Pamela Price

Ripple’s Effect Review by Pamela Price

The following review of Shawn Achor’s book, Ripple’s Effect, is by Pamela Price.

The cover to this children’s book, newly released by our friends at Little Pickle Press, caught my attention with it’s rockin’ title and adorable dolphin.

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It has to be among the cleverest titles ever. Seriously.

As someone who has spent the last year giving a lot of thought to the issues of bullying and relational aggression, however, it was the book’s pages that most thrilled me. Ripple, you see, is a dolphin in a new tank–a fish in new waters, if you will–who runs into a nasty dude named Snark.

(Yes, Snark the Shark.)

Naturally, we grownups have all run into Snark (and Ms. Snark, too) in our lives. (This election year, some of us have run into them almost daily onFacebook.) Over time, we’ve learned to either tune them out or “kill ‘em with kindness” depending upon the type of snarkiness they leave in their wakes. It takes time to learn these skills, and some kids are especially sensitive to the hostility thrown out by the Snarks of the world. So they need the guidance of a parent to help them manage the nastiness.

What is simply marvelous about Ripple’s Effect is that it shows children how the concept of “mirroring” works for us land mammals. Essentially, in the words of the authors, Shawn Achor and Amy Blankson, “When you smile, my mirror neurons light up, tell me I am the one smiling… We can make a ripple effect of positivity if we begin to choose happiness ourselves.”

Much as Ripple lights up Snark’s life–and helps him leave (hopefully) his life of bullying behind, sharing this book with your youngster gives you a chance to emphasize positive solutions to big, ugly behavior. The trick to making the lessons stick is for us parents to continue the discussion about relational aggression throughout our every day experiences. (The publisher has graciously created FREE lesson plans.)

Curiously, I’ve found that the more we discuss these painful topics with our children, the more that we see evidence of negative, hostile and cruel behaviorsin our own “mature” lives.

Yes, adult relational aggression is very real.

Perhaps if we parents teach our children well at home–using books like Ripple’s Effect, we can build good habits in our own “tanks.” And if enough of us do this and in turn form happiness ripples in the wider culture, then we might eliminate a lot of real-life snark.

 

You can follow Pamela on Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, and now onSulia, where she micro-blogs on the Parenting Channel.

Disclosure: Pamlea was provided a review copy of this book by the publisher as part of a “blog book tour” celebrating the publication’s release. The opinions are hers. 

This article is a re-post from our friend Pamela Price at Red, White and Grew

Oak Knoll

Featured Customer of the Month:

Oak Knoll Elementary School

When you visit the campus of Oak Knoll Elementary School in Menlo Park, California, you can feel the hum of the energy being generated by both staff and students. Learning at Oak Knoll is not limited to the classrooms; instead, each and every part of the school encourages dynamic interaction, exploration, and both directed and self-led learning experiences.

Oak Knoll is a big school—over 700 students—that feels small, personal, and focused on its mission: every child can be an exemplary scholar, a valued friend, and a courageous citizen. In order to do this, they focus on the whole child, celebrating each child’s individuality while helping them overcome any challenges they may face. Their philosophy is rooted in Dr. Carol Dweck’s Mindset work, and they teach both students and parents that intelligence is not an asset determined at birth, and that the brain is pliable and capable of amazing accomplishments with practice and perseverance. One of the ways they do this is by utilizing Dr. Joann Deak’s Your Fantastic Elastic Brain: Stretch It, Shape It to demonstrate how the brain works, and how each person can make their brain stronger and more flexible with hard work and practice.

Oak Knoll encourages a close, nurturing relationship between faculty and students. They have implemented specific strategies for building long-term student/teacher relationships. Teachers tutor every student in the classroom who has not yet reached proficiency. Tutoring is designed around academic goals and is also used as a critical time to deepen relationships. Learning is hands-on as well, with students running a broadcast studio, performing science experiments, or learning violin.

School hours are full of the fun of learning, but Oak Knoll does not stop there. Their afterschool program is filled with educational and entertaining activities such as chess, creative writing, public speaking, LEGO, yoga, tennis, flag football, math, science, cooking, and art. Their sports programs stress having fun, cooperation, learning the rules of the games, and building teamwork, friendships, and community.

If you are looking for a great school for your children, or would like to see just how amazing the educational experience can be when done properly, take some time and visit Oak Knoll!

Bullying Prevention Month

Bullying Prevention Month:

Defining—and Defeating—the Problem

While October is designated as National Bullying Prevention Month, it’s important to ensure that our children feel safe year-round in order to learn and thrive in their school communities. So how do schools go about this? Well, for starters, it’s important for educators, parents, and students to understand what bullying is and isn’t.

Not all hurtful behavior is bullying.

Bullying has now become such a hot buzz word in our society that it can be overused—and misused—by kids and adults alike. Experts often define bullying as having three key components: an intent to harm, an imbalance of power, and repeated acts or threats of aggressive behavior. Because power imbalance is a particularly hard concept for young kids to grasp, I love how one of the schools that I visited in Wisconsin helped their school community understand the difference between bullying and other hurtful forms of behavior:

•  When someone unintentionally says something or does something hurtful, and they just do it once, that’s RUDE;

•  When someone intentionally says something or does something hurtful, and they just do it once, that’s MEAN;

•  When someone intentionally says something or does something hurtful, and they keep on doing it—even if they see you’re upset or you’ve asked them to stop—that’s BULLYING.

If bullying is a conscious choice to be cruel, then empathy is its antidote. Empathy is more than just understanding what it’s like to be in someone else’s shoes. It’s also having compassion for another’s pain and suffering. The more empathy we can instill in our children’s hearts, the less room there is for contempt and disregard for others. How do we as adults teach empathy? We can start by being good role models in how we treat others. We can also remind kids that, as numerous Internet safety advocates and bullying prevention experts report, most youth aren’t bullying their peers. (That’s not to say that bullying isn’t a significant issue, as the minority of bullying children can cause great harm to both the targets of bullying and the many bystanders who witness it.)

Researchers report that most youth are decent and caring when it comes to how they treat others. Let your children know that you expect no less from them. If they do witness bullying, encourage them to comfort the child who is getting hurt and to report the incident to a grown-up they trust or, if online, to the service provider or through the social network’s reporting system.

While we may not be able to get rid of all the hurt in our children’s world, we need to do our best to educate ourselves and them on nonviolent strategies to effectively help them get through the hurt.

Trudy Ludwig is a children’s advocate and bestselling author of numerous books on bullying including My Secret Bully, Confessions of a Former Bully, and The Invisible Boy. For more information about her work, visit www.trudyludwig.com

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An Anti-Bullying Book List!

As we continue to promote anti-bullying this month, we’ve decided to curate a brief list of some books that may be helpful to parents. Some of them will be quite obvious choices while others may give readers pause to consider the larger problems surrounding bullying and what it looks like on a national and global scale.

