Category Archives: Childhood

Dear World

 Eight year old Bana Alabed narrates a tragic story in the book Dear World.  She and her family lived in Aleppo Syria and Bana started a Twitter account to describe the horror and deprivation her family was experiencing. She garnered nearly 400,000 followers.  Bana’s family has now escaped to Turkey where they have become citizens and Bana and her mother have written a book about their family’s experiences that has been published by Simon and Schuster.  

I had heard nothing about the book before I read it myself and I was moved and mournful as Bana described the terror of bombing raids, the agony of hiding for hours on end in cold and dirty basements, the stark reality of having little or no food to eat, the fear of dodging bullets to get water, the disappointment of having her school destroyed, the anxiety of seeing her family separated and the sadness of losing her dearest friend in a bombing.  

The city of Aleppo where Bana’s family lived

After finishing Dear World which includes a response from Bana’s mother Fatemah at the end of each chapter, I went online to learn more about it and now I am not at all sure what I think of the book.  Many Amazon reviewers, the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation, and a host of websites have questioned the veracity of Bana’s tweets and her narrative in the book.  Even in favourable articles like this one in the New Yorker there are suggestions that Bana’s videos on Twitter are too scripted and that she is being coached. Critics say in interviews Bana simply doesn’t exhibit a good enough knowledge of the English language to have written the tweets she did.  Some even accuse her parents of being aligned with terrorist organizations. Since the announcement of her book launch some of her more political tweets have been removed from her feed. 

Yet I am left thinking …….. Would Simon and Schuster publish her book if they didn’t think it was true and would author J.K. Rowling be Bana’s number one fan and supporter if her story wasn’t verifiable? It’s hard to know. 

The bottom line is that the war in Syria has been devastating for thousands of children.  If Bana Alabed’s story brings attention to their plight and inspires people to help them that’s a good thing.  But it is not a good thing if questions about Bana’s motivations and authenticity does anything to hinder bringing support and aid to the refugee children of Syria .  I am not sorry I read Dear World.  I wish I could still take its very sad story at face value. 

Other posts……….

Meeting the Street Children of Delhi

Standing Up For Children

Thoughts About Children

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Filed under Books, Childhood, Politics

The 4 Ms

Dave and I had supper at an Academy Road restaurant last week.  Adjacent to us a young family was having a meal.  Throughout the supper the parents were talking with one another but the two children were on their i-pads the whole time.   They put down their devices only to take bites of their food.  That’s a phenomena I also observe often with children who are traveling on the bus with their parents.  Both parent and child have their eyes fixated on their phones and don’t interact at all.  

canadian pediatric society screen timeThe Canadian Paediatric Society has published sensible guidelines for the use of electronic devices for kids with warnings to minimize, mitigate, be mindful and model  behavior when it comes to screen time.  Sometimes I feel like printing  copies and handing them out in restaurants, on buses and in other public places. 

Other posts…………

Technology and Family Time at a Resort

Technology Transforms Travel

What’s the Best Way to Raise Children? 

 

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Filed under Childhood, Media

I Just Won A Cache of Great Children’s Books

I had the winning bid!  I am a member of the Manitoba Writers Guild and we’ve been having an online auction to raise funds for our organization.  I bid on a selection of children’s books from Portage and Main Press here in Winnipeg and ended up posting the winning bid.  It’s a big win for our church library too because that’s where I’m going to place the books.  We have been trying to add more books that reflect an indigenous perspective to our library, and while we have quite a good collection of adult books I hadn’t added any indigenous books to the children’s section. Now I can.

My prize package included……………….

When We Were Alone written by David Alexander Robinson and illustrated by Julie Flett.  The book is this year’s winner of the Governer General’s Literary Award. A grandmother tells her granddaughter about her experience in residential school in a way that connects with young children at just the right level largely because it is told in the context of the love that is clearly shared between the grandmother and granddaughter in the story.

