Tag Archives: Christmas

Readilearn: Introducing Kim Michelle Toft, author and illustrator

Kim Michelle Toft

This month it is my great pleasure to invite Kim Michelle Toft to the blog. I have been an admirer of Kim’s work for many years. Not only does she do the most marvellous and unique silk paintings to illustrate her work, her books inspire children, and adults, to share her passion for protecting the ocean and its inhabitants.

I have previously written about Kim’s work here, here and here. In this post I am talking with her about her innovation of the familiar Christmas carol The Twelve Days of Christmas.

Kim’s book The Twelve Underwater Days of Christmas is a celebration, not only of the season, but of the beauty of our world and its gift to us. Our gift in response is to care for and preserve it. As well as information about all the animals featured, it includes a stunning six-page foldout poster as well as information about the original carol.

Welcome to readilearn, Kim. We are looking forward to getting to know you better.

Thank you for having me.

Kim, you tell your stories with words and pictures? When did you know you wanted to be a storyteller and share your stories with others?

I started drawing when I was 4 years old. I would spend hours on my own, drawing. My mother would buy me small Golden Books and take me to see all the Walt Disney movies. I knew then that I wanted to have a career in art. I started writing and illustrating my picture books when my daughter Casey arrived, 26 years ago.

Continue reading: Readilearn: Introducing Kim Michelle Toft, author and illustrator

Meet Australian author: Jane Jolly – Readilearn

Reblogged from readilearn

This week I have the great pleasure of inviting South Australian author Jane Jolly to the readilearn blog. Jane is author of a number of books, including the recently published Radio Rescue!

The book about which I am talking with Jane in this interview is Tea and Sugar Christmas. Like many of Jane’s publications, this one is based on a true story. It tells of a Christmas experience that is likely very different from your own.

The Tea and Sugar Train

Click the link to read the original: Meet Australian author: Jane Jolly – Readilearn

Thinking ahead to the new school year – Readilearn

As the school year in Australia comes to a close, teachers are busy preparing ways to say “Thank you” to their classroom aides and volunteers, organising gifts for their students (remember to add a 9 square Christmas puzzle), and gifts their students can make for their parents (a poem makes a great gift).

With all that going on, one would think it impossible for teachers to think ahead to the new school year, but they do; and are already making preparations to ensure the beginning of the year goes smoothly.

If students and teachers are fortunate enough to know to which class they will be allocated in the following year, things can be much easier.

One school made the transition from one year to the next more efficient than most with which I’d been involved.

The process of allocating children to new classes can be daunting

Click here to read the original: Thinking ahead to the new school year – Readilearn

Thank your for reading. I appreciate your feedback. Please share your thoughts.

Around the campfire

camping-1289930_1920

You could count the number of times I have been camping on one hand with a few fingers chopped off. And those times, in the main, could not even be considered real camping. They involved cabins, water on tap, and flushing loos. Only once was I required to sleep in a tent, and the experience wasn’t one I wished to repeat: as much to do with other campers as with facilities.

I am not into roughing it. I like the convenience of warm showers, flushable toilets, and power at the touch of a button. I acknowledge my privilege in being able to take these things for granted and, when I holiday, to choose accommodation at which they are available. I recognise that for much of the world’s population, that privilege is as unattainable as a dream.

toilet-1033443_1280

So, for this week, in which the flash fiction prompt by Charli Mills coincides with World Toilet Day, it is fitting to combine the two.

World Toilet Day is a day to raise awareness and inspire action to tackle the global sanitation crisis – a topic often neglected and shrouded in taboos. Today, 2.4 billion people are struggling to stay well, keep their children alive and work their way to a better future – all for the want of a toilet.

