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Saturday, December 31, 2011

The Little Match Girl - Celebrating Christmas

My holidays are spent with my seven nephews and nieces ranging in age from one to nine so it can get very hectic. Sometimes we get caught up in the hustle of the holiday season, and lose our joy. This year we had a few melt downs not with the young children who were blissfully happy but the older kids.  The ones almost reaching tweens had a problem. They were not sure what they wanted but they were sure they didn't get it. Talking about gratitude did not help, they felt jaded.  Finally, I started to realize they were going through growing pains.  It is hard to give up the surprise, magic and wonderlust of childhood. So I decided to dispense with the lecture on appreciation and let them work through their feelings.  By the end of Christmas day, they were back to their golly selves.

Later when I was reading Christmas stories from an anthology, the story of The Little Match Girl kept popping up. This story by the Danish storyteller, Hans Christian Andersen is a tearjerker, the kind I avoid reading on the holidays to the kids. I remember as a child shedding a few tears reading The Little Match Girl. This time I decided to read them the story, maybe they needed to hear a story about the bitter sweetness of life. I grew up reading fairy tales by Mr. Andersen and as I recall many of his stories have a tinge of sadness, The Steadfast Soldier, The Pearl to name a few.  Forget the idea that fairy tales are sugar coated.  This is the story of a young girl left to die in the cold on Christmas night.  A good story can evoke empathy and remind us of our social responsibility.  There was complete silence while I read the story.  After the only questions they asked  were, Where were her parents? and Why didn't the families in the window invite her in?

In this age of corporate greed and personal selfishness a good story reminds us to look beyond our window and encounter a bigger truth. The younger children were happy with what they thought was a happy ending but the older children got the message. And that is the way it should be as we grow up.  So this was our story for the season.

There are many renditions of this beautiful story, a story for all seasons.  How do you handle telling children sad stories? Do you avoid them or do you think they are an opportunity for young people to express their deep feelings.

Merry Christmas!  Happy Chanukah!  Happy New Year!  Happy Kwanzaa!

Tuesday, October 11, 2011

Pentagram – L!brary Initiative


Classes are now back in session and some lucky students will enjoy a new library space in their school. Thanks to the Robin Hood Foundation who commissioned Pentagram, the design studio to remodel or create ten new libraries in New York City public elementary schools.  Libraries are such a magical place of learning for young children and each space was uniquely designed for that school. Pentagram has created spaces that are comfortable and say welcome. Welcome to the library where the imagination can soar and knowledge flows freely.

 



Special thanks to a link from http://www.flygirls.typepad.com/fly/page/4/

Saturday, August 13, 2011

Join Will.I.Am for his TV Special "i.am First: Science is Rock and Roll"



I think all children are born super scientists but somewhere along the way the energy and enthusiasm for science is drained out of them.  Rapper, musician, producer, Will.I. Am after listening to the depressing news about the economy came to the conclusion that "America has the flu and that science is the Vitamin C that our economy needs." He became inspired when he attended A Robotic Competition.

"In order to elevate what he experienced at the 20th Annual FIRST championships in St. Louis back in April to the mainstream, he created a back-to-school TV special airing Sunday night on ABC titled “i am FIRST: Science is Rock and Roll.” The show, which features special guests including Aerosmith’s Steven Tyler, U2’s Bono, Britney Spears, Justin Bieber, Miley Cyrus, Jack Black and Willow Smith, encourages students to pursue academic excellence in the sciences by showcasing FIRST competitors as the rock stars of the future.

“I was talking to a 14-year-old who was writing code and making LEGOs go 15 miles per hour,” he said. “I’m inspired by these kids, I’m inspired by programs like this and I’m doing all I can, just like I did all I could for ‘Yes We Can.’ I figured out a way to break through the noise.”


His back-to-school TV special, "i.am FIRST: Science is Rock and Roll" will air on Sunday August 14th on ABC 7pm|6pm central time.
 


Check out his blog http://www.huffingtonpost.com/william/science-education_b_920125.html

Tuesday, June 28, 2011

Chris O'Shea's Little Magic Stories


Little Magic Stories from Chris O'Shea on Vimeo.


The summer holiday has finally begun.  With the stress and regimen of school gone for a while, we can enjoy our children with fun activities that spark their imagination. British artist and designer, Chris O’Shea uses technology to create installations that encourage children to use their imagination and tell wonderful stories.  He explains, “This installation aims to encourage children to use their creativity to bring stories to life. It helps to improve their confidence in self-expression and develops literacy and speaking skills. The installation allows them to create a performance from within their imagination, on stage, in front of an audience of family and friends.
Everyone has a story to shareTo spark ideas for your own summer project, check out his video and learn more about his vision at his website, http://www.chrisoshea.org


 Return to Children's Focus

Tuesday, May 24, 2011

Rasing Bilingual Babies


Watch the full episode. See more The Parent Show.

