Archive for July, 2013

Leaving an Imprint on Fingerprint Day

Friday, July 26th, 2013

In fifth grade, we had a unit completely devoted to fingerprints. This was, not surprisingly, during the era when the C.S.I. craze was at its apex and the study of forensics was deemed supremely cool. My classmates and I examined the different types of fingerprints and learned about famous cases where fingerprints brought down the bad guy. Fingerprints captured my imagination. I found them visually fascinating and was amazed to learn that although my fingers would grow larger, the prints wouldn’t change. At this age, I was just beginning the process of figuring out what set me apart from my peers, and I considered fingerprints as a kind of proof that I was one of a kind.

fingerprintOur fingerprints form when we’re still in the womb and are truly an exact science. Their shape is determined by the combination of our position in the uterus and the density of amniotic fluid that is flowing around our tiny fingertips at a precise moment in our development. It is all but impossible that any two people during the course of human history have had identical fingerprints.

Fingerprints are what make us all unique, and that’s something to celebrate! In fact, there’s a whole day devoted to them: Fingerprint Day, which falls on July 28th this year. Though it’s mostly observed within science communities, we have a wide variety of projects in our activities section that feature little handprints and fingerprints. From a distance all these paint projects may look more or less the same, but when you look closely you can see the complexity of the hands and fingers that make these prints and give each project a personal touch.

In these painted projects I see more than just prints, I see expressions of individuality. The prints stand as proof that in spite of the similarities we share, there is something about each of us that distinguishes us from everyone else. So the next time you’re presented with a silly little hand or fingerprint creation, take a second to reflect on how truly unique it is.

Blogger Spotlight: Jen Robinson

Tuesday, July 23rd, 2013

As part of our Summer Reading mission, we interviewed the blogger Jen Robinson. On her blog, Jen Robinson’s Book Page, she provides great tips and book recommendations. She also recounts personal reading stories, many of which feature her child, affectionately referred to as Baby Bookworm.

There are tons of reasons to love literature. Can you share with our readers what you consider to be the best part of picking up a new book?

For me, it’s the escape into a new world, and the chance to see things from someone else’s perspective.Jen's bookworm

One of my proudest literacy moments is:

When my daughter, then almost three, came bounding in to tell me, triumphant, that she had drawn an “A.” The fact that she had done this on the floor in no way diminished the accomplishment. I also love it when she demands that we immediately open any packages that come in the mail, in case there are any books for her. This tells me that I’m doing something right.

Recent insights you’ve come across in the pages of a book:

“There is one person on Earth upon whom you can always rely. Yourself. Be grateful when others show generosity toward you, but always be prepared to pay your own way, pack your own parachute, or change your own flat tires. Helplessness and greed are not attractive qualities.” — Kiki Strike: The Darkness Dwellers, by Kirsten Miller.

“… there’s no such thing as a part-time family member.” – Underneath, by Sarah Jamila Stevenson

In one of your blog posts you discuss your favorite book, D.E. Stevenson’s Listening Valley. When talking about why you love this book so much, you explain that when the protagonist arrives in the town her family is originally from, you feel as if you too are coming home. Can you talk a little bit about the importance of creating a home for your child in literature?

For me, some of my strongest memories are of “homes” from literature. They provided comfort and solace from the normal trials of an overall happy childhood. From Laura’s Little House in the Big Woods to the Velvet Room in Zilpha Keatley Snyder’s book of the same title to Pippi Longstocking’s Villa Villekulla, I grew up with dozens of homes. I want that for my child, too. One of the wonderful things about homes in books is that you CAN go home again. You just have to find another copy of the book.

I also think that for kids who have unhappy childhoods, safe places in books can provide a real lifeline, and hope for the future. The value of that is immeasurable.

One of the many tips you have for raising a book lover is that at least once in a while, you should let them stay up late to read under the covers. Do you have any more useful pointers for parents who have a voracious reader on their hands?

Keep books everywhere, and never leave home without them. Your child will never complain of boredom, as long as there are books available. For voracious readers, eReaders are your friend on vacation (since you can pack so many titles onto a single reader).

Let your child self-select books and read some of the books that your child is reading. This will open the door to fabulous discussions, and show your child that you value her choices.

What about the kids who don’t seem to enjoy reading as much?

Listen to audiobooks in the car on long trips (or short trips, for that matter).

Try graphic novels. They can often be gateway books for kids who are slower to engage in reading.

Don’t discount nonfiction. Any kind of reading counts, from the comics section of your paper to The Guinness Book of World Records.

If your child has a passion, find books about that passion, whether fiction or not.

Any particular books you are looking forward to reading (or rereading) this summer?

I’m looking forward to reading Hattie Ever After by Kirby Larson (sequel to Hattie Big Sky), and to reading the new 7th edition of The Read-Aloud Handbook by Jim Trelease (a book that I recommend ALL parents read). I’m also eagerly awaiting The Dream Thieves by Maggie Stiefvater, but that won’t be out until September.

Read more about Jen’s adventures in the world of children’s and young adult literature on her blog.

A Little Nonsense Now and Then…

Friday, July 12th, 2013

I’ll always remember the day my fifth grade teacher drew on her face with a dry erase marker.

She was writing on the ol’ overhead projector like she always did, and suddenly stopped. There was no buildup, no warning at all. a little nonsense now and then

She drew a mustache and a goatee. I think she added freckles and an exaggerated smile, but I can’t confirm it. We all giggled. She didn’t say anything. She was at ease, like she was putting on makeup with nobody watching. It was over in 60 seconds.

I can’t remember the context surrounding this event. I don’t know what subject she was teaching at the time. I don’t know what time of day it was. I don’t know if the class was attentive, rowdy or bored.

I wish I could remember, because I’m fascinated by this. It was so unexpected. This teacher wasn’t particularly wacky. What was she thinking? (more…)

Editor’s Picks: Coloring Pages That Take Me Back

Thursday, July 11th, 2013

Unlike many kids, instead of a dog or a cat, my first pet was actually many pets—a whole ragtag school of fish. At the local pet store, my sisters and I enthusiastically picked out a few tiny mermaidneon tetras, two strong-willed guppies, and a spotted catfish that we oh-so creatively named Snowy.

To house the newest members of the family, my dad set up a beautiful aquarium. We made sure that these fish would want for nothing. The bottom of the tank was padded with a generous layer of gravel and outfitted with plastic seaweed and coral of varying sizes and colors. At the center of this aquatic world was an elaborate, technicolor castle.

Over time, this pristine little aquatic world began to captivate my imagination. I watched the fish circle the castle and tried to imagine not only what they might be thinking or feeling, but also what it would be like to live among them, maybe as a mermaid. As a result of the endless hours spent peering into that glowing neon tank, my first ever pets and the world of fantasy would for me be permanently linked.


Introducing Our Summer Slide Infographic

Tuesday, July 2nd, 2013

We’ve made Summer Reading our mission here at this summer. As part of our campaign, we’ve created an infographic that shows your child’s risk for summer slide.

summer slide infographic
(Click on it to make it bigger!)

The infographic has already caught the attention of some movers and shakers in parenting — thanks to Adventures in Mommy Land, Jen Robinson, Songs for Teaching and the U.S. Education and Work Force Program for helping get the word out.

No matter where your family falls on this chart, mosey on over to our activities section for ideas on reading activities to help combat summer slide and keep your kid entertained all summer.