3 Reasons You Should Read Ruby K. Payne’s book: A Framework for Understanding Poverty (Revised Edition)

The life of a wife, mom, teacher, wanna-be-edublogger, and a lengthy list of other roles I play is not easy to navigate. Can you relate?

I originally started writing this post about two months ago! I know, right!? That’s quite a bit of time. Well, I am happy to say that life and health has been and is good. However, my work-life balance was not good. I was not focused. I was all over the place. My friends and co-workers were asking me how I was able to do all that I was doing, and to be honest I was not doing it all. Okay, I take that back. I was doing it all, but none of it was as good as it could have been. I had to put blogging on the back burner until I figured how to focus and manage my time. I am still not sure I figured it out, but Angela Watson’s 40 Hour Teacher Work week Club is helping me to become more productive day in and day out.

With that being said, I have done tons of reading since I have last posted. Reading is food for my brain while writing is working out for my mental stability. I need them both in my life like I need air to breathe.

I recently finished reading five different books. “Midwife’s Confessions” by Diane Chamberlain, “Most Wanted” by Lisa Scottoline (pronounced like Fettuccine), “The Ice Cream Girls,” by Dorothy Koomson, “The Mistletoe Secret,” by Richard Paul Evans, and “A Framework For Understanding Poverty” by Ruby K. Payne, PhD.

I know, I know…Why? How? When? I enjoy reading in my leisure time (not that I have much). It’s relaxing to me, and keeps my brain mentally stimulated. I feel more intelligent when I read and write. I am also a member of a book club, and we are approaching our 7th year. I am not an extremely fast reader, as I over analyze many things or get distracted by the other million and one things I need to do on any given day, but I enjoy the stories, and the conversations that arise after having read.

The Chamberlain and Scottoline books were for my book club. It took me about 5 weeks to finish “Midwife’s Confessions.” I finished “Most Wanted” in about a week!  I listened to this book on CD while driving to and from work, and any other time I was in my car. I call it vocabulary development for my little one (LOL!) It only took me a week to complete it, and to my surprise, I enjoyed listening to it. Even though I enjoyed listening to it, I still read at least 1-2 chapters each night before bed. To me, there is nothing like having a real book in my hands and turning the pages and seeing the amount of pages left to read get smaller and smaller.

“The Ice Cream Girls,” and “The Mistletoe Secret,” were also book club reads. I read both of these books because I could not find the audio books in the library. However, each of these books were fairly easy reads, and page turners. I could not wait to find out why these girls were called Ice Cream Girls! That part was actually my least favorite, but the meat of the book, the character development and the plot was thick and juicy and I could not put it down. Richard Paul Evans is one of my favorite authors, because his books are easy to read, touching, and profound (sometimes trite and predictable), and I have read the entire The Walk Series, and the Mistletoe Series, among other books that he has written. I am never disappointed.

So where does “A Framework for Understanding Poverty” come in to play? This book was not a part of my book club. However, I am a lifelong learner. I am on a journey to become a Renewed Teacher. This book is the first featured book from my school’s Professional Development Lounge! I read the 4th edition of this book during my senior year of college or the beginning year of my graduate studies back in 2006-2007. My principal mentioned the revised edition to me, and I grabbed the book, and started reading it as soon as I could. It took a while to finish, but below is a list of 3 reasons why I highly recommend “A Framework for Understanding Poverty” and why you should read this book (I also highly recommend the “Midwife’s Confessions,” “The Ice Cream Girls,” and any Richard Paul Evans book).


Image courtesy of Pixabay and Pic Collage.

3) You think you know what poverty is or is not. 


Image Courtesy of Google Images.

The working definition of poverty that Payne shares, regardless of race or gender, is “the extent to which an individual does without resources.” Notice that it does not mention money. Although money is a resource that I am currently without. LOL! In chapter one, Payne mentions financial resources, but there are also other areas in life which cause people to live in poverty including, emotional, mental/cognitive, spiritual, physical, support systems, relationship/role models, knowledge of hidden rules, and language/formal register.

As I read this in the book, I was able to pinpoint a few of my students, family members, peers (and at times myself) that may have financial resources, but are under-resourced in other areas of their lives. As I write this sentence, I think about the special on ABC Thursday night: Menendez Brothers’Truth and Lies. They were wealthy financially but the relationships and role models in their lives along with their emotions and mental stability were poverty stricken.