Please share, in the comments, other titles that could be added to the list!

 

Pre-School and Elementary Age Resources

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The Meanest Thing to Say by Bill Cosby

When the new boy in his 2nd grade class tries to get the other students to play a game that involves saying the meanest thing possible to one another, Little Bill finds himself in a predicament. Kids’ games aren’t always innocent and this highlights that for young readers as they partake in them. Little Bill begins to adopt his father’s expression of “So?” which turns it around for those doing the teasing. A simple response to a complex problem. 

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Mr. Peabody’s Apples by Madonna

Yes, that Madonna. This was her second book and it takes place in Happville, USA where Mr. Peabody is the beloved school teacher and baseball coach. One day, due to a simple error and assumption, Mr. Peabody finds himself on the bad end of a rumor that spreads quickly through town. A book that puts a simple spin on what “gossip” is and what it can do, our protagonist Mr. Peabody silences the nasty rumor with an unforgettable and poignant lesson. His humble actions are commendable and easy for young readers to understand.

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Ripple’s Effect by Shawn Achor, illustrated by Amy Blankson

Happiness has a ripple effect and sometimes our bullies are thwarted when we return kindness for meanness. Shawn Achor published this book through us at Little Pickle Press, but he is also the author author of the bestseller The Happiness Advantage and spends his time researching happiness and teaching positive psychology at Harvard University. This children’s book shows children that they can face their fears by making friends of their bullies and that attitude is everything in our outlook on life.

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How to Lose All Your Friends by Nancy Carlson

Amazon lists this book as a Pre-K or grade 1 book that uses “reverse etiquette” to “advise readers to never smile or share; to be a bully and whine; to tattle and be a poor sport. Each “rule” offers specific examples and is illustrated with brightly colored pictures.”

Examples for children are simple for young, emerging readers and it gives parents the opportunity to have deeper, complex conversations later to discuss things such as tattling which, at older ages, can be a difficult issue. 

 

Middle School

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Blubber by Judy Blume

I couldn’t possibly leave one of my favorite middle school reads from my own youth off this list and Judy Blume fits the bill with Blubber. Not only does she take on the cruel teasing that happens in childhood, she also takes on the issue of race as an African-American family moves into a neighborhood, thus juxtaposing bullying on multiple levels. 

Jill, the protagonist, joins in the teasing of the overweight Linda because she wants to fit in with the rest of the students. Vicious cycles are repeated and yet we don’t see the bully earn her due which is, sadly, representative of real life.

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Better Than You by Trudy Ludwig

Better Than You shows children how adopting a “better than you” attitude can ruin friendships rather than build them and takes on the issue of bragging. Jake’s incessant bragging gets on Tyler’s nerves by always “one-upping” him and working hard to prove he knows better and can do everything better. Great conversation starters with kids to discuss “puffing yourself up”.

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Illustrations from Adam Gustavson

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Wonder by R.J. Palacio

August Pullman, nicknamed Auggie, is a 10-year-old boy who loves Star Wars and Xbox and is completely normal in that sense. However, he has facial anomalies which has kept him homeschooled until he goes to school in 5th grade. A lovely book fully of August’s internal dialogue delight readers as well as Auggie’s incredible courage in facing that which could have been avoided if he remained at home for school. Middle school children adore this book.

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Maniac Magee by Jerry Spinelli

Jeffrey “Maniac” Magee might have lived a normal life if a freak accident hadn’t made him an orphan and put him on the run. After living an unhappy existence with his quarreling aunt and uncle for 8 years,  he decides to run. Except, he doesn’t just run away. He runs, a metaphor that weaves throughout the entire novel. His adventures help create the myth of legendary feats surrounding him with memorable characters in a racially divided small town.

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Thirteen Reasons Why by Jay Asher

Clay Jensen, a high school student, finds a strange package with his name on it lying on his porch one day and discovers multiple cassette tapes recorded by Hannah Baker. Hannah is the girl Clay has had a crush on but has recently committed suicide. Listening to Hannah’s haunting and recorded voice, Jay learns that  there are thirteen reasons why she decided to end her life and, even more shocking, that Clay is one of them. As he hears her tell her story in her own voice it gives power to the events and unfolds as a mystery that he may not want to solve. Clay is not only a witness but is party to the bullying she experienced and he’s forced to face truths that are painful to accept. 

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Staying Fat for Sarah Byrnes by Cris Crutcher

This mature subject matter novel is about two high school social outcasts, Eric and Sarah, who help one another to stand up against the cruelty they witness among their peers and a few bullying adults. Eric and Sarah both have terrible, but different “scars” made them standouts as outcasts. As Eric’s fat “scar” is diminished by the highly physical activity of swimming, he remains close to Sarah as she ends up in the hospital. He learns more about her scars and the secrets she has been hiding in a highly delicate novel that mirrors life too well.

Book-Thief

 

The Book Thief by Markus Zusak

This book is about much more than just the Holocaust and WWII and gives voice to the larger issues of bullying that make humans turn on one another. Set in 1939 Nazi Germany with Death as the narrator, Liesel Meminger is our powerful protagonist. Liesel is a foster girl living outside of Munich who, upon learning to read, steals the books that Nazis want to burn. She shares her learning with a Jewish man hiding in the basement and we see bullying through her eyes in multiple forms.  

We are CERTAIN to have left off your favorites to read with children or recommend to older readers. What titles would you suggest for anti-bullying?

JLM Photography. via photopin cc

Finger Lakes Library System

Featured Library of the Month:

the Finger Lakes Library System

I first heard of Ithaca, New York, because it was home of Molly Katzen and the Moosewood Restaurant. I don’t know if Molly still lives there, but I know that the restaurant is still thriving. In researching October’s library of the month, I found another great place to visit the next time I am in that region of New York State: the Finger Lakes Library System.

Connecting libraries in Cayuga, Cortland, Seneca, Tioga, and Tompkins counties, the system is a crucial part of this beautiful area of the state. In addition to providing magazines, books, audio and visual material, internet and computer access, and the usual library fare, the libraries in the system also offer a variety of services and events crucial to a vibrant community throughout the year. There are story times for different age groups, workshops on writing, crafts, training, and more, and events related to important dates and occasions as they occur.

Each year the Finger Lakes Library System pays tribute to individuals in their member libraries and communities who have delivered outstanding service to libraries. Besides such awards as director or trustee of the year, they have recently instituted the Jan Aguirre Customer Service Award to be given to a member library employee, volunteer, or trustee who possesses the enthusiasm, grace, friendliness, and patience that Jan, who was the FLLS Technology Training Coordinator for twenty-six years until her passing in July 2013, had for training and helping others.

Live in the area but are unable to get out to the library? No problem. The Finger Lakes Library System has an extensive online collection of audiobooks, e-books, and music for you to choose from.

