Review of Lighting Their Fires by Rafe Esquith

I received this book for free from Publisher in exchange for an honest review. This does not affect my opinion of the book or the content of my review.

Review of Lighting Their Fires by Rafe EsquithLighting Their Fires by Rafe Esquith
Published by Penguin on 2009-08-25
Genres: Child Rearing, Education, Family & Relationships, Parent Participation, Parenting
Pages: 208
Format: Hardcover
Source: Publisher
Buy on Amazon

The New York Times bestselling author of Teach Like Your Hair's on Fire shares his proven methods for creating compassionate children During twenty-five years of teaching at Hobart Elementary School in inner city Los Angeles, Rafe Esquith has helped thousands of children maximize their potentialand became the only teacher in history to receive the president's National Medal of Arts. In Lighting Their Fires, Esquith translates the inspiring methods from Teach Like Your Hair's on Fire for parents. Using lessons framed by a class trip to a Dodgers game, he moves inning by inning through concepts that explain how to teach children to be thoughtful and honorable peopleas well as successful studentsand to have fun in the process.

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 section about what to put in a child’s backpack. The backpack thing is a metaphor, i.e. place a sense of time in your child’s backpack.

The main lessons I learned from Esquith was that we should allow students to be creative (yes, that sounds about right), children need to maintain a sense of time management (well, as long as they aren’t constantly staring at the clock 5 minutes before class ends), kids need to learn good decision making skills, and students ought to work hard (i.e. if you must sweep the streets, sweep them like Shakespeare). For the most part, I agree with Rafe. None of the information in the book was particularly new to me. However, it is always nice to have a refresher in basic pedagogy.

I think the time and the money Esquith spends on his students is admirable, but as an educator, not something I would prefer to emulate. I know I sound terrible, but as much as I enjoy teaching, I want to have a life outside of it and I recognize that is completely okay. To be quite honest, I feel like Esquith comes across as a bit arrogant in his writing, I understand that he is super-teacher and doesn’t make mistakes and teaches until 7 pm and also on Saturdays, but in reality not a lot of teachers can do that. I also thought the writing came across as simplistic, BUT it’s not too terrible compared to the academic stuff pedagogy writings I had to read for class.

If you are interested more in the useful teaching tips/ideas, I would say read Teach Like Your Hair Is On Fire by Esquith, it’s a bit better, and in my opinion more interesting. Again, I am biased because I don’t have children of my own, therefore I kind of ignore the parenting things.

While reading this book, I suggest you have an ice cold beer. I know, I know you probably have this image of teachers waving prohibition signs. Erase that. Teachers drink, not heavily mind you.

About April (Books&Wine)

April is in her 30s and created Good Books And Good Wine. She works for a non-profit. April always has a book on hand. In her free time she can be found binge watching The Office with her husband and toddler, spending way too much time on Pinterest or exploring her neighborhood.


  1. Juju from Tales of Whimsy says

    Love the beer ad you included 😉

  2. My husband and I will be reviewing this soon, he's read and enjoyed both of Rafe's other books, although I think he liked "There Are No Shortcuts" better than "Teach Like Your Hair's On Fire"

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