Memorial weekend may find many traveling this year as vaccinations are allowing us to visit with family and friends. (Please get vaccinated! Please continue to mask up where appropriate.) We will be traveling 10 hours to Lawrence KS to spend time with our daughter and her husband. They moved there a little over a year ago as the pandemic was changing our lives. This past year even families that lived in the same town weren’t visiting, but somehow having our daughter 10 hours away instead of the previous hour and a half felt worse. For them it meant moving with no in-person good byes to family and friends, no going away parties. And the pandemic made getting acquainted with their new town and making new friends difficult. I’ve mentioned before that books are an integral part of our family, so it was fun to hear that Beth and David started a book club. Just the two of them! I love it and it will be wonderful to see them, their home and their new life, and discuss books.
When I visit our kids I usually bring some kind of baked goods. Eating together was also a big part of our family! So the recipe for today is one that my sister made MANY years ago. Since then, Chocolate Chip Apple Cake is often requested and loved by all!
Do you have a favorite teacher? There are teachers I remember even though decades have passed since I was in their classroom. I think the best teachers help us see the joy in learning and the benefits of knowledge. They see our potential and help us see it too. No easy task.
Teachers aren’t drawn to the profession for the money! Because we certainly don’t pay them what they are worth. I think most want to make a difference. To see a face light up when they’ve reached a student. It’s always been a difficult profession. Teaching a group of individuals, while figuring out how to reach each one takes skill.
In the decades since I was in school the world has changed and those changes have increased the challenges our teachers face. And on top of that the impact of the pandemic students, their families, their communities has added challenges and stress we will be measuring for years.
And so I want to say THANK YOU to teachers past and present. The future of the world truly is in your hands as you teach each generation. (No pressure!) I hope, as a nation, we soon recognize that investing in education is integral to our country truly having “liberty and justice for all” and being a country where ANYONE can achieve their dreams.
And to celebrate… a couple of books!
Dear Dragon By Josh Funk Illustrated by Rodolfo Motalvo 2016 Viking
Two teachers announce, in their respective schools, a pen pal poetry project. Students will right to their pen pals all year but it must rhyme. In June there will be a picnic where they will meet. George is a human and Blaise is a dragon, but they don’t know that. When each receives their letter, they picture what their pen pal is talking about from their own perspective. So, when the dragon mentions skydiving the human pictures himself with a parachute. Of course, the dragon is flying! George and Blaise enjoy writing to each other so much that they decide they will continue after the project is over. They can’t wit to meet at the picnic. When they meet, they are hesitant at first since they are different, but all the pen pals soon become friends which is what the teachers planned all along. (Teachers are smart!)
This is a sweet story about looking past physical differences. I love the idea of letter writing and pen pals. It’s a wonderful way to get to know someone. As Blaise writes, “Who’d have thought this pen pal thing would make me a new friend?”
Because I Had a Teacher Kobi Yamada Illustrated by Natalie Russell Compendium, 2016
A quiet tribute to all the teachers in our lives. The simple text and quiet illustrations show what kinds of things we learn from teachers. Things like that mistakes are part of getting something right, that there are different ways to be smart, challenges can be fun. Most important, it concludes that “because I had you, I learned to believe in me.”
This week I’m putting on my other hat! It’s Better Speech & Hearing Month and I’m a speech therapist. Most people have some idea of what we do but most don’t know the full scope of our profession. We need a more encompassing name because speech is on a part of what we do. We work on speech and language disorders in adults and children. Fluency disorders, including stuttering. Voice and resonance disorders. Swallowing disorders in adults, children and infants. Cognitive-communication disorders including social communication skills, reasoning, problem solving, memory and executive functions. Accent modification for ESL speakers. Both speech therapist and audiologists work with people with hearing disorders.
Being able to communicate want and needs, to socialize and interact with others is an essential part of living. Most of us take this ability for granted. It is what makes us feel connected to our life, our families, our world. It is also how we feel in control of our life. Think about a child as they learn language. Very early they learn the power in words-particularly NO. They learn that if they call you, you come. Remember you couldn’t wait to hear mama or dada and later you wished you could change your name?
