Monthly Archives: January 2012

Another Noteworthy Parenting Site

Check out Scholastic.com’s parent section, found here, for a ton of useful information about parenting. In addition to offering recommendations for children’s books and parenting books, this site has sections on Child Development (with Age-by-Age guides to the various ways in which your child will develop, including academically, physically and socially), and School Help (with Grade-by-Grade guides, and many articles on how to improve Parent Teacher relationships). Lots of interesting and helpful articles to read here. Take some time to look around it!

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Red Tails Flies High

Hope you got a chance to see “Red Tails” this weekend. What an inspirational, action packed ride! The aerial fighting scenes are incredible. The good news is that lots of folks went on opening weekend. As Box Office Mojo reports, “Red Tails cruised in to second place with a very respectable $18.8 million”, which is more than several other comparable fighter pilot movies have earned in their first weekend. The movie received an “A” CinemaScore, which improved to a fantastic “A+” score for those below 18 and above 50. Red Tails marks distributor 20th Century Fox’s best opening for a non-franchise title since last April’s “Rio”.

This is a good old-fashioned war movie, wonderfully corny and patriotic, enhanced by modern special effects. For those of you who haven’t seen it yet, go as soon as you can! If you enjoyed it, go see it again!! Take your parents as well as your children, especially your sons.

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“Double Victory”: Real Life “Red Tails” on the History Channel

While you are making plans to see “Red Tails”, the film about the Tuskegee Airmen produced by George Lucas (try to go this weekend!), also make a note to check out “Double Victory”, Lucas’ documentary companion to “Red Tails”, on The History Channel. Originally aired earlier this month, “Double Victory” will be shown again on The History Channel as part of their History Classroom series on February 6th and 13th. More information about this documentary, including an informative education guide which will help your children fully understand this important part of our nation’s history, can be found here.

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What Parents Can Learn From Football: Focus on the First Downs

GCP has previously featured articles about what teachers and coaches can learn from one another. Today we focus on what parents can learn from football.

Regardless of how much of a football fan you are during the rest of the season, it is hard not to focus on the game during the playoffs. And even we novice watchers learn pretty quickly after a game or two that while it may be thrilling to watch a receiver catch a long pass and sprint down the field for a touchdown, most games are won by teams persistently and systematically making first downs, slowly but surely marching down the field towards the end zone. Less exciting to watch, perhaps, but often the stuff of which champions are made.

So what does this have to do with educating our boys? A recent conversation with an African American college admissions officer who has worked at a selective college for more than thirty years suggests that the parallels are compelling. He worries that we are not sufficiently concentrating on the systematic acquisition of “first downs” in educating our children, especially our boys. We are encouraging our sons to dream big, but not keeping them focused on doing their best, in even the simplest assignments, every day. In his words, making sure that first-grade Billy is optimally prepared for second grade is more important than whether he wants to go to Harvard, like his Uncle Joe did. Helping fourth-grade Sam understand that with consistent and diligent effort he can be ready next year to join Ms. Martin’s popular fifth grade class is as valuable as (or even more valuable than) encouraging his desire to be an astronaut.

As has been noted in many other GCP posts, our focus on our boys’ education has to start when they are young, by reading to them and keeping them engaged in stimulating activities. And it needs to continue through their years of schooling, encouraging them to stay the course and focus on their daily work even when they are convinced that reading some boring history chapter will in no way help them pursue their dreams of becoming the next Bill Gates.

It is tempting to be distracted by their exciting dreams of the future, which we so want to see realized. But helping them understand the importance of those first downs could be what really gets them closer to making these dreams come true. As this wise admissions officer noted, if we concentrate on the systematic acquisition of those educational first downs, “The touch downs will surely come eventually.”

Something to think about this weekend when you are watching the Giants march towards the Super Bowl. (Go Big Blue!)

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Creative Ways to Celebrate the Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. Holiday With Your Children

If you are looking for interesting ways to enable your children to focus on the life and work of Dr. King on his holiday, take a look at the King lessons and activities on educationworld.com, found here. Although these activities were collected for teachers to use in the classroom, many of them are easy for you to do with your children at home. There are activities for children from kindergarten through high school–something for everyone.

Also, check out the activities and information on Kaboose.com, a Disney site, found here. If you know of any other sites with good suggestions for celebrating this holiday, please share them with us.

Enjoy celebrating the life and work of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. with your children!

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Red Tails: Take Your Boys on Opening Weekend–January 20th

Red Tails is an action film inspired by the heroic exploits of the Tuskegee Airmen, the first all African American World War II aerial combat unit. Directed by Anthony Hemingway (“The Wire”), from a screenplay by John Ridley (“Undercover Brother”) and Aaron McGruder (“The Boondocks”), the film features a powerful ensemble cast led by Oscar winner Cuba Gooding and Oscar nominee Terence Howard. The story, written by Ridley, is inspired by true events. From all reports from friends who have already seen it, it is a great action film, exciting for everyone, and especially appealing to boys.

