Tag Archives: children

Why Does Santa Wear Red by Meera Lester

Why-Does-Santa-Wear-Red

This is such a fun book for anyone who loves Christmas, fun facts, yummy recipes, crafts, pop culture, home decorating, traditions from around the world,  history….I love it! I haven’t even finished reading it from end to end (so far, I’ve zeroed in on information about Santa and Christmas traditions (in North America)). But, I would like to share a few interesting tidbits with you:

  • Christmas was illegal in New England until 1681 and “it was only in the years after the [civil] war that Christmas began to win slow acceptance as a cause for revelry in various regions of the United States, and only at the dawn of the nineteenth century did any meaningful references to the man we would call Santa Claus begin to appear.” (Christmas was illegal????)
  • Why Does Santa Ride a Reindeer-Driven Sleigh? Santa flying around in a sleigh pulled by one reindeer…had long been popular in Russia where Father Frost arrived in villages in a reindeer-drawn sleigh. The Norse god Wodin was said to ride his horse Sleipner through the air to make sure people were behaving; in Holland, Santa rides Sleipner to this day.”
  • Why a Red Suit? Think bishop’s cape and you have the answer. Nicholas…..was the bishop of the church at Smyrna (Izmir in modern Turkey). He lived during the fourth century and was known to be kind and generous to children, especially to the very poor, giving away his wealth to them. Tradition states that he tossed special little gifts or bags of gold to them through open windows or down chimneys.”
  • “The earliest Christmas ornaments consisted of edible goodies, typically fruits and nuts. Eventually, these made way for cookies, candy and cakes….the first commercial ornaments for Christmas trees were actually hollow, brightly colored containers that held good things to eat….originally, trees were the means by which presents were displayed  on Christmas morning before their owners claimed them.”
  • Why are red and green the colors of Christmas? No one really knows for sure, but there have been plenty of educated guesses. Green….is the color of the evergreens that symbolize so much that is important to the meaning of the holiday….the holly berry seems to be responsible for the red. This red berry lives through winter, thus symbolizing life in the face of death, a representation of Christ.”

Finally, (and this is not in the book, but it is for real) if you are planning to write to Santa Claus, you have until December 17. Yup, you can write to Santa and he will write back. You can write by regular mail to this address:

Santa Claus

North Pole HOH OHO

Canada

(No need to attach a stamp, if you’re mailing your letter from Canada.)

Or, click here to send an email.

MERRY CHRISTMAS EVERYONE!

letterstosanta

Photo credit 1, Photo credit 2

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The Benefits of Reading Together

    1. A stronger relationship with you. As your child grows older, he’ll be on the move—playing, running, and constantly exploring his environment. Snuggling up with a book lets the two of you slow down and recaptures that sweet, cuddly time you enjoyed when he was a baby. Instead of being seen as a chore or a task, reading will become a nurturing activity that will bring the two of you closer together.
    2. Academic excellence. One of the primary benefits of reading to toddlers and preschoolers is a higher aptitude for learning in general. Numerous studies have shown that students who are exposed to reading before preschool are more likely to do well in all facets of formal education. After all, if a student struggles to put together words and sentences, how can he be expected to grasp the math, science, and social concepts he’ll be presented with when he begins elementary school?
    3. Basic speech skills. Throughout toddlerhood and preschool, your child is learning critical language and enunciation skills. By listening to you read One Fish Two Fish Red Fish Blue Fish, your child is reinforcing the basic sounds that form language. “Pretend reading”—when a toddler pages through a book with squeals and jabbers of delight—is a very important pre-literacy activity. As a preschooler, your child will likely begin sounding out words on his own.
    4. The basics of how to read a book. Children aren’t born with an innate knowledge that text is read from left to right, or that the words on a page are separate from the images. Essential pre-reading skills like these are among the major benefits of early reading.
    5. Better communication skills. When you spend time reading to toddlers, they’ll be much more likely to express themselves and relate to others in a healthy way. By witnessing the interactions between the characters in the books you read, as well as the contact with you during story time, your child is gaining valuable communication skills.
    6. Mastery of language. Early reading for toddlers has been linked to a better grasp of the fundamentals of language as they approach school age.
    7. More logical thinking skills. Another illustration of the importance of reading to children is their ability to grasp abstract concepts, apply logic in various scenarios, recognize cause and effect, and utilize good judgment. As your toddler or preschooler begins to relate the scenarios in books to what’s happening in his own world, he’ll become more excited about the stories you share.
    8. Acclamation to new experiences. As your child approaches a major developmental milestone or a potentially stressful experience, sharing a relevant story is a great way to help ease the transition. For instance, if your little one is nervous about starting preschool, reading a story dealing with this topic shows her that her anxiety is normal.
    9. Enhanced concentration and discipline. Toddlers may initially squirm and become distracted during story time, but eventually they’ll learn to stay put for the duration of the book. Along with reading comprehension comes a stronger self-discipline, longer attention span, and better memory retention, all of which will serve your child well when she enters school.
    10. The knowledge that reading is fun! Early reading for toddlers helps them view books as an indulgence, not a chore. Kids who are exposed to reading are much more likely to choose books over video games, television, and other forms of entertainment as they grow older.

