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Receive Free Bilingual Children’s Books

Wednesday, December 12th, 2012

The benefits of reading aloud to children are numerous, but for bilingual families, cuddling up with a bedtime story isn’t always a simple task.

Infinity Car Insurance seeks to help bilingual families read together through its Read Comingo program. Read Comingo is a literacy program that promotes bilingualism by providing parents with free bilingual children’s books bimonthly.

Children and parents can learn from each other with these books that are written in both English and Spanish.

“Read Conmigo is important for Hispanic families because many parents who don’t read English fluently hesitate to read to their children at home in Spanish. Studies show, however, that bilingual reading is equally effective at maintaining and improving reading skills and educational levels,” said Greg Fasking, Infinity Auto Insurance’s vice president of consumer marketing. “This is why our books are in both English and Spanish, so that parents and children can read aloud together at home.”

Since Read Comingo’s launch in March of 2011, it has provided schools and families with over 350,000 free books.

Read Comingo gave us some tips for making the most of your story time:

  • Point to the words in the book, as you read aloud together with your child
  • Create a regular schedule every week to read together as a family at home
  • Asking your children to recall parts of the story in the books, and use the illustrations to help identify words

To receive a free bilingual picture book every other month, sign up at www.readconmigo.org.

Photo courtesy of Infinity Auto Insurance

 

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Send Your Child a Letter From the North Pole

Thursday, December 6th, 2012

Getting any kind of letter in the mail is exciting for a child, but imagine how thrilled your little one would be to open the mailbox and find a note from Santa! Through the U.S. Postal Service’s “Letters from Santa” program, your child can receive a personalized letter from jolly old Saint Nick postmarked from the North Pole.

Here’s how it works:

  1. Write a letter from Santa to your child (make sure to sign it “From, Santa”)
  2. Place the finished letter into an envelope addressed to your child with a North Pole return address. Include a First-Class stamp.
  3. Insert that envelope into a larger envelope, with the correct postage, and send it to:

                   North Pole Postmark
                   Postmaster
                   4141 Postmark Drive
                   Anchorage, AK
                   99530-9998

Mail your letter out by December 10, 2012 and Santa’s helpers will have it delivered in time for Christmas!

Image: Portrait of Santa Claus answering Christmas letter (via Shutterstock)

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Mealtime with Cat Cora

Thursday, November 29th, 2012

As the first and only female winner of Iron Chef America, Cat Cora isn’t a stranger to challenges. But like the rest of you, sometimes her biggest battle is getting her four kids to eat healthy food. I met Cora at an event for Wonderful Almond Accents where she shared some of her secrets to keeping a peaceful dinnertime.

Make clear rules

Cora gives her kids one choice for dinner and her rule is that they must try at least one bite. “I tell my kids, ‘If you don’t like dinner, breakfast will be delicious the next day!” she said.

Sometimes it’s okay to compromise

Cora said that one mealtime her kids wanted chicken, but she was planning on making pancakes. Cora found a happy medium by blending chicken into the pancakes with a little honey and created a brand new recipe that they were all happy with.

Let your kids help you cook

Cora says her kids are more likely to enjoy their food if they are a part of the cooking process. For instance, children ages 4 and up can sprinkle on almond slivers, grated cheese, sunflower seeds, or chopped herbs on their salad. (For younger kids, nuts and seeds are choking hazards.)

Cora also shared her recipe for a lettuce-free salad.

Greek Chopped Salad with Sea Salt & Cracked Pepper Almonds

Makes 6-8 servings

Ingredients

½  cup Sea Salt & Cracked Pepper Wonderful Almond Accents

2 large cloves garlic

½ cup extra virgin olive oil, divided

¼ cup red wine vinegar

2 tablespoons fresh oregano (or 2 teaspoons dried kosher salt)

Freshly ground black pepper

6 large ripe tomatoes, cored and chopped

1 English cucumber, chopped

1 medium red onion, chopped

1 cup crumbled feta cheese

½ cup pitted Kalamata olives, halved

 

Make It

  1. In a small skillet over medium-high heat, sauté garlic in 2 tablespoons of the olive oil, stirring often, until garlic is caramelized and crunchy. Be careful not to burn.
  2. In a large bowl, whisk together remaining olive oil, vinegar, oregano, salt and pepper.
  3. Add tomatoes, cucumber, red onion, feta and olives. Mix well.
  4. Stir in caramelized garlic and Wonderful Almond Accents just before serving.

