Funny Monsters’ Coloring Book

Funny Monsters’ Coloring Book

Let your kid’s creativity run wild!

A new coloring book based on the book A Wonderful Day To Smile And To dare.

Including funny images and some empty pages to let kids draw their own funny monsters.

This coloring book completes the creative cycle of tools that help to deal with childhood fears:

  • A picture book about how to be a superhero, with a smile.
  • A process taking parents and children through the steps of dealing with fears.
  • A coloring book – using art and humor to overcome fears.

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Download the coloring book here (PDF format): A-Wonderful-Day-Coloring-Book

See My Funny Monster!

See My Funny Monster!

Funny Monster craft

Wonderful feedback from a teacher who used my book to help autistic children deal with their fears.

“I used your wonderful book today to teach a lesson about monsters and the feeling of fear to my class of autistic children, kindergarten through grade 3.

Then we had a craft project, making a funny monster.

It was a very successful lesson. The kids loved the book and the craft.

See the picture of my model above.”

– Amyra Henry

The book “A Wonderful Day To Smile And To Dare” and the accompanying process “Draw Me A Monster” have helped children, including my own, to come to terms with their fears, using humor and art.

"Draw Me A Monster" process

“Draw Me A Monster” process

Children's book: A wonderful Day to Smile and To Dare

Children’s book: A wonderful Day to Smile and To Dare

Superpower to combat fear

Superpower to combat fear

Super Power Against Fear

Maybe Kurt Vonnegut was right when he said that Humor is an almost physiological response to fear”.

Humor, is an effective tool to overcome fears, it works by forcing a change of perspective, facilitating real reappraisal of the situation.

This means that humor puts fears into perspective. It addresses the same issues as fear, not to dismiss them, but to strengthen our ability to confront them, and then laugh them away, a kind of counter-measure.

Funny is healthy… People use humor successfully to desensitize phobias, such as fear of spiders. They use it to combat anxieties and to even to alleviate pain.

Humor to combat childhood fears

Children go through a phase of development around age three or four, in which they start develop fears, both realistic an non-realistic. The up side is that their sense of humor also develops around the same age and they respond with delight and often uncontrolled laughter to anything humorous.

The great thing about humor is that it is the one thing that fear cannot abide. This means that laughter can help to replace fear, and it is a very useful tool to empower children and give them a sense of control and a new perspective over their fears.

Laughter is a testament to courage, and courage is stronger than fear.

We all need a strong and healthy dose of focused humor in our lives every day!

—–

Photo credit: simpleinsomnia

 Sources:

Humor can ease fear, Stanford http://www.futurity.org/no-kidding-humor-eases-fear/

Using humor in systematic desensitization to reduce fear, http://www.csulb.edu/~djorgens/ventis.pdf

Emotional Development in Preschool Age Children http://www.education.com/reference/article/emotional-development-preschool-children/

The great decline of books… and a possible cure?

The great decline of books… and a possible cure?

books in a heap

I’ve recently discussed in a previous post, how “Reading to your kids makes them smarter!“. Now, that we know the benefits of reading books, let’s find out how many children still actually read them.

(Hmm…you probably think you know the answer, don’t you? Well, you should read on, there are some surprises ahead…)

How many children actually read books today?

Let’s start with what most parents suspect already: Less and less children read print books these days.

In fact, a survey of 2,000 British children and parents conducted by Nielsen Book in June 2013, found that in just one year (2012-2013), children’s reading habits have changed dramatically:

  • The percentage of children aged 11-17 who don’t read books at all, more than doubled – rising from 13% to 27%.
  • The percentage of children who used to read a book occasionally – dropped from 45% to 38%.
  • Some good news still remain – 32% of children still read books for pleasure on a daily basis.

The above numbers are in line with book industry figures showing an 8% year-on-year drop in (printed) books bought for children.

These numbers are simple averages showing a growing trend. But, the decline in reading is evident in other research, suggesting that the time that children dedicate to reading books, is drastically declining.

If children don’t read books, what do they do instead?

Only three activities increased in percentage between 2012 -2013, according to the same Nielsen study: Playing “game apps”, watching videos on YouTube and texting.

It makes sense doesn’t it? Many kids have smartphones at an early age, and most houses (western countries) have tablets. Kids can easily install game apps and get their choice of videos on YouTube using these devices.

Smartphones and tablets have become agents of change, diverting kids’ attention from other activities, such as reading books, to those that can be accessed instantly using a handy device.

