Tuesday, July 7, 2015

Casals quote

Radio Commentary

Our nation just celebrated our day of independence, and it is good to remember that our free public school system is the very foundation of our democracy.

In other countries, schooling was only for the children of the elite. Here, we take all comers. We give everyone the opportunity to learn, regardless of family background, wealth or even aptitude.
  
And what do we teach our children in our classrooms?
  
Pablo Casals made a wonderful comment about educational ideals for our children.

He said, “Each moment we live never was before and will never be again. And yet what we teach children in school is 2 + 2 = 4, and Paris is the capital of France.

“What we should be teaching them is what they are.

“We should be saying: ‘Do you know what you are? You are a marvel. You are unique. In all the world there is no other child exactly like you.

“In the millions of years that have passed there has never been another child exactly like you. You may become a Shakespeare, a Michelangelo, a Beethoven. You have the capacity for anything. Yes, you are a marvel.”

Good thoughts for all to hear — and a true indicator of our freedom and opportunities.

Monday, July 6, 2015

Summertime reading

Radio Commentary

Experts agree that children who read during the summer gain reading skills, while those who do not can lose some of them.
  
As children’s first and most important teachers, parents have a major role to play in motivating children to read during the summer.
  
Here are some tips to help keep your child learning and reading.

Combine activities with books. Summer leaves lots of time for children to enjoy fun activities such as going to the park, seeing a movie, or going to the beach.
  
Why not also encourage them to read a book about the activity?

If you’re going to a baseball game, suggest your children read a book about their favorite player beforehand. In the car or over a hot dog, you’ll have lots of time to talk about the book and the game.

Visit the library. If your child doesn’t have a library card, summer is a great time to sign up. In addition to a wide selection of books to borrow, many libraries have fun, child-friendly summer reading programs.

Lead by example. Read the newspaper at breakfast, pick up a magazine at the doctor’s office, and stuff a paperback in your beach bag.

If young people see the adults around them reading often, they will understand that literature can be a fun and important part of their summer days. 

Friday, July 3, 2015

Good citizens

Radio Commentary

Tomorrow, when we celebrate our nation’s independence, it’s good to remember that home is every child’s first community. What children see there influences greatly how they interact in the broader communities of their neighborhood, school, and ultimately the world.

Parents can have an enormous impact in helping young people become good citizens of their communities. Here’s how:

First, stay informed. Keep up with community concerns, beginning in your own neighborhood and extending to global issues.

Let your child see you using a variety of sources for your information: friends and neighbors, newspapers and magazines, radio and television, and responsible online sites.

Explain why it is important to vote in local, state, and national elections, and that at age 18 he or she will have this right and responsibility.

Find at least one cause in the community where you can volunteer to help. Let your children know why you think it is important and how you are trying to help. Let them join you if they want.

Opportunities range from helping other children or seniors, to helping animals or an environmental project. Share success stories with your children.

It’s easy to become overwhelmed by problems in the community or the world, but individuals do make a difference.

Talk about the importance of joining forces for the greater good. That’s what has always made this nation great.

Thursday, July 2, 2015

Inexpensive toys

Radio Commentary

Parents on a budget should not worry about buying expensive toys, especially during the summer.
  
Children learn just as well — and maybe even better — when they play with household items and simple toys. The trick is to see things “through a child’s eyes.”

Don’t throw away empty paper towel tubes. Four-year-olds love to look and talk through them.

A stack of discarded envelopes can be just the thing for playing “office.” And an old purse may be ideal for toting a child’s treasures.

Children love to use paint, crayons, pencils, and chalk to scribble or practice drawing. Cookie dough and clay are great for making sculptures, letters, and shapes.
  
Other free or inexpensive things that children love to play and learn with include:

  • Aluminum pie tins
  • Wooden spoons
  • Balls of all sizes (except those small enough to swallow)
  • Sponges
  • Measuring spoons and cups 
  • Blocks that stack or fit together
  • Plastic dishes
  • Old clothes for dress-up
  • And boxes galore. 

Children can play with simple toys in many ways. The best part is that there’s no one right way.

Exploring different ways to play with a toy helps children be creative and solve problems. These are useful skills for school success. 

Wednesday, July 1, 2015

Swimming safety

Radio Commentary

Children have great fun swimming in pools or at the beach. But it is important that children stay safe any time they are around water.

All children should know how to swim well enough to survive an emergency. They should always swim with a buddy who has the ability to help them if needed.

Children should stay out of the water if they are overheated or overtired. They should never dive unless they know the area well enough, and they are certain the water is deep enough.

Make sure children check with a lifeguard about beach and surf conditions before swimming in the ocean.

Tell them if they ever think they are being pulled out by a rip current, they should stay calm. Instead of fighting the current, they should swim parallel to the beach. Once they feel free of the current, they should then swim to shore.
    
Finally, children should not overestimate their swimming ability. Weak swimmers should stay in the shallow end of a pool, or within an area marked off for them with buoyed lines.

In the ocean, swimming short distances parallel to the shore is safest.

Swimming can provide great exercise and fun. But it is important that children understand the dangers and stay “water safe.”

