You are currently browsing the monthly archive for January 2010.

Well, Kafka’s not really age appropriate and neither’s Godot. But a new psych study shows that the human brain works incredibly hard to make sense of nonsense and in the process our thinking improves. Read more here.

While the study did not involve children directly, I find the results interesting for those of us who read to children. Nonsense has been a part of children’s stories and books for well over a hundred years–whether it’s Mother Goose rhymes, Rash’s Are You a Horse?, or Shel Silverstein’s poetry. In fact, I’d wager a substantial number of children’s picture books are based either on straight out & out nonsense or have at least an element of “this isn’t quite right, is it?” built into them.

Now obviously, no one knew of this study when those stories were written. So why have we as humans spent so much time and energy writing them and sharing them? It’s because our brains like the nonsense! We like figuring it out!

And the more we expose children to the silliness, nonsense, and off kilter humor found in stories, the more their little neurons are wiring and firing, over and over. And the more they look at the world around them with a wider and wider scope, making more and more connections.

And they just think it’s fun! ;-)

Now where’s my copy of Jabberwocky,

Babette

Ah, me, reminds me of some preschool ballet classes I’ve watched.

Click here for 45 seconds of fun, compliments of Ross Butter who says, “I got in touch with my inner child. He made me do this.” Yeah, inner child!

Smile!

Babette

It’s been a week since the news: Kids between the ages of 8 and 18 spend more than 7.5 hours a DAY using some kind of media device.  That’s 47% of their waking hours IF they only sleep 8 hours a day (and the majority of children and teens need more sleep than that). No matter what you think the effects of that usage are, that is a lot of hours!

I like the New York Time’s report on it (click here) which includes a link to the report from the Kaiser Family Foundation, but it’s been reported in multiple news outlets which you can easily find. So instead of rehashing it, I’d like to give you some of my thoughts on it (and this may become a multi-post topic for a couple weeks).

First, a bit about our family and media. We’ve always had a limit on “screen time” with our boys. All screens combined (tv, computer, video games, handheld, whatever) were limited at first to none, then one hour a day, then to two.  We have no tv’s or computers in any bedrooms (including parents’). We have one tv, no cable, and until the last couple months when I started teaching online, we had only one computer. That “family” computer, though, we’ve had since 1995, heavily used by all of us over the years. We have “only” two cell phones in the household, the third is at college with the oldest; all three are prepaids and we use them quite minimally with texting not even set up on them.

We’ve tried over the years to accept the usefulness of developing technologies without ignoring them or trying to block them out entirely. We try to keep the focus on “tech as tool,” nothing more and nothing less. It is as Dr. Rich stated in the NYT article, they are present “like the air they breathe, the water they drink and the food they eat.”

But bottom line, as parents, we still are the gatekeepers for health and safety for our children’s air, water, food–and media/tech use.

It’s not easy. We’ve just been through a painful period with our youngest over video games (which I will write more about later). I frankly get tired of evaluating, evaluating, evaluating my usage and my child’s usage on what feels like almost a daily basis. Many days, I just wish it would all go away.

But then, here I sit, using it to do two of the things I love best–blogging (a form of outreach and teaching, I hope) and teaching an online course. And I love it. :-)

So what’s a parent to do? Here’s some  ideas that work for us:

  • Remember you are the parent. And media is not an essential for a healthy life. It truly isn’t. Confront some true suffering in life and you’ll get in touch with this very quickly. It’s a tool. It is useful. It is not life. Help your children learn to find the balance because they will have to do it on their own one day.
  • Keep your perspective. The article suggested that listening to music while surfing was an increase over what the study found. I’m not sure I agree. All my life (but especially when I was a teen), I listened to music while studying, while talking with friends, even while eating. I also spent an embarrassing number of hours on the phone with my friends. Is my son’s time IM’ing really that much different? On the other hand, if he begins to continually flip through songs without listening all the way through, if he never spends any face to face time with friends, those media uses are probably crossing the line into the potential problem area. And I help him correct those before they become habits. But otherwise, perspective tells me he’s actually being a pretty normal teen and just using a different modality than I did.
  • Set limits. And talk with other parents about these so “sneaking around” and being the big, bad “meanie” are less likely to happen. When media starts taking the place of doing other good things, there’s a problem. And with support from your child’s friends’ families, you’ll all be able to monitor those limits easier. (I guarantee you, they have the same concerns.) When the kids can’t do the easiest thing and get plugged in, they’ll find other things to do–and discover they can enjoy themselves and life without the electronics.

