B000bw57y601a19qiqv4wbgqz3_ss500_sclzzzz Readers with children (like Tiny Girl) in the pool for 2007-08 gifted-and-talented kindergarten admissions should be receiving their packet from the Dept. of Ed. this week with their OLSAT test date, a sample test, and instructions for administering it at home. We'd been periodically checking the department's G&T site for weeks, looking for the long-promised test-prep materials, but obviously instead of posting the guides, the city has mailed them out. Oddly, the packet also includes a note warning parents that the test materials are confidential, and should not be shared with anyone. And we'll bow to the sanctity of the admissions process and not share any details of the packet here.

We will, however, offer this tip: Given what we've seen of our packet, one could conceivably help prepare one's child for OLSAT-style questions by encouraging them to play with Educational Insight's Teddy Early Learning Game.


Lineartedgelettering The U.S. Mint is preparing to follow the success of its state quarters series with a series of dollar coins featuring the visage of each U.S. President. Sounds good to us - it's educational, and it might inspire some interest in history, or at least in coin collecting. Given Fellow's enthusiasm for the state quarters, we've even been looking forward to it. But apparently we're missing the bigger picture, as seen by righty columnist David Shribman in what is easily the wackiest piece we've read this month:

Putting all the presidents on a classroom calendar or on a metal ruler is one thing. Calendars last a year and metal rulers are lost in a month. Putting all the presidents on circulating coins is another thing altogether. It's a very bad idea. . . .

The truth of the matter is that all of our presidents do not deserve to be honored. . . . Buchanan and Harding do not deserve coins of their own. . . William Harrison was president for a month. He doesn't deserve a coin. William Taft was a good man and a good chief justice, but as a president he left few marks. No coin for him, either. . . .

Putting Arthur and Garfield on the same plane, or on the same coin, as some of their presidential predecessors is a moral equivalency that the American people, who say they love equality but who honor excellence, should not tolerate. This effort proves only one thing, about which we might not be particularly proud: In America, money is the great equalizer.

But the real problem with this notion is that placing every president on a dollar coin rewards attainment, not achievement. That is not a good lesson for our children, or for our country. . . .

And another thing: Rhode Island hasn't contributed anything of value to the union since it ratified the Constitution. And Hawaii? A glorified territorial possession, no more deserving of immortality than Guam. No state quarter for either of them!


Pr121706bvnewlook Archie Comic Publications Inc. of Mamaroneck, N.Y., which has been chronicling the romantic misadventures of Archie, Betty, Veronica, Reggie, and Jughead since 1941, will update its iconic characters' looks to try to generate some heat among the millions of teen readers who have never heard of them. Archie titles sold a million copies each during their 1940s heyday, according to this Wall Street Journal article, but now struggle in the low-five digits. Samantha Skey of teen marketer Alloy Media put it diplomatically:  "There's not a lot of knowledge or awareness of 'Archie.'"

All we can say is, that's just because the fellas haven't seen Veronica's new look.


From a Times op-ed on the scientific basis of children's belief in Santa Claus, run during the height of the holiday slow season:

Our experiment was designed to investigate how a young child, upon encountering a fantastical being like a unicorn in a storybook, decides whether it is real or imaginary. Adults often make the call based on context. If, for example, we encounter a weird and unfamiliar insect at a science museum, we are more likely to think it is something real than if we find it in a joke store.

To see if children could also use context in this way, we described “surnits” . . . to our study group. To some of the children, we put surnits in a fantastical context: “Ghosts try to catch surnits when they fly around at night.” To others, we characterized them in scientific terms: “Doctors use surnits to help them in the hospital.”

The 4- to 6-year-olds who heard the medical description were much more likely to think surnits were real than children who were told they had something to do with ghosts. The children demonstrated that they do not indiscriminately believe everything they’re told, but use some pretty high-level tools to distinguish between fantasy and reality.

In conclusion -- America's children: No more likely to believe in ghosts than the next guy.


F4cd02 Brooklyn's own Dan Zanes and Friends were nominated for Best Musical Album for Children for the outstanding "Catch That Train." Near as we can tell, it's Zanes' second children's Grammy nomination (along with a 2004 nod for "House Party"), and given the academy's well-known affection for guest star-laden albums, he'd seem to be a good bet to win it, given the contributions from the Kronos Quartet, the Blind Boys of Alabama, Nick Cave, Natalie Merchant, and the Children of Agape. Zanes' competition includes John Lithgow, Trout Fishing in America, and, utterly inexplicably, a Baby Einstein compilation (!?).