Anne Goodwin who blogs at Annecdotal has also combined Charli’s flash fiction prompt in her post about Fictional Toilets for World Toilet Day. Anne has included snippets of toileting issues from novelists whose characters, unlike most “fictional characters, (who) like royalty, don’t have to suffer the indignity of urinating or opening their bowels”, deal with the inconveniences of life. Her own novel Sugar and Snails is among those quoted. You can read the post here.

who-gives-a-crap

For a while now I have been supporting Who Gives a Crap, a company that takes toileting seriously. In its production of toilet paper, tissues, and paper towels it uses only 100% recycled paper, bamboo, or sugarcane. It also donates 50% of its profits to providing toilets for those in need. I am in favour of both those practices.

I am also in favour of helping children recognise their privilege and to understand that not everyone in the world can take for granted what they can. With Christmas celebrations just around the corner, a picture book that encourages children to think of others, rather than just what they can get, is useful in starting the discussion.

dear-santa-please-dont-come-this-year

Dear Santa: Please Don’t Come This Year written by Michael Twinn and illustrated by Patricia D. Ludlow explains that Santa has tired of children’s requests, of their always wanting more, and of their lack of gratitude. He considers making this Christmas delivery his last; until he receives one final letter that turns his thinking around.

The letter is from a group of children who write:

“Dear Santa,

Please don’t come this year … we have almost everything we want.

So, we don’t want presents for ourselves this year  …

We want to help other children, instead.

And old people and animals in need …”

Santa feels heartened by the children’s selflessness, and he spends the year travelling the world, sharing the gifts suggested by the children:

“The gift of food

The gift of health

The gift of sight

The gift of water

The gift of technology

The gift of hard work

The gift of peace

The gift of learning

The gift of survival”

At the end of the year, Santa realises that “The greatest gift is yourself.”

(Note: I’m not sure if it is still so, but at the time of its publication, sales of the book helped raise funds for UNICEF.)

Now, I seem to have strayed a little, but I’m thinking that’s probably what happens when a group is sitting around the campfire discussing life. I’m sure no subject is taboo, Blazing Saddles proved that, and that the conversation would flow from one topic to another with just a few meagre threads to hold it together.

Song, too, would be a big part of the campfire tradition. I learned a campfire song from Bill Martin Jr. at a reading conference years ago. (I’ve written about that previously here.)

The song “I love the mountains” is perfect for teaching to children and as a structure that children can use to write poems of their own. Sample innovations; for example, “Christmas in Australia” have been included just for that purpose in readilearn resources.

poetry-examples-and-templates

Writing “I love” poems is also a good way for children to express gratitude in their everyday lives, which fits perfectly with Thanksgiving celebrations in the United States, also this week.

Happy Thanksgiving to my American readers!

This week at the Carrot Ranch Charli Mills has challenged writers to In 99 words (no more, no less) write a story that is told around a campfire. It can be a bonfire, burning trash can, a fire pit, something flaming outdoors. It can be a prop, and you can tell the story of anything — ghosts, ancients, jokes. Who is gathered and listening?

Even if you don’t intend joining in the challenge, and there is an extra week with this prompt if you are tempted, please pop over to the Carrot Ranch to read Charli’s fascinating report of her explorations of The Zion Valley area and of the historical artefacts and remnants she found there. You’re sure to find a gem or two, as she did.

Here is my response to her challenge.

Around the campfire

“Smile,” they said. “It could be worse.”

Than what: a compulsory “adventure”? navigating scrub lugging a loaded rucksack? avoiding plant and animal nasties? digging a toilet? erecting a recalcitrant tent? enduring inane chatter and laughter roaring as insanely as the campfire flames?

“You’ll learn something,” they’d said.

Fat chance.

Darkness hung low like her spirits.

Along with the dying flames, the mood quietened and, one by one, each told a story of horrors beyond her imaginings: of fleeing famine, war, abuse, hate …

Along with the sky, her heart softened with the light of a new day, and gratitude.

Thank you

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Early childhood resources for celebrating friendship – Readilearn

Republished from readilearn

In this post I suggest ways of helping children develop friendship skills, and describe some readilearn resources for celebrating friendship.