George Lucas is the executive producer for the project. He has been trying to get this film made for 23 years, and ended up financing it himself, investing 93 million dollars in the making and the distribution of the film. He could not get financial support from the studios, who refused to believe that an all black action film, even one produced by the legendary George Lucas, would make money.

In a recent interview on The Daily Show, Lucas explained what fueled his desire to make this film: “The reason I did it…I wanted to make an inspirational [film] for teen-aged boys. I wanted to show that they have heroes, real American heroes, real patriots who helped us make the country what it is today.” He also told Jon Stewart that he has material for a prequel and a sequel which will be “even better than this movie”, and those movies will be made if this one is successful.

The best and most supportive time to see this movie is during opening weekend, which begins January 20th. Let’s all make a supreme effort to get ourselves and our boys (and our girls too) into the theaters on opening weekend, to support and enjoy this film!

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Noteworthy Sites for Parents: The List Begins

GCP is compiling a list of interesting sites for parents to browse and bookmark. We will add to the list whenever we find good ones, and encourage you to suggest your favorites as well. Here are a few, there are more to come:

PBS Parents: Trust PBS, the people who bring you all of that wonderful educational children’s programming, to have a thoughtful and easy to navigate site chock full of helpful parenting information. Fun to browse around when you are looking for inspiration, or information about a particular age or developmental stage.

Getting Boys to Read: The name says it all. This site has a hodgepodge of information about how to inspire and encourage boys to read.

Guys Read: This site was developed by Jon Scieszka, popular author of books boys like, including the “Guys Read” anthologies. This site’s mission is “to help guys become readers by helping them find texts they want to read”. A great source of books which can to get your reluctant reader reading.

Black and Married With Kids: Not a parenting site per se, but it does have a parenting section with thoughtful articles.

Common Sense Media: Common Sense Media, a non-profit organization that provides information and tools to helps parents understand and function in the world of new media. They also review movies and games, giving parents a useful guide to determine what is age appropriate.

We’ve only just begun. To be continued! Feel free to add to the list.

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The Profound Impact of Good Elementary School Teachers

I’ll bet you can easily name your favorite elementary school teacher, no matter how long it has been since your elementary school days. (Mine was Mrs. Portia Patterson, my third grade teacher at P.S. 116.) A good elementary school teacher can encourage you to love school and set you on the path to academic success. A recent study conducted by Harvard and Columbia University economists suggests that their power and influence is even stronger than we think. According to their research, good elementary school teachers can boost a student’s college attendance rates, reduce teenage pregnancy, and increase a student’s standard of living and earning potential.

This “Long Term Impact of Teachers” study, found here and covered extensively by a Slate Magazine article found here, tracked a million children from a large urban school district from fourth grade to adulthood. It focused on the evaluation of teachers based on their impacts on students’ test scores, commonly known as the “value-added” approach. A teacher’s “value-added” is defined as the average test-score gain for his or her students over the course of their time together. This evaluation method has its supporters and critics. While some school districts are beginning to rely upon the value added approach to evaluate their teachers, critics worry that putting so much emphasis on standardized tests will create a culture of “teaching to the test,”. Moreover, they speculate about whether standardized tests really tell us anything useful about students, and whether the students are acquiring the skills they’ll need to lead successful lives.

The researchers sought to resolve some of the issues surrounding the use of the value-added approach. They sought to determine whether this approach accurately measures teacher’s impacts on scores, or whether it unfairly penalized teachers who may systematically be assigned lower achieving students. They also wanted to know if high value-added teachers improve their students long-term outcomes or were they simply better at teaching to the test. By following high and low value-added teachers for decades as they changed classrooms and schools, they found that a high value-added teacher resulted in a noticeable bump up in student performance at the new school, and a significant drop in student test scores at the school she had just left. The pattern was reversed for low value-added teachers. These patterns confirmed that the value-added scores were able to measure teacher quality.

As noted above, the researchers were also able to link a teacher’s value-added rating to their students’ outcomes later in life. A student who lucked into the classroom of a teacher in the top quarter of the district’s instructors was more likely to attend college than a student of a middle-of-the-road teacher—all the result of a single year of grade school education. Similar connections were found with respect to the students’ likelihood of avoiding teenage pregnancy and increasing their earning potential.

At the core of this is confirmation of what we already know: good grade school teachers can and do make an enormous difference in a student’s life. Are you focused on the strengths of your son’s elementary school teachers? Are there a good number of good ones at his school? Have the good ones made a difference in your son’s life? Important issues on which we should stay focused.

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Protecting Our Sons from Sexual Abuse

Time to tackle a tough subject: how to protect our sons from sexual predators. With this issue so much in the news, it seems our boys are more vulnerable than ever to deviant behavior by trusted adults. GCP recently attended a seminar on child sex offenders offered by child and adolescent psychotherapist Alicia Henderson, Ph.D. to find out more about this disturbing but important topic.

First, a few sobering facts:

Experts estimate that 1 in 6 boys are sexually abused before their 18th birthdays.

