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Read Across America

Happy Birthday, Dr. Seuss! Your books have had quite an impact these past 80 years. Your wonderfully whimsical words and drawings continue to delight and inspire the young and the young at heart. You encourage us to “think and wonder, wonder and think.” We’re better off when we do.
Your message is clear, “the more that you read, the more things you will know.”
So when the National Education Association wanted to create excitement about reading, they choose your birthday for an annual event called Read Across America. Designed to motivate kids to read more, the first celebration occurred on March 2, 1998. Now, all across America, schools hold assemblies and guests visit classrooms to read aloud to the students. I’ve even heard that some principals have dyed their hair green. I’m wondering if any cafeterias serve green eggs and ham. Now that would be a scream!

PlayopolisToys – for the diverse needs of the citizens of play

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Celebrating Child Life Worldwide

 

March is Child Life Month. If you’re scratching your head and wondering what Child Life is and why we’re celebrating, you’re likely not alone. If, however, you’re in the know, let the festivities begin. Everyone knows  PlayopolisToys likes celebrations. That’s why we’ve been looking ahead and urging fellow citizens of play to plan ahead for celebrating Dr. Seuss’s birthday, reading to kids on Read Across America Day, advocating for music in our public schools, and making way for kid-centered crafting, all activities child life specialists value.

Now we’re turning our attention to celebrating those who support the psychosocial and developmental needs of children confronting traumatic or overwhelmingly stressful events in their lives, particularly ones involving health and hospitalization. Traditionally hospital-based, child life specialists use play to build rapport, educate, prepare patients for procedures, and help children develop effective coping strategies. Play is essential to the well-being of all children. Losing one’s self in play relieves stress and gives kids a sense of normalcy. Because children express their feelings and work through problems while playing, child life specialists provide opportunities for self-expression activities. Through this play, specialists also gain insights into specific concerns of individual children.

Explore Learning from Child Life Specialists. The pin That’s Child Life is a must. This five minute video produced by the Association of Child Life Professionals, shows the services the profession provides and the benefits not only to patients and their families but also to nurses and doctors committed to treating the whole person, not just an illness or injury. The board is brimming with information and ideas. So grab a cup of coffee and linger awhile.

And follow our blog as we interview four certified child life specialists who have charted new territory by bringing services to non-traditional settings throughout the United States, Canada, and beyond. To paraphrase Dr Seuss, “Oh, the places these people have gone” to support children and their families in traumatic and overwhelmingly stressful situations.”

 PlayopolisToys – for the diverse needs of the citizens of play

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Music Belongs in School

We’ve planned our birthday celebrations for Dr. Seuss and chosen the books we’ll read at Read Across America events. What’s next? Music in Our Schools Month, a time to celebrate the benefits of music. Sadly not all schools offer music. Those that do are providing valuable learning opportunities. What better time to advocate for music throughout your school district than during Music in Our Schools Month?

I remember weekly music instruction in fourth and fifth grades. We listened to classical music and learned about composers, the orchestra, its instruments, musicians, and conductor. Simultaneously Leonard Bernstein, the first American-born conductor and musical director of the New York Philharmonic, was combining his passion for music and flair for teaching to create a series of Young People’s Concerts. Those televised concerts provided an introduction to classical music for children far from the storied walls of any concert hall. His passion for music and joy in sharing his enthusiasm were riveting. I’ve never forgotten the experience. And likely none of us would have experienced Young People’s Concerts without the urging of our music teacher. Music in Our Schools opens doors.

Every child in our music class also learned to play a Fitchhorn Song Flute, which the box hails as “a real musical instrument.” I found mine stored among other childhood treasures while sorting through boxes of memorabilia at my parents’ home. That flute set off a flood of memories that insured its way into the keepsakes box. Someday I may play that flute “for old times sake.”

But I digress. The question is, what did those flutes teach us? We learned to listen and to follow non-verbal cues from our teacher/conductor. We developed spatial awareness and fine motor skills, learned to breathe properly, concentrate, focus, and memorize. We learned to be patient while waiting our turn and to stay vigilant lest we miss our cue to play. We learned to remain calm when someone missed a note and to pick up quickly and move on, when we did. Add social skills and composure to the skill-building. In summary, let’s say playing even a simple musical instrument develops cognitive, motor, and social skills and can be fun.

We respond emotionally to music. Playwright William Congreve, writing in the eighteenth century, declared “Musick has Charms to sooth a savage breast, To soften Rocks, or bend a knotted Oak.” Music can indeed soothe. Invigorate. Even drive us to distraction. Just ask any parent.

Most of us would agree that music not only enriches our lives but also helps us develop skills needed for success in school and beyond. Music deserves a place in our schools. During Music in Our Schools Month, let’s celebrate the schools with music and work with those without to add this powerful learning tool.

 PlayopolisToys – for the diverse needs of the citizens of play

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Read Across America

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Looking forward to Dr. Seuss’s birthday on March 2? Then grab your favorite Seuss book and Read Across America. This annual project of NEA, National Education Association, inspires reading by celebrating America’s most popular children’s book author and illustrator, Dr. Seuss.  NEA advocates for quality public schools for all children and stresses reading as essential to success in school and beyond.

NEA encourages reading aloud. On Read Across America Day, participating schools invite members of their community to read to a class. I am looking forward to my first experience. I get to choose the book I’ll read. Since Read Across America ties in with Dr. Seuss’s birthday, any one of his books would be an obvious choice. What Pet Should I Get?, published in 2015, more than 50 years after it was written, would likely add a new Dr. Seuss book to the children’s  favorite titles.

But then my list of beloved children’s books spans four decades. When our 40 year old son out grew children’s books, I couldn’t resist all the new ones and bought my favorites. Choosing one book will be challenging. Luckily Read Across America Day is an annual event.

Local organizations encourage members to volunteer to read at a school of their choosing. This year for the first time realtors organized Realtors Read Across Pasadena and are participating in Read Across America Day at elementary schools throughout the district.

We all know the importance of reading aloud to our children from birth. Once the child begins reading, keep the tradition alive. Taking turns preserves the tradition of reading aloud together and celebrates the accomplishments of the new reader without being overwhelming. With experience, the child will become more proficient and want to read more. 

Some families enjoy reading aloud. Something to keep in mind for Screen-Free Week. Not everyone will be thrilled, but inviting each family member to recommend a book, discussing recommendations non-judgmentally, and reaching consensus is in itself a valuable exercise. Everyone benefits from opportunities to articulate ideas, listen – really listen without interrupting, and find common ground.

Special occasions are ideal for reading aloud. We conclude Christmas dinner with a favorite children’s book. Whoever reads gets to choose the book. Most often that’s our son who delights in bringing just the right voice to Cajun Night Before Christmas.

While researching Read Across America, I learned about therapy dogs specially trained to listen while children read aloud. These nonjudgmental canines, known as Reading Education Assistance Dogs (R.E.A.D.), help children improve their literacy skills and their self-esteem. 

In the absence of R.E.A.D, a pet or even a stuffed animal provides a nonjudgmental listener that makes reading aloud safe. We learn best when relaxed and free of criticism. The cause and effect is reading aloud improves literacy, and that boosts self-esteem.

 PlayopolisToys – for the diverse needs of the citizens of play