Love to Read? Share It With Kids on March 2: Read Across America.

“When people make the time to read with children, children get the message that reading is important.” NEA

Students, parents, teachers and people from many walks of life, will read to children March 2,  in recognition of “National Read Across America Day,” a program the National Education Association established 20 some years ago.

Athletes and actors will issue reading challenges to young readers. Governors and other elected officials will recognize the role of reading with proclamations.

Naomi Gruer, a children’s writer and preschool teacher, participated in a remote event,   “World Read Aloud Day,” a few years ago.

“Reading to kids made me so happy because, in that moment, we explored the world inside the story together.”

To prepare the children for the online experience, Naomi asked them to listen for certain things as she read — a funny incident or a silly outcome or a character acting in a peculiar way. “The minute I was on Skype with the kids, everything else melted away. It was as if I was in the classroom with them,” she said.

Later, as a Microsoft Guest Educator, she was asked by several educators to read to their students. One request came from a teacher in Spain, who wanted English to be read to her classroom.

Naomi applied the same format to all her remote classroom sessions: an introduction, followed by reading (either chapters or picture books depending on the age of the students.)

“They listened actively and were ready to point out and discuss the humor. Introducing students to my dog was the ultimate ice breaker.” Naomi blogs at https://bmoreenergy.wordpress.com

What You Can Do:

There are many free and low cost ways to provide children with books in print, online, audio and video formats. For example, the “We Need Diverse Books” program provides free diverse books to schools serving low-income students around the country.

To learn more:

Visit https://www.nea.org/professional-excellence/student-engagement/read-across-america/support-your-readers/free-materials

How to help kids develop the reading habit:

  • Keep books everywhere you spend time. Put them in the car, in every room of the house and tuck them in backpacks and purses.
  • Visit the library often. Knowing how to use the library and learning the benefits of a library fosters a love of reading as well as a genuine respect for the services libraries provide.

Do you have a favorite children’s book? Please share it in the Comment section.

Marilyn Ostermiller is a long-time journalist and voracious reader of  children’s books.

Kindness: How Can You Make a Difference?

Kindness is the language which the deaf can hear and the blind can see.” – Mark Twain

In a world where we are bombarded by mean words, negative news, and depressing events, it sometimes feels like kindness is hard to find. Even though we are still in the middle of Covid and social distancing, we can spread kindness through the words we say and the things we do.

Wednesday, February 17, 2021 is RANDOM ACTS OF KINDNESS DAY. This is a day set aside to reflect on how we might be kind to our fellow man. Buy the person standing in line behind you  a cup of coffee. Pay for the gasoline of the car behind you. Volunteer at a local food bank. Pay the toll of the person behind you. Give a piece of chocolate to the woman who greets you so warmly at the gym. Let the “other” person have the parking spot closer to the store. Say “Thank You” to the cashier at your favorite grocery store. Leave some home baked goodies on the doorstep of a neighbor who is alone and has not been able to get out during this time.

You get the idea.

There are so many ways we can show kindness to others. Many of us do kind things every day. But, why not make an effort to really ramp up the kind quotient on Wednesday and see how good it makes you feel. When we pass on acts of kindness, it changes the giver as well as the receiver.

For those who want to take kindness to another level, read below.

If you had $1,000.00 to spend, how would you use it to benefit your neighborhood or community?  Entrepreneur Ari Nessel of THE POLLINATION PROJECT, will grant  awards of $1,000.00 each to individuals who want to make a difference. You can apply for one of these awards at: http://www.thepollinationproject.org.

Here is a perfect opportunity to do something lasting for your neighbors, friends or town.  Pass it on. May kindness follow you wherever you go.

I’ll leave you with one of the verses from my recent middle grade book WISHES, DARES, AND HOW TO STAND UP TO A BULLY (Creston).

KIND
What kind of ice cream do you like, Cody? asks Gran
when we’re sitting around the table.
Everyone has a scoop of
chocolate
vanilla
strawberry
butter pecan
or orange sherbet.

Cody looks at Jill with her scoop
of strawberry and says, The same
as Jill, I guess.
You hate strawberry ice cream, Cody, Jill says.
You hate anything with strawberries, remember?
Cody sighs, frowns,
shakes his head. Then I don’t know what kind, he says.

Jill looks like she might cry
until Katy smiles, pats Cody’s arm.
Taste all of them until you find
the one you like, she says.

The rest of the day is just like that, Katy doing
one kind thing after another for Cody,
Mom, Gran, Pops beaming smiles,
me and Jill staring in disbelief.

It isn’t hard to believe Katy is kind. She’s
the princess of kind everyday.
What is hard to believe is how a wish
that was supposed to help Cody
be a boy full of spirit,
a boy once kind himself,
turns him instead
into someone empty.

