It’s Children’s Book Week, which means this week is another special reason to encourage your kids to read! This celebration of books (sponsored by the Children’s Book Council and Every Child a Reader) officially began in 1919, though the idea was originally formulated in 1913 by Franklin K. Matthiews, the librarian of the Boy Scouts of America. To date, this week is considered the longest-running literacy program in the U.S. (Read more about the history at bookweekonline.com)
Since spring and rain are on my mind (it’s been endless wet weather in New York), here are some new and old spring-related books that are perfect for the season:
Gem by Holly Hobbie – The author/illustrator of the “Toot and Puddle” series showcases her superb watercolors in this (mostly) wordless book about a frog and a young girl’s discovery of the world.
And Then It’s Spring by Julie Fogliano – Spare and poetic as a haiku, this first-time author focuses on a boy waiting for his garden to bloom. Subdued illustrations by Erin E. Stead, who won the 2011 Caldecott Medal for “A Sick Day for Amos McGee,” are a perfect accompaniment.
Green by Laura Vaccaro Seeger – A tribute to nature and the environment, Seeger shares the different shades of green that exist in the world, along with scenes of what a world would be like without green. Strategic cut-outs on each page also give a hint of what will come next.
The Curious Garden by Peter Brown – Inspired by the High Line in New York City, this story follows a little boy as he plants a rooftop garden with the hope of transforming a dark and dreary world into something bright and bold. (Brown’s signature drawings are detailed, lush, and vibrant.)
This cute and catchy music video came across my inbox yesterday and I’ve watched it at least three times. If you love books and reading as much as I do, you will also love this video from Reading Is Fundamental (RIF), the largest non-profit children’s literacy organization. RIF just launched the national ”Book People Unite” campaign to encourage book lovers to band together, and this Public Service Announcement features an original song produced by The Roots.
A montage of assorted puppets (by Jim Henson’s Creature Shop) and animations (by Curious Pictures) of beloved book characters (Pinocchio, Curious George, Babar, Humpty Dumpty, Clifford, Raggedy Ann and Andy, and Madeline) are all seen or heard singing ”Book People Unite.” Famous musicians and celebrities such as Chris Martin from “Coldplay,” John Legend, Regina Spektor, and Jack Black also contribute vocals for the characters or make appearances alongside them. LeVar Burton, who hosted “Reading Rainbow,” also makes a cameo. (NYTimes.com also has a feature-length piece about the video.)
Last year, RIF provided 14 million books to 4 million children, and the non-profit hopes to give more books to the 16 million children living in poverty in our country. To show your support for literacy, sign the “Book People Unite” reading pledge and receive a free download of the song.
Can you spot all the book characters or match them to the celeb voices?
The popular mom blogger Jenny Lawson, self-dubbed “The Bloggess” (more on that later), released her first book yesterday, Let’s Pretend This Never Happened. The novel shares hilarious, “mostly true” anecdotes from her, er, unusual upbringing. We talked to Jenny about being a mother, a blogger, and surviving her weird childhood.
Let’s start at the beginning. What was your childhood like?
My childhood was “violently unorthodox,” as I like to call it. My dad was a taxidermist, so I had some interesting childhood “pets” growing up. From the outside looking in, people might think it was a struggle. We were quite poor, and my family was odd, but overall I’d say it was great. Despite the quirks, I was loved and accepted for who I was.
How does that lesson translate in your book?
I’ve embraced my weirdness, and Let’s Pretend This Never Happened shares stories about my life in an informal, fun, and irreverent manner. After all, diversity is what makes the world go around and that includes the need for a lot of bafflingly strange people in the world. I’m happy to be one of those people.
When using your own life as the fodder for your first novel, did you worry what family or friends might think?
My friends and family aren’t easily thrown. My parents enjoyed the book, and all my close relatives and in-laws have either read it or have vowed not to read it to preserve their idea of me. I have a strong family who supports one another no matter what. That’s sort of the main theme of the book, and it’s one that stands true in my life, as well.
Did you always hope to be a published author?
Growing up, I wanted to be a cowgirl ballerina. Or a writer. But I wasn’t thin enough to be a cowgirl ballerina, so I started writing instead.
Your blog, The Bloggess, is wildly popular. How did you come up with that name?
