Posts Tagged ‘teaching’

Celebrate Literacy Award Dinner

Monday, June 29th, 2009

By Tina Elliott

Recently I was privileged to attend the Celebrate Literacy Award dinner put on by the Greater San Diego Reading Association. I tend to take books and reading for granted, having been instilled with a love of reading by my mother so many years ago and, thanks to her, never, ever being without a good book to read as a child. Now, as an adult, I am surrounded by more books than I could possibly ever get through. (I work in a book store for goodness sake.) What delight there is to be found between the pages of a book - joy, wonderment, giggles, or suspense; characters showing strength of spirit in attempting to overcome challenges and making hard decisions. Reading opens so many doors for us, often without us even realizing it. How easy it is for us to forget that there are many, young and old alike, who do not have the means to own a book of their own, or, even more sadly, who are not able to read.

The Greater San Diego Reading Association (GSDRA) is a professional organization affiliated with the California Reading Association (CRA) and the International Reading Association (IRA). GSDRA’s goals are to promote literacy, provide activities on literacy issues, and advance the pursuit of life-long reading. Every year, the GSDRA holds a celebration dinner to acknowledge businesses and individuals within our community who go “above and beyond” in the area of literacy. This year, Chinaberry was very proud to receive the Jerry Crews Award, created to recognize those in the business community who exemplify kindness and support for GSDRA and reading education. What an honor for Chinaberry to be acknowledged by such a committed group of individuals.

Equally as exciting to us was being linked to the devoted individuals who were also honored. Our own longtime Chinaberry customer and storyteller extraordinaire Marilyn McPhie received the Special Award of Recognition for her work with the Books for Babies program (www.marilynmcphie.com), and Katherine Salmon received the Judith Parson Award for Outstanding Student Teacher.

The Celebrate Literacy Award recognizes organizations, institutions, and individuals who have made significant literacy contributions at the local, state, or provincial level. This year’s Celebrate Literacy Honorees included St. Luke’s Refugee Network (http://sudaneserefugees.org/); United Through Reading Transitions (www.UnitedThroughReading.org); Edith Hope Fine and Judith Josephson, co-authors of Armando and the Blue Tarp School, nominated for the 2009-2010 California Young Reader Medal; teacher David Lynch, the true-life inspiration for Armando and the Blue Tarp School; and Irwin Herman, “The Bookman” (www.TheBookman.org). In addition to these fabulous individuals and organizations, many teachers and educators from school districts throughout the county were recipients of the 2009 Award of Excellence.

How inspiring to be surrounded by these dedicated individuals who have devoted their lives to others, giving their time and energy to promoting literacy and working toward the goal of giving every child and adult the ability to own and, more importantly, read a good book.

Tina Elliott and Janet Kelly at the GSDRA Awards

A Simple Yet Fun and Addictive Game

Monday, June 15th, 2009

Shut the Box

I played this game with my girls over the weekend. We really enjoyed it. My twins are seven and this game is a great way to help them with their addition and thinking skills, but most of all, it’s just fun. The games are quick and a lot of the winning has more to do with luck than anything else. This means your kids have the same chance of winning as you do. I even found myself playing Shut the Box by myself right before I went to sleep. I’d recommend this for a family game night or to play while waiting at the doctor’s office, at an airport, for a performance to start, etc.
- Ali, Blog Administrator

I’m not a game person, so when a friend pulled out his wooden Shut the Box game (a world traveler, he carries it with him at all times), I was none too excited. My reluctance to play, though, dissolved as soon as the game began.

It is believed that Shut the Box dates back to at least the 12th century. Because it is extremely easy to learn, yet involves a nicely challenging combination of strategy and luck, it is one of those games that is hard to stop playing.

The object is to flip over the numbered wooden tiles so that their sum equals the sum of the dice that a player has just rolled (e.g., ”7” is rolled, so a player could flip the 3 and 4 tiles, the 2 and 5 tiles, the 4, 2, and 1 tiles, etc.). When ”flipping” is no longer possible because the necessary tiles are no longer available, one’s turn is over. The sum of the remaining tiles becomes that player’s score, and the winner is determined by the lowest sum at the end of the game.

There are variations, too, and in case it isn’t obvious, it’s an excellent game for a child mastering addition. Additionally, although the directions don’t say so, it’s a fine ‘’solitaire” game.

My world-traveling friend says that his Shut the Box has traveled so many miles and seen so many hours of play all over the globe that he considers it almost as important as his passport! Now that I’ve played (and played) Shut the Box, I understand how people get addicted to games!