“Three things in human life are important:  the first is to be kind; the second is to be kind; the third is to be kind.” – Henry James

Celebrate National Bubble Gum Day: Fun Facts to Chew On!

Bubble gum was invented in 1928 by a man named Walter Diemer. He worked at a chewing gum factory (as an accountant!) and was experimenting with all kinds of gum recipes. One day, Walter came up with a formula that wasn’t as sticky as regular gum. It was also super stretchy. This meant you could blow bubbles with it. Unfortunately for Walter, he lost the recipe and had to start experimenting all over again. But after four long months, he figured out the recipe once more. And bubble gum was here to stay!

The following fun facts are from the website listed here:

https://www.uselessdaily.com/news/20-fun-facts-about-bubble-gum-list/

Kids in North America spend approximately half a billion dollars on bubble gum every year.

The largest piece of gum ever was equivalent to 10,000 pieces of chewing gum!

100,000 tons of bubble gum is chewed every year all around the world.

Chewing bubble gum is said to keep one from crying, as it reduces stress and helps in concentration.

Scientists found a 9,000-year- old wad of chewing gum in Sweden.

The average American chews around 300 sticks of gum in one year.

Another cool fact is that if your popped bubble gets stuck in your hair, you can remove it by rubbing the piece stuck with peanut butter.

A mathematician once calculated and figured out that the energy Americans expend everyday when chewing bubble gum was enough to light a city of ten million people.

By the 1940s, bubble gum had become so popular that it was included in the ration kits given to U.S. soldiers.

According to the Guinness Book of World Records, the largest bubble ever blown measured 23 inches in diameter!

Humans are the only animals on earth that chew gum. If you give a monkey a piece he will chew it for a couple of minutes, then he will take it out and stick it to his hair.

For more fun BUBBLE GUM facts, visit:

https://www.cbc.ca/kidscbc2/the-feed/seven-fun-facts-about-bubble-gum

There’s an alley in California that’s absolutely covered in gum.

It’s called Bubblegum Alley and people stop there to stick their chewed-up gum on its walls. The alleyway has been a landmark for gum-chewers for about 20 years. It now features millions of pre-chewed, colourful wads of gum. In the past, the alleyway has been completely cleaned of gum. But passersby can’t seem to stop themselves from visiting and sticking their gum to the wall. So Bubblegum Alley remains in all its gum glory!

Happy Bubble Gum Chewing!

Be a Good Cookie Baker And Help Fight Cancer.

Baking cookies is a special part of our holiday tradition .  I know it’s the same for many families.  So, while you’re making those bite-sized treats for the holiday, how about making and extra batch for a good cause.  COOKIES FOR KIDS’ CANCER bake sales have raised nearly 15 million dollars for pediatric cancer research.  They’ve also funded 100 research grants through grassroots events nationwide. http://www.cookiesforcancer.org

cookies

Toys of Yesteryear: Do Your Kids Want to Play?

When I do school visits or talk to children about my book WHEELS OF CHANGE they often want to know how kids played and entertained themselves in the early 1900’s.  Without electricity and electronic devices, children of yesteryear had to use their imagination to have a day of fun.  Inventing games and pretend play really hasn’t gone out of style – I witness it every time I visit children on the playground or during their free time.

Toys have changed however.  Many of the things children play with today require batteries and often perform only one function.  Yet there are still some toys that have stood the test of time and continue to be popular.  During my research for the book – set in 1908 – I compiled this list of the top ten toys of the era. Do any of them appear on your children’s list to Santa?

TOP TEN TOYS OF 1900-1920

  1. Teddy Bear (1902)- in honor of President Theodore Roosevelt who, on a hunting trip, had an opportunity to kill a bear and didn’t.
  2. Erector Set- invented by AC Gilbert, a gold medal Olympian in the 1908 Pole Vault.
  3. Lionel Trains (1901)
  4. Lincoln Logs (1916)
  5. Raggedy Ann Doll
  6. Radio Flyer Wagon (1917)                                
  7. Tinker Toys (1914)
  8. Crayola Crayons 8 pack (1903)
  9. Tin Toys
  10. Tiddlywinks

Baseball Cards  (1900)    Ping Pong  (1901)   Jigsaw Puzzle (1909)

Other popular toys included:  Snap Card Game, Playing cards, marbles, checkers, chess, yoyos, wooden tops, dolls.

crayons

How many of these toys do your children or grandchildren still ask for today?  When it comes to play, some things just can’t be ignored.

STEM/STEAM Students Can Rock Their World With Some At-Home Experiments:by Marilyn Ostermiller

Everyone feels like blowing off steam sometimes.