It’s not just book reading that is suffering from these changes, other traditional activities like playing outside, hobbies and art, are also being dropped.

Did we lose the battle on reading books?

Not necessarily. There is hope and its messengers are eBooks.

We cannot abolish progress, not even when it comes in the form of smartphones and tablets… But we can use it to achieve our goal – to help our children read more books.

The “Kids + E-Reading Trends 2012 to 2013 study” conducted by PlayCollective and Digital Book World, this year (2014), brings us the really good news:

67% of U.S. children aged 2-13 are now reading eBooks, a rise of 54%, from last year.

Let’s stop for a minute and think about these numbers: a rise of 54% in e-reading in just one year!

In the words of Paul Levine, co-CEO of PlayCollective: “E-reading has reached and passed a tipping point, it is becoming a normal part of kids lives and becoming habitual.”

More numbers to make you happy:

  • Kids’ e-reading continues to grow sharply, with two-thirds of children 13 and under now reading digital books. 92% of those kids are reading eBooks at least once a week.
  • Daily e-reading has increased across all ages. 50% of children aged 2-5 are now enjoying digital reading daily, and 44% of older kids doing the same.
  • 48% of the children have expressly asked to purchase a print version of an eBook they own and 54% of kids asked for an eBook of a physical book they own.
  • Tablets remain the preferred e-reading device for kids overall

Call me optimistic but I call this a revolution! Maybe our kids didn’t give up on reading books, maybe they’ve just rediscovered them in a different format and are building new habits to fit.

My advice:

Move with the times, get your kids acquainted with eBooks, if they get used to them, there is a good chance that eBooks will become a part of their lives, just as printed books have been part of our lives for so many years.

Sources:

Children’s reading shrinking due to apps, games and YouTube, theGuardian

New Digital Book World Report on Kids and E-Reading, DBW (Digital Book Wire)

Reading to your kids makes them smarter!

Reading to your kids makes them smarter!

Grandfather reading a book to a child

Parents to small children are familiar with these magical moments of reading a bedtime story. These moments are precious “together” time, when both parent and child sail together into strange new lands, peek into lives of people different yet similar to us, and applaud heroic acts.

But reading to your children is far more than just having fun together (very important, don’t get me wrong). Reading to your children also makes your kids smarter, giving them a leverage that will last many years.

Reading to your children, improves their cognitive skills and helps them develop sound reading habits. These habits, in turn, will contribute to developing their cognitive skills further for years to come.

Reading and cognitive skills

Two studies, one performed at the University of Education, Melbourne Australia, and another, conducted at London University’s Institute of Education, confirm these facts:

  • Reading to children at age 4-5 every day has a significant positive effect on their reading skills and cognitive skills (i.e., language and literacy, numeracy and cognition) later in life.
  • Reading to children every day  has the same effect as being almost 12 months older.
  • This is where reading habits kick in – Children who read for pleasure made more progress in math, vocabulary and spelling between the ages of 10 and 16 than those who rarely read.

Reading is more important than family background

More than that, reading is the great equalizer, more rewarding than a parent’s degree, family background or home environment. The above studies also found that:

  • Reading to children improves their cognitive skills in ways that are not related to the child’s family background or home environment but are the direct result of how frequently they have been read to prior to starting school. 
  • And again, reading habits provide long-term advantage – Reading for pleasure was found to be more important for children’s cognitive development between ages 10 and 16 than their parents’ level of education. The combined effect on children’s reading at the age of 16 was 4 times greater than the advantage provided by having a parent with a degree.

The advantages of reading are very evident in large scale

How significant is reading to your children? Very. The differences between children who are read to at a young age and those that are not, can be seen clearly even in large scale:

Another research performed by Feitelson and Goldstein, at Cambridge University, found that in neighborhoods where children tended to do well in school, 96% of the children were read to daily. In contrast, they found that in neighborhoods where children tended to do poorly in school, 61% of the children were not read to at all.

 

Need I say more?

Just grab a book and invest in your kids’ future –read them a bedtime story 🙂

—-

Photo credit: YRLewis

Sources: 

Reading to children, Feitelson and Goldstein

Reading for pleasure puts children ahead in the classroom, study finds, IOE (Institution of Education, University of London)

Reading to Young Children: A Head-Start in Life, Department of Education and Early Childhood Development, The University of Melbourne

When were you last saved by a heroine?

When were you last saved by a heroine?