What’s not to love? Next time you find yourself polishing off a meal at the Moosewood and you have some extra time on your hands, pop into one of the Finger Lakes Library System member libraries and get lost among the stacks. Just make sure to wash the chocolate off your hands first!

Bullying Prevention

Bullying Prevention: Resources and Recourses

We go to the doctor for regular checkups; we take our cars to the garage for maintenance. Taking care of potential hazards before they get out of hand is second nature to many people.

So why has bullying become such a problem?

Sometimes, we don’t recognize the issue, or we feel powerless to stop what’s happening. Maybe we’re afraid of getting involved in someone else’s business, or we’re looking for the right way to deal with it.

Bullying behavior hurts more than the victim; it affects everyone connected to the situation. Little Pickle Press has gathered a list of resources to help you identify, report, and (hopefully) prevent bullying.

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1. Kidpower. Little Pickle’s partner in prevention, Kidpower offers lots of easy-to-implement ideas and kid-friendly information. You’ll find tools for parents and teachers, and safety solutions for all ages.

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2. Stopbullying.gov. The name says it all. A collection of facts, videos, and games will not only teach kids to recognize the signs of bullying behavior, but to understand why that behavior is never acceptable.

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3. Trudyludwig.com. Author of the recently-reviewed My Secret Bully, Trudy Ludwig has put together an impressive resource list for parents and teachers. Lesson plans from her award-winning books are available, and caregivers will benefit from a list of organizations and websites that provide “next step” advice, whether their child is a victim or a witness—or a bully.

Bullying Prevention

4. NEA.org. The National Education Association has created a resource list especially for the campus setting. Built around the “Bully Free: It Starts with Me” pledge, the campaign offers practical advice for educators on how to identify and intervene when bullying is suspected, as well as how to advocate for students who have been bullied.

Naturally, these are just a few of the resources available. If you have a story to tell, or you’d like to share the name of a site or organization that was helpful to you, please let us know in the comments. October is Bullying Prevention Month, but every day is a chance to step up and speak out.

B Corp Store

Featured B Corp of the Month:

the B Corp Store

The B Corp Store, a marketplace for ethically-crafted goods, is our featured B Corp of the Month. The store is a wonderful one-stop-shopping destination for amazing consumer products crafted by B Corps.

Before the launch of the B Corp Store on September 29th, there was no single resource for buying B Corp products online. You could find the products at each company’s website, but there was no one spot where you go find the products aggregated. The folks at Mightybytes, a B Corp itself, wanted to change that. The store is launching with a couple dozen B Corp suppliers featured, including such brands as Bixbee, Blue Avocado, Klean Kanteen, One Village Coffee, and your very own Little Pickle Press. More products are added regularly.

Supporting B Corps means supporting a shared mission of doing business as a force for good. B Corps are leading a global movement to redefine success in business so that one day all companies compete to be the best in the world at being the best for the world. To further this aim, one percent of every purchase from the B Corp Store will be donated to B Lab, the nonprofit that certifies B Corps and serves the global B Corp community.

What better place to start your holiday shopping than at the B Corp store? You can impress those you buy for with not only amazing products but with a feeling of confidence and pride in how each one is made. Please check it out; you’ll be glad you did.

My Secret Bully

First Friday Book Review:

My Secret Bully

A new book is like a treasure chest. You hold your breath, lift the cover, and eagerly scan the contents. If you’re lucky, you’ll find something truly valuable.

Such was the case when I read My Secret Bully. I don’t throw around terms such as ‘life changing’ lightly, but I’m firmly convinced that my school years might have been very different if I’d had this book as a child.

Monica and Katie have been friends since Kindergarten, but lately, things are different. Katie’s behavior is changing, and Monica can feel that something’s wrong, even if she can’t quite name it. Thanks to her mother’s compassion and thoughtful advice, Monica is able to confront her secret bully and make her own, happier, way through school.

Trudy Ludwig has created an invaluable guide to identifying and dealing with our ‘secret bullies,’ those people who seem to be our friends, but who use that friendship in negative ways. Perhaps they try to control who we talk to, or make us ‘pay’ for going against their wishes. Bullying is not always obvious, but the results are all too real.

In addition to the carefully crafted story, My Secret Bully includes encouragement for victims, a parent/teacher guide, discussion points, and a list of resources. The dust jacket flips to reveal a poster full of friendship tips, and the book itself is illustrated with gorgeous, fluid pictures by Abigail Marble.

I wouldn’t hesitate to recommend My Secret Bully to teachers, caregivers, and anyone who has been on the receiving end of bullying behavior, and I’m grateful to Trudy for this gentle, helpful reminder that self-esteem is the right of children and adults everywhere.

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Bullying Prevention Month: Our Favorite UpWorthy Shares

Summer is over, the leaves are beginning to fall, and school is officially in session for much of the United States. Naturally, this makes me think about keeping children safe, packing nutritious lunches, and what exactly happens at school during the day. As a full-time educator, one of the common themes that I deal with is taking care of children in these turbulent times of growth while also trying to educate them. There’s a lot of guidance that happens in my role as Guidance Dean.

A lot of the time it has to do with differentiating bullying versus bothering. But, make no mistake, there is still a lot of bullying that happens and it’s a pretty big problem.

Bullying resources are, with the Internet, easier to come by but today there are a few videos I want to share that I’ve used to help guide me as I guide children.

We’re kicking off Bullying Prevention Month here at Little Pickle Press with a few of our favorite videos that have been shared by UpWorthy, a curated site, to combat the effects of bullying. Not only are they inspirational and educational, they just might be the video you need to share with someone who is hurting from being bullied. (Or maybe you just need some inspiration!)

She Confronted Her Bully and Asked One Question. Now The Bully Has An Awesome Story To Tell.

Mariah learned that she had to look within herself to figure out why she bullied other people. This is a stunning video that shows the honesty it takes to understand your own terrible actions. 

Bullies Called Him Pork Chop. He Took That Pain With Him And Then Cooked It Into This.

This one might be my all-time favorite. It’s a bit long at 7:36, but Shane Koyczan took the bullying he experienced and turned it into something creative and amazing. Hopefully, these words and images will help a child who has suffered much the same.

A Kid Stands Up To Literally Everyone In His Class

Do you know how hard it is to be vulnerable? Do you remember what it’s like to be in middle school? Just the combination of those two things are enough to make my palms sweat and it makes the raw honesty of this young boy all the more courageous.

You can watch another inspirational video from Kid President here on his dreams for the future.

If nothing else, remember the words of the amazing Kid President:

Don’t be a bully. Don’t even be a bully to bullies. That just makes more bullies.

 

Working Word via photopin cc

Personal Safety

Partners in Practice

September is International Child Protection Month, and we are delighted to announce our partnership with Kidpower, the 25-year-old global non-profit dedicated to teaching positive, practical, personal safety skills to people of all ages.

