Thursday, October 12, 2006

Books for Babies

A friend asked for a list of books for babies and since I recently attended 2 workshops on Creating Readers, I want to share some of the things that were brought up there. I'm sure I'll be adding to the list. This is just what I came up with so far.

Board books and bath books are perfect for babies. Babies explore books with their whole bodies. They hear you say the words, they see the pictures, they touch the pages and they chew on them. Touch and feel books are wonderful, but you have to choose them carefully. Pat the Bunny is actually a pretty poor choice because the little blanket can come off and become a choking hazard. Look at the book carefully to make sure the corners are rounded because baby will inevitable smack herself in the face with it and you want to protect her eyes. A good board book for babies has one bright/high contrast picture on each page.
I prefer the large board book version of Goodnight Moon, by Margaret Wise Brown because the colors just seem brighter and bolder. It will also hold up to a lot of readings. If you get a baby a pop-up book, let the mom know that it should be put away for at least 3 years and even then it should be a "let's look at this together," book. My favorite for this purpose is David Carter's If you're happy and you know it. I use it at every story time, along with The Wheels on the Bus by Paul Zelinsky. Some other personal favorites include: The Baby Goes Beep, by Rebecca O'Connell and We've all got bellybuttons, by David Martin.
I personally think it would be way cool to make a ritual of giving a Robert Sabuda pop up book for every birthday or holiday because they're gorgeous, but they're really not appropriate until about 5 or 6.

Here is the New York Public Library's list of 100 picture books everyone should know:

Hoban's board books with the simple black and white pictures are perfect. So are books with photos of babies.
Black on White (Board book) by Tana Hoban
Baby Einstein: Water, Water Everywhere: A Splash & Giggle Bath Book (Baby Einstein) (Bath Book) .
Sandra Boynton's board books are delightful and funny, as are the Pigeon books (Don't let the pigeon drive the bus and The Pigeon finds a hotdog are my favorites) by Mo Willems. Doreen Cronin's books are very funny (Click Clack Moo and Diary of a worm).

I would also get something along these lines:, and put in a picture of yourself.

Since this is my diatribe, I'm telling you all now, I don't like The Giving Tree (selfish boy takes everything the tree has to give until he uses it all up), Rainbow Fish (it's not okay to be different and you can buy friends), or Love You Forever (mother crawls in through adult son's window to rock him - smother love, anyone?).

Thursday, October 05, 2006

When Idealism meets Reality

I have always been a strong supporter of teachers taking risks in their book selections. I sincerely believe that hiding reality from students is a big mistake and that it's better for them to have the opportunity to discuss hard topics in a safe environment and in the abstract. While it is my wish for them that they never actually have to deal with things like incest, date rape, or suicide in their real lives, I think they are better prepared for those things if they have met up with them in a book and have had an opportunity to talk through different ways of handling traumatic experiences.

I also "know" that fiction allows students to explore the philosophies and views of different historical time periods in context and when the different departments work together, suddenly the books you're reading in English make sense when put together with what was happening at that same time in history and it all becomes more meaningful.

That's all great in the abstract.

It suddenly takes on a whole new slant when a 16 year old comes to you and says his life is meaningless and has no purpose and the only reason he's still alive is that he's pretty sure suicide would hurt. During the three hours spent in the emergency room waiting for a psych eval he then reveals to his father that they have been studying existentialism and suicide in The French Lieutenant's Woman and it "got him thinking about the futility of it all."

Do I think the book caused the boy's depression? No, I don't really think depression works that way. I do, however, believe that teachers need to consider the emotional state of adolescents when making their choices. I'm not even saying don't read a particular book because of the issues. I am saying it's crucial to anticipate the possible reactions of the students and discuss them during class, not just leave them wallowing in despair. Say it right out loud: "This book might leave you feeling sad and depressed because it hits a nerve. Here are some people you can talk to: the teacher, the school counselor, your pastor, your parents."

When a teen suicide becomes public knowledge, parents and teachers become more alert to the signs and symptoms of suicidal ideation in the school population, knowing that the "success" of one student can act as a trigger for others. It suddenly becomes real and possible and those who are vulnerable to the idea may start talking about it or even try it. Does this mean you should try to keep students from finding out or talking about what happened? Of course not. It means that you have to be very aware of the possible fall out so you can identify the students who need help and get it for them.