Pippi-vs-rapunzel - Who'd you rather be?

Seriously… When did you last read a book with a female as the main character? when did you read one to your boys? (I know girls love books about girls, so this is a boys-only question 🙂 )

I have two boys, we had hours upon hours of happy reading together, but I remember only one story with a female heroine – “Momo” by  Michael Ende (one of my favorites as a child). I remember their disdain when they realized that Momo was a girl. To cut a long story short – we didn’t finish reading it…

I know, I know, I’m a horrible mom, educating my boys for inequality, or at least not doing enough to help them identify with female main characters.

It’s not that it was a conscious decision on my part, but I mostly let my boys choose a book from few suggested options and there weren’t many suitable books with significant female characters. When such books were in option… guess what – They didn’t choose any book with a female heroine.

Is it just me or is it all bad news for women?

A study covering a whole century of children’s books, “Gender in twentieth century children’s books, Patterns of Disparity in Titles and Central Characters“, reviewed almost 6,000 books published between the year 1900 – 2000, and found the following:

  • Main character – Almost two-thirds of children’s books published each year  have a male hero (or main character), and only about a third of them have a female heroine (57% male vs. 31% female)
  • Animal characters – It’s even worse in books that depict animal characters, these are usually labeled as “gender neutral” by publisher but are, in fact, mostly male. Female characters are hardly represented at all (only in 33% of the books) and are typically marginalized and stereotyped when they do.
  • Readers bias – “Mothers (even those scoring high on the Sex Role Egalitarianism Questionnaire) frequently label gender-neutral animal characters as male when reading or discussing books with their children and children assign gender to gender-neutral animal characters”.
  • Book titles – On average, twice as many (36.5 percent) books each year include a male in the title compared to those that include a female (17.5 percent).

Female characters – under-represented, marginalized and dogmatic

So it’s not just me… Women and girls are grossly under-represented in children’s books. But it get’s worse… it’s how they are represented in the stories they do appear in. Take “Winnie the Pooh” for example, the only female character there is Kenga – how much influence does she have within the story? another example is the Lord of the Rings, where the female characters are scarce and marginal. I’m sure we all know many other examples.

In too many books women are usually depicted as being either a mother, a witch or a godmother. Girls are mostly depicted as shallow, one-dimensional, helpless twits, waiting for the handsome prince to save them.

That is not to say that there aren’t books with powerful female heroines, two of which are Alice from Alice in Wonderland, Dorothy from the Wizard of Oz, and the most shining example to my humble opinion: Pippi Longstockings, but there are very few of these.

How boys identify with female heroines 

So not only there’re not enough books with meaningful female characters, boys usually dismiss such books as “books for girls”and avert from reading them. But even when they do get to read such books, they interpret them differently:

“When boys identify with a girl as a central character, they redefine her as a secondary character and they identify male secondary characters as central characters when retelling stories”

Conclusion

These biased patterns are ingrained in us and we, in turn program our children with the same values through our choice of books and other media.

The conclusions of this study regarding the depiction of girls and woman in children literature are pretty grim:

“The messages conveyed through representation of males and females in books contribute to children’s ideas of what it means to be a boy, girl, man, or woman. The disparities we find point to the symbolic annihilation of women and girls, and particularly female animals, in twentieth-century children’s literature, suggesting to children that these characters are less important than their male counterparts.”

I can’t say that I was very aware of how pervasive gender bias is when it comes to children’s books, I must have been somewhat aware of that to make me choose a heroine for my book. I’m glad I did that, and I am most certainly going to make a conscious effort to introduce more books with female heroines to my kids.

A side note – the cultural bias does not end with the under-representation of girls and women, ethnic groups are under-represented in children literature as well: 

“The Cooperative Children’s Book Center at the University of Wisconsin-Madison School of Education has conducted a survey of children’s and young adult books published each year since 1985. Of an estimated 5,000 books released in 2012, only 3.3% featured African-Americans; 2.1% featured Asian-Americans or Pacific Islanders; 1.5% featured Latinos; and only 0.6% featured Native Americans.”

I’ll save that for another post…we can only save the world one step at a time…

Sources:

Gender in twentieth century children’s books, Patterns of Disparity in Titles and Central Characters, JANICE MCCABE, Florida State University

Children’s books are ‘sexist and enforce gender inequality,  The Telegraph

What Does it Mean that Most Children’s Books Are Still About White Boys?, the Blog

Study finds huge gender imbalance in children’s literature,  The guardian