Last week I had the pleasure of meeting Kidpower founder Irene van der Zande and listened as she told a group of adults about the incident that inspired her to start the organization. It’s a powerful story  to be sure, but to hear her tell it in person is downright chilling; you would have been hard-pressed to find anyone in that room to disagree with the assertion that child safety is important. But that’s just it. Child safety is a no-brainer. Of course we want our children to be safe. What resonated with me was van der Zande’s admonishment that we practice child safety. Just as we practice crossing the street with our children—holding hands, looking both ways, being vigilant—we need to help them practice being safe with people.

In her Kidpower safety comics, van der Zande writes that children learn better by doing than by being told what to do, and gives adult caregivers tips for practicing child safety through “calm conversations, fun hands-on practice, and enthusiastic encouragement.” She encourages adults to “integrate People Safety skills into your daily life, coaching children so they are successful—in the same way that you might prepare children to be safe with water, food, fire, cars, and bikes.”

So I’m taking her advice to heart and setting a goal to practice safety with my children every day. International Child Protection Month is important because it invites caring adults to come together for a month of action, and shines a light on the important issue of child safety. But to make a change that counts, our efforts should be year-round.

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Featured Young Writer of the Month: What Does Being Safe Mean To Kids?

Over the past few weeks there have been a plethora of stories in the news that have been, not to put too fine a point on it, disturbing and horrible. As adults, we see the world whizz by and try to remain informed but not overwhelmed by all the information we take in daily. Some days, I have to take small bites of the world news instead of ingesting it all at once. I am convinced that my friends feel the same way once we talk and lament trying to simultaneously inform and shield our children from the horrors of the world.

The difficulty in being an adult or parent or teacher is found in that very lesson.

With that said, I am worried about what the pre-teens and teens in my school know about the news. Naturally, I ask them about what they know and how they’re responding to the world as it, like us, whizzes past. They have every social media app that’s available. They catch the news with their families at home. They talk about it very easily in their adolescent speech peppered with questions and comments. For me, most importantly, they allow me into their world once they’ve learned to trust me.

During that first week of school I overheard many of them discussing injustice they see happening in Ferguson, Missouri (which, as of this writing, hasn’t entirely come to a standstill). Of course, I did what all teachers do and asked clarifying questions to find out what they knew. This is the most important step in talking to kids: find out what they know first. That discussion led me to asking them about safety and what, in their world, makes them feel safe.

What makes you feel safe?

James – I feel most safe when people tell me the truth. Sometimes the adults in my life don’t want me to know things but I know more than they think.

Francis – My safety comes from my mom. She does all the things a mom is supposed to do; she feeds me, clothes me, and teaches me how to stand up for myself.

Kara – Everything is changing and I don’t always feel safe. But safety feels like being fair. My family isn’t always fair and, yeah, I know I’m supposed to obey my mom and dad but their rules don’t always feel fair. Deep down I know that the rules are there for my safety even though I don’t always like it.

Chiara – I don’t feel safe. Everything seems bad right now. My dad doesn’t know I keep up with the news on Twitter and Tumblr and everything is bad. It seems like the rules we have aren’t even doing that right now. Is the world always like this?

Taylor – I know I’m supposed to feel safe but there are real threats when I walk home from school. A mean dog that’s never locked up and a man who always yells stuff at me. I put on my headphones to ignore him, but how can I be safe in the world? I’m safe at school where I know people care about me and I’m safe at home with my mom and brothers. But everywhere else? With everything happening? I’m not safe. How can I even keep my little brother safe?

My students make some good arguments for safety and they’re in the throes of living as an adolescent: somewhere between childhood and adulthood. It’s a scary time when they become aware of the dangers in the world and the best we can do, to help them feel safe, is to ensure them of what Mr. Rogers said:

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Helpers come in all forms and for kids in the middle grades that can mean adults, parents, teachers, and friends. In helping to keep our children safe we must assure and prove to them that there is good in the world and that there are people who want to improve it. It’s an active process that these young writers, even in short quotes, can teach us.

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If you’re having this discussion with your children, tell us what you’re learning from them. For a primer on starting this talk with young children, please check out Rana DiOrio’s book What Does It Mean to Be Safe? You can also check out our shop to purchase directly from Little Pickle Press.

FUNKYAH via photopin cc

CASA

CASA Is Where the Heart Is

Sometimes, being the change we seek doesn’t mean looking at the big picture. Sometimes the view can and must narrow down to looking at one child. LPP’s Creative Consultant Leslie Iorillo knows this firsthand; she’s deeply involved with CASA, the Court Appointed Special Advocates for Children.

From the CASA website: “CASA volunteers are appointed by judges to watch over and advocate for abused and neglected children, to make sure they don’t get lost in the overburdened legal and social service system or languish in inappropriate group or foster homes. Volunteers stay with each case until it is closed and the child is placed in a safe, permanent home. For many abused children, their CASA volunteer will be the one constant adult presence in their lives.”

Although drawn to CASA and its mission, Leslie was at first hesitant to reach out to the organization. “My friend’s mom was involved, so I’d known about it for a while; I thought you needed a degree in law or social work to be a part. After reading My Sister’s Keeper, which includes a CASA character, I realized that this was something I could do. After getting settled, I took the training at the county’s children’s advocates office.”

That was only the beginning; Leslie studies hard on a regular basis. “I do four to six workshops a year, plus a lot of reading for continuing education. Not just law, either. CASA workers study trauma and anything else that might impact a child. I’ve had to study writing! I write a report to the judge about every six months, and these reports have to be free of speculation and subjective views.”

Being an advocate can require nerves of steel and a spine to match. “I’m the micro-perspective,” says Leslie. “Our focus has to be what is best for the kids, not necessarily the family or the lawyers and social workers. It’s hard, but some things have to be said.”

Sometimes heartbreaking, often underappreciated, but ultimately rewarding, being a CASA advocate isn’t a job for everyone. Why does Leslie do it? “I just felt compelled. I saw a woman who was involved, and I was struck by the desire to be a voice for these kids.”

You can provide a voice, too. Visit the CASA website to learn how you can donate or volunteer, or check out the LPP shop to find out how your purchase supports International Child Safety Month.

Bullying Prevention

The Perfect Partnership:

Kidpower, Little Pickle Press, and YOU!

Little Pickle Press is incredibly proud to be embarking on an important and meaningful relationship with Kidpower. We are kicking off this alliance by being a founding partner of International Child Protection Month. This month, Little Pickle Press, Kidpower, and all of the individuals, families, schools, organizations, businesses, and agencies involved are taking action to honor, inspire, and support adult leadership worldwide to promote and protect the safety and well-being of young people. At Little Pickle Press, we are honoring our commitment by donating 25% of sales to Kidpower when you purchase a book on our website, using the code “KidpowerSafe.”

