February is Black History Month, a time when we celebrate the achievements of African-Americans in our country’s history. This year, the Association for the Study of African-American Life and History has chosen the theme “Civil Rights in America” to mark the 50th anniversary of the 1964 Civil Rights Act. This law outlawed discrimination on the basis of race, color, sex, religion or national origin in employment decisions and public accommodations, including restaurants, motels, hotels and theaters.
Talking about discrimination and race with kids can be tricky for parents and caregivers. Some of us hope that if we don’t point out racial differences, our kids will grow up with a sort of colorblindness and resistance to race-based stereotypes. However, research has shown that what this actually teaches kids is that race is a taboo topic, off-limits to discussion. In the well-researched book “Nurtureshock,” journalists Po Bronson and Ashley Merryman recommend talking about skin color much like we talk about gender. People come in different colors, and it doesn’t matter if their skin is peach or brown, they can still be doctors, teachers, soccer players or judges.
There are a number of great books to introduce school-aged kids to the history of the fight for racial equality in the United States in an age-appropriate way. Here are just a few that I recommend. Continue reading
“Tell me a story.” This is a frequent request in my house. And of course, we have
teetering piles and overflowing baskets shelves of neatly alphabetized picture and chapter books from which to choose. Snuggling up on the couch and sharing the latest adventure of Bink and Gollie or young wizard Harry Potter is one of my favorite ways to spend an evening. But sometimes I encourage my kids to tell me a story. Being able to describe events and settings in narrative form is an important skill, and websites like myHistro add a visual and interactive element to storytelling.
myHistro lets you create stories displayed on maps. Kids in grades 4 and older can use text, video and pictures to create a dynamic timeline, practicing telling when, why and where events happened. Embed each piece of a story in the location where it took place. I can imagine a fourth grader, working on a famous Missourian presentation, showing the various states in which Daniel Boone lived, explored, worked and finally settled, from his birth place in Pennsylvania to his final resting place in Missouri. You could create an “all about me” project, with various parts of your kid’s story attached to the places she lived or was visiting when they happened. Browse on over to myHistro to check out the timelines others have made, describing everything from the history of libraries to the landmark cases of the Supreme Court, and get your kiddos inspired to create place-based stories of their own!
It’s December, and my list-loving heart rejoices! Websites and publications have been naming the best children’s books of 2013 since October. (October! Isn’t that a bit like Christmas carols before Halloween?) These lists are wonderful resources for gift ideas for the young readers in your life, or simply a nice reference if you want to make sure you didn’t miss any highly rated chapter or picture book published this past year. From the fantastically detailed and dazzling illustrations in Aaron Becker’s wordless picture book “Journey” to the antic adventures described in Gregory Hughes’ chapter book “Unhooking the Moon,” you’ll find something to satisfy any kiddo on your gift list. Here are a few of my favorites from these lists, followed by a round-up of links to the lists themselves for your browsing pleasure.
“Mr. Tiger Goes Wild” by Peter Brown
Any kid who has ever squirmed uncomfortably in dress pants or tight shoes, having been admonished to “sit still” and “be polite” (and what kid hasn’t?) will identify with Mr. Tiger. The animals in Brown’s not-too-preachy book about the joy of just being yourself are stuffy, formal and exceedingly proper. Mr. Tiger tries to fit in, but he finally sheds his finery and takes off for the jungle so he can go wild. When he begins to miss his friends, he returns to the city and is pleasantly surprised by changes that have occurred in his absence. A joyful, funny read about self-expression and finding a happy medium. Continue reading
July 18 marks the 95th birthday of the man South African children affectionately call “father Mandela.” A fighter of apartheid, Mandela spent 27 years in prison for his stance against racial discrimination and white-minority rule in his country. Once a poor student attending school in his father’s too-big, cutoff pants, he became South Africa’s first black president in 1994.
Children can learn a lot from Mandela’s legacy, like the importance of standing up for what you know to be right, the power of education and the valuable lessons of equality and reconciliation. Mandela’s words from his inaugural speech are hopeful, moving and strong. Continue reading
“Dinosaur A-Z” is a favorite bedtime read in my house, and by the time I get to Zephyrosaurus, I’m totally winging the pronunciation. That’s one reason why I appreciate the Dino Dictionary website: when you click on a dino’s name, it plays an audio file of the correct pronunciation. For the budding paleontologist in your family, there are descriptions of the more than 300 known dinosaurs, discussion of the latest theories in dinosaur research, dinosaur clip art and links to other resources for learning more facts and finding out where you can visit dinosaur bones in person! (Missourians can head to the St. Louis Science Center, where admission is free and prehistoric exhibits are always on display.)
And because we can’t recommend just one online home for dinosaur facts, we also suggest Age of the Dinosaurs from the BBC. This comprehensive site covers the rise and fall of dinosaurs and sea monsters and includes simple games for young fossil hunters and science buffs.
This season of Summer Reading is a perfect time to “dig into reading” about dinosaurs online!