PBS has debuted a new online program, The Parent Show  with Angela Sontomero, creator
of Blues Clues and Super Why.  Here Angela interviews Ana Flores from www.Spanglishbaby.com
on raising bi-lingual babies.

Friday, May 6, 2011

No Woman, No Cry


Birth is one of the most stressful times for a mother and child , and all women do not receive pre natal care.  Christy Turlington Burns' directs "No Woman, No Cry," a gripping documentary that tells the personal stories of pregnant women and their caregivers in four countries as they try to avoid becoming maternal mortality statistics.  Their stories will generate many questions and even more responses. This film will debut on OWN Oprah Winfrey’s Network on May 7 at 9:30.

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Friday, April 22, 2011

Green Our Earth 2011 Contest




Celebrate Earth Day, April 22nd 2011 with  "GREEN OUR EARTH! Share with them what you and your family are doing to improve our environment by submitting a photo (preferred!) or a short description. You'll automatically be entered to win fabulous, fun, educational eco-friendly children's toys from an exclusive list of award-winning toy and children's accessories companies committed to greening our Earth. You'll automatically receive a 15% discount coupon code, too!   www.green-our-earth-2011.com

Back to Children's Focus
 

Tuesday, April 19, 2011

Easter Hunt


 While checking out party ideas for my niece, Shakina's birthday we found a few interesting companies with Easter and party themes some with even healthy choices for the children and the environment.  New York Pops offers a gorgeous looking cake pop. Their cakes on a stick dipped in chocolate can light up any party.  For more information visit http://nycakepops.com/index.html.

For those interested in organic, vegan or fair trade candy check out The Natural Candy Store  http://www.naturalcandystore.com.

For green party favors, organic candy, crafts and gifts for parties try Green Planet Parties http://www.greenplanetparties.com

 Cup and Ball

Thursday, April 14, 2011

Kids Comic Con 5

Young people can meet some of the creators of new superheroes and comic book characters, and get the opportunity to practice the art of comic book design this weekend.

Back to Children's Focus

Saturday, April 9, 2011

Japan Earthquake Relief



 While updating the Charities section on the Children's Focus website, I came across conflicting reports that made me question what was the most effective way to reach out and help Japan.  One writer in the New York Times gave two reasons why aid to Japan was not necessary. According to him, Japan is a rich nation and secondly, their government is not asking for help.  Then I saw an interview with a relief worker who said the people were very appreciative of the help they were receiving.  Looking at the pictures and stories on the disaster, I can't help but think that the way governments respond to disaster is sometimes misguided. We have only to look in our own backyard at Katrina.

Fortunately, we are entering a new age where people are reaching out to each other beyond the rhetoric and politics of their leaders.  We are seeing the power of people organizing in the Middle East and across the globe. In this light, I think we need to be able to help those who are reaching the people of Japan.  On a human level when you are hurt it does not matter how much wealth you have, you still may need your neighbor to help you. So if it is in your heart to give, I believe this is the best choice so let's reach out and support our neighbors.

Financial support is not the only way we can help Japan. With the whole nation in danger of exposure to radiation, they need our moral support and prayers.  I think if we speak out as a global community, pressure will be put on the government to accept expertise and assistance from other nations. Nuclear melt down is a global problem that affects all of us.  Standing by helplessly, while our neighbor battles a global catastrophe is not a good thing. In this instance, the voice of the people really needs to be heard.  Visit Children's Focus.

Thursday, April 7, 2011

KEATS FILM FESTIVAL CELEBRATING The 50th Anniversary of THE SNOWY DAY in 2012


In celebration of the 50th Anniversary of The Snowy Day in 2012, Ezra Jack Keats Foundation  will feature a different Keats book each month.  "This April the Ezra Jack Keats Foundation is putting out a call for imaginative videos of you reading PETER'S CHAIR to your child or class. Actually, it doesn't have to be you, it can be a friend, a grandparent, an older child reading to a younger child or group of children you know and love.  It can even be a young child reading and exploring PETER'S CHAIR on their own."

" We are eager to see the children in your life get started on their way to a lifelong  love of reading."
Post your video on youtube and send the link or any questions to ezrajackkeats@gmail.com
Also enjoy animated stories by Ezra Jack Keats at www.ezra-jack-keats.org.  