Developing a welcoming, happy, supportive classroom environment, a place where children want to be, is essential for learners of all ages, but especially so in early childhood. These classrooms are the first that children experience and influence lifelong attitudes to school and learning. It is important to establish strong foundations with positive attitudes, respect, and friendship.

Making friends doesn’t come easily to everyone. Simply being put with a whole bunch of other children of similar ages doesn’t ensure friendships will be established, or that children will be accepting of, and respectful to, others.

Strategies for helping children develop effective social skills need to be interwoven throughout the curriculum. Respect, kindness, and empathy need to be modelled and taught. It is especially important for children who have had limited experience mixing with others, or for those who respond to others in inappropriate or unkind ways.

Some useful strategies include:

  • Develop a vocabulary of words used to describe feelings. Words

Source: Early childhood resources for celebrating friendship – Readilearn

5 forms of poetry to write with children – Readilearn

I love to write poems. Children do too.

Giving young children a simple structure or a repetitive pattern to start from gets them thinking about words, how they sound, what they mean, the number of syllables and letters. All the while they are having fun, playing with words and sounds, and learning about language.

Five easy poems to write with children are:

  • Acrostic poems
  • Sound poems
  • Haiku
  • “I love” poems, and
  • Shape poems

Acrostic poems are one of the easiest. They don’t need to rhyme or follow a set rhythmic pattern.

Click to continue reading: 5 forms of poetry to write with children – Readilearn

 

Thank you for reading. I appreciate your feedback. Please share your thoughts.

The magic of Christmas, “Bah humbug”!

Santa and bear

At this time of year in many places around the world there are children excited about the magic of Christmas. I don’t know the numbers to compare but there are a good few, mainly adults I suspect, who say “Bah humbug!” While I was once a firm believer in the magic and did my best to keep it alive, I now tread warily, unsure of how best to approach this topic. As a parent I didn’t get it right so can offer no wisdom of my own.

After many years of seeming to go along with the story, long after I thought it should have been abandoned, Daughter finally questioned why, if the stories weren’t true, would parents lie to their children.  She preceded her question with the request to not say if it was true or not, she just wanted to know why parents would lie.

I let her down on both counts. I told her the truth of the story and couldn’t explain why parents would lie. I’m not sure that I’ve been forgiven for either failing, and I have never stopped thinking about what may have been a better way of handling the situation if I was ever offered the opportunity for a do-over.

Interestingly I don’t recall having any similar concerns about my parents lying or disillusionment on finding out the truth. Daughter’s older brother voiced no concerns either, but I cannot be certain whether or not he had any. Until now when, with children of his own, the issue again is raised.

At first Son’s intention was to not engage in Santa stories; but with one child at school and the other in kindy the situation becomes more complex. The children are more exposed to the stories through friends and organized events and there is the concern about “spoiling” things for other families. Caught between the pressures of a shared popular culture and the questions of intelligent, critical thinking children, the parents must make a decision. I sympathize and wish them better success than I experienced. I have suggested to Son that he consult his sister. She knows better than I about this one and can maybe help him avoid making the mistakes with his children that I made with her.

musical Santas

There is a lot of well-intentioned advice on the internet, but the value of some is debatable. Many explain the Santa story as being about love, kindness and generosity, and the magic as the assistance given by many helpers, including parents, throughout the world. Many explanations are likely based on the famous response, Yes Virginia, There is a Santa Claus, to an 8-year old’s letter, the authenticity of which has been questioned.

