Wednesday, July 29, 2009

First Day of School

A little boy I knew was about to start school for the first time. His family did everything they could to prepare him for the experience. They got him new clothes and a lunch box, drove him past the building and showed him where his classroom would be, and read him lots of picture books about the first day of school.
He was definitely ready and had a wonderful first day with absolutely no tears or anxiety.
But the second day of school was a different story.
Nobody had explained to the child that if there was a first day there would also be a second day and many more to follow. When he discovered he needed to go back to school again and would have to keep on returning for years to come, he wasn't happy. He did manage the second and subsequent days without major problems, but perhaps it would have been easier if he had understood that the first day was only one of many.
In many areas the school year will be starting soon, so it might be a good idea to be sure any kids about to attend for the first time understand this is only the beginning of being a "big kid."

Saturday, July 25, 2009

Inexpensive Fun

By now you've probably heard of "staycations," which consist of visiting tourist attractions in your own hometown. Here are some other things families with kids can do for fun that cost little or nothing:
Sleep outside in your own back yard or balcony,
Take turns reading a classic novel aloud to the rest of the family
Have everyone, parents included, dress up in costumes and put on a show in your living room,
Have a sing-a-thon, with or without an instrument or recordings,
Take a picnic to the park,
Play games together,
Create a work of art such as a mural or sculpture,
Cook something delicious from scratch and have a feast.
Several of these things can be done on the same day and guests can be included, but to really enjoy them it's best to involve the whole family.
Have fun!

Wednesday, July 22, 2009

Picking a PIN

With concerns about security it's important to choose PIN numbers that are not easy for people to guess. For instance you wouldn't want to use your phone number, street address, or bank account number.
But it does help to have a number that's easy to remember. If you're old enough to have lived before automatic dialing and e-mail you might use the phone number of your best friend in grade school that you used to dial daily, or the street number of a relative to whom you always sent thank you notes. Other possibilities are numbers from the score of an important game, the date of your senior prom, the date you met your spouse, or numbers from the license of your first car.

Saturday, July 18, 2009

Grocery Stores

From the babies gazing at amazing colors and lights, toddlers riding in shopping carts and young children whining for their parents to buy them treats, through the teenagers shuffling shopping carts on their first paid jobs, kids spend a lot of time in grocery stores.
And they can learn a lot there.
Parents can ask their preschoolers to point out different colors and shapes, count the number of aisles and check out stands, and discuss where foods come from.
School aged children can practice basic math skills, read signs and labels, have conversations with their parents about how foods are grown and processed, and compare nutritional values.
Older kids can actually do the shopping and maybe even push the heavy shopping carts while parents stand by to give advice.
And, of course, those of all ages can practice good manners, learning to take turns and discovering that whining doesn't accomplish anything.

Wednesday, July 15, 2009


Caroline B. Cooney is one of my favorite authors of Young Adult books. She has some unusual plot ideas and keeps things exciting without getting too close to X-rated material.
One example is Fatality, a fascinating story about a girl who steals back her diary from the police before they can read it or use it as evidence in a murder case. The reader keeps wondering what the secret information in the diary was until the very end of the book.
The book is also about relationships between friends and family, which play an important part in the plot.
Cooney's books are a bit too edgy for children, but appropriate for teen girls who like adventure. They also make readers think about what things in life are really important.

Saturday, July 11, 2009


It wasn't easy designing and ordering bookmarks for my middle grade book that will be published in August. The publisher supplied the cover art, but I had to figure out the text.
That made me think about bookmarks in general. I have dozens of them in various places around the house where I'm likely to sit and read, but I don't like to use them.
Ideally it would be possible always to sit down with a good book and keep reading until the end, but life isn't always ideal. Often it's necessary to stop in the middle of reading an interesting passage and do something else. When that happens, bookmarks are a practical help, making it easy to find the right place and start reading again without flipping through pages.
Somehow using little slips of paper or turning the open book face down doesn't work nearly as well.
Okay, it's time to face the facts. Bookmarks really are a convenience and I hope kids who like to read will find mine helpful.

Wednesday, July 8, 2009

What a Difference the Books Made

I had never been one of the popular kids, and in grade school had been the class victim, constantly teased and made fun of because I was skinny and had asthma. That's why I was a little nervous about attending a high school reunion. When I finally went to one, to my amazement, several people said they remembered me as brave.
What? That didn't make sense at all. I'd been terrified most of the time.
But afterwards I remembered a number of incidents when I had stood up for what was right even though it had been risky to do so.
Why had I done those things?
Because that was how the protagonists in all the books I read behaved, so it never occurred to me that there was an alternative. Of course I couldn't just stand by and let injustice be done even if I might get in trouble or even hurt as a consequence.
It's really true that reading helps to develop character. Of course all media have that sort of influence on kids. It's very important to let them experience lots of stories where good values are demonstrated whether in books, TV, movies, on the net or anywhere else.
The power of story is great, wherever it is found.

Saturday, July 4, 2009

Some Things Haven't Changed

I'm writing this on the Fourth of July and thinking of the way this holiday was celebrated when I was a kid. In those days children lit firecrackers in the daytime and roman candles after dark, and even the little ones played with sparklers. Where I live now all those things are illegal because of the serious danger of fires.
But other things about the celebration haven't changed. There are still parades where people hand out flags and play patriotic music, people still wear red, white, and blue, and families still gather to have barbecues and picnics.
And, even though the fireworks are all professional now, people still sit outside in the warm darkness, calling out, "Oooh," and "Wow" as they watch the beautiful colors light up the sky.
I hope our grandchildren and great grandchildren will still be able to enjoy celebrating this summer holiday in traditional ways when they grow up and have kids of their own.

Wednesday, July 1, 2009

Importance of Books

In this modern world full of technological advances many people are suggesting books may become obsolete. I think they're wrong.
It is true that books took the place of scrolls, paper took the place of vellum, and printed books took the place of handwritten ones. Maybe in the future people will consider e-books more convenient than hard copy ones. It would certainly be an improvement if students could read their textbooks on e-book readers instead of carrying heavy copies in their backpacks. And there are times when entertaining children with e-books on a small, hand-held device is extremely helpful.
But bookaholics like me will always enjoy turning battery-free pages and nothing can take the place of a parent reading a bedtime story out loud from a traditional picture book.
In the 1940s many people thought TV would make movies obsolete, and my grandfather told me when movies were first invented people said they would completely replace plays. Obviously neither has happened. I think there will always be room for both traditional hard copy books and whatever kinds technological advances produce in the future.