We'll be pulling for Zanes and Friends, in the hopes that Grammy recognition might bring the original lineup together for at least one evening of rapprochement. (Ominously, since the departures from the group of Barbara Brousal, Cynthia Hopkins, and Yoshi the bass player, Zanes has taken down the "Friends Bios" page of his Web site.)


043973861x01_aa240_sclzzzzzzz_ We've entered the era of real book reading here, as Fellow has been working his way through Mary Pope Osborne's  Magic Tree House series (which we would recommend, and will in fact do so in depth in this space soon). At a recent visit to Barnes and Noble, Fellow spent almost all of a $20 gift card he got as a birthday gift on Magic Tree House volumes, but he also introduced Tiny Girl to another series, for somewhat less adept readers -- Daisy Meadows' Rainbow Magic, a seven-book epic based on this premise:

The seven Rainbow Fairies have been banished from Fairyland by the wicked Jack Frost. If they don't return soon, Fairyland is doomed to be colorless and gray.

Tiny thought this sounded like just the thing for her, so we agreed to buy her the first entry, Ruby the Red Fairy, and encouraged Fellow to read it aloud to her -- which he did. Except now he's totally into the story himself, and eager to read the rest of the series to find out if human girls Rachel and Kirsty can "keep [Ruby] safe and find the rest of her Rainbow sisters . . . before it's too late." The stories venture into Fairyland itself, where the girls are given the power to become fairies themselves -- because they believe in magic -- and where they encounter Oberon and Titania, king and queen of the fairies. . . Oh, man.

Hi, our name is Freelance Dad, and our son is totally into a book series about little girl fairies. This is our first meeting. Umm, he's really into baseball cards, too. . .


The Times article the other day, on the difficulties African-American families encounter while trying to hire a nanny, should be required reading about the state of the union:

This summer, Tomasina and Eric Boone of Brooklyn sought a nanny for their baby girl because their jobs — she is the advertising beauty director for Essence magazine, he is a lawyer at Milbank Tweed — require evening hours. After a Manhattan agency did not return Ms. Boone’s call, they searched on their own, and sat through one stomach-curdling interview after another.  

One sitter, a Caribbean woman living in Bedford-Stuyvesant, asked about the “colored” people in the Boones’ neighborhood, Clinton Hill. A Russian sitter said enthusiastically that although she had never cared for a black child, she could in this case, because little Emerie Boone, now 7 months old, was light-skinned. All sitters expressed surprise that a black couple could afford a four-story brownstone.


We've never bought a Leap Frog, never really even considered it. We briefly had an electronic book toy that read stories to the kids as they (theoretically) read along. But it never felt right and we got rid of it. Research that these toys don't deliver the benefits they claim is far from new, but some recent studies were rehashed in a Journal op-ed the other day, and it's always worth reinforcing:

A two-year, government-funded study by researchers at the University of Stirling in Scotland found that electronic toys marketed for their supposed educational benefits, such as the LeapFrog LeapPad. . . and the Vtech V provided no obvious benefits to children. [R]esearcher Lydia Plowman [said] she believes parents are wasting their money on expensive educational electronics. At a Boston University conference on language development in November, researchers from Temple University's Infant Laboratory and the Erikson Institute in Chicago described the results of their research on electronic books. The Fisher-Price toy company, which contributed funding for the study, was not pleased. . . . [R]esearcher Julia Parish-Morris [said] "parents and children reading electronic books together are having a severely truncated experience."

On the other hand, that Teddy Early Learning Game we mentioned earlier? It keeps the kids busy with interactive quizzes for hours, relying only on the radical technology of. . . a single magnet.


We read all we can about parenting for you, our readers, but we admit that we could barely make it through "One Spoonful at a Time," Harriet Brown's courageous and excruciatingly detailed story of her struggle to help her teenage daughter overcome anorexia, which ran in the Times magazine a few weeks back. We had to put it down at least three times and turn to year-end top-10 movie lists until our squeamishness passed and we could dive back in. On the list of things we don't wish for our daughter, or yours, anorexia remains at or near the top.

December 27, 2006 | Permalink | Subscribe to RSS


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