“Blogess” is just the feminine of “blogger.” Think about it: Actor/actress, mister/mistress, blogger/bloggess, jogger/joggess. Although, those last two never quite caught on…
What does your daughter, Hailey, think about your blog?
Hailey is not allowed to read my blog because it’s a bit too cursey for a seven-year-old, but she desperately wants a blog of her own–she even makes these long video blogs that she wants to post on the Internet.
So then is Hailey the next “Bloggess” to be?
I’ve told her that she needs to wait until she’s at least sixteen before posting her video blogs to make sure that’s what she really wants. Kids today live in a tech-savvy world we could never imagine, and I’d hate for those to haunt her when she’s a teenager. Kids can be cruel, and stuff on the Internet never goes away.
Has your own childhood influenced the choices you’ve made in raising your daughter?
My family chose their own road with no regard to what others thought, and I think that made my life incredibly special. I’m trying to do the same thing for my daughter. Hopefully, she’ll appreciate it one day the way I appreciate it now. Or we’ll spend a lot of time together in therapy. Either way, the key here is that it’ll be time spent together.
What do you two do to spend time together now?
We play a lot of Monster High–it’s like Barbies, except with zombies. We also have a lot of “girl talk.” That was Hailey’s idea when she was little, and it’s now one of the best parts of my day.
Are Over-the-Counter Bug Bite Treatments Useless?
The Drug and Therapeutics Bulletin (DTB) released a report on Wednesday finding that after reviewing the evidence, there was little support for the use of over-the-counter remedies for bug bites.
Editor’s Note: Ellen Seidman, from the Parents.com blog To the Max, sent this to us from her friend Jill at Scary Mommy.
This guest post is by the awesome Jill Smokler of Scary Mommy, one of the most popular mom blogs out there. That’s because Jill is extremely funny, extremely wise, extremely real and all about extreme honesty. Jill’s mom to Lily, 8; Ben, 6; and Evan, 4. Somehow she’s managed to write a book, Confessions Of A Scary Mommy. It’s out this week, and it’s every bit as relatable and delicious as her blog. I asked how she squeezed that in—who has time to write a book?! “I wrote a lot of it at 3:00 a.m.,” she explained. Ah. And now, her top 5 mom moments that drive ya nuts.
There is absolutely nothing in the world that compares to the love that I have for my children. It is consuming and overwhelming and simply the most powerful emotion I have ever felt in my life. It’s perfect.
So, how is it that these children whom I love more than anything in the world have a way of getting to me like nobody else ever has? The intensity of the annoyance and frustration I can feel for creatures I love so much never ceases to amaze me. Maybe it’s the balance of loving people so much — that the other emotions have to be equally as intense. I’m not sure what it is, exactly, but it’s a good thing that I do love them so much, or I’d have a pretty tough time liking them. Especially at times like these…
1. When they fuss over bedtime. I just don’t get it — if someone were to give me a bath, put me in clean pajamas, read me a story and rub my back until I fell asleep, I would think I’d died and gone to heaven. Instead, my children insist on bargaining on the timing, refusing to brush their teeth and fighting over bedtime stories. It always ends up being the least pleasant way to end a long day.
2. When they act up during a work call. It’s hard being a work at home parent — hard for the mom to maintain a level of professionalism when she’s chewing leftover grilled cheese crusts for lunch and changing diapers in between assignments, and tough for the kids to understand that they need to respect a role other than mother. The toughest part by far is the work phone call. If I have an important call, I will set my children up with TV show or a computer game, a snack, and instructions not to interrupt me unless there is massive blood, broken bones or an intruder in the house. When the door bursts open because someone changed the channel or they ran out of popcorn, visions of throwing the TV on the floor and bolting off to an off-site office dance in my head.
3. When they whine. When my daughter was a newborn, she cried a lot. Like, constantly. I was convinced that the worst sound in the world to a mother was her darling offspring’s inconsolable cry. What on earth could compare to that? And, then she hit the whining phase and those tears suddenly became melodic.
4. When they wet the bed. I know, I know, it’s not their fault that their bodies aren’t yet wired to wake up in the middle of the night, but still, little pisses me off more than seeing a figure next to my bed at 3AM whimpering that he is soaking wet. The most infuriating part? It always, always, seems to happen on the very night when I have finally washed the sheets and freshly made the bed.