Photos: Courtesy of Wonderful Almond Accents

 

 

 

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Speaking Up For Autism

Friday, November 2nd, 2012

In a crowded political assembly, reporters’ lights flash and hands shoot up in hopes of asking Governor Mitt Romney a question. In the front of the crowd a small hand is confidently raised and called upon.

“My name is Sam Wessels, I am 9 and here is my question,” the boy speaks clearly into the microphone. “The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention says that 1 in 5 American children have a learning disability. Mine is autism. What is happening to America’s most precious resource, her children, and what do you plan to do about it? Thank you.”

Sam’s mother, Lin Wessels, says she will never forget how stunned the crowd was to see a young boy speak so confidently and clearly in that high-pressure situation.

This fifth grader from Iowa has spoken with every Republican candidate that toured his state during caucus season and most recently had the chance to speak with President Obama. His goal is to be a voice for the many children with autism who cannot speak.

Lin Wessels is a strong autism advocate. She has raised her son to understand that the American political process is meant to work for all people, no matter their differentiated ability.

“When we’re on the way to event I always talk to Sam about what he wants to say and what is important to him,” she said.

The family’s most exciting moment yet came when the Wessels were able to meet President Obama.

Wessels proudly remembers her son leaning into the President’s ear and asking if he would join him in standing up for people with autism.

Wessels puts aside her party affiliations when it comes to advocating for her son and others with autism. She is respectful of every candidate and makes sure her son understands what an honor it is to speak with these important people.

So how can the public and the government stand up for people with autism? Wessels says that education is the key.

“We need to make sure general education teachers are educated about autism so they know the reasons behind these children’s behavior,” she said. “Another important issue is finding ways for adults with autism to work in our society.”

Wessels says that what stands out to her the most about her and Sam’s journey is the amount of people who connect with them.

“No matter where we go or who we address, there are always people who come up to us afterward and remark on how grateful they are for what we do,” she said. “Especially to Sam for his courage and bravery to fight for a cause that is so near and dear to so many, including himself.”

Visit the Wessels’ YouTube channel to see some of Sam’s interactions with America’s politicians, and hear what they have to say about autism.

Learn the 6 facts you need to know about autism on Parents.com.

Photos courtesy of Lin Wessels

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Prop 37: What You Need to Know About the Food Labeling Bill

Thursday, October 25th, 2012

When you head to the polls on November 6, there may be an item on your ballot that you haven’t heard of before. Californian voters will have the option to vote on Proposition 37, a bill that would require foods with genetically modified organisms (GMO’s) to be labeled for consumers. A GMO is a food that has had specific changes to its DNA by genetic engineering techniques. The purpose of these genetic alterations is to make crops more resistant to rain, drought and pests.

Supporters of the bill say that GMO’s have been linked to allergies, organ toxicity and other health problems. Fifty countries in the world, including all of Europe, Japan, India and China, already require labels on GMO’s. Over 400 nationally renowned chefs have signed a petition in support of the bill saying that consumers should have a right to know if their food has been genetically engineered.

Based on those facts, passing Prop 37 may seem like an easy decision. However, its opponents firmly believe otherwise. According to No Prop 37, GMO’s are products of biotechnology— a safe anti-pesticide process that has been going on for nearly two decades. Opponents believe that by banning the sale of millions of common grocery products unless they are repackaged or made with higher cost ingredients would increase government bureaucracy and taxpayer costs.

To research both sides further, visit CA Right to Know and  No Prop 37.

Do you think GMO foods should be labeled? Let us know in the comments.

Image: Woman checking food labeling in super market, via Shutterstock
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Discover Your Roots During Family Heritage Month

Wednesday, October 24th, 2012

 

Studying family genealogy not only helps children gain a better understanding of their identity, but it’s also a great way to get kids interested in history. Here are some fun ways to celebrate National Family Heritage Month this October:

Family Treasures

Go on a family history scavenger hunt at a relative’s house. Have your kids arm themselves with flashlights and a checklist and send them off in search of specific items. Some examples might include:

  • A piece of heirloom jewelry
  • An old film reel (maybe you can even find a way to watch it!)
  • Pictures of Grandma and Grandpa as kids
  • Some old clothes (perfect for playing dress up later!)
  • Old postcards or letters

National Heritage

Celebrate your family’s ethnic background by hosting a heritage party. Teach your kids how to create native dishes, play cultural learning games, and swap stories about your family’s past.