We are excited to be strengthening our ties to an internationally recognized organization such as Kidpower; it shares so many of our core values. We believe that children’s minds should be opened to intelligent, engaging, and caring discussions about issues that can and do matter most to them. How best to ensure their own safety and get help when they need it is one such issue. Our title, What Does it Mean to be Safe? tackles this very issue. Kidpower offers its own Safety Comics which similarly provides young people with real-life examples of how to protect themselves, while utilizing a non-threatening teaching style.

As we continue to deepen our relationship with this fantastic organization in the coming months and years, we urge you to consider all of the young people in your life, and extend the Kidpower Protection Promise™ to them:

You are VERY important to me!

If you have a safety problem, I want to know—

even if I seem too busy,

even if someone we care about will be upset,

even if it is embarrassing, and

even if you made a mistake. 

Please tell me, and I will do everything in my power to help you.

Wild Rumpus

Featured Customer of the Month:

Wild Rumpus Books

When you step through the lovely purple door at Wild Rumpus Books in Minneapolis, be prepared to be surprised! A visit to this exceptional Indie bookstore is an adventure in itself.

During its twenty-year course, Wild Rumpus has had a sort of conversation with the book The Salamander Room by Anne Mazer. In 1992, we first used this story as a kind of blueprint for building the store. And today it continues to teach us about books and young people, and about adults who love them … Architecture …  allows us a front-to-back spatial progression. Our store’s front doors open into a fairly conventional interior with carpet, a comfortable reading chair and floorlamp. Midway, things begin to change, there’s a tree-trimmer sheetrocked in the ceiling on a ladder, and the ceiling itself at this point starts to crack open to the sky. At the back, with birds above and rats beneath a garden shed, the store wants you to feel like you’re outside.

Birds? Rats? Well, yes, and cats! While browsing through the store’s extensive collection of children’s books, you may very well meet up with one of many tail-less Manx cats like Trini, Sumo Mouse or Daniel. Speaking of mice (or rats), try not to jump if Tilly and Pip stop by to say hello to you. Ever heard of  a chinchilla? Well, after a visit to Wild Rumpus you can claim the acquaintance of not just one, but two, Amelia and Mr. Skeeter. Believe it or not, all of these animals and more call the bookstore their home.

For a really wild time, stop in at the store for Tail Time every Monday at 10:30 am. At Tail Time, you can listen to stories, sing some songs, and generally make a ruckus. While you’re there, sign up for a book club and receive 20% off of any books featured in any of the store’s book clubs, such as The Book Eaters (ages 2-3), The Ink Drinkers (ages 4-6), or Beer and Comics (21 and up).

The store also offers special events such as the PJ Party on the Trolley (Yes, you read that right. Make sure your jammies are nice and clean!). In the Rumpus Reads program, Wild Rumpus picks one middle grade book and one young adult/adult book for a community reading event which goes throughout the month of August. Then, at the end of the month, they host parties with the authors (one for each book).

If you like to walk on the wild side, then Wild Rumpus is the store for you!

Kidpower

Kidpower: Working Together to Keep Kids Safe

Join Us for International Child Protection Month!

We at Kidpower are honored to have Little Pickle Press as a Founding Partner for International Child Protection Month because of its mission, philosophy, and commitment to excellence. I want to share the story about how Kidpower started, what we do, why our nonprofit organization decided to establish International Child Protection Month, and what actions you can take to join us.

It goes back to 1985, when my family was young. On a field trip with eight young children, including my own daughter and son, in a public place with people standing all around, a man suddenly came charging towards us. He was shouting that he wanted to take one of the girls. This was a classic case of the Bystander Effect, because everyone froze, except for me.

I did what I think anyone would do to protect the kids in their care. I put myself in between the man and the children and shouted at him to leave us alone. I then ordered a man standing watching us with his mouth dropped open, “Get over here and help us! Can’t you see these kids are scared?” When this bystander very reluctantly came to stand next to me, the attacker ran away.

The kids were fine. What they saw was that I yelled, and the bad guy ran away. But I wasn’t fine. Having this experience left me with a lot of troubling questions. What if this man had knocked me down? What if he had managed even to touch one of the kids? And what about the unprotected children that he probably went on to assault? After taking a self-defense class for myself to answer the first question, I also wanted to know how to teach kids to be safe with people without making them anxious or scared.

Kidpower was born in 1989 out of my search for answers. Instead of using fear to teach about violence prevention, Kidpower makes it fun to learn to stay safe! Instead of just talking about problems with people, Kidpower provides the opportunity for successful practice of practical tools about the words to say and the actions to take to deal effectively with difficult or dangerous behavior.

When we started, many of our advisors in mental health, law enforcement, and education told us, “If you just teach skills to children, you are not doing your job. Putting the entire burden for staying safe on kids is unfair, and these skills won’t work nearly as well without ongoing adult support. Their parents, teachers, and other involved adults have far more power and responsibility. They should be the ones in charge of their children’s well-being and of helping them to use these safety skills in their daily activities.”

This is why for the past 25 years, in addition to teaching children, Kidpower has been teaching adults what they need to know and do to keep their kids safe and to prepare their children to take charge of their own emotional and physical well-being, including how to develop positive relationships that can enrich their lives.

We decided to establish September as the first International Child Protection Month in order to honor, inspire, and support adult leadership worldwide in protecting young people from harm and in empowering them with skills and knowledge for taking charge of their own well-being. This month, we at Kidpower along with individuals, families, schools, organizations, businesses, and agencies are taking action to honor, inspire, and support adult leadership worldwide to promote and protect the safety and well-being of young people.

We want to thank Little Pickle Press for its partnership, including donating 25% of the sale of its delightful, educational, and empowering books for children to Kidpower to help support this important initiative. You can use the code KidpowerSafe when ordering.

We hope you will join in by learning more and by using and sharing free online posters and other educational resources about actions each of us can take to protect and empower children and teens. You can:

  1. Make the Kidpower Put Safety First Commitment™
  2. Make the Kidpower Protection Promise™ to Young People in Your Life
  3. Become a Child Protection Month Partner
  4. Act as a Protector of Children and Teens

Every adult who makes the Kidpower Put Safety First Commitment makes life better for kids. Every individual or agency sharing International Child Protection Month information is taking a stand for the safety of young people.  Please fororward this blog post to friends, family ,and organizations with young people in their care.

By taking these actions, you will be helping us reach our first-year goal of having 50,000 caring adults pledge this September to live and act in ways that protect the safety and well-being of young people.

For more information, please visit: www.ChildProtectionMonth.org

Kidpower Co-founders

Irene with Kidpower Co-founder Timothy Dunphy.

From the Kidpower website: Irene graduated from the University of California, Los Angeles in June 1969 with a degree in Psychology. She received her initial training as a VISTA Volunteer, setting up services on Indian reservations and in small towns in Iowa and Nebraska. She trained other volunteers to work in both inner city barrios and rural communities, and her focus on training others to share learning continues todaywith Kidpower.” Irene has also written numerous books and articles about self-protection and child development.