The median age for reported sexual abuse is 9 years old, and approximately 20% of the victims of sexual abuse are under age eight. Most child victims never report the abuse.

As many as 60% of these victims are abused by people the family trusts–abusers frequently try to form a trusting relationship with parents.

People who abuse children look and act just like every one else. In fact, they often go out of their way to appear trustworthy to gain access to children.

Those who sexually abuse children are drawn to settings where they can gain easy access to children, such as sports leagues, faith centers, clubs, and schools.

Sexually abused children who keep it a secret or who tell and are not believed are at greater risk than the general population for psychological, emotional, social, and physical problems, often lasting into adulthood.

Sexual abuse happens in all social and ethnic groups; no children are exempt.

Darkness to Light (www.d2l.org), a non-profit organization which seeks to protect children from sexual abuse by educating and informing adults about how to “prevent, recognize and react responsibly to” child sexual abuse, has created a booklet of the “7 Steps to Protecting Our Children from Sexual Abuse”, which can be found here. Briefly, the 7 steps are:

Step 1: Learn the Facts. Parents should be guided by realities, not trust, as they make decisions regarding their children.

Step 2: Minimize Opportunity. Parents can lower the risk of child sexual abuse by reducing, monitoring or eliminating one adult/one child situations. Since one-on-one time with an adult can be healthy and valuable for a child, however, there are ways parents can protect children in these circumstances, like dropping in unexpectedly on the visit, making sure others can observe the outing, and ensuring that the adult has specific details for the planned activity.

Step 3: Talk About It. Talk openly and honestly with your sons. Teach them that it is against the rules for anyone to touch particular parts of their body. Tell them to say NO and to tell you right away about any inappropriate touching. Let them know that respecting adults does not mean blind obedience to them, and under no circumstances should they agree to keep any activity a secret from their parents.

Step 4: Stay Alert. Physical and psychological signs of abuse are not always obvious. However, there are red flags, like age inappropriate language and behavior, which can indicate a problem. If you suspect sexual abuse, immediately have your son examined by a professional specializing in abuse.

Step 5: Make a Plan. Learn where to go, whom to call, how to react if you suspect any abuse has occurred.

Step 6: Act on Suspicions. Suspicions are scary, but trust your instincts.

Step 7: Get Involved. Darkness to Light encourages parents to become advocates for all children, and get involved in organizations that fight child sexual abuse.

Much more detail is provided in the 7 Steps booklet, which GCP urges you to download and read.

If you take just one concept away from all of this information, let it be that you should talk to your sons about saying no and telling you if any adult behavior makes them uncomfortable. Establishing open and honest lines of communication with your sons on this topic can be the key to keeping them safe.

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Walter Dean Myers, New National Ambassador for Young People’s Literature

Walter Dean Myers, award-winning author of “Hoops”, “Monster”, Fallen Angels,” “Sunrise Over Fallujah”, and many other young adult novels, has been named the nation’s third Ambassador for Young People’s Literature. As the new (and first African American) National Ambassador, Myers will tour the country for two years, speaking at schools and libraries about reading and literacy. Myers, 74, will formally accept the position in a ceremony at the Library of Congress in Washington, D.C. on January 10.

As noted in an article in today’s New York Times, found here, many of Myers’ books “chronicle the lives of many urban teenagers, especially young, poor African-Americans. While his body of work includes poetry, nonfiction and the occasional cheerful picture book for children, its standout books offer themes aimed at young-adult readers: stories of teenagers in violent gangs, soldiers headed to Iraq and juvenile offenders imprisoned for their crimes.”

Myers balances these tough issues with messages of hope and the importance in believing in oneself. Robin Adelson, the executive director of the Children’s Book Council, which along with the Library of Congress designates the Ambassador, said that while there was a hard edge to Mr. Myers’s writing, there was also the message of holding yourself up and believing in what you can do. “I think part of what makes him such a great choice for this post is that his writing is a little bit of everything,” she said. “There’s this interest in history and this deep knowledge of history in Walter’s writing. Then there’s this definite hard-core, hard-edged realism.”

Myers is looking forward to using his new position to focus on the importance of reading. He is determined to tell young people that reading is “not optional”. He told the New York Times, “It’s exciting. It’s a chance to stand up and say publicly what I’ve been saying privately. There is a crisis involving reading in certain communities.” He continued, “I think that what we need to do is say reading is going to really affect your life”, adding that he hoped to speak directly to low-income minority parents. “You take a Black man who doesn’t have a job, but you say to him, ‘Look, you can make a difference in your child’s life, just by reading to him for 30 minutes a day.’ That’s what I would like to do.”

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Have your children read any of Myers’ books? What are their favorites? Let’s support his appointment by making sure his books are on our children’s shelves. As noted above, he has written children’s picture books (several illustrated by his son, award-winning illustrator Christopher Myers) and biographies of African American heroes in addition to the hard-hitting young adult fiction, so there are books available for all ages. We look forward to Myers’ tenure as National Ambassador for Young People’s Literature.

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