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

3.88  ·  Rating details ·  671 ratings  ·  127 reviews
One of America's most celebrated educators teaches parents how to create extraordinary children-in the classroom and beyond

In his bestselling book, Teach Like Your Hair's on Fire, readers were introduced to Rafe Esquith and his extraordinary students in Hobart Elementary School's Room 56. Using his amazing and inspiring classroom techniques, Esquith has helped thousands of
Hardcover, 208 pages
Published August 25th 2009 by Viking
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Dec 21, 2013 rated it really liked it
Shelves: education
All Esquith's books are basically the same, because he's describing the same things in different ways. But the thing he's describing is so good, it's worth hearing again and again: he teaches kids the value of persistence, diligence, integrity, self-control, and the arts. He tells story about his kids and how capable, mature, and successful they are as a result of these lessons.

The lessons for parents and kids:
* punctuality,
* use time valuably,
* care about and learn from the past,
* repeat
Sep 26, 2009 rated it liked it
Lighting Their Fires: Raising Children in a Mixed-Up, Muddled Up, Shook Up World by Rafe Esquith is basically as the title promises a guide to upbringing children to be all they can be. I don't have children, but I interact with children on a daily basis, as a student teacher. (I haven't dropped out of the program yet, thank goodness!) Rafe uses baseball to structure his book instead of chapters, there are innings. Anecdotes are used to further illustrate his point. Also each chapter includes a ...more
Jun 01, 2018 added it
Shelves: homeschool
There are some dedicated, inspiring teachers out there. The kind that could have a movie made about their life. Rafe Esquith, a 5th grade elementary teacher in Los Angeles, is one of those teachers. He uses the story of taking his students to a Dodger game to illustrate important lessons kids need to learn to help them succeed in life-not just on end of the year tests. All and all an inspiring read. He expounds on the quote "Sweep like Shakepeare writes poetry, Sweep like Michaelangelo paints ...more
Sep 20, 2009 rated it really liked it
The central theme of the book is that students aren't born extraordinary - they become that way. It takes more than natural smarts and skills to be successful - it takes work on the parts of parents and teachers to ignite in children the drive and determination needed to become more than mediocre.

I liked how the anecdotes, advice and examples were woven around the story of a night at a ballgame with a small group of students. The students learned so many things during their experience and the
Mar 30, 2019 rated it really liked it
I forgot how much I enjoy books for educators.
Jan 03, 2013 rated it really liked it
The reviews I read before starting this book tended to note how judgmental the author seems to be, but if that's so, well, then so am I. Perhaps I simply share his values. I, too, bemoan the lack of courtesy, difficulty in delaying gratification, and non-stop attachment to screens (whether it be TV, video games, or whatever) that I see in today's youth and, unfortunately these days, more widely in society. The cautionary tales he told did not surprise me in the least.

I've read his other books
Aug 02, 2011 added it
Rafe Esquith sets out to prove to us that he is the best teacher ever, and this book is basically about all the wonderful things he does for students over and above a regular school day in the classroom. Maybe he'd needs to re-read his sections on humility.

Basically his advice boils down to teaching children how to behave, turning off the television, and making sure they have music lessons.

He uses the innings of a baseball game--that, of course, he took students to on his own time--as the
May 24, 2011 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Esquith's final book, written more as advice for parents than his former memoirs. I found this book to be quite repetitive of the real new ideas, just another spin on the others. I did get a sense of superiority from Esquith in this book that I forgave him for in the other books--at times he portrays as the world going to pot around him. As if the only person in society left with any decency is him (& his students, because of him.) Oddly enough, he includes quite a long section ...more
Apr 07, 2011 rated it did not like it
Ugh. This book didn't do it for me. There were two things I liked about it: Firstly, he described a hierarchy of what motivates people to do things and I liked his part about how we want to get our kids to do things for intrinsic reasons and not just to avoid punishment or for a reward. And the second thing I (kind of) liked was that he gave a few specific book, movie, game recommendations on how to use those to teach life lessons to your kids. But his voice and tone did not work for me - he's ...more
Jul 25, 2011 added it
Felt compelled to read this as an educator and I haven't read his earlier work. Although I'm impressed by what he has accomplished and how far his students have come, it saddens me that we need a book like this to teach us how to parent our children, how to encourage our youth and how to "light their fires." His tips and advice are not rocket science - it's mostly common sense values. What does it say about our society that we need to have a how-to book that talks about the importance of ...more
Amber R Brown
Feb 21, 2019 rated it it was amazing
I picked up this book looking for some help making my own kids extraordinary. I am not a teacher. I am in healthcare and I have wanted to be a doctor since I was in 8th grade!! After a particularly hard week of parenting and working, I came to the realization that my oldest child (10 y/o boy) is very intelligent, athletic, and funny but he has no real passion about anything. I set about finding a book to help me “light his fire”. I started with a book with those words in the title!!

