Sunday, October 31, 2010

Don't Miss This!

Don't miss the October Fun For Kids Super-Giveaway with 8 great prizes. Head on over to to enter, and HURRY because it closes on Nov. 1st! The prizes include a gift certificate to Little One Books (that's what I wanna win!), Trivial Pursuit steal card game, a gift certificate to Piggy Paint, a new kids' CD from the Flannery Brothers, a Munchie Mug, and a pair of Ski Banz from Baby Banz! Good luck! The Veater Family Adventures blog has some other great super-giveaways, too, so check it out!

Saturday, October 30, 2010

A Few Great Contests at Reviewed By Mom

For itty-bitty little ones, one thing I love is books! (OK, so I love kids' books for pretty much any age!) But when your little ones are really little, they have a tendency to destroy books! So that's why board books and soft cloth books are so great! Eebee Books is an interactive book series with some adorable baby/toddler books, including a soft cloth peek-a-boo book ( To enter for the chance of winning 5 Eebee Books, go to Ends October 31st.

Now, I just finished blogging about my passion for wordless books ... Well, guess what, all of the wordless books I mentioned can be purchased online at the wonderful online bookstore But not just wordless books can be purchased there! This phenomenal store and online resource sells only the finest books, video, and music for children (ages 1-5 years), all personally reviewed by the owners. You could win a $25 gift certificate to Little One Books by entering here: Ends November 2nd.
Yet a third great contest is to win a copy of the cute children's book called When The Snow Comes by Jonathan Allen. It tells the story of a little yak waiting to see his first snow, appropriate for ages 3 and up. To enter go here: Ends November 3rd.
You can also find wonderful children's books, toys and other great eco-chic gear for moms, babies, and kids at EcoMom. To see their book selection, go here: And to enter to win a $15 gift certificate to EcoMom, head on over here: Ends November 2nd.
Don't miss these 4 fantastic contests at! Good luck!

In Praise of Wordless Books

This year's Caldecott Medal winner -- The Lion & the Mouse by Jerry Pinkney -- has only seven words, all sound effects. The 2007 Caldecott winner -- Flotsam by David Wiesner -- is also a wordless book. This is perhaps not as surprising as it initially seems when it is recalled that the Caldecott Medal recognizes "the artist of the most distinguished American picture book for children". Still, children's books are usually assumed to have some words, some sort of written story or text, even if it is short. If you look at customer reviews for The Lion & the Mouse or other wordless books on Amazon, you will invariably find a few disgruntled customers who are unhappy at having got a book that is "just pictures".
But wordless books are not just books without words or mere pictures. They tell a story through pictures. While a story told in pictures may invariably be more open to interpretation than a story told with words and pictures, a story can be found in the pictures ... and this story can be related orally.
And this is where I come to write in praise of wordless books. Wordless books give both children and adults a chance to experience and participate in storytelling in a different way and be challenged and affected by story in ways that may stretch their verbal, interpretive, and narrative skills. And a lot of the impact of wordless children's books comes from the fact that they simply are in the minority. The fact is that most kids' books do have a lot more than 7 words. Usually, the story is written down, and we don't have to look for it in the same way we do when it's "written" in the pictures.
For adults in a lot of sectors of American society, we're not particularly challenged by the task of reading a children's storybook aloud. We're used to reading aloud, have done it since we were kids, and we pretty much know the routine. We may hone our skills a bit, learn to add more dramatic flourishes to our rendition, but we pretty much know what we're doing. But recent brain research has shown that it is by constantly developing new skills that we stay mentally sharp (see for example, The Brain That Changes Itself by Norman Doidge). While we all know famously talented storytellers, oral storytelling without a text is challenging and a little bit scary for many of us. Yet, that's just why it's so important -- we stretch, expand, and ultimately change our brains by doing so. Same thing with kids. And one way to tell a story, or to collaborate in telling a story, is to use a wordless book as a jumping off point. And since many of these books are illustrated by incredibly talented artists, we get the wonderful chance of enjoying their art in reading these books.
So don't be scared, don't be deterred. Think about adding some wordless books to your home library. They truly can be enjoyed by all ages! Other wordless books that have received very positive reviews in recent years include:
The Red Book by Barbara Lehman
Good Dog, Carl by Alexandra Day
Wave by Suzy Lee
And look for other books by David Wiesner and Jerry Pinkney.
And keep in mind that this list is in no way comprehensive. Feel free to leave a comment if you'd like to recommend another great wordless book. Thanks!