Back to Children's Focus

Wednesday, March 2, 2011

World Read Aloud Day: March 9, 2011

 Join Lit World.org for World Read Aloud Day on March 9, 2011

Celebrate the Power of Words and Stories and Take Action for Global Literacy

Nearly 1 billion people entered the 21st century unable to read a book or sign their name. What would you miss most if you could not read or write? Imagine your world without words.

World Read Aloud Day is about taking action to show the world that the right to read and write belongs to all people. World Read Aloud Day motivates children, teens, and adults worldwide to celebrate the power of words, especially those words that are shared from one person to another, and creates a community of readers advocating for every child’s right to a safe education and access to books and technology. By raising our voices together on this day we show the world’s children that we support their future: that they have the right to read, to write, and to share their words to change the world.

Across the globe nearly 171 million children could be lifted out of poverty if they left school with basic reading and writing skills. Quality literacy education is the difference between life and death, prosperity and despair. This is literacy for survival.

It’s time to join the global literacy movement.


You can participate by spreading the word, reading with loved ones, organizing a community event, or if you're in the New York City area, join their 24-hour Read Aloud Marathon in Times Square...
to register visit  http://www.litworld.org/worldreadaloudday/



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Wednesday, February 23, 2011

Dr. Mimi Ito - How Media and Children interact


 We must teach our children new rules for engagement and privacy.  Do you think parents should be friends with their children on facebook?


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Wednesday, February 16, 2011

When the Kids are Away



What do parents do when the school bus pulls out of the driveway?  One little boy was sure he knew that good times were had by all while he was being shipped off to school. So he set out to find out for himself. I just rediscovered this musical short that I saw at the Urban World Festival a few years back, and I still think it's funny.  When the Kids are Away was directed by Jon Chu.  Jon Chu has moved on. His latest endeavor is the Justin Bieber Movie.

Update:  Jon's G.I. Joe: Retaliation is out in the movies now, and his is working on the He-Man reboot, Masters of the Universe.

Monday, February 14, 2011

Happy Valentine's Day!


 Elizabeth Barrett Browning and Robert Browning had a very intriguing and wonderful love story.   From the Victorian era, comes a story for all ages.  Enjoy one of my favorite childhood poems from Elizabeth. I think it is still taught in English lit today.  Have a Wonderful Valentine's Day

Sonnets from the Portuguese XLIII
by Elizabeth Barrett Browning

How do I love thee?  Let me count the ways.
I love thee to the depth and breadth and height
My soul can reach, when feeling out of sight
For the ends of Being and ideal Grace.
I love thee to the level of everyday's
Most quiet need, by sun and candlelight.
I love thee freely, as men strive for Right;
I love thee purely, as they turn from Praise.
I love thee with the passion put to use
In my old griefs, and with my childhood's faith.
I love thee with a love I seemed to lose
With my lost saints,--I love thee with the breath,
Smiles, tears, of all my life!--and, if God choose,
I shall but love thee better after death.


Return to  Children's Focus

Monday, February 7, 2011

Herbie the Giant Rabbit Rap



If you need a reason to take the children to the Prospect Park Zoo in Brooklyn, here you go!

Saturday, February 5, 2011

Happy Chinese New Year! The Year of the Rabbit!


 They will be celebrating the Chinese New Year in my neighborhood, Flushing, Queens with a parade down Main Street. This is the Year of the Golden Rabbit, which is suppose to be lucky, and be a good time to catch your breath and calm your nerves. Sounds good to me. I think a lot of us could use a breather.

To celebrate the New Year,  I have found a wonderful book of fantasy and folklore,  Where the Mountain Meets the Moon by Grace Lin. Thanks to Anita Silvey from Book A Day Almanac Ms. Lin tells the heroic journey of  a young girl, Minli who lives with her family in the dull, brown village where Fruitless Mountain and the Jade River meet.  Her parents have very little to give her materially but her father shares his wealth of stories and folklore with his daughter.  The stories ignite a determination in Minli to change her family's poverty by finding "The Old Man in the Moon" who is suppose to know how to bring good fortune. Thus, begins Minli's adventure, and along the way she meets a talking fish, a dragon, some greedy monkeys and an assortment of other characters. These stories will grab the attention of young readers ages 8 years and older, and provide a wonderful journey into the New Year!

Return to Children's Focus

Thursday, February 3, 2011

Valentine Gift



Valentine's Day is around the corner so if you are thinking of making a little gift for someone special, Purl Bee has a great project.  I always think of Valentine gifts as sort of crafty and from the heart. This craft project look fairly easy. So if you start now you will be ready for the holiday. I know a couple of little ladies who would love this.  For instructions go to Molly's Sketchbook on Purl Bee http://www.purlbee.com/valentine-heart-barrettes/.