Nimoshom and His Bus written by Penny Thomas and illustrated by Karen Hibbard was just launched on Thursday night at McNallly Robinson. Nimoshom is a school bus driver who introduces the kids on his route to new words in Cree.

Where Did You Get Your Moccasins written by Brenda Wheeler and illustrated by Herman Bekkering.  A young boy does a ‘show and tell’ talk at school about the moccasins his grandmother made for him. 

I Can’t Have Bannock But the Beaver Has a Dam is also by Brenda Wheeler and Herman Bekkering.    A boy listens patiently as his mother explains why she can’t make bannock- all as a result of the beaver’s need to build a dam. Powwow Counting in Cree by Penny Thomas and Melinda Josie is a unique book for young children that teaches counting from one to ten in the Cree language while enriching children’s knowledge of the Cree culture.  

I am grateful to Portage and Main Press for their donation of books to the auction.  I am grateful to the Manitoba Writers Guild for staging the auction. And I am grateful to the writers and illustrators who are creating such beautiful books to help Canadian children learn about an important part of their country’s heritage. 

Other posts……….

Books That Are Perfect For Preschoolers

Classic Children’s Christmas Books

Picture Books Have Changed

 

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Why Four Grandmothers?

I was guiding a group of grade sevens through the art gallery.  We stopped to look at Dee Barsy’s artwork about her four grandmothers.  “Why would someone have four grandmothers?”  I asked.  One girl’s hand shot up.  “Probably all her grandmothers are lesbians,” she said matter of factly.  I hadn’t thought of that as a possible answer but it was  certainly a valid explanation of why someone might have four grandmothers.

Four Grandmothers by Dee Barsy

I did tell the children that Dee Barsy was adopted and her painting depicted both her two biological and two adoptive grandmothers. But I thought it was great that it seemed perfectly natural to the young girl on my tour that someone’s  grandmothers might be lesbians.

Older people may still be struggling with the idea of same sex relationships but for the up and coming generation it is something quite natural and unremarkable.

Other posts……..

Four Grandmothers

 

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Filed under Childhood, Family

Images of Steinbach

This week a Facebook friend who is working on a project connected to my hometown of Steinbach asked me if I could send her some photographic images of the community.  I wasn’t sure I if I had many but when I started looking I was surprised to find quite a few.  Here are five I sent to my Facebook friend.

church mennonite heritage village museum

Church at the Mennonite Heritage Museum. When I was a little girl my grandparents’ attended a church like this where men and women sat on different sides of the sanctuary.

love for learning sculpture steinbach

Steinbach Cultural Arts Centre- site of the first public library in Steinbach with a sculpture that pays tribute to learning and education in the community. The centre was once the site of the Steinbach high school. I attended junior high there.

bridge ad penner park steinbach

Bridge at AD Penner Park. On my early morning walks in Steinbach I always stopped at this beautiful spot to think about my family and pray for them.

kornelson school mural- steinbach - davey penner

Mural in downtown Steinbach of Kornelsen School. I attended grade three and four there.

windmill

Windmill at the Steinbach Mennonite Heritage Village Museum. When the original mill was destroyed by fire the community rallied together quickly to build a new one. 

I haven’t lived in Steinbach for over a decade but it is where I grew up, where I raised my children, where I spent the bulk of my teaching career, where I continue to write for the local newspaper and where we still have so many friends. Finding these photos reminded me of that!

Other posts…….

A Lovely Day in Steinbach

Steinbach Pride- Homecoming, Forgiveness and Hope

 

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Filed under Canada, Childhood

Riding the Bus Alone at Age 5

When I was five years old I started grade one at Marion School in St. Boniface. My father was an intern at the St. Boniface Hospital and so our family lived in a large apartment block on the hospital grounds. While my father put in long hours at the hospital my mother was home caring for me, my infant brother and three year old sister. Our family did not have a car. So when September rolled around and it was time for me to start grade one the only practical solution for transportation to school was that I take a city bus. And I did. Alone. Mom walked me to the stop at first with my younger siblings in tow but after awhile I walked on my own. I remember riding the bus and can still recall the face of one of the drivers who was often assigned to my route. I sat on the long front seat right near the driver.