Speech therapist try to find the key that makes communication a reality for each person they work with. The client or patient, and often their families, are partners in this quest. Everyone has work to do. Communication is a two-way street. Sometimes when we see someone struggling to communicate our first instinct is to talk for them. Sometimes that’s ok, but most of the time what is most helpful is to show patience as they communicate in their own way.
Eating is another ability we take for granted. It is also essential to living not just because it fuels our body, but it also connects us with others as we break bread together. For some the ability to chew or safely swallow food is compromised. This can affect people of all ages and the causes vary, but speech therapists work to help clients consume a diet that will sustain them and give them pleasure. You may be asking, why a speech therapist? We are uniquely qualified because the muscles, structures, nerves we use to eat we also use to talk.
You can help
If you know someone who has difficulty communicating ask yourself,
How would I feel if that was me?
Would I want to be ignored or acknowledged?
How would I want to be treated?
Can I change how I’m communicating to help them?
Are there other ways I can communicate-a smile, a touch?
And of course, a book!
A Boy and A Jaguar Alan Rabinowitz Illustrated by Catia Chien Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, 2014
A real-life story with powerful illustrations about zoologist and conservationist Alan Rabinowitz. When Alan was a boy, he was a severe stutterer. His father often took him to the Bronx Zoo because he loved animals. And when he talked to animals he did not stutter. He decides he will be a voice for animals so they aren’t misunderstood like he is. While his family tries to get him help it is not until he is in college that he receives the help he needs and becomes a fluent stutter. Now he can speak, but he says, “I can speak but nothing has changed on the inside. I still feel broken.” So, he goes to nature, where he is at home and studies animals. He studies jaguars in the jungle. He works to get protected areas for the jaguars. He uses his voice to speak for them and the result is the world’s first and only jaguar preserve. He sits with a jaguar and thanks him because he is now whole and at home.
Dr. Rabinowitz has a Q&A about cats on the jacket. He is an advocate for stutters and feels his stuttering put him on the path toward his passion so he credits it.
So if you see a speech therapist or an audiologist this month ask them about what they do and thank them for helping others in their quest to communicate and break bread with you!
I have a confession to make. I always keep a book in the bathroom and I always read a little anytime I’m in there. I’m not sure exactly when this started, but I think for those minutes throughout the day I slip into whatever world I’m reading about. It’s Get Caught Reading Month and we don’t need any bathroom pictures, but what are the strangest places you read a book?
I spent a morning this month gathering picture books at the Garrett Public library. The children’s librarian is a friend and she and her staff helped me find a large stack of picture books about various topics. So I thought I’d review a few and maybe you “get caught reading” one of them this month!
You Nest Here with Me Jane Yolen & Heidi E. Y. Stemple Illustrated by Melissa Sweet Boyds Mill Press, 2015
Soft, earth-color water color and mixed media illustrations bring a variety of birds to life as a mother puts her daughter to bed telling her that like a baby bird her nest is anywhere, they are together. Each bird species is seen in its environment. Pigeons on concrete ledges, catbirds in greening hedges. The mother concludes that birds are safe in nests while they grow, “learning all they need to know. So till you’re big as big can be…You’ll nest right here in our house with me.” Informative back matter gives a few facts about the 14 birds depicted in the text. This would be a great book to read this month for Mother’s Day and if you looking for screen-free things to do, bird watching is fun!
You Be Mommy Karla Clark Illustrated by Zoe Persico Feiwel and Friends, 2020
In a role reversal, mommy is tired and asks her daughter to be mommy tonight. Colorful illustrations show all that mommy has done from working, cleaning up messes, being a chauffeur, caring for pets, and little things like wiping noses and granting wishes! As her daughter tucks her in, going through their bedtime ritual, she gets tired too and wants Mommy to be mommy. So Mommy rallies and carries her little one to bed. As she tucks her in she says, “for you’ll always by my little treasure. And I’ll be Mommy forever and ever.” A gentle reminder to a child of all that parents do in a day, but reassuring too.