Tuesday, February 1, 2011

Learn a New Language with BBC


 Today everyone wants their  children to be bilingual so for the new year,  parents and children can get started on learning a new language for free.  The Queens Public Library is offering free language classes through BBC's website in French, Spanish, Italian, German, Chinese and more.  You can also follow foreign TV programs and drama to build your skill.

To go through their site visit http://www.queenslibrary.org/,  click Library Services A-Z and click Learn a New Language.  The BBC site will come up and then make your choice on the language and course you want. I found it was also possible to go right into  the site. http://www.bbc.co.uk/languages/

Also for anyone over the age of thirteen,  Live Mocha offers online conversation to practice and improve your language skills.  They were free but their policy has changed now so check out their site and decide for yourself - http://www.livemocha.com/.

Saturday, January 29, 2011

The Pen Parentis Literary Salon



Are you in need of some grown up time and some intellectual stimulation?  Maybe,  you are a budding writer or just interested in reading good literature.  Well, Parentis Pen Literary Salon maybe for you.

Pen Parentis is a new, New York-based organization that provides resources to authors who are parents.  They offer a monthly author reading at the gorgeous Libertine Library at Gild Hall located inside the stunning new Gild Hall Hotel at 15 Gold Street, NYC.  The literary salon presents two notable authors reading from their work each month—the two hour event concludes with an intimate Q&A and signings at the authors’ discretion. Full bar service is available.  Enjoy interesting literary conversation in elegant surroundings.  The next reading is February 8 from 6:30 - 8:30 pm.

The  authors this month include Heather Kristin whose unpublished novel BROOKLYN TO BOMBAY was a finalist for the Amazon Breakthrough Novel Award and  Lauren Grodstein whose books include the novels A FRIEND OF THE FAMILY and REPRODUCTION IS THE FLAW OF LOVE and the story collection THE BEST OF ANIMALS.  To find out more about The Pen Parentis Literary Salon  and the authors visit their website http://www.penparentis.org.

Thursday, January 27, 2011

generationOn


 
Just received this email:
Greetings!  
Are you a young person or do you know a young person (13-18 years old) that is passionate about service and would make a great leader?
generationOn is now accepting applications for its national Youth Advisory Council! This is a unique opportunity for ten middle and high school students (13-18 years old) from diverse backgrounds across the nation to participate in a service-learning and leadership development program. Participants will contribute to and inform generationOn programming, while acting as ambassadors and leaders for youth service in their communities. Thanks to the generous support of Hasbro Children's Fund, the Youth Advisory Council provides youth from across the country the opportunity to: 
*Engage in creative work with a thriving nonprofit organization focused on youth and service
*Partner with like-minded youth with unique perspectives from around the country
*Inform generationOn programming while learning about approaches for engaging youth in community service
*Act as a service-learning ambassador in their region by playing a leadership role in engaging youth in service and service-learning
Students interested in applying must meet the following criteria:
*Be enrolled in middle or high school (age 13-18 and grade 6-11) at time of application
*Be a resident of the 50 United States or District of Columbia
*Be available to travel March 18th- 22nd 2011 for a special, expense-paid, kick-off youth leadership event in Washington, DC
*Be available via phone and internet for monthly web meetings with fellow Council members
*Be able to provide feedback and participate in program evaluations
visit www.generationOn.org to learn more about how to apply for the generationOn Youth Advisory Council!
Applications accepted through Friday, February 4th 5:00pm EST
What is generationOn?
generationOn is the global youth service movement igniting the power of all kids to make their mark on the world. generationOn has brought the nation's leading youth service organizations and programs under one umbrella including New York-based Children for Children, The League, Learning to Give, Points of Light Institute's Kids Care Clubs, HandsOn Schools and HandsOn Network's youth-driven programs. By partnering with teachers, parents, schools, community organizations and businesses, generationOn gives kids the opportunity to see firsthand the issues in their communities and the tools and resources they need to respond and become part of the solution.


Tuesday, January 25, 2011

Babies The Movie

Last year I was disappointed when I missed seeing Babies in the theater.  This is a special documentary that looks at childhood in four different cultures around the world.  "Directed by award-winning filmmaker Thomas Balm├Ęs, from an original idea by producer Alain Chabat, Babies simultaneously follows four babies around the world – from birth to first steps.  The camera follows Ponijao, who lives with her family near Opuwo, Namibia; Bayarjargal, who resides with his family in Mongolia, near Bayanchandmani; Mari, who lives with her family in Tokyo, Japan; and Hattie, who resides with her family in San Francisco."