LPP is excited and grateful to be partnered with such a dynamic, forward-thinking organization. In support of International Child Protection Month, Little Pickle Press will donate 25% of sales to Kidpower when you use the KidPowerSafe promo code at checkout. Turn your buying power into Kidpower!

Vail Public Library

Featured Library of the Month:

Vail Public Library

Vail, Colorado, is famous for its ski slopes, drawing thousands of people a year to the area to play in the snow. If you happen to find yourself in Vail this winter, be sure that you make time to drop in at the Vail Public Library.

One of our favorite programs at the library is Reading Buddies. In this program, volunteer middle and high school students are matched with children in grades 1-3 for a one-hour reading time once per week. The Reading Buddies Program meets at the Vail Public Library for an eight-week session during the school year and a six-week session in the summer.  The one-hour program includes a group activity, one on one reading, reflection time, and games. The purpose of Reading Buddies is to provide a leadership, responsibility, and community service opportunity by facilitating middle and high school mentors to help foster a love of reading in elementary school students.

In addition to children’s story times, Vail Public Library is also a participant in the 1,000 Books Before Kindergarten program, wherein parents and caregivers encourage and assist children to reach the goal of reading 1,000 books before entering Kindergarten. It sounds daunting, but it only takes one book a day for three years!

For teens, Vail Library offers Homework Help, a program in which employees help teenagers use the extensive library databases to assist them in research in any area of study. The Town of Vail Public Library’s media collection called ‘Playaways” boasts many titles for teens/young adults.  It is an audio book pre-uploaded onto self-contained MP3 players for convenience and simplicity.

The library also hosts many events geared to bring people together to socialize and expand their horizons. In August the Living History program featured Molly Brown, portrayed by Mary Jane Bradbury, as well as a workshop in making “brag books” as keepsakes or gifts.

When you get tired and cold from skiing the famous Vail ski slopes, make a point to stop in at Vail Public Library and see all that they have to offer!

Safety Comics

First Friday Book Review:

Kidpower Safety Comics for Adults with Kids Ages 3-10

As a parent, thinking about how to teach my two young kids to stay safe is, well, downright scary. It forces me to think about all the dangerous, uncomfortable, and complex situations our kids can face when we can’t be there to protect them. On top of my own fears, it also raises the question: “How do I teach my kids to be safe while not scaring them?”

That’s where KidPower and its incredible line of training materials come in. They have mastered an approachable, effective, and fun way to help our kids tap into their own power to keep themselves safe. KidPower’s underlying principle is that “the safety and self-esteem of a child are more important than anyone’s embarrassment, inconvenience, or offense.”

Specifically, Kidpower Safety Comics for Adults with Kids Ages 3-10 provides “entertaining cartoons and engaging social stories making it easy for adults to provide crucial knowledge and skills so our children can learn to be safe with people they know and with strangers.” The book encourages us, the adults in our children’s lives, to read the stories together with our kids and act out the scenes portrayed. The stories are adaptable and can be easily made to fit each child’s age, unique situation, and abilities.

Important concepts are addressed in several comics to show how they play out in different situations. “Checking first” is one such concept. A comic shows a little girl playing in front of her house. A stranger comes up, calling her by name and saying she knows the girl’s mom. The little girl moves away and goes inside to “check first” with her mom. Her mom responds by thanking her for checking in and praising her safety skills in front of the friend. The message is that the girls’ safety is far more important than any inconvenience or offense to the unknown friend when the little girl moved away from her.

The very next comic sets out the exception to the rule—when there is an emergency sometimes you cannot “check first.” In those cases, it is okay to get help from others such as a paramedic, a firefighter, a search party, or a parent with children. The corresponding stories are set up to spark discussion and meaningful interactions between adults and children so the safety rules come to life.

All parents should have these important conversations with their children.  Kidpower, through its Safety Comics, provides us with just the examples, words, and pictures to make these conversations so impactful.

KidPower’s Safety Comics, and all their instructional materials, are available on Amazon or by contacting safety@kidpower.org for discounts on orders of 20 or more.

Kidpower Teenpower Fullpower International is a global non-profit leader in teaching positive, practical personal safety skills to protect people of all ages and abilities from bullying, molestation, abduction, and other violence—and to prepare them to develop positive relationships that enrich their lives. We are celebrating 25 years of preparing families, schools, and youth organizations to prevent bullying, child abuse, and kidnapping. Kidpower makes it FUN (not scary) to learn to be safe!

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The Priceless Gift of Safety by Pamela Price

Today’s article is a reprint from the blog of Pamela Price from her blog, Red, White & Grew. 

Safety.

It’s at the heart of so many discussions when one first becomes a parent.

Yet when you move past the basic childhood safety devices—car seat restraints, minimizing access to items that will lead to choking, a dizzying array of kid-proof drawer and door locks—one gradually comes to realize that the definition of “safety” is somewhat relative.

Yes, while one parent may cringe quietly at the noise coming from two rowdy small boys tussling in the living room like puppies, another may be convinced that a trip to the emergency is inevitable and rush to stop the kids. Of course whether you think that roughhousing “builds character” or is a fast-track to teenage delinquency depends a lot on your own personal experience and culture.

Now if you remove yourself from your own culture, your own language, and your own comfort zone, then the definition of safety becomes even moreslippery. And what do you do when you have an extenuating circumstance, a personal health obstacle like a food allergy, that renders otherwise harmless situations potentially dangerous?

We encountered this situation first hand when we traveled abroad last spring. Eager to show our child more of the world, we arranged to fly to Paris, travel via train to England, and fly home from London.  Our son, like so many children of his generation, is allergic to peanuts. We naively figured that in Europe and England, where governmental agencies are more aggressive about product labeling to protect food allergic citizens, we’d have less to worry about with regard to peanuts.

We were wrong.

You see in Europe lupin flour is increasingly used in mass-market products such as pasta and bread dough. Unfortunately, people with peanut allergies also appear to be allergic to lupin (both are legumes) and exposure can result in anaphylaxis or potentially even death. (Note that lupin flour is increasingly making its way stateside in gluten-free products.)

Thanks to some pre-trip sleuthing on our part, we came up with a game plan to protect our son’s well-being on our vacation. We arranged to carry an extra Epi-Pen. We learned every French word related to peanuts, legumes, lupin, and nuts.  Ultimately, we decided to stay in a modestly priced apartment in Paris so we could prepare most of our own food.

This last decision ended up being a hidden gift wrapped up in our worries. In taking responsibility for our own food choices, we spent more time daily shopping for our bread, fruits, meats, and other items. Consequently, we learned more vocabulary words and came away with a better appreciation of what it means to live as Parisians.