I thought of my grade one experience when I read a Macleans magazine article about Adrian Crook a single father of five in Vancouver. His oldest four children aged 7, 8, 9, and 11 have been riding a city bus to school on their own for two years. His children have been doing this without incident and in fact he has received affirmations from other bus riders complimenting him on how well behaved his children are. But an anonymous report to the B.C. ministry of Child and Family Development has resulted in Mr. Crook being ordered to accompany his children to school on the bus. Mr. Crook had practiced the bus route with his children many times before allowing them to travel on their own. His kids were acquainted with the bus drivers on their route and the children carried a cell phone to call their father if they had any problems. But one report from someone Mr. Crook doesn’t even know has changed everything. Mr. Crook’s case is getting national attention because it addresses the issue of how we can keep children safe while still allowing them to grow up to be independent and responsible.

Mr. Crook argues that evidence and not fear should dictate the rules in cases like his. Buses are twenty four times safer than cars and in Canada your child has the same risk of being struck by lightning as they do of being kidnapped by a stranger. Criminal activity in Canada is lower than it’s been in some forty years. Mr. Crook believes that should prove he is not being irresponsible about allowing his children to take the bus alone to school. Other people seem to agree with him because a Go Fund Me page to help Mr. Crook mount a legal challenge against the ministry has already received $25,000.

I lived in Hong Kong for six years and there children took public transportation on their own all the time. They wore their transportation identity cards around their necks on lanyards and happily rode around the city unaccompanied by an adult. No one seemed overly concerned about their safety.

I certainly don’t believe my parents were negligent in allowing me to ride the bus to school on my own. Yet when I think of my own five- year- old grandson riding the bus alone in the large Canadian city where he lives, I admit to strong misgivings. Why is that? Why do we think the world has become a much more dangerous place all evidence to the contrary? And how is that belief impacting the way our children grow up?

Other posts………

Standing Up For Children

What’s the Best Way to Raise Children

Technology and Family Time

 

 

 

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Filed under Childhood, Education

My Childhood Reading Heaven

Revisiting the Good Will store on Princess Street

The GoodWill store on Princess Street in Winnipeg was a place of wonder and delight for me as a child. The store has changed somewhat since I used to visit there in the 1960s but one thing hasn’t changed. On the far wall just where they’ve always been, are rows and rows and rows of books from the floor to the ceiling. The shelves of the Good Will Store were one of my main sources for reading material when I was a child. We lived in Steinbach which didn’t have a public library till 1973, the year I turned twenty. Our Steinbach church didn’t have a library yet, in fact we didn’t even have a building. We met for services in a school basement.  The old Kornelson School where I first attended classes in Steinbach didn’t have a library either and Steinbach didn’t have a book store.  Perhaps because I had been read to often when I was a child, I grew up loving books and read voraciously. On family trips my Mom would tell me to get my nose out of my book and look at the scenery. Here I am setting off for my first day of school with a book in hand. I could read before I started grade one. So what was a girl who loved to read and had no access to books in her home town to do? My reading salvation lay at the Good Will store.  On trips to Winnipeg my Mom often made a stop at Good Will and patiently waited while I picked out books to read. Books were 5 cents each.  On my birthday my Grandma and Grandpa always sent me a one dollar bill in my birthday card. That was 20 books! Should I choose a Nancy Drew, Cherry Ames, Box Car Children, Elsie Dinsmore, Bobbsey Twins, or another book in the Anne of Green Gables series or Little House series? I was in heaven in the GoodWill Store! All those books! The Good Will store on Princess Street offered me reading salvation as a child. I’m glad kids today have many more options for gaining access to books. 

Other posts……..

Who Do Family Stories Belong To?

Agatha Christie’s First Trip on the Orient Express

Lesson Not Required

 

 

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Filed under Books, Childhood, Winnipeg