Monday, December 14, 2009

The Gift of Giving

I wish Christmas would just come already so I can finally stop shopping. It seems as though no matter how holiday-ready I think I am, I keep finding new things to buy, or new people to buy things for, right up until the minute the stores close on Christmas Eve. And if I'm not actually shopping, I'm thinking about shopping, usually wondering what to get those people -- and we all have a few of them on our shopping lists -- who have everything and want nothing and give too generously to be overlooked.

This year, a friend offered a possible solution to the perenniel "What to give someone who has everything" dilemma by sending a flock of chickens to Appalachia in a nephew's name. So when an e-mail about the Toys for Tots Literacy Program hit my browser, I already was primed to embrace a gift of giving. And, as a former reading teacher, this one seems like the perfect present.

According to the National Center for Children in Poverty, 44 percent of children in the United States grow up in families facing serious economic struggles. Those families can’t foster a love of reading and learning in their children because they don’t have access to the resources -- including books -- that the children need.

The Toys for Tots Literacy Program, a year-round initiative of the Marine Toys for Tots Foundation, offers economically disadvantaged children in the United States the chance to break that cycle of poverty and to succeed academically by providing them with direct access to books and educational resources that can enhance their ability to read and communicate effectively.

The UPS Store®, exclusive sponsor of the Toys for Tots Literacy Program, collects monetary donations for the Toys for Tots Foundation throughout the entire year. Every dollar donated places a book in the hands of a poor child in the local community. So this year, instead of wondering what to give that special person who has everything, why not give to Toys for Tots Literacy in his or her name? Give a buck; give a book; give a kid a chance!

Tuesday, December 8, 2009

My Favorite Book

I recently attended a baby shower at which we were asked to bring the expectant mother a favorite children's book instead of a greeting card. As a mother of four and a former kindergarten and first grade teacher (with a fabulous college Kiddy Lit professor), I could have filled an entire home library all by myself. Instead, I spent more than an hour at Borders trying to pick my all-time favorite. (Since the expectant mother is my daughter-in-law, my choice was clearly crucial.)

I ended up selecting not one old favorite, but three. First, I chose two copies of Watty Piper's The Little Engine That Could -- a full-sized edition for reading aloud, and an abridged version small enough for child-sized hands. That I thought was fitting for a book I'd loved as a child for its mesmerizing cadence -- "I think I can. I think I can. I think I can...." -- and as a parent and teacher for its motivating message.

Next, I chose Alexander and the Terrible, Horrible, No Good, Very Bad Day -- because Judith Viorst's rhymes are great fun -- and infinitely insightful -- whether you're a toddler or Suddenly Sixty. And because kids need to know that there are going to be terrible, horrible, no good, very bad days -- but they pass.

And finally, I chose The Poky Little Puppy, by Janette Sebring Lowrey, because it reminded me most of my childhood, and because it was the book most responsible for turning me into a life-long reader.

Which book would you have chosen?

Speaking of wonderful children's books...Carson-Dellosa Publishing LLC recently launched The Very Hungry Caterpillar™, a teacher-resource Web site offering lesson plans, craft ideas, teaching tips, tools, and printable classroom materials featuring Eric Carle’s bestselling book. In addition, to celebrate the 40th Anniversary of The Very Hungry Caterpillar™, the publisher has partnered with Chorion to sponsor a sweepstakes that will award teachers and classrooms exciting The Very Hungry Caterpillar™ prizes, and the opportunity to submit a question that will be answered in an exclusive online Q&A with the author. Check it out -- and then click Post A Comment below to share with us your favorite book or Kiddy-Lit-based Web site. We'd love to hear about them.

As Groucho Marx said, "Outside of a dog, a book is man's best friend. Inside of a dog it's too dark to read."

Have a great week!