirational) is so much more effective than just a fun, rewarding show. I mean, from the perspective of the audience, the results are very similar (everyone laughs and has a great time and feels rewarded) but when it comes to LONG-TERM results, I think an inspirational assembly program is more effective than one that is just a funny children's magic show puppet show.

Thursday, January 22, 2009

The Dot

Yesterday I was at Saegert Elementary in Killeen ISD. I was doing a school assembly program teaching the scientific process / scientific method and the kids were loving the puppets and magic so much they had no idea they were learning all sorts of new vocabulary and important curriculum-based concepts.

Of course, because all my shows are reading motivation programs encouraging children to read, I usually perform in the library. And Jennifer Brown, the librarian at Saegert does a great job of creating an environment rich in reading possibility. Her displays of books were simple, but quite effective. Between shows I wound up reading several short books, as frequently happens when I am in the library.

On this particular morning I picked up The Dot by Peter H. Reynolds.

What an amazing book! During my lunch break I skipped lunch to run to Barnes and Noble to buy my own copy of the book. When I got back to my hotel room that evening I got on-line and ordered another copy to give to my daughter's art teacher. It is such a profound book and really quite moving.

People look at children's literature and see that there are not many words and think "Oh, I could write a book like that!" But the truth is that it is MUCH harder to convey important messages with few words than it is with many words.

Peter Reynolds did a MASTERFUL job and this book is a great addition to any library. It is a perfect gift for any teacher, but if you have an art teacher you love, you are obligated to get this book for him or her. I can't believe it's been around since 2003 and won awards and I hadn't heard of it until yesterday.

Thank you Ms. Brown for having me educate, entertain and inspire your students yesterday. But I thank you even more for educating, entertaining, and inspiring me by introducing me to this book. I owe you.

Monday, January 19, 2009

I'm the biggest geek

It was Martin Luther King, Jr. Day today. I guess it still is for another 90 minutes or so.

But unlike most people who celebrate the fact that they get the day off from work, I celebrated by reading a book. Now, granted, I'm the sort of geek that really enjoys reading and so it's probably about the equivilent of a normal person cooking barbecue and blending frozen drinks, though I like to do those things too.

Anyway, today I wanted to read something appropriate but not so blantantly obvious as a biography of MLK or a transcript of one of his speeches. Great stuff, but I wanted to step out a little.

I wound up grabbing a children's book (I'm a kid show performer and a father of a 6 year old so cut me some slack!). The book I got was an anthology of American Folklore called "From Sea to Shining Sea" compiled by Amy L. Cohn. I read a few things to my daughter and one of the stories reminded me of a video I had seen that I cannot watch without tearing up. It is really powerful.

Then I spent the rest of the day cherishing my beautiful daughter and the great weather we had here in Houston today. It was in the very high 60s and bright sunshine so we inflated an air mattress and played and napped in the back yard wearing just swim suits. I'm a little pink on my back and the top of my head.

America is great.

I can't wait to celebrate the other major holidays like Texas Public School Week, National Library Week, and Children's Book Week. Yeah, I'm a geek alright.

Saturday, January 10, 2009

The 10 Types of People

There are 10 types of people in the world: those who understand binary numbering systems and those who don't.

Thursday, January 08, 2009

A new direction

Okay, so I'm a little bit hesitant to say this after all I wrote last week about the after school workshop thing. But I spent a lot of time hanging out with a mastermind group over the weekend. These are top notch professional performers from all over the country and literally from around the world.

We have members who do everything from birthday party magic puppet shows to guys who work as Upward Awards Night Celebration Speakers. These are really savvy guys and I respect their opinions about business and strategy. Anyway, after tossing the idea around all weekend and into this last week we came to the conclusion that while there were many benefits to hosting these events, that it probably was a strategic distraction.

So instead we brainstormed ways that we could really add value while keeping true to the primary objective of our business mission statement (to encourage children to self-directed learning through reading).

The idea that seemed the most congruent with this plan was the idea for offering evening programs.

Because of that, I am really promoting my Texas Family Science Math Literacy Night Programs and Activities and my good friend Kyle Terwilliger is really working hard to promote his version of the same in addition to his Arizona Reading School Assembly Programs.

Monday, January 05, 2009

Benefits of After School Programs

A few days ago I started a "Good News, Bad News" post but never did the good news! Sorry!

So here are the good things about hosting After School Magic Workshops:
  • The students learn to love the PROCESS of learning
  • They are encouraged to read and self-direct their own education
  • They develop camradarie among classmates
  • They bond with the school and the academic environment
  • They learn to stick with a task
  • They devleop confidence
  • They learn public speaking skills and presentation skills
  • They learn a craft that can become a profession!!

Sunday, January 04, 2009

New Year Goals

Like many people at this time of year I begin making a list of goals, resolutions, and promises. Among mine for 2009 are:

Saturday, January 03, 2009

After School Magic Workshops

Yesterday I wrote about the value of After School Magic Workshops and this morning I wanted to continue on that thread for just a quick moment before I go to the gym.

I'm not sure if I want to offer these programs or not, but I am considering it. There are pros and cons. I'll do the old "Bad News, Good News" routine and I'll start with the bad news:

Because magic workshops are held on a regular basis like a class, it would be difficult for me to perform my normal educational school assembly programs in Texas if I was booked out of town. I am usually booked a week at a time and stay in a hotel in cities like Houston, San Antonio, Dallas, Fort Worth, Beaumont, Austin, Mission, Del Rio, and so on. If I were booked in one of these cities for a week I wouldn't be able to provide the after school magic workshop.

That conflict of interest bothers me and is the only thing holding me back at this point.

Friday, January 02, 2009

Non-Paying Customers

How can you create loyalty if you are a non-profit? Just like the for profits do!

I recently encouraged public schools to offer additional services that appeal to their "free clients" (the students) as well as their "pay clients" (the taxpayers). There was a wonderful article in a recent issue of Harvard Business Review (November 2008) about the value of non-paying customers and it got me to thinking about all the various ways these things play out.

After School Magic Workshops are one way that a school can serve both the paying and non-paying clients. The students win by learning a fun new skill and the parents win because their kids are safe, engaged, learning, and most importantly growing to LOVE the learning process, which is a GREAT thing to have happen in any business.

Think about it, Starbucks (for all their current challenges) built a business around teaching their customers how to enjoy the PROCESSS of drinking coffee. It was only partly about the coffee, and mostly about the process of ordering, sitting, savoring, socializing, seeing and being seen, etc.

The same thing could happen in an after school magic workshop, too. The students would learn about the joy of the PROCESS of learning. Just my thoughts.