Source, Picture credit

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And Tango Makes Three by Justin Richardson and Peter Parnell

“And Tango Makes Three” is the true story of 3 penguins at the Central Park Zoo in New York City. It is the loveliest children’s book about love and patience, heterosexuality and homosexuality, families, cooperation and penguin behaviour. But, most of all it’s about love.

Roy and Silo are 2 boy-penguins, who picked each other during  the time that comes every year when “the girl penguins start noticing the boy penguins. And the boy penguins start noticing the girls.” And they do everything together, including making  a home together, “just like the other penguin couples”.

Roy and Silo want a baby very much, but it’s the one thing that they aren’t able to do like the other penguins. Until, one day….

The story is written by an assistant professor of psychiatry (Justin Richardson) and a playwright (Peter Parnell) and is so gentle and tender, it will touch your heart. If you want to introduce a young child to concepts that some find difficult to talk about, just give them this book and they will understand everything they need to know.

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The book has won many awards and, stirred up a lot of controversy since it suggests that Roy and Silo are gay. If you’d like to know more about homosexual behaviour among animals, click here.

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Teddy Bear vs. the Monsters in Your Room

Is this not the best picture you’ve seen? (At least, lately?)

I came across it on Facebook by chance; it’s by Begemott and it’s called “Sweet Halloween Dreams”.

But, it just says it all in terms of the function of a teddy bear, doesn’t it? Or, maybe, Teddy could be a representation of your bit of courage standing up to your fears in general. Or David and Goliath….or some other metaphor…

Does anyone have stories to share about their teddy bears or childhood fears of the dark? I never had a toy to sleep with, but I did endow my duvet with powers of protection.

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The Little Mole by Zdenek Miler

Today, I thought I’d turn my flashlight on the Little Mole, a cartoon character from the Czech Republic, first created in 1956.

He is probably more popular today than ever. (Last year the Little Mole even flew to outer space with NASA.) He is the star of many books and cartoons that demonstrate caring, sharing, cooperation, hard work, ingenuity and resilience and that encourage children to acquire knowledge and skills by following the Little Mole’s example. Part of what makes the Little Mole different is that there’s nearly no dialogue; most of the verbal communication is emotional exclamations, which adds to his innocence and, perhaps, partly explains his popularity in over 80 countries (ie. no dubbing required).

Have a look a the Little Mole in action and you may fall in love with him too: The Mole and the Snowman.

The Little Mole and his friends

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Go the Fuck to Sleep by Adam Mansbach

I LOVE kids. I often ask God why I can’t have any.

Kids love me. It is not unusual for them to follow me around as if I were the Pied Piper.

But, I can understand some to the frustration that comes from being around small children. So does the author of “Go the Fuck to Sleep”.

The book is written in verse from the perspective of a frustrated parent whose child refuses to go to sleep. The first two lines of each verse begins much like something you’d read to a child to persuade them to sleep; the second two lines express the frustration and refer to all the ways that young children try to get out of sleeping. Then, it just moves into the frustration of having a whole evening ruined.

“The tiger reclines in the simmering jungle,

The sparrow has silenced her cheep,

Fuck your stuffed bear, I’m not getting you shit,

Close your eyes. Cut the crap. Sleep.”

You will be able to relate and you will laugh out loud.

The “clean” version of the book that I found at Octopus Books.

Related: What I should be doing – Samuel L. Jackson reads “Go the Fuck to Sleep”

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The Little Mermaid by Hans Christian Andersen

This is soooo exciiiiiiiiting! I’ve been looking for this movie forever and now it’s here AND with English subtitles….therefore, I can share it! (O.K. I must calm myself…breeeeathe) I have LOVED Hans Christian Andersen since my Mom bought me a book of his stories in grade 2. (I will gush about that excessively in a future post.) I have loved this movie even longer. It is one of my all time favourite fairy tales.

I am SO happy that I can share this! Seriously. (I see that the earlier effort to calm down hasn’t worked, nevertheless, let’s proceed.)

Here it is: The Little Mermaid, in the original Czech with English subtitles.

(If you have any interest in this, please, see it as soon as possible…who knows how long it will be up there.)

P.S. I have cried buckets at the point where…alright, maybe, not everyone knows the story, so I will only give away the ending partially…towards the end, since I was 5 years old. Tell me that you didn’t do the same…(I think you will :))

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Here Comes the Festival of Trees!

It’s actually not about trees (much to my surprise). It’s an annual festival, organized by the Ontario Library Organization that encourages reading across the province and recognizes Canadian children’s books authors and illustrators. It’s also a great opportunity to meet some of your favourite authors and illustrators and to participate in games and win prizes.