          No time like the present. November 8 is National STEM/STEAM day, the day designated to celebrate all things related to science, technology, engineering, art and math. The idea is to interest kids in exploring these disciplines because of growing demand for those skills. Government studies indicate the number of STEM jobs in America from 2001 to 2010 tripled the rate of growth in non-STEM jobs. https://nationaltoday.com/stem-steam-day/

Back to blowing off steam: One sure way is to make a paper mache volcano that erupts. The ingredients for this one, suitable for kindergarten through second grade, are common to most households:

  • cardboard
  • newspaper
  • paper cup
  • acrylic paint
  • liquid dishwashing detergent
  • red food coloring
  • baking soda
  • white distilled vinegar

Plan on two days to complete; one to make the volcano and a second to make it erupt.

 

Detailed instructions are available at https://www.thesprucecrafts.com/paper-mache-volcano-1253091

volcano school project

Education has its own rewards, but this scientific experiment that demonstrates how sugar crystals are formed, also results in sweet sticks of rock candy. Start with granulated sugar and water. Food coloring and flavoring are optional. Supplies include glass jars, wood skewers and clothes pins. Patience is required. Plan to put the crystals somewhere they won’t be disturbed for up to a week.

This Spruce Eats video provides step-by-step instructions.

https://www.thespruceeats.com/rock-candy-521016

Sugar crystal rock candy on skewers in bright red and purple

By the way, blowing off steam has two meanings. The original dates back to the 1800s when it referred to easing the pressure in a steam engine. These days it refers to relieving pent up feelings by loud talk or vigorous activity.

Here are some recent PB’s that celebrate STEM and STEAM topics and people:

makers 2

sophie cover - 3x4 - 100dpiMarilyn Ostermiller is a long-time journalism who spends much of her time writing for children and experimenting in the kitchen, often with mixed results.

Marilyn Ostermiller

Photo credit: Photo by Dominika Roseclay from Pexels

How To Make Birch Tree: An Easy Art Project For All Ages by Guy Oliveri

It is my pleasure to day to feature illustrator Guy Oliveri who will share an awesome, simple , and creative art project that requires only materials you already have at home. A perfect project for home-schooling and virtual schooling. Here’s Guy:

If parents find themselves homeschooling these days, it is important not to forget art. Here is a fall art project that I created for my students.

In this project, I tried to show that a student could use tools that may be found around the home. This not only focused on creativity but also taught a bit of critical thinking- i.e. how do you think we can make a birch tree? It is also a project that has no age boundaries.

What you’ll need:      1.png

  1. A unique background- newspaper, old book pages, music sheets (We found this old music book at a yard sale).
  2. Paint or markers to make a background
  3. Correction ribbon
  4. Correction pen
  5. A pencil
  6. A push pin or a scoring too.

2.Create your background with watercolor paint or markers. Then let dry. You can also design a background digitally then print it on your paper.

2.png

3.Using the correction ribbon, make long strokes from the bottom to the top. You can double up on the strokes to create thicker trees.

3.png

4.With the pushpin or scoring tool, (be careful) score the ribbon to create texture. I had my students make “smiles” from side to side.

4.png

5. Next, we shaded the some of the trees to separate some of the ones that over lapped one another (this added some depth).

5.png

6. Moving on… Now using the correction pen, create the smaller branches beginning at the bottom and working upward as well. Note: If the correction pen leaks out at first, simply make the base of the branch thicker and drag the excess upward. You may want to try a practice run on a separate piece of paper to determine how your pen is functioning.

6.png

7.Finally, a nice matte completes the project!

7.png 

8.Some examples of some other students work:    9.png

8.png

Guy photo.png

Guy T. Olivieri is a freelance illustrator, writer, and retired crime scene investigator. A recognized crime scene and fingerprint expert, Guy, has assisted dozens of mystery writers. He enjoys being a guest teacher of forensics and forensic entomology(the study of how insects help solve crimes) to elementary, middle school, and high school students. His whimsical and straightforward approach to police science has made him a sought out favorite with kids of all ages. He also teaches art, always encouraging kids to maintain that creative gift!
 
Website:  PrivateerArt.com
 

‘Tis the Season For: Pumpkin Picking Tips.

  • One of the most abundant and popular items seen everywhere this time of year is the PUMPKIN.  It comes in lots of sizes and shapes and is used to flavor everything from desserts, to coffee, and even soup.  Here are some FUN FACTS about this seasonal favorite as well as tips on how to choose a good pumpkin:
  • Pumpkins originated in Central America.

  • Pumpkins are really squash… members of the squash family.

  • A pumpkin is a fruit. Most people think of it as a vegetable.

  • Pumpkins are 90% water. 