We need to remember that books can be an equally powerful catalyst for action. When students read about rape or incest or suicide in books, they can find the courage within themselves to speak out, to ask for help, to believe that they, too, can overcome their obstacles. Parents, teachers, and counselors need to work together so that they can be aware and ready for the possible fall out because sometimes the cry for help is expressed in a very scary and negative way - "If I weren't afraid it would hurt, I would have killed myself already." It's easy to say "They should never have read that horrible book," but if they hadn't, he might not have asked for help in time. The pivotal event might have been something so personal and immediate that he wouldn't have had the time or the rationality to walk down those stairs and say "I can't get these thoughts out of my head and I'm scared."

Wednesday, September 27, 2006

Cliques, Gangs, and Groups

It bothers me every time someone on the WW board plays the clique card and I started thinking about why I take it personally. Part of it is because I am an individual and while I have made wonderful friends on the 50+ Board, I am not afraid to disagree with them and I certainly wouldn't "attack" another poster on their say so. I will speak up if I see someone being treated unfairly, no matter who they are (including my friends - it would be weird to exclude them).

I was mostly a loner as a child and teen. I had friends, but I didn't belong to a group. I wasn't a music or a jock or a cheerleader or a druggie. I was smart but I didn't have the grades to be one of the brains. It was a small school. That was pretty much all the choices available. I was an "other."

In ninth grade, they made us read the short story "The Lottery." I think it's one of those things they make you read so you will think about the consequences of giving in to peer pressure. I just want my ninth grade English teacher to know that it worked! I fear mob mentality enough to keep me constantly on the edge of large groups. I want to make sure I can escape quickly if they turn ugly. As soon as things seem to be heading that way, I get uncomfortable.

That's why I really object when anyone implies that I belong to a gang on the 50+ Board.

Guys and Gals in Groups

The first of two commentaries about groups. I've known for years that men and women behave differently at the work place as well as at home. The women I have worked with formed closer friendships than the males, but were also more likely to have major emotional scenes. We talk about each other, complain about each other, and tend to tell our grievances to everybody in the building except the person with whom we are having a problem. This is why my husband refers to women in the work place as "cats in a bag." Don't worry, I smack him.

Men seem to take things less personally and I have never heard one say that his feelings were hurt by another one or that this or that one is always leaving things on his desk or eating his crackers or stealing his pens.
My next observation is about men doing things like changing tires or working out. Have you ever witnessed this phenomenon? 3 men hover around the car. The fourth changes the tire while the other 3 watch and critique his performance, often whilst holding beers. If someone watching me change a tire had the temerity to offer criticism, I'd shove the tire iron where the sun doesn't shine, but men seem to enjoy this behavior. This is where my flash of insight came into the picture. This is why they don't implode at work, either!

I recently joined a gym. This is a unique opportunity for me to observe the behavior of the male animal in what used to be his own habitat. Like many other male hang outs, this one has been encroached upon by the female of the species. I discovered that men lift weights the same way they change tires, just minus the beer! One lifts while the other 2 or 3 stand there and watch and comment on his technique or talk about sports or their wives.

I concentrate on my weight lifting, enjoying the whole process of making my muscles stronger, then I take my shower, and go to work. I love hanging out with my friends. I go shopping, sit and knit, go to book discussion groups, or just sit around and drink wine, but I don't want them at the gym with me.

Sunday, September 24, 2006

Are there Cliques on the Board?

Yet another post from the 50+ Board. At least now we can just refer people here.

The clique card has been played before and I still say it's more about the board personality that has developed over time. Some of us (koff - mom) are more diplomatic than others (koff koff - Cat). Yes, over time friendships (and enemyships) strengthen and grow and we make jokes and refer to things that happened in a past you weren't here for. But we did not all get here at the same time and there are a number of different groups of friends and posters who get along with everybody as well as those who get along with nobody.

When I got here in April of 2005, I didn't KNOW anybody here. I read several different groups, went back through days of threads following the conversations and topics and contributed something here and there and eventually someone responded to something I had said (you would not believe how many threads I KILLED first), then someone else commented on my awesome progress, then I joined a challenge, and over time (we're talking about 6-9 MONTHS) I became a familiar name and developed some friendships that I will always cherish.

When you've been reading here for awhile, you start to feel like you really KNOW the posters and you may think this one is really arrogant or that one is incredibly funny, or wow, that one is just so simpatico, and you want to join in. Do it, but remember that the person you are responding to so warmly and familiarly doesn't know you from Jack - yet. She might very well verbally recoil or rebuff you in the same way she would if a total stranger ran up to her in the street and hugged her. We need time to get to know you, too.