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

If you or your kids speak French, or you want to expose your kids to the French language ...

If you or your kids speak French, or you want to expose your kids to the French language ... and you happen to be reading my blog tonight, then you won't want to miss this contest for a lovely illustrated children's book in French.
Il ├ętait une fois is sort of like the equivalent of once upon a time in English, so I imagine this story has the feel of a fairytale.
To learn more about the book and/or enter the contest, hop over to Hurry -- you must enter by 11:59 P.M. PST! Contest open internationally.
One of the educational experiences I value most is the time I spent studying in France as an exchange student. I want to get my kids interested in learning foreign languages as early as possible, and I hope they will also have the chance to study overseas and get immersed in the study of a foreign language. This book would be a start!

Thursday, October 7, 2010

Don't Forget To Read "The Snowy Day" Today!

Don't forget about READ FOR THE RECORD today (see yesterday's post for further details)! If you don't have a copy of The Snowy Day by Ezra Jack Keats, you can read it to your child(ren) with the online version and then document that you did! What do you think of the book!

Wednesday, October 6, 2010

Reading to Kids - Cont'd.

Did you know that October 7th (that's tomorrow!) is Read for the Record Event? This exciting campaign brings children and adults together to read the same book, on the same day, in homes and communities all over the world! This is the first time I have heard about this event, but last year, more than two million children read Eric Carle’s The Very Hungry Caterpillar.

And this year ... [drumroll] ... children and their parents and teachers are being asked to read Ezra Jack Keats’ The Snowy Day together. I am thrilled by this choice of classic children's story, as it is a book I loved when I was a kid!

If you are interested in this event and would like a chance to win your own copy of The Snowy Day (together with a "Peter" doll), then you should head on over to You can also sign up to Pledge to read The Snowy Day book to a child on Oct 7th. Contest deadline is midnight (central time) on Thursday, October 7th. Have fun reading The Snowy Day tomorrow (and, hopefully, for many days to come)!

Wednesday, September 15, 2010

Reading to Kids

Taking Care of Ourselves and Our Children continues!

Reading to kids ... it's so important for kids. It's never too soon or too late to start reading to your child. Some parents even beging reading to their child while the child is still in utero!

In 1983, Shirley Brice Heath, an anthropologist, wrote an amazing book called Ways With Words: Language, Life, and Work in Communities and Classrooms. It is the study of young kids and families living in three different south-eastern US commnities only a few miles apart. Each of these communities, however, had very different ways of introducing kids to literacy and oral language habits. The kids, not surprisingly, developed very different strengths in their "ways with words". All of the communities produced strengths in the kids, but schools did not necessarily build equally on the different strengths, and those kids who had not built strong early literacy foundations were less successful in school.

The blog Becoming Sarah - - provides a lot of tips on reading to youngsters, including book recommendations, but also tips on how to get kids interested and involved in reading. Check it out!

And last but not least, I am always looking for new books as I start to build our family's library.

I was very excited to learn about the book Pierre the Penguin: A True Story by Jean Marzollo. It is the true story of an African penguin. Yay - I love books that teach my kids about the continent of Africa. Right now, you can have the chance to win a copy of this sweet children's book. But to be in the running, you need to hurry over to and enter by Sept. 17th. Good luck!

I was also excited to read about another children's book called A Garden for Pig by Kathryn Thurman. This book helps kids to learn about organic gardening and contains recipes. How cool! To enter to win your own copy of this special book, hop on over to and enter by Sept. 21st. This book is published by Good luck!