A House for Every Bird Megan Maynor Illustrated by Kaylani Juanita Alfed A. Knopf, 2021
Told in the first person, the main character talks with the birds she’s drawn when they don’t choose to live in the bird houses, she’s drawn for them. Then the birds begin to chat with each other and trade houses. But our young creator wants to be in charge. She wants the birds to stay where she put them. In frustration she says, “but I was trying to help. I made a house for every bird. How was I supposed to KNOW what you like?” To which a bird replies, “ask us.” And so, she learns that you “can’t tell a bird by its feathers.” To know birds or people you have to take the time to get to know them! In the final spread the birds are around a table. Before she draws birdseed for all she asks what they like to eat and it turns out her birds like things like nuts, bugs, fruit and veggie burritos!
The illustrations are warm and inviting with lots to look at and discover-bird wearing hats, houses made of grapes and more. The main character’s drawings looking like a child drew them. I think seeing them in a book will give confidence to other young artists.
Gifts of the Magpie Sam Hundley Capstone Editions, 2021
Very clever book as Magpie (a bird known for collecting objects) makes things for her friends, but she misunderstands what her friends want because of homonyms! So, the mouse wants another mouse for a friend and gets a computer mouse, the goat wants Spring (the season) and gets a metal spring, the squirrel wants nuts and gets a nut that goes with a bolt. At first the friends are disappointed, but they begin to see how useful Magpie’s gifts are. Everything that creates the illustrations were “dug relics”-treasures unearthed by hunters using metal detectors and shovels. End pages explain the scrap art, give information on magpies and homonyms and suggest you make scrap art and send the author a picture.
“Mistakes happen, but creative thinking can turn blunders into wonders!”
And then it’s Spring Julie Fogliano Illustrated by Erin E. Stead A Neal Porter Book, 2012
I love Erin E. Stead’s illustrations in this quiet and hopeful book. The colors are soft and earthy, the faces expressive and there is so much to look at. When the white of winter ends all the world is brown and a little boy, dog, bunny and turtle plant seeds and wait for green. The sun and the rain come but still it’s brown. The boy and his companions engage in other spring activities and wait. And wait. Until finally all the world is green. Waiting is hard, but good things come.
“And it is still brown, but a hopeful, very possible sort of brown.” Haven’t we all seen this in Spring!
AND I love when people get caught reading books from my Flashlight Press family. Check out all their books here!
When my children were young the only screen we had to worry about was the TV. And since we didn’t get cable, the few channels we got weren’t a big problem. But now, as my children raise their children, screens are as much a part of our lives as a refrigerator. Let’s face it, we are all addicted to them. So a screen-free week might be impossible, but maybe intentional screen-free time can be achieved with some planning.
Hide the screens
If you wanted to have an ice cream free week, you wouldn’t keep any in the freezer, so when it’s screen-free time put the screens out of sight. Tablets, iPads, laptops, e-readers, phones-put them in the closet. You could even cover that big screen TV with a white sheet and do shadow figures!
Stock up on substitutes
If you are trying to keep away from ice cream or some other not good for you food, you stock up on food to replace it. So if it’s a screen-free evening plan what you’ll do instead. Will it be board games, crafts, baking, hide-n-seek, a hike to look for birds or pick up trash (hmm-screen-free and doing something for the environment!).
My favorite substitute
AND of course I think books are a wonderful way to fill screen-free time. I read to my children daily, often several times a day when they were young. The picture book age saw us snuggled together on the couch or a bed. Or sometimes at the table while they ate. When we moved on to chapter books and novels, they’d each stretch out on a couch and I read from my comfy chair. And, though not daily, we had a book we read together through middle school. We explored places, topics, feelings, fantasy worlds and had discussions.
A book to get you started
Old MacDonald had a Phone Written by Jeanne Willis Illustrated by Tony Ross Andersen Press, 2021
To the tune of Old Macdonald we learn about a farmer and his smart phone. When he drops it in the lake he orders another one online and buys a hundred by mistake. All the animals take one and suddenly “Nobody would put them down so nothing else got done.” So the farmer takes the phones and locks them in the shed but the animals are mad and still do nothing. Finally his son suggests they use them sensibly. SO there’s a farm meeting and the creatures all agree. Humorous illustrations of animals doing all sorts of people-things with and without phones. A reminder that phones are good, when used correctly!
One more thing…
If you do pass some screen-free time reading, take a picture because it’s Get Caught Reading Month! More about that next week and a book giveaway!