A peek at Scholastic Parent & Child’s April issue

This is the first of several short video magazine previews we hope to do each year. Let us know your thoughts!

[blip.tv http://blip.tv/play/Afb+Po+gVA%5D
Links mentioned in this video:
Eco-friendly Living on a Budget
Reborn Treasures
Potluck Perfection

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“Are you a storyteller?”

That’s what’s on my mind after reading this post on The Core Knowledge Blog. That’s what I’m asking myself right now.

To be a good PR person the answer, I know, has got to be “yes.” The more effectively I can tell the story of Scholastic, the more likely it is that that information is going to be understood and passed along from person to person, and the more likely it is that people are going to relate to it. It makes me a more valuable, trusted resource. And it gets people coming back for more.

I think the same goes for teachers, librarians, journalists, and even parents. Anyone whose task is to impart knowledge — or “content” — upon another person ought to think about their job as a storyteller once in a while.

It’s a simple thought that I’m ending my day on.

What kids are saying to President Obama

Scholastic Book Clubs picked the winners last week of its “Dear Mr. President” Contest, and, in so doing, it seems it has taken the pulse of the hopes American kids have for their new President.

Judges waded through almost 15,000 letters to President Obama sent in from across the country, and in the end picked 200 winners.

A couple quotes:

“Every morning on my way to school I see the same man on the street corner holding a sign, begging for money to eat. Why can’t a homeless man get help from our country so he doesn’t have to beg for money on the street?” said one 5th-grader from California.

“I am 8 years old and I love animals and nature. If we create laws that take care of our environment, then our environment will take better care of us,” a 2nd-grader from Delaware said.

We asked the judges to write down some general impressions they had of the letters, and any broad conclusions they felt could be drawn about the group as a whole.

Here’s some of what they came up with (note: these are broad generalizations):
  • Almost every letter mentioned the economic crisis. Many kids mentioned how job losses were affecting them, and others talked about homelessness.
  • The other most common topic was the environment. Some were worried about global warming and it’s affect on animals like polar bears, others focused on pollution and quality of life.
  • Kids consistently expressed concern about the War in Iraq. Many asked President Obama to bring troops home and make peace in the Middle East. On the other hand, a large number also asked him to leave soldiers there, or even increase the number, to keep the violence from coming here.
  • Quite a few letters, especially from states like Texas, California, Arizona and New York, mentioned immigration, as many of the writers were immigrants themselves. They mentioned their desire for the U.S. to ease its immigration requirements, and have a greater compassion for these groups.
  • Almost every letter asked about the President’s dog, and made suggestions for what kind the First Family should get.
  • Many of the writers were curious about Sasha and Malia Obama. Some said they wanted to be pen pals with them.

What do you all think? Are the kids in your life thinking the same things?

Who’s Hungry for Some Hunger Games News?

We are!!! It’s a well-known fact around here that the OOM team is CRAZY about The Hunger Games (our collective love for The West Wing runs a close second). And so there was a lot of happy dancing and fist-pumping at the news that Lionsgate will be adapting Suzanne Collins’ amazing YA novel (recommended for ages 12+) for the big screen. The best part? Collins will be writing the screenplay – and if there’s anyone who can turn this complex work into a 2 hour film, it’s the author herself. Is it too early to buy tickets yet?

In other news, The Hunger Games is well on its way to becoming a worldwide sensation – check out this link for a cool slideshow of Hunger Games covers in other countries.
And – OMG Alert – Scholastic is giving one lucky tribute a once-in-a-lifetime private lunch with Suzanne Collins in New York City, plus a signed copy of the book, a collectible mockingjay pin, and *swoon* a signed, personalized advance reader’s copy of Catching Fire – the next book in the trilogy. Visit the Hunger Games site for full details and official rules.

Should libraries be about content or connections?

Aaron Schmidt, the digital initiatives librarian for the District of Columbia Public Library, wrote a fascinating blog post earlier this month that touched off a great conversation about whether libraries might cease to be content-providers in the future.

I definitely recommend you click on over and read the whole thing, including the comments.

What I hear Aaron saying is basically this: that libraries are being squeezed out of the content market because of the ubiquity of, and ease-of-access to, free content on the Web (ie. movies, books, games, newspapers). And that the libraries of the future might be more about providing a place where people can share experiences around content they get on their own — at hosted events like book clubs, gaming groups, storytimes, etc. Basically, libraries would become “connectors.”

“Connecting people in this way has more of a positive impact than simply sending someone home with a disc. It adds value to the content too,” he wrote.

Libraries are already doing this stuff, as he points out. See, for instance, this page listing groups and clubs meeting at the Newton Free Library in Massachusetts. (One of my favorite libraries.)

As you’ll see from the discussion, this is not a black and white issue. Libraries have always been (and will probably continue to be in the foreseeable future) places that level the playing field — providing equal access to content no matter your background or economic situation. That’s why library use is surging in this recession.

There’s a lot of interesting stuff in the comments section, including something that Nate Hill from the PLA Blog said: Libraries in the future might focus on “helping patrons create new content and media themselves by providing more technology training and making public work space accessible.”

There’s a lot to read, and I definitely can’t do it all justice in this space. Click on over!

Helping Families Cope in Tough Times

It’s no secret that our economy has seen better days, and every day we hear more and more tragic stories about how Americans are being affected by recent events. In addition to all of the other worries and concerns parents have, many are now faced with tough questions from kids like: Will we have to move? Can we keep our pets? What will my friends think? To help families cope, Scholastic created What Can I Do? My Journal to Sharing and Caring in Tough Times, a free downloadable journal for parents and kids who have been affected by the economy.

Denise Daniels, a well-known, highly-respected child development expert and all-around awesome person, created the journal to help families cope during these difficult times and to manage feelings of loss, embarassment, displacement, and anxiety through a series of guided exercises and activities. Parents can download and print out the journal to give to kids to complete on their own, or work through the exercises together. In addition to the journal, the What Can I Do? website offers a parents’ guide to talking to kids about the economy in both English and Spanish. Best of all, it’s FREE! And we like free.

In addition to being a great resource for parents, I think What Can I Do? can also be a valuable tool for teachers working in regions where job loss has taken a severe toll. It can be difficult to discuss these weighty subjects with students without embarrassing them, but printing out the journal to give to students/parents can be an unobtrusive way to help students cope with changes at home.

And I’ll turn things over to Denise Daniels to explain a little bit more about the project:

UPDATE: What Can I Do? was featured in the Boston Globe, complete with some great tips from Denise on talking to kids about the economy. Be sure to check it out!