Category Archives: Childhood

Healthier Kids

I was visiting a school and kids at a table just outside the gym door were selling treats to raise funds for a class outing.  “Will you buy something?” they entreated.  

“What do you have that’s healthy?”  I asked.  They were stymied. They had a wide variety of chocolate bars, chips and baked goods for sale.  They suggested a fruit juice box but a quick check of the label revealed it was packed with sugar.  The only healthy thing I could find were sticks of cheese.  The irony of the sales table being just outside the gym door where the kids take their Physical Well Being classes wasn’t lost on me. 

There were lots of positives to the kids’ sales venture. They were learning how to interact politely with the public, how to handle and count money, the importance of managing costs and profits and they were working together to achieve a goal.  Could they had learned those things just as well if their sales table had featured fruits and vegetables, popcorn, yogurt, sunflower seeds, pistachios and whole grain or rice crackers? I understand those things might have been hard to sell.

It will take some doing to get kids to think healthy treats can be just as delicious and satisfying as unhealthy ones.  But it’s a change of perspective families, schools and governments need to work at seriously if we are going to combat childhood obesity and promote more healthy lifestyles for kids.   Thinking about what kinds of things we sell for fundraisers- cookies, candies and chocolates might be a good place to start. 

Other posts………

Eat Like You Give A Damn

Healthy Environments- Not Gyms or Arenas

Food Rules

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Filed under Childhood, Education, Food

Getting To Know Emma Donoghue in Person

Emma was interviewed at McNally Robinson Booksellers by Winnipeg International Writer’s Festival Director Charlene Diehl

Emma Donoghue’s latest book is set in a Toronto mansion with thirty- two rooms. The house is inhabited by two sets of gay parents, seven children named after trees, a frightened cat, inquisitive rat, crippled parrot and three-legged dog.

You might know Emma as the author of Room. She also wrote the Oscar nominated screenplay for the movie based on the novel. I had the pleasure of hearing her interviewed at Winnipeg’s McNally Robinson Book Sellers last week.

Emma, the author of several successful adult novels is currently promoting a new project, a book for children called The Lotterys Plus One. Emma wants to show readers just how diverse families can be and The Lotterys Plus One certainly does that. The four parents in the novel come from India, Jamaica, Scotland and the Mohawk Nation. Many of the seven children are adopted. One has attention deficit disorder, another a physical disability, and a third gender identity issues.

Striking illustrations like this one by Caroline Hadilaksono help readers sort out all the characters in The Lotterys Plus One. 

The children are all home schooled and the parents don’t work because long ago they found a winning lottery ticket that left them financially set for life. Things are ticking along as normally as can be expected in this unusual household until a grandfather moves in because he is suffering from dementia. How will the family cope with this cantankerous newcomer?

We learned quite a bit about Emma’s personal and family life from her talk with Charlene Diehl

Author Emma Donoghue grew up in a large Catholic family in Dublin Ireland but now lives in London, Ontario where she parents two children with her partner Chris. Emma told us she used some of her own parenting experiences in The Lotterys Plus One. For example the children in the novel get head lice, something that has happened several times to Emma’s children. Emma says when her children do something funny or interesting she will ask them, “Can I use that for one of my book characters?”

I was curious how Emma had found the switch from writing for adults to writing for children. She says writing for children is much harder. It took her six years to write The Lotterys Plus One. She is a busy woman with as many as ten writing projects on the go at once, short stories, poetry, novels, screenplays and children’s books. She collects ideas for all ten projects in separate files on her phone. She finds inspiration everywhere and making notes in her phone is the handiest way to keep a record of things as soon as she sees or experiences them. Later she transfers these files to her computer.

Emma answers questions from the audience

After Emma’s interview the audience had a chance to ask her questions. One young girl said she wanted her mother to write books too and asked Emma if she could teach her Mom how to write a book. Emma said, “Everyone has a book in them. Your Mom does too. She just needs the time and space to write it.”

Another audience member said she had never seen the movie Room because there was no way it could compare to the book. Emma said she loves the movie version of Room. She thinks the director did a marvelous job with her story.

I asked her what books she had read as a child and she said pretty much anything but did mention Jane Austen, Enid Blyton and C.S. Lewis. She said she had loved fairy tales.

My friend Wendy getting her copy The Lotterys Plus One signed by Emma Donoghue

Her new book is a bit of a modern fairy tale and I think Emma knows that, but she also hopes the diverse family in The Lotterys Plus One will help her readers realize it can be enriching and positive to have an open mind about what  we consider to be “ideal” when it comes to family life.

Other posts………

Writing For Children- Not As Easy As I Thought

Writer or Palaeontologist?

Chocogasm Course at McNally Robinson Booksellers

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Filed under Books, Canada, Childhood, Writing

Standing Up For Children

children of war pixabay no copyrightChildren do not choose to be refugees or immigrants. They accompany their families seeking shelter, freedom from persecution, and opportunities to contribute to society. Before leaving their home country, many children and their families experience violence, hunger, separation and other atrocities that may have long-lasting effects on their health and development. Children must be offered protection, care and support to live healthy, meaningful lives.

That’s the first paragraph in a very timely and important statement issued on Monday by the Canadian Paediatric Society. I am proud to say my daughter-in-law serves on their Board of Directors. The stand these Canadian doctors have taken is admirable. In light of the American president’s recent executive order they are calling on the Canadian government to………

  • Increase the number of refugees who will be accepted to Canada in 2017.
  • Increase the number of privately-sponsored refugees from Iraq and Syria who can come to Canada in 2017.
  • Continue to ensure that Canadians with dual citizenship from one of the seven countries affected by the U.S. ban are able to cross the U.S. border with a valid Canadian passport.
  • Suspend the Safe Third Country Agreement with the United States, so that refugees refused entry into the United States can come to Canada.
  • Lead a global response to refugee resettlement.      