Review by Ann Ruethling

Jog-a-Thon School Fundraiser

Thursday, June 11th, 2009


About one week ago, my girls’ elementary school had their first jog-a-thon fundraiser and it was a big success! Our school raised a lot of money and because the PTA organized it without help from a fundraising organization, the school got to keep all of the money raised.

The kids seemed to have a great time as well. It was set up so each grade level had their own separate area for running. I went down and cheered on the first grade joggers, including my two girls. The older children ran for the longest period of time. Besides being a great way to donate money to the school, jog-a-thons also helps promote a healthy lifestyle.

I had the girls “train” for the event by running laps around our house & doing various exercises. One day I even set up an obstacle course in our yards, which challenged them not only physically, but cognitively as well since they had to try to remember all of the instructions (I could barely remember them myself, and I was the one who made them up!). It’s not easy to exhaust my girls (huge understatement), but I managed to do it at least for a few days.

Getting back to the topic of school, I think I’ll ask the principal if the school might consider starting a before-school running program. Most of the schools in our district that have started morning running programs, have had a lot of success. One big benefit is that the kids who run seem to be calmer and more ready to learn in the classroom.

So, whether you’re promoting jogging for a school fundraiser, a way for kids to get into better shape, or a way to help kids begin their school day, it seems as if it’s a win-win situation for everyone involved.

Has your kid’s school done a jog-a-thon? If so, we’d love to hear about your experiences.

The Joy of Discovery

Monday, May 11th, 2009

This past weekend my son and I visited a science center. One of the more popular exhibits with the smaller children was a fan that faced the ceiling with a clear plastic tube sitting over the top. There was space underneath the tube to place items and then see which ones the fan would carry up through the tube and subsequently out the top and back down to the ground. There was a plethora of experimental bits and pieces lying on the carpet: scraps of paper, little strings, ribbon, Styrofoam packing peanuts, tiny paper airplanes, etc.

My son was absolutely fascinated with the fan. For about ten minutes he placed items inside the tube, jumping up and down with excitement as he watched the pieces shoot up to the ceiling, some slower than others depending on the weight. Then he discovered a small plastic tray, the kind that would hold about three pieces of chocolate candy in a box. He set the tray inside the tube and the air from the fan shot it up and out quickly. He then placed little scraps of Styrofoam inside the tray, watching the tray rise a little slower out of the tube. He finally found a happy medium by adding and removing enough of the pieces in the tray so that when he put it on the fan, the air caused the tray to levitate about midway in a mystifying way in the center of the tube.

I stood back, watching his mind work as he tested his experiments and I was reminded that as parents we sometimes need to take a “hands-off” approach. It’s difficult at times to bite our tongue and let our children experience the World at their own pace and in their own way. If I’d offered suggestions or taken the pieces and shown him myself, his course of learning wouldn’t have been the same as when I’d left him to discover it on his own. It’s our nature as parents to want to jump in and attempt to “teach the lesson” instead of letting children discover and study the cause-and-effect on their own. It’s tough watching our children struggle as they learn, but it’s necessary in teaching them independence. And isn’t that what raising children is all about, to guide them toward full independence and autonomy? I reminded myself of this again yesterday as I watched my son wriggle teeny-tiny buttons through buttonholes on his shirt. I sat quietly and watched, ready to help if asked, but not offering. He didn’t ask for my help.

“I never teach my pupils; I only attempt to provide the conditions in which they can learn.” – Albert Einstein

Create a “science center” in your own home with the ideas from 365 Simple Science Experiments with Everyday Materials.

Receiving an “A” in Kindness

Sunday, November 16th, 2008

I know a man, Jim, who’s a 4th grade teacher. At the end of the school year last June, he casually mentioned to a group of friends some things that have stayed in my mind and heart over these last months. He was talking about the requisite achievement tests, assessments, reports to the district, reports to the parents and the paperwork that are all part of the end-of-the-year procedures expected of teachers. He had just completed all of these reports and wanted us to know something.

Now, I’ve heard Jim talk about his class on a number of occasions. His eyes veritably twinkle as he tells how, in September, the kids are sort of - kids. And then by June, they are taller, more confident, more not so kid-like. His love for his calling, as well as for his charges, simply shines through. Every time I hear him mention his class, I’m struck with how I hope that every single one of his students’ parents understands how fortunate they are to have him in their lives.

On this particular day, he felt compelled to share with someone something that no commentary, no assessment, no form that he has to complete ever, ever asks for. Because he thought it was something important enough for someone to know, he wanted to report to us, friends sitting around, that the end of this school year, as so many others, found his students kinder, gentler and softer to each other than they had been at the beginning of the school year, and that, from his vantage point, it appeared that their souls seemed to be in pretty good shape. (more…)