What are your concerns? What works for you?

More later!

Babette

God still has a way of wringing good out of evil. And history has proved over and over again that unmerited suffering is redemptive . . . I refuse to accept despair as the final response to the ambiguities of history.

Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.

Not a psych major? Never had the chance to take a course in child development? But always wanted to and don’t have

from Florida State Archives via Flickr

the time or money right now?

Never fear! That’s what books and libraries are for! (That’s from my dad. I heard throughout my childhood that if there was something you wanted to learn, go to the library and get a book.)

I was tickled pink yesterday to have a woman ask me what she could read to understand children better. She’s been working with two year olds, is loving it, and wants to learn more.

And she’s right on target. Children are not miniature adults. They think, learn, behave, move, and in some respects even feel differently than adults. There’s nothing wrong with that though. Nothing that needs “to be fixed.” It’s the way they are made and meant to be–at whatever stage of development they are in. That’s why understanding those stages can be so incredibly helpful for anyone who interacts with kids regularly–be it parent, childcare worker, preschool teacher, or librarian. And that type of understanding is the best gift we can give children!

So what did I recommend to her? Here’s my list:

A Piaget Primer by Dorothy Singer: short, clear explanation of Piaget’s theories (still one of the best and holding up to the test of time); it’s only about 100 pages and examples are drawn from children’s stories and comics!

Miseudcation by David Elkind: ok, regular readers are going to get tired of hearing about this book but its message of the detrimental effects of pushing kids beyond their current developmental level is more timely than when it was written in the late 80′s; it also gives excellent summaries of Piaget and Erikson and of the development of early childhood education; truly a “must” read.

Your Baby and Child by Penelope Leach: the Brit guru of parenting; she covers birth through age 5 and does a marvelous job of clearly conveying the theoretical and the practical; Penelope saved my sanity when I became a first-time mama.

Einstein Never Used Flashcards by Roberta Golinkoff: enjoyable read that connects current brain research with past developmental theories–as well as describing why earlier is not better.

Your Three-Year-Old by Louise Bates Ames: another classic, this is one volume of the Gesell Institute series; there’s one volume for each age up to nine; covers all the bases, emotional, social, physical, etc.,  clearly and succinctly.

Of courssseee, I could go on and on. But that’s my “starter” list. What do you think needs adding?

Babette

So what do you do if you’re a tween or teen and your friends are driving you nuts at best with texting you–or at worst you’re being harrassed or even abused?

That’s Not Cool certainly can’t solve the problem but it’s got some great resources to kids for figuring out where and how to draw the digital line. There’s everything from sock puppet videos, call out cards (as long as kids “get” the sarcasm), and forums for talking out the problems of living in an electronic world. And for the worst case scenarios, there’s even live chat, national hotline numbers, and lists of abusive behaviors.

I haven’t personally had a chance to “test drive” the site with some kids, but it looked good enough to me to pass on to you. Let me know what “your” kids think!

Babette

Much anticipated by many librarians (and hopefully other adults, and dare I say, children?), the American Library Association announced its version of the Golden Globes and Oscars.

These include the Newbery and Caldecott winners, probably the most well known of the awards. Actually, though, my favorite awards are the Giesel (for humor) and the Sibert (for non-fiction). So here are those four winners:

  • Newbery: When You Reach Me by Rebecca Stead
  • Caldecott: The Lion and the Mouse by Jerry Pinkney
  • Sibert: Almost Astronauts: Thirteen Women Who Dared to Dream by Tanya Lee Stone
  • Geisel: Benny and Penny in the Big No-No! by Geoffrey Hayes

And to brag a bit, I did pretty well this year.  We’ve got most of the winners in the collection at Southern Peaks already. :-)

Click here for the complete list.