You can read the entire statement here. 

Other posts……

Thoughts on Refugees

Supporting Refugees

Brave Shepherds

 

                                                                                       

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Filed under Canada, Childhood, Politics

Lesson Not Required

stone-soupShould a children’s book teach a lesson?  Yesterday I noticed a call on Facebook from a former student of mine who is now a teacher. She was asking people to share names of good children’s picture books that teach a lesson.  

not-afraid-of-anythingThis caught my attention because I write stories for children. When I am preparing a manuscript for submission I always carefully read the instructions from the book publisher or magazine editor about what they are looking for from perspective authors. Many clearly state they are NOT looking for children’s stories that teach a lesson. one-dog-canoeThey are most concerned about whether a story is written in a way that will capture the reader’s interest  and not whether it will indoctrinate children with some moral truth or teach them a life lesson in an overt way. 

andy-and-the-lion I think the very best picture books motivate each reader, whether that is the child listening to the picture book, or the adult reading it to them, to think about something new or consider something familiar in a new way.  And that something  can be different for every reader. going-on-a-bear-hunt

This post features a few of the many picture books my grandson and I have enjoyed together in the last four years.  These six are examples of books he has asked me to read to him over and over again and because of that I assume he thinks they are good books.   He and I have never discussed whether they teach a lesson, but I looked each one up online and apparently every one of them teaches children many lessons.  I’m glad my grandson and I didn’t know what they were.sylvester-and-the-magic-pebble

Other posts………

Picture Books Have Changed

Perfect for Pre-Schoolers

Remembering Maurice Sendak

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Filed under Books, Childhood, Education

A World of Faith

John Hull a British religious educator says, “Religion is a major source of conflict in our world. People won’t be at peace till religions are at peace. It must be part of every child’s education that they learn to respect other religions and understand them.”A-World-of-Faith-Stack-Peggy-9781560851165

A World of Faith by Peggy Fletcher Stack is one resource for inter-faith education I can recommend. The book explains in “kid friendly” language the principles of twenty eight different religious groups. It introduces children to the founders of each faith and tells them about the practices and rituals of that particular spiritual tradition. Even more enlightening than its words are the illustrations by Kathleen Peterson. She has created a collage of colorful images that bring to life the important aspects of each faith group. All the pictures have interesting borders which detail symbols central to the religion described on the page. This is an excellent book for parents to read with their children and use as a starting point for discussion about how other faiths are similar and different from their own. I have placed a copy in our church library.

Other posts…….

Freedom’s Child

Responding To Changing Understandings of Sexual Orientation and Gender Identity

The Children Are Watching

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Filed under Childhood, Education

Winnie the Pooh is From Winnipeg

harry colebournDid you know Winnie the Pooh was from Winnipeg? A statue at Assiniboine Park helps tell the story. 

harry-coleburn-and-winnie public domain wikipediaHarry Colebourn was born in England in 1887 and immigrated to Canada at age 18. After graduating as a veterinarian from a Ontario college he moved to Winnipeg. He joined the army during World War I and on his way to a training camp in Quebec he bought a bear cub. The train had made a stop at White River, Ontario and there Harry met a hunter who sold him a female bear cub for $20. The hunter had killed its mother. Harry named the bear Winnie after his adopted home city of Winnipeg. Harry was posted to England and took Winnie with him where she quickly became the mascot of Harry’s regiment, The Fort Garry Horse. Harry was the regiment’s veterinarian. When Harry was sent to France for three years he put Winnie in the London Zoo.

aa milne and son public domainWhen author A. A. Milne visited the London Zoo with his son Christopher, the young boy immediately fell in love with Winnie the bear cub and named his teddy bear after Winnie. That teddy bear would become the main character in a series of stories his father would write about Winnie the Pooh.

After the war Major Harry Colebourn decided to leave Winnie in the London Zoo and went back to Winnipeg where he practiced veterinary medicine till just a couple of years prior to his death in 1947.

A. A. Milne’s books about Winnie the Pooh became beloved pieces of children’s literature read around the world. Later Walt Disney turned the stories into a movie and television series.

winnie the pooh statue assiniboine parkThis statue just outside the Children’s Nature Playground at Assiniboine Park recognizes the connection between Winnipeg and the literary character Winnie the Pooh. A plaque nearby explains the story of Harry Colebourn. His impetuous decision to purchase a bear cub and name it after Winnipeg had consequences that reached far beyond anything he might have imagined.

Other posts……

Did you Know James Bond Was From Winnipeg?

Winnipeg’s Millennium Library

A Quick Visit to Assiniboine Park

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Filed under Books, Childhood, Winnipeg

Freedom’s Child

“I like me! No doubt about it. I like you. Can’t live without out! We are free! Let’s shout about it! Hooray for freedom’s child.”

i am freedom's childThat mantra is adapted from Freedom’s Child written by children’s  author Bill Martin in 1970.  I learned it at an educational conference I attended in 1979 at the University of North Dakota. We recited it every day. 

me and bill martin

Me and Bill Martin in 1979

For a week children’s author Bill Martin and his colleagues introduced us to poetry and music and wonderful books and great children’s authors. One of the things they talked to us about was how good literature could change children’s lives by making them more open minded and caring, giving them a window into a world where people liked themselves and accepted and liked others, even if they were very different than they were.

As I  follow the American election campaign I’ve considered sending some voters and politicians a copy of I Am Freedom’s Child. They need to take to heart its message that acceptance of all kinds of people and their differences is necessary to make freedom’s dream come true. 

Other posts………..

I’m So Tired of You America

A Bible on the Ballot Box

A Fire Changed Her Life

 

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Filed under Books, Childhood, Politics