Last but not least, there are some really fantastic board books out there. Gone are the days where every board book is a just a list of words, letters, or numbers. One of the coolest board books for little ones that's been published recently must be Alternative ABCs! Instead of "A is for apple, B is for boat, C is for cat", Alternative ABCs gives kids the real deal. To check it out and enter to win a copy for your family, head over to and enter Sept. 21st. Good luck with this one, too!

And have fun reading to your kids! Once you start reading out loud to your kids, I think you'll quickly find it's as much pleasure for you as it is for your little one!

Monday, September 6, 2010

Have You Thanked a Librarian Today?

No, I'm not a librarian, but I really do appreciate libraries. My work as a student depends on them, but more than that, I love to read. I love the excitement of books, even though it's overwhelming to think of all the many books that have been published through the ages.

A book can change a child's (or anyone's) life. That's clear. A good friend of mine -- now a successful physicist (very smart!) said that he didn't think he'd be where he is today without the library he frequented while growing up. He comes from a small town in Oregon -- there weren't a whole lot of educational opportunities back when -- and school wasn't hugely challenging for him -- but he had the library. And to the library he went every day!

In the USA, we are extremely fortunate in our library system, and we should do whatever we can to support it and help it to continue to thrive. In many third-world countries, libraries are a true rarity. In Malawi, for example, most schools and communities have no libraries. If there is a library, you probably aren't allowed to take the books away because there are so few of them. I recently read a memoir of a young boy in Malawi who was fortunate enought to live in a place with a library. His was a rural farming community, but nonetheless, an NGO had established a library there. It changed his life. Although he was forced to drop out of school at the end of his primary education due to poverty, he taught himself electronics from a science book he found at the library. He built his own wind turbine and managed to bring electricity to his family's home. And he did some other amazing things, too. But those library books were needed to help him find an outlet for his drive and intelligence. Today, remarkably, given his humble origins, he is a student at Dartmouth College.

I highly recommend his book: The Boy Who Harnessed the Wind: Creating Currents of Electricity and Hope by William Kamkwamba.

To read some other posts by bloggers who appreciate the library, go to:

Some Favorite Mommy Blogs

If you visit Top Mommy Blogs ( or Top Baby Blogs (, you will find some fantastic family-oriented blogs. But here are a few of my favorites that you won't find on those lists:

1) The Poe Fam
The Poe family recently welcomed home their second child. Now they've got two adorable boys to cherish.

2) One Day You'll Thank Me
Here's a mommy with a great sense of humor. They live in Spain. I love visiting this blog for a good laugh!

3) Mackville Road
Blog posts are accompanied by gorgeous photos of the family life in a small town in Vermont. Lovely.

4) Becoming Sarah
OK, this is actually quite a well-known blog that does rank up there. But I love it! Another mommy with a great sense of humor. Some very witty posts.

Oh, and by the way, my series on Taking Care of Ourselves and Our Children will continue soon. I've just been very busy! Stay tuned!

Wednesday, September 1, 2010

$30 GC to Ouitoujours Etsy Shop

Check out Ouitoujours Etsy Shop. Then when you're all finished oogling at all of the beautiful things, like paintings, embroidered pillow cases, etc, hop on over to to enter to win a $30 gift certificate. Ends 9/04. Everything has the feel of folk art from Eastern Europe. It's gorgeous!

Monday, August 16, 2010

The Boy Who Harnessed The Wind - Book/Memoir

I have a strong interest in the culture and lifeways of people living in central and eastern Africa, so I was delighted to read reviews of a book called "The Boy Who Harnessed The Wind", by William Kamkwamba and Bryan Mealer. It is about a young man in Malawi (central Africa) who experiments with wind power as a way to bring electricity to his village.

This book is on my list of definite TO READS! I haven't read it yet, so I am excited to have the chance to win a copy here:

Enter by the 18th if you want a chance to win, too.

