Father Knows Five 8-30-13

*Every Friday we serve you an “a la carte” style list of 5 unique videos, articles, ideas, etc. from all kinds of locations. (If you are viewing this blog through your email subscription, please follow the link to our website to view all videos.) See you next week…

1. Skateboards & Books…professional skateboarder Tony Hawk talks about the importance of reading:

2. Amazon can’t do this:

Librarian poster

3. Unplugged Books – though we missed the actual week for this celebration, anytime we can find a way to unplug our kids and ourselves, I’m up for it. My personal favorite is a new book titled Press Here. You are going to want this book! We’ll review it on one of our Tuesday Book Cook Day’s soon.

Unplug books

4. Boy Criticized for Reading Too Much – “Apparently, this New York elementary school student is too good at reading. Nine-year-old Tyler Weaver and his mother are upset after a local librarian made disparaging comments about the boy’s dedicated reading habits last week.”

5. Stamps that Celebrate Children’s Books

Stamps and Childrens Books

‘What if…’ Thursday Stories with Baby Frederico

*Every Thursday we introduce you to another quick bedtime story about our family’s favorite resident reptile – Baby Frederico. The backstory can be found here. Enjoy!

BF music man 2

Baby Frederico loves his Momma Mia and Papá Frita, his buddy Grenelda the Grasshopper, blue crayons, popcorn…and bookstores, but he did not like to try new things. Here is his story:

Baby Frederico could feel his stomach begin to hurt and his cheeks turn a crimson red. He looked in the mirror one last time before he left for school. It was going to be a long day.

When he had awoken that morning everything was perfect, not a worry in the world…and then his brain began to think until it finally reminded him that this was the day that all of his friends were excited about – it was the day to try out for the big school play.

He had decided not to go to the audition, that it would be too scary and what if the teachers who were directing it didn’t pick him and what if the other kids laughed at him and what if he got a part and forgot his lines and what if he tripped and fell off the stage and and and….

He kept thinking…and then he had another thought. What if he did decide to go to the audition, that it would be fun and what if the teachers who were directing did pick him for a part, any part, and what if he remembered all of his lines and he never tripped and fell off the stage and and and…

He thought about football, his favorite sport, and what his Papá had told him when he had almost decided not to try out for the team (the same team he was now the captain of).

“Mi hijo,” said his papa in a very serious voice, “It is your choice to try or not. Just promise me that if you decide not to do it, it will not be because you are afraid. There are often good reasons for not doing something, but being afraid to try is not one of them.”

Baby Frederico had thought a lot about what his Papá said that day – don’t be afraid to do something good and never use fear to make a good decision.

It was settled. He would go and audition and see what happened. What if he could sing and dance and laugh and meet some new friends? What if he couldn’t? And what if he just tried?

Are you sure this is true?

Girls Little House Prairie

Outside of my life as a dad and husband, there are few things I love more than teaching students in our education department at the local college here in town. Most of them are nearing the end of their degree and about to receive their teacher certification when they enroll in the course I teach on social studies and science in early childhood education. They are so energetic and passionate about their upcoming life as a teacher, and the things they learn out there in real classrooms during their field experiences and practicums and student teaching are truly a treasure to all of us in the department.

Among the assignments included in my class is one about learning what children already understand about a particular subject. We ask our students to get out there in real classrooms and talk with young children about a topic and see what they know and what they want to know and what they need to know about that particular topic. This kind of information, a pre-assessment, is very helpful to us as classroom teachers when we go about putting together units and lesson plans for young children today, and it is always eye-opening and one of my favorite assignments to grade because the responses are always different and funny and interesting to hear the honest talk that children so happily and freely give in such assignments.

One of my favorite responses to this assignment occurred just last year. A student read to us her wonderful interview and assessment of the children in an elementary classroom where she was working that semester. Here’s what she wrote, “I asked the children to close their eyes and…imagine not having any electricity, running water, iPods, TV, and transportation. I then talked to them about Laura Ingalls Wilder and gave the class background information about her. I gave the children directions by asking them to draw a picture or write down any things that they found interesting [as I read] an excerpt from Little House On the Prairie. After I finished reading, the children asked me different questions and one [child said], ‘Are you sure this is true?’ I assured them that it was.”

To open up a dialogue as this gifted teacher did and have a child respond, “Are you sure this is true?” – what a conversation starter! I don’t think we could ask for more from a book.

As much as I love reading books to my children that are clearly fiction, this child’s response makes it clear that we need to be reading all kinds of things with them and that includes great historical novels and intriguing non-fiction works from the past and present. For me, the Little House series revolved around Farmer Boy. I loved that book, still do, and I remember my 6th grade teacher, Zola Evans, reading a chapter to us every day just after lunch and recess.

Every good book holds a moment of opportunity for its readers. Whether you are a child or an adult, there will come a subtle minute when you pause in the middle of a great paragraph and look up from the page and wonder – could this really be true? No wonder people like books.



Look at this Book! Katy and the Big Snow

* Every Tuesday we introduce you to a favorite book from our secret book room, and give you a unique “recipe for fun” this week over on our Book Cook page…

Katy Bkg Snow Review

Today’s great book: Katy and the Big Snow by Virginia Lee Burton (1943, Houghton Mifflin Company).
Time to Read: short and sweet; the illustrations alone are worth some extra time
Summary: “Katy, a brave and untiring tractor, who pushes a bulldozer in the summer and a snowplow in the winter, makes it possible for the townspeople to do their jobs.”
Best Quote: “Then she went home to rest. Then…and only then did Katy stop.”