There’s a larger truth revealed here, one much greater than “We played it safe on our vacation and avoided an allergic reaction.” By intentionally putting safety first we didn’t narrow our experience of Paris, we expanded it. Moreover, on the trip we were reminded that cultivating safety is as much about nurturing well-being as is eating right and getting enough sleep.

Which really makes me wonder why we parents don’t openly talk about it as such.

Along those lines,  I can recommend to you an excellent children’s book on the topic of safety that will help you open the door to thoughtful, intelligent, and loving discussions about it.

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The book is published by Little Pickle Press, written by LPP founder Rana DiOrio and is titled What Does It Mean to Be Safe?. Sandra Salsbury’s illustrations are warm, colorful, and engaging. The text is direct (“Being safe means… not tolerating bullying… not revealing information from yourself to strangers…”) and therefore easy for parents to riff on the themes at story time.  In short, it’s a winner.

As mentioned above, today’s post was written as part of LPP’s blog book tour. If you’re interested in purchasing the book from LPP, note that there is a free shipping code (BBTSAFE) that you can use at checkout. If you do use it, be sure to add a Safe poster to your book order, and you’ll also receive it free. It’s printed on TerraSkin, a tree-free paper.

Thank you to Pamela for writing and sharing this post with us today. Please visit her blog theRedWhiteandGrew.com feed and to follow Pamela on Facebook and Twitter.

Dhana EcoKids

Featured Customer of the Month:

Dhana EcoKids

If you have children in your life, you know that “organic” clothing is all the rage right now, as people look for clothing that is good for their kids and for the environment. Scratch below the surface of many clothing lines that claim to be organic, and things don’t always look so pretty. For one thing, the word “organic” itself has as many definitions as products it is used to describe. For another, the clothing may be organic, but is often produced in a way that is harmful to the environment—and to the people making the clothing for consumers to buy. Confused? Make it easy on yourself by taking some time to get to know our featured BCorp of the month, Dhana Ecokids.

Dhana Ecokids sets a high standard, and as a result their customers can rely on their forthrightness and reliability while at the same time dressing their children in beautiful, well-crafted garments. Dhana doesn’t hide behind catch phrases. Instead, they clearly define all the terms they use on their website.

Want to know what Dhana means when they say “organic”?

“In simplest terms, organic means that a product is grown without the use of synthetic fertilizers, pesticides, genetically modified organisms (GMO’s), sewage sludge, or ionizing radiation. According to the USDA National Organic Program (NOP), organic agricultural products are also “produced by farmers who emphasize the use of renewable resources and the conservation of soil and water to enhance environmental quality for future generations.”

To this end, they use only Global Organic Textile Standard (GOTS) certified cotton to make all of their kids’ fashions. GOTS certification includes both ecological and social criteria, and is backed by independent certification of the entire textile supply chain.

How about “fair trade?”

“In plain English, “fair trade” means that the workers who create our goods enjoy safe working conditions, reasonable hours, and a living wage, and are treated with respect as human beings.” 

Dhana has the certifications to back up all of their claims, including BCorp, Social Accountability International Certified, Green America Gold Certified, and others. Clearly a corporation that believes in walking their talk, just like us at Little Pickle Press!

Dhana Ecokids considers their values to be a guiding light for the company. Not only is their clothing sustainable and organic, they are dedicated to diversity and maintaining a strong connection with nature. They also donate a percentage of their to communities all over the world, and strive to raise environmental awareness in whatever way they can.
Beautiful, high quality children’s clothing from a company that truly cares about the world around them and strives to make a difference. What are you waiting for? Visit Dhana Ecokids today!

 

White Out

White Out

The following piece was originally published on the Neumannic Times blog. We would like to thank the author for permission to post these thought-provoking words.

“This place sucks … I mean, not this place (she’s referring to my classroom), but (insert swirling hand motion as if to indicate this high school as a whole) … thhiissss place.”

Me: Gotcha. Thanks for clarifying.

Senior Girl: The walls are so bland.

Senior Boy: It’s depressing. They’re all beige. Next thing you know, they’ll have us wearing matching uniforms and planning to invade Eurasia.

Insert a collective processing pause.

Emily: I don’t get it.

Senior Boy rolls his eyes and lets out a laconic sigh. “Jesus, Emily! We’re not really going to invade Eurasia … I was trying to—Oh never mind!”

Me: No I get what you’re saying. The hallways around here do have a sort of institutionalized flavor to them.

Senior Boy: Everywhere you turn. It’s just different shades of brown. Is that supposed to be conducive to creativity?

Me: Valid question. I can’t remember when this happened, but were you guys here before the White Out? Like, before all the murals and stuff were erased? When the walls still had color?

White Out

Several students chime in, “Yeah! We were freshmen. There were murals everywhere! Then they painted over all of them.”

Me: I know. T’was kind of sad. I painted a lot of those.

Senior: You did?

Intercom: Teachers and Students, please pardon the interruption. Due to the impending inclement weather, we will be dismissing students from school 2 hours early, at 1:30. All classes for the remainder of the day will be 30 minutes long. Teachers, please check your email for the updated bell schedule.”

Wish I would’ve taken a picture of everyone’s reaction after the intercom spoke, because in that moment, everyone won the lottery. Everyone was a winner, and if you’d never yelled, “Yahtzee!” in your life, that was the perfect moment to rejoice. I’ve read about the weight of the world residing on people’s shoulders; even written about it. One thing I’d never seen though, at least until that moment, was the weight of the world actually being lifted off people’s shoulders. Tell students they’re gonna be dismissed from school early, and that it’s because of snow, and they’re floating. Carefree. Giddy. Weightless. The excitement is electric.

Out in the hallway, a boy broke free from his class and ran down the hallways shouting, “THERE ARE NO RULES! THIS IS THE APOCALYPSE!! NO RULES! HIDE YOUR CHILDREN! HIDE YOUR WIVES! THERE ARE NO RULES! …”

Hyperbole perhaps. Foreshadowing of things to come? I’ll let the reader decide. But if you were anywhere in Metro Atlanta around 1:00 PM on January 28th, 2014, the notion of an apocalypse wasn’t too much of a stretch. No need to relive the dysfunctional calamity of what happened next. Atlanta became an episode of The Walking Dead.

I left school at 4:00 PM that afternoon, and returned at 6:45 PM. The plan was to drive home (Downtown Atlanta), but I couldn’t even reach access roads to the interstate. There were just too many wrecks. Having admitted defeat, I made my way back to Pope High School. The revised plan, and only feasible option, was to crash at my parents’ house. They live across the street from Pope, but I needed to retrieve some contact solution from my classroom. So, enter, once again, I did.

Principal: Ryan! What are you doing back here?

Me: Forgot something.

Principal: Forgot something! Where do you live?

Me: Next to the Georgia Dome.

Principal: And you came back because you forgot something?