Now that it is out on DVD , I finally got to see it.  It gave me a lot of food for thought.  There is no dialogue just the shared human experience of raising children.  I loved the way these little children interacted with their different environments.  Their joy, unbridled emotions and curiosity was contagious especially watching scenes like Ponijo drinking from a stream and Mari having a temper tantrum.  Watching the show without dialogue allows you to create your own  dialogue and come to your own conclusions, which for me meant realizing how much we are a part of a much bigger family. Babies only follows the children their first year but I would love to see how they have grown.  A part two would be nice. I am looking forward to seeing it with my nieces and getting their reaction.  If you haven't already, check out Babies.  To get more information and find out how the Babies parents felt about the movies visit www.focusfeatures.com/babies/synopsis.

Tuesday, January 18, 2011

A Snowy Day


With more snow in the winter forecast, it is time to pull out the dog eared copy of The Snowy Day by Ezra Jack Keats and make some hot chocolate.  Everyone enjoys following Peter into the deep snow.  At this time of year, reading The Snowy Day, one of our favorite books has become a tradition.    Written in 1963, today this is a classic now enjoyed by several generations.  With so many little hands grabbing the book, we have gone through a few copies.  I think our next copy should be the board book.

Monday, January 17, 2011

Share the Dream Martin Luther King, Jr. Day!


          Faith is taking the first step even when you don't see the whole staircase.

                                                                                   Martin Luther King, Jr. 

Friday, January 14, 2011

Collecting Family Stories Part I

I wonder if anyone else watched Henry Gates‘s show Faces of America on PBS and Lisa Kudrow’s Who Do You Think You Are? on NBC.  Both shows were based on the same premise.  They follow celebrities like Brooke Shields, Meryl Streep and Yo Yo Ma, and delve into their family history.  Of course, they find out all kinds of secrets and a few surprises. I was especially moved by Emmet Smith’s journey back to the south during slavery and Lisa Kudrow's journey to Poland and Eastern Europe during the Nazi occupation.  I thought I knew where both stories were going yet each story ended with hope and survival against great odds.  These stories were moving and something that can be watched as a family.  The second season of Lisa Kudrow’s Who Do You Think You Are? will be shown on NBC in February.  Henry Gates‘s Faces of America is now on DVD on PBS.

I have tried collecting family stories but until last year when I met Louise Bobrow I didn’t know that collecting stories could be a professional occupation.  Bobrow is a personal historian, she ask the questions and records the story for families who want to keep a record of their family history.  She interviews family members especially elders before their story is gone.  She was offering classes at the libraries in “Recording and Preserving your Family History.”  She has interviewed families about their immigrant experience and celebrities about their success in America.  She gave great tips for those who want to work on their family story:  
  • Do your research
  • Prepare your Questions – ask opened question, ask who, what, where and when
  • Listen, listen listen – do not interrupt while interviewee is talking
Hopefully, she will be offering more classes this year.  You can contact her at louisebobrow@gmail.com.

Thursday, January 13, 2011

The Grinch That Almost Stole Christmas




 When I look back on Christmas 2010, I will be grateful for the season for many reasons but  one incident stands out above the rest.  This is a story of how the Grinch almost stole my Christmas spirit.  It was the week of Christmas and I was heading to my nephews' Christmas pageant by bus.  We were suppose to meet at my mother's house first but when I realized that I was going to be too late, I decided to jump on a train and head to their school.  I needed to call my mother and let her know I would meet them at the school but  I didn't have a cell phone on me.  I don't need to tell you I was a little stressed but fortunately, ( I thought) there were two phones in the train station.  So I tried to call her on the first phone but a man who I had not noticed before started, "Miss, can I have some change, can you spare something...blah blah blah" I was very annoyed with the interruption and not in a good mood so I snapped back sharply, " I don't have any more change" ( which was the truth) and preceded to ignore his conversation.

I continued placing my call only to find out that the phone did not work.  I could hear my sister on the other end of the phone but she could not hear me.   After a lot of shouting on my part the telephone just swallowed my money and I realized with dismay that  I had no more change.  So I headed to the token booth to ask the clerk to change a dollar bill for me.  She was sitting there with a small mound of change but looked at me and started screaming, "No, I am not giving you any of my change."  She continued with her loud outburst and shouting for a few minutes.  I was surprised by the scene she was making and was about to say something nasty when the same man who I had just brushed off came to my rescue.  "Don't get upset miss, you need quarters for the phone?" and handed me four quarters.  At that moment I realized that Christmas was much more than the stress I was feeling and it was also a good time to receive as well as give.  So I humbly thanked him and made my call.   Sometimes the lessons I learn come from left field.