Poverty is not just about the money you make and have. It is much deeper.

2) You work or live in a poverty stricken area.

A key point to remember from Payne’s book is, “Most schools and businesses operate from middle-class norms and use the hidden rules of middle class.” As a resident or employee, you must understand the hidden rules of people who live in poverty, and not expect it to be the other way around (Payne believes we should equip our students with the culture of the middle class. I believe equip is the wrong “E” word and feel expose and allow them to make their own choices is more appropriate.) Even if you grew up in poverty, you may think that you “get it.” I believe that I “get it.” However, as a college educated human-being, you are probably not living in poverty any longer. If you are, it is more than likely situational where the circumstance can change and is only temporary. Compared that to generational where a family has lived in poverty for at least two generations. least not the way that you were when you were growing up or when you were in college. LOL!


Image courtesy of Google Images.

I have sometimes intentionally and mostly unintentionally distanced myself away from a life of what I thought was poverty and have attended college, graduate school, and have formed more and new relationships, developed new beliefs and a different mindset (while still holding on to some old relationships, beliefs and mindset ideas). In college, you would not imagine the quarrels my father and I got into because I was growing and somewhat changing. It was rough, but it all worked out. After all, he did raise me to become a better person and more educated than what he was. I don’t know if that will be possible. My dad was awesome! God rest his soul. Love you, daddy! I am learning real-life experiences out-ranks formal education many times in life.

1) You are an educator, employer, policymaker, or service provider.

I believe that anyone that has chosen to work with people has a responsibility to learn and understand how and why people are the way they are. It helps to develop empathy as opposed to sympathy. It aids in helping one to take offense slowly, and put down the guards of defense. As person who works hard at not being judgmental, this is fundamental for me. Growing up, I was told that I was the best and the smartest, and that I had to work harder than everyone else to show that I was the best, and well, I believed that. School was my job, and I had to be the best at my job. Why wouldn’t I believe what my mother and father believed about me? Why wouldn’t I believe that message when many of my teachers and other adults throughout my childhood reinforced the same message? I’d like to believe that I thought I was the best meant I was the best, but not necessarily better than everyone else. I would like to believe that I was somewhat humble in this belief. I am not sure that I was.

But this brings me to my point. Everyone is raised to believe something, and people who were raised in poverty have a totally different mindset and belief system than those that were not raised in poverty. Chapter 2 in Payne’s book focuses on language and story and how they impact thinking, school, and work. Beliefs come from words and these or lack there of are powerful.


If none of these reasons resonate with you, I will be slightly surprised, but not disappointed. But if you need a good non-fiction book to read, this is the book to read.

If you are looking for ways to build better relationships with the people you spend most of your day with, read this book.

If you are looking for ways to understand yourself better, read this book.

As an educator, employer, policymaker, or service provider, it ought to be our personal duty to seek out how we can better serve our clients and this book provides some insight for that.

As mentioned earlier, I read a previous edition of this book when I was in graduate school. During this time, I also had the opportunity to attend a conference where Dr. Rita Pierson was the speaker. I have yet to forget her name and the impact she had on my career as a beginning teacher. I was sad to learn of her passing back in 2013. Pierson was a nationally renowned public speaker and led hundreds of workshops for aha! Process, Inc. since 1997. aha! Process, Inc. was founded by Ruby K. Payne! Not everyone will agree with what Payne says in her book. But when you meet a person like Dr. Rita Pierson who is as passionate, real, humorous, and has such a strong belief in the power of relationships who also happens to represent Ruby K. Payne and her company, I can’t help but think that this book could be helpful in so many ways.

As we continue to grow and renew our passion for teaching, let’s open our minds and read how to cognitively approach poverty. If you decide to read the book, come back and add your take-away and your reasons why you think others should read it as well. I am always looking forward to hearing from you!

Also, remember to follow the blog or follow me on Pinterest

Until then, Happy Teaching!

Krystal L. Smith, The RenewED Teacher

4 thoughts on “3 Reasons You Should Read Ruby K. Payne’s book: A Framework for Understanding Poverty (Revised Edition)

  1. Great evaluation from what you gained from your reading! I definitely believe it is important for anyone working to try to understand the population they serve. To a certain degree it shows respect.


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