Happy reading,

Babette

Here’s an excellent reading (with music and pictures) of Mem Fox’s book, The Goblin and the Empty Chair. Click here.

So sit down with the kiddos of all ages and enjoy! (And it just happens to be read by Mem herself).

Enjoy,

Babette

The sun is shining here in the Valley but who knows when it might snow next! So it’s “Snow Time!”

We read:

  • Snow Bears by Waddell (the kids get soooo tickled with the baby bears)
  • Snowmen at Night by Buehner (this one always makes the kids think, hmmm, I wonder if….)
  • Listen, Listen by Gershator (covers all the seasons with lots of good sounds for phonological awareness building)
  • The Snowy Day by Keats (click here and give a listen for one reason why I love this story).

We also did these rhymes & fingerplays:

  • Here is a snowman
  • Snow is falling
  • The day is cloudy

I’ll record and post those late on Friday when it’s quiet here in the office. :-)

Finally, the Early Lit TIP is:

  • Many fingerplays help with sequencing skills–and sequencing helps with telling and reading stories later.

Have fun and stay warm!

Babette

I forgot to mention in the post below that, if you want to join Southern Peak’s Storybox Special program, attendance at the early literacy class on January 23 will qualify your home childcare for that.

And that’s ALL that is required! :-)

Come learn about early literacy and then every month, I will deliver to your door a box of books specially selected to support your efforts in developing early literacy skills in the children you care for. It’s truly free and truly a win-win for all concerned. You become a better caregiver, your children get ready for school in an age appropriate way, and the library reaches out to kids and families we might not ever see otherwise.

Scroll down the left-hand column to see more pictures of the Storybox Special and to read more about it.

Remember, the class is free,  you can earn continuing education credits, and you join Storybox just by attending. But I need you to pre-register so I can prepare enough hand-outs. Call the library at 719-589-6592.

See you there!

Babette

33-35% of children start school already behind. What? Are they suffering from a lack of the latest educational toys? Did

photo from flickr's The Commons

they not have access to and instruction in computers? Did their parents neglect them and not sign them up for baby gym, music, and ballet?

No, they simply weren’t read to between the ages of birth and five.

33-35% of children in this country begin kindergarten not knowing how a book works, not being able to listen to a story, not being able to sing a song or nursery rhyme.

And all those “not’s” and more add up to a child not ready to learn to read. They add up to a child more likely to drop out of school, become a teen parent, spend time in juvenile or jail. Even if they fall into the best case scenario rather than the worst, they grow into young adults who “fail to launch.”

Want to learn more about the why’s and why not’s? Want to become part of the solution? Spend four hours with me on one Saturday–and then 10 minutes a day with a kid. Come find out more at an early literacy class I’m teaching here in Alamosa. (It’s January 23, 8:30 a.m. to 12:30 p.m. at Alamosa Family Recreation Center.)

You’ll learn what early literacy is (and isn’t), how it works, what resources are available (free) to encourage and promote it, and how to put its principles into action. The class is free and I promise I won’t waste your time. Just call the library at 719-587-3065 to register. Parents, teachers, childcare providers, and anyone else who cares about kids can gain from this class. And you can even earn continuing ed credits. :-)

Hope to see you there!

Babette

The cloth book Big Rex and Friends by St. Martin’s Press has a red dot in it that contains an “excessive level of lead.” Refund information is available here and you can read more, including links to the CPSChere.

A few comments from the librarian:

Note in Macmillian’s announcement that the problem is with the sewn-in dot rather than with the book overall. As you hear and read more about legislation concerning lead levels and books (CPSIA) and the need and/or requirements for testing, bear in mind that the culprits appear most often to be:

  • components added to books (such as dots, foils, spirals, little doo-dads, glitter, etc.) and
  • components made in China (the same country that brought us poisoned milk, toothpaste, and dog food).

As a concerned parent, those are the types of books and items I would avoid at this point until further testing and legislation are hammered out.

I hope the media does not blow this out of proportion, leading parents to worry about all books that their children are handling and reading.

Stay informed,

Babette

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Contact Info for Babette

email babette(dot)reeves(at)gmail(dot)com
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73 State Avenue
Alamosa, CO 81101

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