I had a wonderful opportunity to speak with Meredith Tutching, Program Coordinator, from her office in Toronto:

What is the Festival of Trees about?

The Festival is the culmination of the Forest of Reading Awards. We have 7 trees that are in our forest and 5 of them are geared towards kids. So, these are the kids programs that are wrapping up. There are a quarter of a million kids from across the province that read Canadian books that were on our short list, ending in the month of April. And the winners are being announced tomorrow and Wednesday and 12 of those  nominated authors are coming to Ottawa.

How do you choose the books that are nominated?

The books are submitted by publishers from across the country (they’re all Canadian publishers). We have teachers and librarians who have selection experience and they read all of the books that are sent in to submission and they short list it to down to 10.

The Festival in Ottawa will focus on the Silver Birch and Red Maple Programs? What are they about?

The Silver Birch is geared towards kids that are in grades 3 to 6 and the Red Maple is for kids in grades 7 and 8. And, so, in the Silver Birch there are 3 lists: a fiction list, a non-fiction list and a list called the express list, which is geared towards the grade 3 or 4 reader and the more reluctant reader and it’s a mixture of fiction and non-fiction. And Red Maple is just a list of fiction this year. And, so, that’s 40 books among the 4 programs.

When did the Festival start?

The Festival is in it’s 5th year. We did have small ceremonies before. The Program started in 1993 with just the Silver Birch. And it was a small Program and it’s just grown. And different people have come to us from across the province to add more trees to our forest. And, so, then we added Red Maple and it’s sort of grown and we have White Pine and Bruce Spruce and all sorts of different trees. We, now, have a French program and this year, in October, we’re going to be launching a French picture book program. 

And, finally, can you tell us about the nominated authors, who are going to be present at the Festival?

We have over 80 of the authors coming to Toronto over the 2 days and we have 12 of the authors coming to Ottawa. None of them know if they’re short-listed or if they’re winners. So, it will be a big surprise to them tomorrow and Wednesday. And, hopefully, there will be some winners among those who are going to Ottawa.

Each author will be doing a workshop and an autographing session. The authors and illustrators coming to Ottawa this year are: Philipa Dowding, Natalie Hyde, Jan Andrews, Anna Kerz, Rachna Gilmore, Jill MacLean, Patrick Bowman, Sharon E. McKay, Bill Slavin, Romi Caron, Susin Nielsen, Anna Ziegler.

The Ottawa Festival of Trees is taking place on May 17th, from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. at the Fieldhouse, Carleton University. Tickets are $10 +HST and can be purchased on-line. For more details, you can click here.

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Barefoot Books at the Veg Fest

Last Sunday, I was able to go to the Veg Fest. I haven’t been before, but I have never seen such crowds in a while; at one point, they had to stop people from going in and we had to stand in line outside until the inside cleared out a bit.

It was all about cooking demonstrations, guest speakers, silent auctions, vendors and a lot of food and planet-loving people.

I, of course, made a bee-line to the book stand, which wasn’t difficult since it was located right in front of the entrance.

Barefoot Books are books for children and they are gorgeous. (Even the stand was beautiful. Take a look below and don’t judge the stand based on the quality of my pics…it was reeeally hard getting  a decent pic with so many people around, I need to say.)

I had the opportunity to ask Dina Cristino, Barefoot Books Ambassador, a few questions about the books…she said that Barefoot is a small independent company that focuses on bringing together beautiful art work with story telling in a way that teaches children respect for all cultures and love for the planet. The characters are not standardized and come from different ethnic backgrounds and with different abilities and disabilities; the company works with authors and illustrators from around the globe to tell stories that are also varied. The stories speak of high morals and values and carry a deeper meaning rather than focus on pure entertainment. And children appreciate the depth of the stories as well as the beautiful images that speak to their own creativity and imaginations.

And what kind of a response have the books had? “Great response. A lot of people are happy to see something different. This is my third year with Barefoot and the response is greater and greater. I have customers who come back and are very happy.” Both parents and teachers are impressed with the response that they get from children, including autistic children and those with developmental problems.

The company continues to expand it’s product line. In addition to books and CDs with sing alongs and stories, Barefoot continues to come out with puppets and a range of games.

What are some new book titles to look forward to? “Buddhist Tales” and “Robin Hood”.

Does anyone out there have experience with Barefoot Books?

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There’s a Wocket in My Pocket by Dr.Seuss

Today, I went to visit a dear friend of mine and her one-year-old daughter, who LOVES her books. So, I thought, I’d say a few words about one of her favourites…

The full title of this little book is: “There’s a Wocket in My Pocket: Dr. Seuss’s Book of Ridiculous Rhymes” and that about describes the book as well as provides an example of the types of rhymes it contains.

My personal favourite rhymes is: “But that Nooth Grush on my toothbrush … well, some are nice, but he is not.”

And so the rhymes go until (and beyond) the exciting climax towards the end of the book concerning who all is in the cellar.

It’s a delightful book for pre-schoolers that you won’t mind reading over and over and over.

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