Me: Yeah. But my folks live around here. So, gonna crash at their place tonight.

Principal: Well be careful!

He begins walking, hurriedly down a nearby hallway; appearing concerned about something.

Me: Will do. What are you still doing here?

Still walking, he replies, “We still have students here! I’m not leaving ‘til their parents are able to come get them!”

His voice trails off.

Walking towards my classroom, I pass many of the walls that once portrayed murals. Some painted by me. Others by peers. They’re all buried by several coats of beige now. And unless you were here before the school was renovated a few years ago, you’d never know there were murals to begin with. It’s kind of a weird feeling. Seeing projects you devoted so many summers to, erased. Like it never happened.

While this isn’t the root cause of my distaste for artistic endeavors, it was one of the final nails in the coffin. Seeing the blank walls every day creates somewhat of an indifferent disposition, like “What’s the point? Why bother with art if it’s just going to be erased?” Guess that’s the jaded idealistic side of me going emo for a second.

The realist side recognizes the murals weren’t going to last forever. At some point, they’d have to go away for one reason or another. So what’s the big deal? No use in crying over spilled guineas, right? Oh wait … that was Jack Nicholson in The Departed. It’s Milk! No use crying over spilled milk.

Anyway, I suppose it’s more ironic than anything else. Student returns to his alma mater a teacher. Hired in part for his creative tendencies in the classroom, he returns to find that the paintings he was once commissioned to paint have become, for lack of a better phrase, collateral damage. Well that, and one of the core beliefs of the Cobb County School District state that “creativity and innovation are encouraged and embraced by all stakeholders.”

Who knows? Maybe I just didn’t get the memo.

Every once and awhile, I’ll pause at a wall that used to contain a mural. For a moment, I’ll glance and see the picture that once was. I try not to stare for long; having already established a reputation for some of my more awkward quirks as a teacher, I’d hate to compound the matter further by earning the additional label of, “that weird teacher who stares at blank walls.”

So I shake it out and move on. Out of the building. Into the snow. Where the paralysis brought on by Winter Storm Leon creates a white out of its own; facilitating a silence that is deafening.

White Out

Artwork courtesy of Ryan Neumann.

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John Green Titles: Perfect YA Reads

John Green’s name is on the lips of every middle schooler I know right now. In fact, he’s been a fixture in middle schools for a few years and has several books and short stories under his belt. John won the 2006 Printz Award for his debut novel, Looking for Alaska,  and is currently holding strong to number 1 spots on book lists for the popular The Fault in Our Stars. Green is so popular that he was included as one of the 100 most influential people in the world in Time magazine because he’s so charismatic and busy with multiple platforms of writing and speaking. This is a man who calls his fans nerdfighters and they love it.

Why John Green?

Last year, The Guardian published an interview with John Green that offered a peek into what makes his writing so relatable to teens. In it, he says which, as an educator, I can wholeheartedly agree and that is that he’s “…tired of adults telling teenagers that they aren’t smart” and his writing reflects his beliefs about the realness, including all the hard parts, about being a teenager:

Teenagers are doing so many things for the first time, says John Green, and asking big questions about life, loss, love and politics. He is clearly very interested in teens and what they experience and encounter in their childhood. When he replied to my question about what makes writing for teenagers so interesting, I felt like I was talking to another adolescent.

Since we’re promoting a love of Reading Not Tweeting this month, we wanted to provide a list of perfect YA titles with a short synopsis from the inimitable John Green that you can introduce to your teen or that you can read for yourself if you haven’t already!

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By far, Green’s most popular work that turned into a blockbuster at the movie theaters this summer, was The Fault in Our Stars. Personally, when I read it I couldn’t put it down and had to complete it in one sitting. Hazel has been afforded a medical miracle that has helped her tumor shrink  but she knows, as well as anyone with a sense of understanding of the fragility of life, that it’s a terminal diagnosis. Suddenly, though, a new guy shows up at her Cancer Kid Support Group and we’re introduced to Augustus Waters who challenges her at every turn and offers her a final chapter that is alarmingly thoughtful and beautiful. Teens who read this all seem to love the strong feelings offered in this book and can relate to Hazel’s sense of apprehension of the possibility of love. 

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Teenagers love a good love story, but Colin Singleton’s experience with girls who all share the name Katherine, won’t deliver. He keeps getting dumped and is up to 19 Katherines by the time we meet this character. In order to make sense of this, he and his best friend 
Hassan, go on a road trip without a destination. Colin loves anagrams and is living with the past of being a prodigy. Somewhat of a genius, Colin sets out to prove his Theorem of Underlying Katherine Predictability. On the way, we’re treated to interesting characters, a dead archduke’s bones, and a heartening and hilarious ending that allows teens to realize that they can reinvent themselves.

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John’s debut novel, Looking for Alaska, debuted in 2006 and won the Michael L. Printz Award from the American Library Association. It’s about Miles “Pudge” Halter whose life feels like one big non-moment. Pudge has a preoccupation with famous last words and his whole existence has been one big nonevent. His obsession with famous last words leads him to Culver Creek Boarding School where he’s put in risky situation with the destructive Alaska Young, a girl who seems to have it all as well as a life full of the opposite of what Pudge has experienced. She teaches him that risks are good even as she’s stealing his heart.

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The main character is so wonderful that John Green went ahead and put it it in the title. Twice. But don’t let that make you think that Tiny Cooper, another character, isn’t entirely important and interesting. But, that’s just the thing: there’s another teen named Will Grayson just like our main character. He wrote this book with David Levithan. The common theme you’ll find in John Green books is that there is nothing but possibility and magic and the power to look beyond yourself which probably makes them so endearing to teens who are hoping to find the same in their lives. I’ve noticed that more mature YA readers tend to check this one out of the library. 

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You know how it goes. You’re a kid with an awesome name (Quentin Q. Jacobson) and someone you haven’t thought about since the time you both discovered a dead body in the park shows up at your window dressed like a ninja with black paint on her face comes to see you. Typical evening, right? But, why stop there? Why not break into houses and leave mysterious clues for people and then wake up the next day for school as if nothing happened? But, something did happen. And Quentin and Margo Roth Spiegelman know that something happened. What, exactly? As Quentin tries to get closer to Margo he realizes that he doesn’t really know her anymore. Green’s theme of delving into the personal while digging up the past is haunting and teens love when that happens.

Want More John Green?

In 2007, John and his brother Hank hosted a popular internet blog, “Brotherhood 2.0,” where they discussed the happenings in their lives, books they liked and read as well as current events. They created a vlog every day for a year and then continued vlogging. You can follow John and Hank Green’s vlog, The VlogBrothers, here, and you can read John’s Tumblr page here.
Photo credit: By Gage Skidmore from Peoria, AZ, United States of America (John GreenUploaded by MaybeMaybeMaybe) [CC-BY-SA-2.0], via Wikimedia Commons