We are
Sep 05, 2017 rated it really liked it
I got this at a scholastic warehouse sale and was worried when I started reading that I threw $2 away. But when I read Mindset and she brought up Rafe, I learned more about him and his influence as a teacher. I normally don't dig anecdotal, non research based books like this, but I really like what he had to say. Plus, he does a nice job of weaving together the experiences of his students and the points he is trying to make.
Ashley Epp
May 10, 2019 rated it it was ok
Shelves: owned, textbook
I loved certain quotes from this book and made a little TBR out of books mentioned throughout but felt it was mostly common sense. Yes we know kids should slow down and pay attention, etc.
Adriane Devries
Sep 14, 2014 rated it really liked it
Shelves: teaching
Tragedy is not merely a sad ending; it is a sad ending that should have been wonderful.

So says Rafe Esquith of all students who are not given access to a true education, and he’s not talking merely math and grammar. In his little experimental classroom in an urban school in California, he has been shaping the lives of young people for decades. The world has stood up to notice. How, with the usual limited resources of an impoverished district, is he able to take ordinary, underperforming students
Rebecca Saxon
Jun 22, 2015 rated it liked it
Shelves: nonfiction, parenting
I've heard Rafe Esquith speak and he's definitely an inspirational speaker. His book is pretty well written with relatively engaging stories carefully structured around a baseball game.

Overall I think he makes some useful points that are great to remember when parenting, even if I think there's too much harping on about the dangers of TV while holding up "classic" Hollywood cinema as a good teaching tool.

Here's some of the main points I found useful to remember:
- give your kids a backpack filled
Oct 27, 2009 rated it liked it
Lighting Their Fires is, as Esquith says in his acknowledgments, about substance over style. I have little doubt that Rafe Esquith is a fantastic teacher. Reading this book gave me great ideas for some things to tackle with my fifth grader next year (specifically, some Shakespeare) and affirmed many of my parenting tenets. The reason it earns only three stars is that I didn't feel like I really learned as much from this book as I would have liked.

I think that is true, in large part, because this
Oct 27, 2009 rated it really liked it
Christmas day was a good day to finish this consistently clear and useful book. Rafe Esquith is obviously writing from his own personal beliefs (level 6) and couldn't have helped us see his mission already in progress any better. Though, better still, he invited us to do the same.

There were times when I was reading though these easily digested pieces of advice that I thought, "Wow. Maybe he's just Type A and likes kids who are Type A." That could be the case now and then, but since his heart is
Mar 19, 2016 rated it really liked it
My mom gave me this book after she received a copy from her principal. She thought it might be interesting for a teacher....who is also a parent! The book was divided up into different "innings" which I thought was clever and then he interwove examples with his students attending a Dodgers game. Overall, I thought the chapters were really well-done. It didn't take me long to begin with my own children to see if they are living out the different skills that are discussed in each chapter. For ...more
Oct 15, 2010 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
I'm a softie when it comes to inspirational stories for teachers as I am studying to be one. I was given this book by a random stranger on a plane, so how could I give it any less than five stars!? That aside, it is a wonderful book, full of ideas that are easily within the reach of the average person. This is not a go out and buy this product that will make it all better kind of solution, but rather a philosophy of education that makes sense.