Our View: The most familiar of Virginia Lee Burton’s books, Mike Mulligan and His Steam Shovel, only recently drew our attention to this particular book about a big tractor that includes a very important set of implements and one very very important snow shovel. My 8-year old especially enjoys the illustrations that Burton so beautifully crafts across each page. The details and words and ideas represented in these drawings alone make this book a must-have for your secret book room! There is a classic, maybe even nostalgic, feel to it. The character of Katy is also very important as this story’s core narrative is about taking care of your community and each other and doing what’s right even when it is difficult…and not losing heart until the job is done.

Remember to visit our Book Cook page for the recipe – “Katy Cubes” – created by the kids to accompany this particular book.

Bored = Imagination

In a recent Time Magazine interview the creator of the wildly popular online game Minecraft, Markus Persson, talked about how “his lack of artistic ability turned into one of the game’s defining traits, ‘A tree doesn’t look like a tree, but you know it’s a tree. It makes it feel more real, because a larger part of it takes place in your imagination.’ ” I can’t tell you how many times I heard that word ‘imagination’ or how many times I was told to “use your imagination” when I was growing up; and I can’t tell you how many times I’ve told my own daughters to “use your imagination.”

Eric books blog

I was just one of those kids who loved to complain about there being nothing to do – and I grew up on 400 acres of farm and wheat land, which included two old creepy houses (with cellars!) that had been abandoned decades before I came along; there was a creek that wound its way through the farm and a couple of old, rusty windmills and big, red wooden barns near my grandparent’s farmhouse. There was not one thing about this place that could really be described as ‘boring.’ Not one thing but me…

Yet my grandmother, who lived not far from us on the other side of the farm, loved to here me say that I was ‘bored.’ No sooner had I proclaimed that magic word than she would spring into action and send me off on outdoor adventures to gather this or that somewhere among those 400 acres and then return to her home later that day with what I had found; and then to have her ask me to help her make these amazing mini cherry cheesecakes, play games like Payday or Concentration, or rearrange her bookshelves and the long row of cabinets beneath them.

Ah, those cabinets beneath the bookshelves. I loved them, these little hidden spaces behind closed doors, stacked completely to the brim with books of all kinds and shapes and sizes. It was a space so full of books that you had to shut the door quickly to keep them from spilling out onto the living room floor. Honestly, it was amazing and it was a treasure to me. There were all kinds of books in there, but the ones that stand out in my mind today are mostly children’s books from my dad’s childhood and comic books and baseball cards used as bookmarks and handwritten notes scrawled inside the book covers from people I had never heard of or only heard about. I would lose myself in these cabinets and the boredom would lose itself there, too.

I’m grateful for my grandmother and that old farm and the books that she drew me into and taught me to cherish simply because she cherished them and had no intentions of ever having too many or relegating even one to be put away in a box or attic somewhere. Though she now lives in a house in the city, she still has most of those books in nearly every room of it…and I still get lost in the shelves and their cabinets when I visit her, some 30 years later.

My 80-year old grandmother and the 20 or 30-year old creator of Minecraft have something in common – they understand the value of imagination. And imagination often comes because of good old-fashioned boredom. Both are valuable for us all. So next time your kids tell you they’re bored, applaud them and tell them what my grandma told me – “use your imagination” – then smile and walk away. 30 years later, they will be glad you did.

Father Knows Five 8-23-13

*Every Friday we serve you an “a la carte” style list of 5 unique videos, articles, ideas, etc. from all kinds of locations. (If you are viewing this blog through your email subscription, please follow the link to our website to view all videos.) See you next week…

1. What a great point!

book sign

2. Marriage Proposal through a Children’s Book – this is so creative; what a proposal! “User ppual9 to his girlfriend using a children’s book he wrote about their relationship, which he later had illustrated, printed and put on the shelf of their local library. In the story, he is represented by a gorilla (‘I’m clumsy and big like a gorilla, always using brute force to solve problems.’) and his girlfriend by a giraffe, one of her favorite animals. ‘I had her stumble across it at the library and read it to me,’ ppaul9 wrote Monday. ‘When she got to the right page, I got on my knee and asked if she would marry me.’ ”

3. New Children’s Book: The Penguin Cha-Cha by Kristi Valiant. Here’s the cool promo for your kids to watch –

4. Ice Cream flavors inspired by Books! – this list is perfect for an end-of-summer treat.

Ice Cream Books

5. 150 year old Overdue Library Book – this reminds me of one of my favorite Seinfeld episodes about an overdue library book! The book was published in 1828 and the library is nearly 200 years old.


‘The Favorite Color’ – Thursday Stories with Baby Frederico

*Every Thursday we introduce you to another quick bedtime story about our family’s favorite resident reptile – Baby Frederico. The backstory can be found here. Below is the very first story I told our first daughter about Baby Frederico, more than 16 years ago. Enjoy!

BF colors

Baby Frederico loves his Momma Mia and Papá Frita, his buddy Grenelda the Grasshopper, blue crayons, popcorn…and ice-cube popsicles.  Here is his story:

Baby Frederico was ready for his big day, for this was the morning that he would find his favorite color!  What color do you think he’ll choose?

– As he stepped outside on this bright August morning, he saw a big yellow sun smiling down at him.

– He walked quietly through the brown woods just behind his home and found a beautiful stream of blue, sparkling water.

– The glimmering orange colors of several lost goldfish who found their way into the stream caught his eye.

– His best green buddy, Grenelda the Grasshopper, was waiting for him and sat on a gray rock on the opposite bank of the little blue stream.

So many colors!  What would Baby Frederico do?

– Grenelda waved to him with a big white ribbon that she won at a recent cello contest at school.

– Baby Frederico waved back with a big purple ribbon that he won at a recent running contest at school.

Little drops of rain began to fall and Baby Frederico and Grenelda decide to head for home.  As they came out of the brown woods, the white clouds in the blue sky cleared, the rain stopped, and the friends looked up to see Baby Frederico’s favorite color.  Can you guess what it was?