My Soapbox

This is also teleported in from the 50+ Board. There are things that come up a LOT. When someone posts a question that violates the WW terms of agreement (points questions, for example) or that asks about the virtues of Hoodia or some other weight loss program, the responses are often fast and furious. The OP (Original Poster) then gets her feelings hurt and accuses the people on the board of being members of a clique. This was my answer to that.

I actually do think it is smart to read posts and hang out and get the lay of the land before jumping in with both feet in your mouth. Each board has a personality of its own in the same way each class a teacher has develops its own persona. Whenever you have a group of individuals coalescing, you will have a new and different dynamic.

But let's say you have been reading the posts, you learned how to use the search button, you never, ever type the word save all by itself in a post, you've read the sites recommended by Cyndi, and one late night after a few drinks, you decide to post. You were tired, you were drinking, and sure enough, 20 people in the same boat jump all down your stuff within 2 minutes of your post.

Seriously, honey, SO WHAT? They don't determine your salary. You don't have to live with them. You don't even have to stay here in the same name if you don't want to.

You really need to think about why you are letting the opinions of a bunch of strangers get you this upset. How you respond to what they say will have more effect on how they get along with you in the future than your original question or comment.

Things not to say: "Can't we all just get along?" Uh, no. "Isn't this a support board?" Yes, we will support your WW efforts. We won't necessarily tell you what you want to hear and some of us will sugarcoat it less than others.

See my other posts for my interpretation of what support is and isn't.

My views on WW "newbies"

I teleported this from the WW 50+ Board. If nothing else, it will make it easier for me to find the next time it's needed.

I don't have ANYthing against people who are new to the WW boards. I welcome you. I do have a problem with people who don't read the literature, who ask points questions so they won't have to pay for WW, and who refuse to learn to use things like the search button or Google and want me to do it for them, and with people who come to a WW board expecting support for things like Hoodia and Weight Loss Surgery.

I also have a problem with people who tell me how to behave (and expect me to actually listen to them), whether they are new or old.

Support means just that. It means telling you that you really do have to follow the plan if you want it to work. It means telling you to get help when you say you are only eating 5 points a day. It means caring enough to say so when you are being self destructive, and teaching you to fish for yourself instead of fishing for you. It doesn't mean agreeing with everything everybody says. It doesn't mean condoning crass stupidity. It doesn't mean everybody is nice to everybody else and we all get along. If that's what you are looking for, maybe you ARE in the wrong place.

Honestly, we will applaud your successes, help you figure out what's going wrong if it's not working, and encourage you when you get discouraged. We will not sugar coat things and sometimes we won't tell you what you obviously want to hear, that you don't have to drink all your water, that you don't really, really need to exercise, that it's okay to skip your healthy oils because you want to eat ice cream instead.

If you want someone to tell you to use Hoodia or how well they did on a different weight loss program, you are probably on the wrong board. We are WW believers here. We KNOW it works, that it's for life, that if it's not working, it's probably something you are doing, or not doing, or you need to see a doctor. Stick with us and you CAN do this. (Oh, WW people, do I get my free month now?)

The Scary Picture

This is from February, 2005. I went on WW in April of 2005.
I've lost 89 pounds since then. I went from covered from head to toe to a swimsuit, which is actually sort of backwards, since I'm a lot colder now.

The Promised Picture

Alrighty then, the real reason you are here. I promised a picture. This is from June, but unfortunately I haven't changed much since then. I suppose you want a before picture now. I have to warn you, it isn't pretty.

What am I doing here?

In case that is what you are now asking yourself, you're in good company - mine!
You probably got here from the WW 50+ Board, so you have no one to blame but yourself.
If you just came for the pictures, you're too early.
My first posts will probably be reposts of my best stuff from the WW board, so you might be bored, especially if you didn't find it all that exciting the first time you read it.
One of my pet peeves about the WW Board is the censorship, but guess what? I reserve veto power. If you want to verbally abuse me or mine, you are going to have to do it over there. We librarians like to call it selection, not censorship. I will, however, attempt to control the urge to correct your spelling, but I might tease you about it.
WW is a big part of my life, so a lot of my posts will be about that, but this is also going to be about working out, knitting, and books.
Hehe. This is going to be fun! Come on in! The water's fine!