  • The largest pumpkin ever grown is 2,323.7 pounds.   You can see it here:  http://www.pumpkinnook.com/giants/giantpumpkins.htm

For more fun PUMPKIN facts visit: http://gardenersnet.com/fun/pumpkintrivia.htm

How to Select Perfect Pumpkins:

Select pumpkins that are completely orange. A partially green pumpkin might not ripen any further.  Be sure it is not too heavy to carry safely.  You might want to bring along a wagon to carry your pumpkin(s).

Use medium pumpkins for carving into a Jack O Lantern. Small pumpkins are better for cooking and baking.   

A ripe pumpkin has a hard shell that does not dent easily when pressing on it with a thumbnail.  Examine the entire pumpkin carefully for soft spots. If you find even one soft spot, try another pumpkin.

If you don’t plan on cutting your pumpkin into a Jack-O-Lantern, it will last well into Thanksgiving and beyond.   

Become a Naturalist

Ah Summer! There is so much about this time of year that brings out poetry, curiosity and a sense that anything is possible. When the kids get restless and itchy, take a break from video games and household routines and explore the natural world. To make it a more interesting adventure, become Naturalists and record the days observations and sightings. You can do this and still be faithful to social distancing and keeping one another safe. All you need is the following, all of which will fit in a backpack:

1. A pair of binoculars for zooming in on birds or other elusive wildlife. A magnifying glass for closeups of insects and plant life.

2. A Field Guide of insects and birds of North America.  There are many excellent ones you can borrow from a local library or download onto your Kindle or iphone. You can track and input what birds you see on Cornell University’s Lab of Ornithology.   http://www.birds.cornell.edu  or by downloading the eBird app. 

3. A journal or notebook will help you record sights, sounds, names of animals and plants you discover, and details to use in writing a story or drawing a picture when you get back home.

4. A camera.

5. Comfortable shoes, water, snacks.

TallTreesLittleKids

Try an outing at different times of day. What is awake in the early morning hours may be totally different from what is active mid day or at sunset. If you’re having difficulty finding “critters”, be still and listen to the sounds of nature. This stillness often leads to amazing discoveries. It will definitely bring you peace and calm your stress. If you’re near water, turn over some rocks at the water’s edge. There are many hatching insects under them to marvel at.

And, like every good naturalist, remember to leave only footprints, and take only pictures and memories, and bring back any trash left behind by the human animal, so we can enjoy the natural world for years to come.

Caring For Baby Birds All Summer Long.

It’s summer!
If you’ve maintained a wild bird backyard habitat throughout winter, you can continue through summer with added benefits. Providing food, water and shelter encourages birds to build a home and raise young when resources are plentiful. Fill a suet feeder with nesting supplies such as yarn threads, strands of hair, and broom bristles. Keep a part of your yard “natural” with a pile of leaves and pine needles, to offer a variety of supplies for birds to choose from. Keep your eyes out the window and take note to which birds make use of your materials.

bird in tree

Many birds will make their nest in close proximity to humans. Robins and mourning doves are known for making nests in shrubs, trees or on wooden ledges under decks. Swallows will build a nest from mud and attach it to the side of the house. Wrens love small bird houses and especially those that can safely swing in the breeze. Be on the lookout for neighborhood cats who like to lunch on unsuspecting baby birds. Snakes can also end the enjoyment of raising baby birds in your yard. I don’t recommend killing snakes as they also provide an important service in the ecosystem, but it’s never a good day, when a snake is found inside a nest box full of black-capped chickadees.     bird 1

In addition to prey, another hazard for baby birds is falling from the nest. If a baby bird found is very small and most likely dead, it has been pushed out by more aggressive siblings or from nest over load. If you find a baby bird that has feathers and can hop but cannot fly, it is most likely a fledgling, just learning to fly. Contrary to popular belief it is OK to pick up and replace the baby to its nest. Or, if it looks like the parents are attentive, leave it alone. If you cannot find the nest, place the bird in a tissue lined box in the same location in which it was found. Watch to see if the parents return to feed. Many do. If after a few hours you can’t be sure the parents are around, your best option is to take the baby to a local wildlife center. The people there will nurture the baby until it can survive on its own and usually return the bird to its original locale.           bird 2

Woodford Cedar Run Wildlife Refuge is in southern New Jersey and takes in wildlife of all varieties.
6 Sawmill Rd, Medford, NJ 08055
(856) 983-3329
http://www.cedarrun.org

Another note of caution, be careful of tree cutting in the spring and summer. Many nests have been dislocated when unsuspecting tree cutters take down a bird’s summer home.

bird nest

Taking care of our feathered friends can be a rewarding and enjoyable experience for young and old alike. Why not invite some birds into your backyard this summer?

Shiela Fuller has been a Cornell University Project Feeder Watch participant for many years and an avid birder since 1988. Currently, she enjoys writing picture books, yoga, chicken raising, wildlife photography, and is the legacy keeper for her family.