Tuesday, June 30, 2015

Kindergarten learning over summer

Radio Commentary

Parents often think about how to keep academic skills sharp for their children over the summer.
  
For children finishing kindergarten, this is an especially important time, so you might want to touch base with the teacher before the school year ends.

By now, your child can probably use letters and sounds to figure out how to spell words.  Practice in this area can be helpful.

Reading and understanding stories designed for early readers is good practice.

Ask your child’s teacher whether his or her work proved satisfactory this year.
  
How could it be better?  Ask if your child is on track to be successful in first grade.
  
If there are any concerns, ask what would be helpful to reinforce over the summer.
  
If your child needs extra support, or wants to learn even more about a special subject, ask the teacher if there are resources available that could help.

Teachers and parents share the same goal:  they both want their children to succeed.

Summer is a needed break for many children, but there are many enjoyable ways to help keep academic skills from getting rusty.  Teachers are a great resource.

Monday, June 29, 2015

Only in America

News column

This weekend the United States marks 239 years since the founders boldly asserted certain “truths to be self evident.” They stated early in the Declaration of Independence that “All men are created equal,” and are entitled to “Life, Liberty, and the pursuit of Happiness.”

But as the awful events that unfolded on a sultry Wednesday evening at the Emanuel A.M.E. Church in Charleston, South Carolina recently demonstrated, not every citizen subscribes to that elusive ideal of equality. Tragically, some choose not to pursue happiness, but rather pursue bigotry and hate — with murderous zeal.

A member of my staff happened to be visiting family in Charleston during that tumultuous time; his plane touched down in coastal Carolina about an hour after police apprehended the 21-year old alleged murderer. When David returned to work the following week, I asked him about some of his observations.

“It was surreal,” he said. “The entire community seemed shaken to its core. And there were so many emotions swirling: fear, anger, bewilderment, suspicion. And intense grief. But what was most remarkable,” he continued, “was the eagerness with which the victims’ families sought healing and reconciliation, and offered forgiveness.”

Several of us talked about a number of things that afternoon: gun control, the Confederate flag debate, race relations in the U.S. — a conversation that was rich and expansive and thought provoking, and which makes me grateful that we work and live in a place, a city, a state, and a country that places a premium on those kinds of discussions.

But we all seemed to gravitate back towards that striking demonstration of forgiveness and healing. I know we were not alone in that marvel. A day earlier New York Times columnist David Brooks told NPR’s Melissa Block that this gesture by the victims’ family members demonstrated a “depth of graciousness of spirit that's almost beyond fathoming.” Indeed.

Last Friday, June 26, President Obama delivered the eulogy for Rev. Clementa Pinckney, who, along with eight of his parishioners, was senselessly gunned down nine days earlier in one of his church’s classrooms. It was clear that Obama, too, was moved by the community’s eagerness to heal, as “grace” was the dominant theme of his message. “The alleged killer,” the President observed, “could not have imagined…how the United States of America would respond: not merely with revulsion, but with a thoughtful introspection and self-examination that we so rarely see in public life.” In an extraordinary moment towards the end of his remarks, the President leaned into the microphone and began singing “Amazing Grace.” The thousands in attendance at the memorial soon joined in. Only in America.

July 4 marks another anniversary, one considerably lesser known but which also obliges me to say, “Only in America.” On July 4, 1826, John Adams and Thomas Jefferson — the second and third American Presidents, respectively — died within hours of each other. These two signers of the Declaration went on to become bitter political rivalries. Later in life, however, they largely set aside their political differences, and in their post-presidencies began a written correspondence that is unmatched in the history of American letters.

The exchange is fascinating, but one quote from Jefferson, writing from his home in Monticello, Virginia, stands out. “I steer my bark with Hope in the Head,” he wrote to the New Englander Adams, “leaving Fear astern.” I would argue that the contemporary version of Jefferson’s observation was heard from the pulpit at Pinckney’s memorial service. “Weeping may endure for a night,” said Bishop John Bryant, “but joy comes in the morning. Touch the person next to you and say, ‘Good morning.’” 

It is my hope that, as our country once again celebrates its independence this July 4, we renew our commitment to leave behind the fear and hatred that was on such conspicuous, painful display recently. Instead, we should aspire as citizens of this extraordinary nation to heed the admonition of both Jefferson and Bishop Bryant to grow, to be better versions of ourselves, and to continue in our learning and self-discovery.


Pool safety

Radio Commentary

Swimming pools are a great place for children to have fun and get exercise. But they can also pose some dangers.

The American Red Cross has important safety tips for supervising children anytime they are at a pool or pond:

Never let a child swim alone. Constant supervision is a must.

Never leave a child unattended in the pool area — even for the length of time it takes to answer a telephone.

Pool owners should make sure there is fencing around the pool, with a locked gate.

Deep and shallow sections of the pool should be clearly marked and separated with a line if weak swimmers or non-swimmers use the pool.

Anyone supervising children near water should know simple reaching techniques for rescues.

These can include extending a towel, shirt, branch, or pole to the swimmer, or throwing a life preserver or other buoyant object.
   
It is also important to know how to administer CPR.

With water safety always in mind, everyone can have fun at the pool this summer.