Some of the explanations and stories encountered recently include:

Feeling the magic by Autism Mom

The Sweetest Way to Tell Your Kids the Truth About Santa by Sharon Silver

Santa’s Powerful Message For Boy With Autism “It’s OK to be you” by Dominique Mosbergen

A Sweet Story About the True Meaning of Christmas shared by Noelle Granger

As much as I love the sentiments of these stories, they don’t really help me with my truth or lie dilemma. So I returned to a post by philosopher Michelle Sowey  HO HO HO! (Q.E.D.) in which she questioned the ethics of the Santa lie. I shared this post previously in April 2014.  Michelle agrees that the attempt at compromise in many of the explanations, It’s Santa, Jim, but not as we know him, is unsatisfactory because:

  • the historical figure St Nicholas is omitted
  • Christmas for most children is more about receiving than giving
  • of a conviction that children should be encouraged to believe in things that are real (visible or invisible, tangible or intangible) and to disbelieve in things that aren’t (all of which are invisible), and
  • it is better to develop critical thinking than to believe in intangible things.

She says,

“Parents can be powerful advocates for their children’s intellectual autonomy. They can help their kids to draw their own well-reasoned conclusions; to value coherence and logical consistency (among other things) in the construction of their worldviews; and to cleave to their beliefs with a level of confidence proportional to the amount and quality of evidence available.

With a little analysis and reflection – perfectly accessible to an eight-year-old – it’s clear that believing in things without good evidence often means believing in things that aren’t true.”

Santas

Okay. We agree on that, but how would a parent extricate themselves from the myth once they have become entangled?

When I re-read her post I noticed Michelle has, just this month, added a postscript linking to an article by ethicist David Kyle Johnson who asks the question DO PARENTS WHO TELL THEIR KIDS ABOUT SANTA END UP ON THE NAUGHTY LIST?

David says that parents who lie to their children by supporting the myth are not necessarily bad parents (thank you!) but they would be better parents if they didn’t.

He adds to Michelle’s list with these:

  • Children should thank their parents, who have purchased and sacrificed, not Santa; “gifts are the giver’s way of showing the recipient that he or she has worth and is loved. Children need assurance their parents see them as worthwhile and valuable – not Santa Claus.”
  • Santa shouldn’t be used as a threat e.g. stop doing that (bad behaviour) or Santa won’t come
  • It stifles imagination because you can’t pretend if you believe: “By tricking children into actually believing Santa exists we rob them of the opportunity to imagine he does.”
  • And the big one: the loss of trust “Finding out their parents have lied to them about Santa Claus can cause children to think their parents are lying to them about a great many other things.” He says it is probably a bigger risk than most parents realize.

You can read more of David’s thoughts about the myth in this excerpt from his book The Myths that Stole Christmas.

David says that the tradition of Santa and gift giving is relatively recent and “sold” to consumers primarily for financial reasons. He urges parents to stop tricking their children into believing the myth. My experience supports that, and I wonder how I would go about it if I had the opportunity again.

This week at the Carrot Ranch Charli Mills challenges writers to In 99 words (no more, no less) write a story about “spreading the light.” While she suggests it could be used it to honor or memorialize a loved one, I thought I would attempt to shed light on the Santa myth and its potential for harm. Hopefully it’s not too far off the mark as I always loved, and protected, this myth; but perhaps a decision to protect the intelligence and critical thinking of my loved ones, and children in general, is even more important.

How true?

“What shall we read tonight?” asked Dad.

Jimmy searched the shelf for something he hadn’t heard before. There weren’t many. Suddenly he found one, slid it off the shelf and nestled into Dad’s lap.

“Twas the night before Christmas …” began Dad.

“Who…, what…, where…, why…, how…,?” began Jim, marveling at flying reindeer and pondering possible destinations.

As Dad closed the book Jimmy was ready with his usual question, “Is it true?”

“What think you?”

“As true as a fire-breathing dragon, a flower-petal fairy, and a talking animal,” laughed Jim; then added, “But you know, parrots really can talk!”

Christmas 2014

 

For whichever December festival you celebrate, and in whichever way you celebrate it, I wish you peace, joy and love enough to light up your world.

Thank you

Thank you for reading. I appreciate your feedback. Please share your thoughts.