5. When they trash a clean playroom. It’s a rare occurrence when I actually get around to deep cleaning and organizing the playroom. Hours and hours of Lego sorting and Barbie organizing and putting every last toy in the proper box pays off, though, when I can step back and admire the beauty of everything being where it belongs. Sadly, it never lasts more than five minutes before one of my children will inevitably look for some minuscule item and dump out every last box in the process.
Like I said, it’s a good thing I love them so much. Remind me why I do, again?
Before March ends, make sure to encourage bring your little bookworm to the library since March is National Reading Month.
To help promote a love for reading, Cheerios is celebrating the 10-year anniversary of its Spoonfuls of Stories program, which places one free book written by award-winning authors inside specially-marked cereal boxes. This year, six different books (with English and Spanish versions) will be distributed together:
Peeny Butter Fudge, by Toni and Slade Morrison and illustrated by Joe Cepeda
Mostly Monsterly, by Tammi Sauer and illustrated by Scott Magoon
Noodle & Lou, by Elizabeth Garton Scanlon and illustrated by Arthur Howard
If I Were a Jungle Animal, by Amanda Ellery and illustrated by Tom Ellery
Hello Baby, by Mem Fox and illustrated by Steve Jenkins
Can I Just Take a Nap?, by Ron Rauss and illustrated by Rob Shepperson
Since 2002, Cheerios has distributed 60 million books in boxes and donated $3.8 million to First Book, a non-profit dedicated to improving literacy for low-include families by providing them their first new books. This year, Cheerios will be giving 50,000 children’s books and $300,000 to First Book.
You can also donate to First Book through your mobile phones by using short code 20222 and texting Books2Kids. By doing so, a $5 donation will be made that will provide two new books to a child in need. Standard messaging rates apply, and the donation amount will appear on your cell phone bill. Parents can also find other book-related events sponsored by Cheerios near you.
We are happy to announce the grand-prize winner of the contest:St. Aloysius on-the-Ohio Elementary School in Cincinnati, Ohio! For its outstanding achievement in getting students involved in reading, St. Aloysius will receive $5,000 to be used toward their school library.
St. Aloysius on-the-Ohio Elementary School is a small school situated along the scenic Ohio River valley in the historic Sayler Park Area of Cincinnati. The students enjoy a safe, nurturing environment that encourages mutual respect and self-discipline.
Both students and teachers enjoyed participating in the program. Third-grader Connor shared, “I read all the time and the contest made it even more fun,” while eighth-grader Savannah said, “Reading makes kids smarter and gives them time to be with their parents. Without the library, I don’t know what I would do.”
The school also has a proven track record of academic excellence for the past 137 years, and strong family values and family involvement is a key ingredient for its successes. “Our librarian encourages the students to develop a love of reading all types of books. The students love to compete against others and themselves. It is amazing to see what a small group of avid readers is able to achieve. The students love to say, ‘We are small but we are mighty.’ Winning is proof of that,” says Regina Hornback, a teacher at St. Aloysius.
Congratulations to the students and teachers at St. Aloysius on-the-Ohio Elementary School!
To celebrate the launch of his new book, The Modern Parent’s Guide to Kids and Video Games, we asked tech expert and dad Scott Steinberg to share his top tips for making technology fun—and safe—for the whole family.
1. Be a Proactive User
“You can’t teach the rules of the game if you don’t comprehend them yourself,” says Scott. He recommends keeping tabs on new products, and taking them for a spin to see if they’re suitable for your kid.
2. Corral Devices in Common Rooms
Scott suggests keeping game consoles, computers, and other devices out of kids’ rooms. Keeping screens in sight allows parents to monitor kids’ play patterns and time investment, and see who they’re interacting with online.
3. Guard Your Privacy
Though social networks might feel intimate, they’re anything but private. Customize privacy settings to limit access to photos, status updates, or videos of yourself only to pre-approved viewers. Remind kids to keep mum about information such as names, addresses, birthdays, and telephone numbers.
4. Utilize Parental Controls
Take advantage of the built-in parental controls that come standard on many devices. Even clueless grown-ups can configure these user-friendly settings to limit and filter questionable content. Think about what works for your family, whether it’s blocking racy R-rated films or confining chats to pre-approved friends lists.
5. Create and Enforce House Rules
Set limits on screen time, and discuss when kids may use high-tech devices and which sites they can surf. “Kids should feel comfortable approaching you with questions about rules and content—open, honest discussion is paramount,” says Scott.