Explore Your Origins

Go back to your roots with National Geographic’s DNA Ancestry Kit that allows you to discover the migration paths of your ancient ancestors. Swab the inside of your child’s mouth and send the kit back to become a part of the live experiment and even find out if you have Neanderthal or Denisovan ancestry.

 

Image: Closeup of a pile of vintage family photos, via Shutterstock 

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Good News About Kids and Hunger (Really)

Wednesday, October 10th, 2012

Last month we asked you to help bring 1,000,000 meals to American children in need through No Kid Hungry’s campaign with Macaroni Grill.

In less than a month, the campaign exceeded its goal by raising enough money to bring 3,000,000 meals to hungry kids!

You can continue to fight for the 1 in 5 American children who struggle with hunger by donating to No Kid Hungry or visiting their website to learn more about how you can be an advocate for hungry kids in your community.

Thank you to our readers who participated in this campaign! Let us know in the comments if you supported No Kid Hungry’s fight against child hunger.

 

 

Image: Happy girl on field of wheat via  Shutterstock

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Engage Your Kids in the Election

Monday, September 17th, 2012

History is always in the making. Important events that your kids will read about one day are happening now. We offered some tips for raising a good citizen, and this election season is the perfect time to get your kids excited about civics.

We spoke with Michael J. Berson, Ph.D., professor of social science education at the University of South Florida, about ways to engage your children during this exciting time in history.

1.  Hold a mock vote at home.

The Electoral College can be difficult even for adults to understand and kids may not be able to grasp the concept of the popular vote. A better way to familiarize kids with the notion of voting is by holding a mock election at home.

“Your family can vote on small things, like what to have for dinner that night,” says Dr. Berson. “The idea is to show them the power of choice, which they will carry with them later in life.”

But what happens when one sibling outvotes the other’s choice of mac ‘n’ cheese for dinner? Show your child how to “campaign” for her favorite meal the next night! This will not only teach her how to react when she don’t get her way, but will also help her understand how to enact positive change for an issue she cares about.

2. Read to your kids about elections

“One of the best ways to teach your children about the political process is by reading to them,” says Dr. Berson. “Read biographies of former presidents and don’t forget to read about first ladies as well.”

Here are some of our favorites: 

Ages 4–8: Woodrow for President: A Tail of Voting Campaigns and Elections by Peter and Cheryl Barnes

 Ages 4–8: So You Want to be President? by Judith St. George

Ages 9 and up: Lincoln: A Photobiography by Russell Freedman

Ages 9 and up: First Ladies (DK Eyewitness Book) by Amy Pastan

 

3. Avoid negative TV ads

We often leave the TV commercials on in the background without thinking about them, but negative political ads could send the wrong message to kids. “It’s important for children to have visuals of the candidates,” says Dr. Berson. “Try muting the TV when negative ads come on and use the visuals to explain in positive terms who the candidate is and what issue the ad is talking about.”

 4. Attend political events as a family

This is a great way to for kids to participate in an election, but not all political events are appropriate for children. “Younger children may be frightened by hecklers or negative protestors at speeches and rallies,” says Dr. Berson. “A more developmentally-appropriate option would be to attend a parade that a candidate is in.”

5. Show your patriotism

It may not be appropriate to dress your child in t-shirts or stickers that promote a candidate they are too young to fully understand. Dr. Berson says that a better option is to give your child a flag to wave if you are attending a political event.

6. Keep it positive

Dr. Berson says that it’s good to show children your sense of connection to a particular party or candidate. However, you should always speak respectfully of opposing parties. Teaching your child to respect both sides is a great lesson that will carry over into other relationships in his life.

7. Discuss platforms, not parties

Encourage your child to create his own opinions by talking to him about different sides of issues as opposed to talking about the different parties.

8. Relate the election to your home and community

The best way for kids to understand politics on a national scale is by showing them ways to actively get involved in their home or community. You can start by letting your kids think of ways to improve the area around them by working on community service projects that they are passionate about. Sites like Volunteer Match, Do Something and The Volunteer Family offer great ways to learn about kid-friendly service opportunities in your community.

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