Saturday, August 7, 2010

Win $35 gift certificate to Freckletree

Have you ever visited I was not familiar with this Etsy store until recently, but I think you'll agree that it's got some super cute stuff for babies and kids. And even a few things for mamas!
I'm delighted to spread the word about Freckletree's current promotional contest.
To enter, go over here:
And the super-duper prize that's up for grabs is a $35 gift certificate to the Freckletree shop! Yippee!!

Thursday, August 5, 2010

Generations of Hope

Have you ever heard of Generations of Hope? This is one of the best experiments in building a community good for children that I have heard about in a long time.

Generations of Hope is a nonprofit adoption agency that builds nurturing small town communities, which include surrogate grandparents! And, yes, I think this is key!

As I wrote in an earlier post, I strongly believe that children need parents, but they also need grandparents, or grandparent-like figures, in their lives.

What's fantastic about this community is that everybody is benefiting. Hard-to-place children who are up for adoption -- many of whom have been cycled through multiple foster families -- are permanently placed with adoptive families. The adoptive parents receive crucial support and also live rent-free. Elderly residents benefit by receiving subsidized rent. The older residents agree to do community service, like tutoring, and they seem to thrive, too. They adore their "adoptive" grandkids. Families are stronger thanks to the close proximity of the grandparent generation.

I grew up with my grandmother living just a few doors away, and I know I was incredibly lucky. Many families do not have this luxury and must go live where their jobs are, not necessarily close by to the grandparents or other extended family members. But Generations of Hope shows that community and family can be built up consciously across the generations, even where there is no biological relatedness.

To read more about these incredible communities, go to:

Sunday, August 1, 2010

Generation 2

Taking Care of Ourselves and Our Children: 1

This is my first post in my new theme on Taking Care of Ourselves and Our Children. Also see, where I introduced this theme for the first time.

There are so many things I'd like to blog about: storytelling, the importance of touch, gardening and staying in touch with Mother Nature, ... But for this first post, I'd like to talk a little bit about the importance of making and maintaining connections across the generations. I really believe that older people are good for children, and that children are good for older people. Children need their parents, but they also need grandparents (or grandparent-like figures) in their lives.

My mom volunteers for a wonderful organization called Generation Two (Gen 2) - It's all about creating intergenerational friendships. Once a week, she visits an inner-city school where she plays one-on-one for about half an hour with "her" child. (I think she has a total of 3 children, so she plays at the school for about 1 1/2 hours followed by a discussion with the other volunteers and the volunteer leader.) Every child in first grade is assigned to a volunteer in Gen 2 and gets to have that special playtime with his/her volunteer every week for the whole school year. The key is that the volunteers are older people (i.e., old enough to be grandparents).

Some of the kids have never had much one-on-one time with an adult. Their parents are super busy, often working long hours. Sure, they get playtime, but it's different when it's being guided by an adult whose attention is totally focused on the child. Some of the kids have never done a puzzle before, or held a sustained conversation with an adult, or done the sorts of games or play activities that require the guidance of a patient older person. That's where the Gen 2 volunteers come in. Being older people, they've had a lot of time to develop patience. And they just enjoy the kids. Not only do the kids learn cognitive skills through their playtime, they develop emotional strength. And my mom loves her volunteer work, so it must do something for her, too. And in case you didn't figure it out already, Generation Two is referring to the fact that the kids and adults are separated by about 2 generations in age.

What a great program, and what a simple concept! Do you have a program like this in your community, or in your child's school?

Taking Care of Ourselves and Our Children

So far, this blog has been a lot about things - especially things that can be won on blog contests. That's fun and all, but I thought perhaps it was time to add a little more substance. After all, I've now got 3 followers! Woo hoo! So look for posts discussing some of my thoughts on what we can do to better take care of ourselves and our children. I'm no expert, but I have a few ideas, and I also read others' ideas and can reflect and report on them. I'll also try to link up this blog to other blogs that, in my view, are doing a wonderful job in getting us to think about what's good for us, our families, our children, our communities, and our world.

Have a great day!