The arts are usually one of the first programs to go
May 12, 2012 rated it liked it
Written by an award winning teacher. The book is written for parents. He talked about such things as teaching kids: time management, following through with things, importance of learning a musical instrument, the evils of watching too much tv, not being selfish, being humble etc. Many good things to think about. But with all of his "ideas" for parents I did often wonder if he has children of his own not just his students. That's all I'll say about that. Lol. He gave many ideas of movies and ...more
Wendi Lau
Nov 29, 2010 rated it really liked it
Good, applicable tips for helping your child become all that s/he can be. One good tip Rafe includes is to teach child a musical instrument and also to learn yourself. Learning to play an instrument teaches self-discipline, listening (to yourself play as well as the other musicians around you), time management, and a few other things. The listening part really perked me up because I suck at that and so does my big kid, and surprise, we don't play musical instruments. But we can listen the heck ...more
Chris Aylott
Mar 19, 2010 rated it liked it
Superteacher Rafe Esquith uses a baseball game as the framework for a meditation on ways to inspire and teach kids. I like his methods and subscribe to his metaphorical newsletter -- he preaches a potent combination of enthusiasm and high expectations for both scholarship and behavior.

I'm not so nuts about his dismissal of television and video games as worthwhile entertainment. I'd be the first to agree that Americans could benefit from less television and better video games... but I also see
Sep 27, 2014 rated it liked it
An incredible author who has brought out the best in many students shares his opinions about what leads to success. I can't help but think that a driving force in the kids success is having an adult who truly believes in them and will walk the extra miles with them. I like that he doesn't coddle any of these kids - he meets them where they are at and pushes them forward if they are willing. At some points the author can be quite judgmental, but if you can get past that, this book is well worth ...more
Sep 25, 2013 rated it really liked it
Those familiar with Rafe Esquith will recognize much of the content in this book. But his advice is so valuable it certainly does not hurt to be repeatedly. The clever thing about this book is the layout. Esquith, a devoted baseball fan, tells the story of bringing five of his students to a Dodgers game. Each chapter revolves around one of the nine innings and highlights relates lessons associated with each stage of the game. His primary focus is teaching children to be of strong moral ...more
Stanley Wang
May 07, 2014 rated it really liked it
Esquith's advice to parents (and teachers) is practical, sound, and things I agree with 100%, and his examples taken from the baseball game he takes his "young scholars" is nicely illustrative, as is his interwoven stories of his students throughout his teaching history. The only real negative for me was that it was a little TOO obvious, and maybe lacking some insight that would be expected from his decades of teaching excellence. Of course, this might just be because I come from a teaching ...more
Jun 22, 2010 rated it it was ok
Rafe's first two books inspired many things I use in the classroom. This one is directed more towards parents, but don't waste your time. "There Are No Shortcuts" and "Teach Like your Hair is on Fire" are both much better.

I saw one of his Hobart Shakespearean plays last year, and it was nothing short of spectacular. However, it was disappointing to learn he doesn't follow his own advice about being religiously neutral as a public school teacher. It was pretty obvious that he promotes an
Aug 11, 2015 rated it really liked it
This book actually made me question our decision to homeschool, because it made me wonder if I am depriving our kids of the opportunity to be taught by brilliant and inspirational teachers. And then I realized--probably not. I completed my master's degree, and in all those years of schooling, I can think of four teachers/professors whom I think back on as really outstanding people who made a difference in my life--and one of them wasn't even a teacher of mine. So instead I decided to let this ...more
May 28, 2014 rated it it was ok
I've read Rafe's other books and really enjoyed them. This one just didn't do it for me. As an educator I've enjoyed reading his past work with my teacher hat on aiming to improve the quality of my craft in the classroom. This book is more written for parents, though. And I don't have children. There were long passages in here that bordered on old-man-yelling-at-kids-to-get-off-his-lawn. I almost entirely agree with his points, but bitching and moaning about tv watching isn't really what I'm ...more
Nov 27, 2009 rated it really liked it
"Lighting Their Fires" is a wonderful model for parents to emulate. There are some great tips for practical matters such as time management and positive attitude development, etc., as well as theatre, film and literature suggestions for guiding character development. The kids Esquith teach come from a poor Los Angeles neighborhood, and their personal success shows that kids are able to better themselves when grownups invest all their time and attention on them in a positive and consistent way.
Deb (Readerbuzz) Nance
Nov 02, 2014 rated it really liked it
Shelves: schools, teaching
Are you a teacher, too? Or raising kids? Or (oh dear!) both? You should read master teacher Rafe Esquith's new book, Lighting Their Fires. Have you almost given up (in despair) your hope of raising and teaching children who are respectful, hard-working, and self-motivated learners? Esquith tells it like it is. He shows us a few of his best at a baseball game and showcases their amazing behavior in sharp contrast to other children (oh double-dear!) and adults. You will be moved to try again. ...more
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