Highlights for children

A husband and wife team began a magazine in 1946 to give children Fun with a purpose(their tagline). And it worked giving children the encouragement to learn in all different avenues that included stories, art work, puzzles, games and for me as a child, finding the hidden picture. It took me awhile learn to read, write and comprehend but I could not take my eyes off the picture page whether I checked it out at school or in a doctor’s office where Highlights were found for many Baby Boomers. Highlights encouraged to me read and now celebrating 75 years, Highlights has a book that is collection of just hidden pictures. I have placed my order.

Founder Garry Meyers and his wife were teachers of illiterate soldiers and became nationally known in education for a column called Parent Problems and co-authored many books before starting Highlights. There first copies only sold approximately 20,000 copies in 1995 they sold over 2 million. Highlights circulation numbers declined by 2015, and the magazine announced that it would move some content onto tablets and mobile devices with the help of San Francisco startup, Fingerprint Digital, led by former LeapFrog Enterprises executive Nancy MacIntyre. The magazine launched a new mobile app Highlights Every Day, in April 2017.

Highlights today offers clubs and a variety of magazines including Highlights Magazine ages 6-12, High Five Magazine which focuses on pre-school ages 2-6 and Hello Magazine. With new discoveries in every issue, HELLO magazine is made for babies and toddlers. Durable, wipe-clean pages and stitched binding means they’ll enjoy it all month. They offer a great collection of picture, puzzle, arts and craft, sticker and game books for all ages besides the magazine as well great gift bundles. It’s never too early to inspire a love of reading!

Kindergarten: How about you?

I don’t how other Baby Boomers began their education but this book, Work That is Play, I completed in kindergarten and work WAS NOT play for me in any form. I began my days at Thomas Hoyne Elementary at 8905 South Crandon in 1961. My special number was 23. I did like to color but I cried alot. Actually, the only time I didn’t cry was when Mrs. Obrien, my teacher, said that I that I had real talent. When I sat with my friend Wendy on the carpet singing songs and Mrs Obrien played the old upright piano, I could tolerate the experience. I became a high school teacher first in my 20’s followed by a lifetime in many educational roles. Currently, approaching retirement, I assist in the younger grades. Consequently, knowing exactly what it takes to be able to help them smile once again and accept their own challenges.

Written from the cover of the book in 1958, Work that is Play was a reading readiness book that would give the child activities that would offer them concrete experiences in building a foundation to insure success in acquiring the tool-subjects of First and Second Grade. It was a book that was in loose leaf form so the teacher could use the sheets as she wanted. Work That is Play eliminated paste since all the materials to be pasted were printed on gummed paper. Little certificates were given as award to the child for the completion and the book comes with special fasteners for binding the book together. The book was published at J.M Kehoe Publishing Company which was located on 2429 Clybourn Avenue in Chicago.

Today, Hoyne Elementary is a Fine and Performing Arts Magnet Cluster School; K-8. Hoyne offers students a rigorous academic curriculum and provides numerous reading programs based on grade and skill level. During the early 1960’s, there was over crowding of the area and another school was built to accommodate. I went to Kate Sturgis Buckingham School at 9207 Phillips for first through fifth grade but they were closed in 2013. Actually, they became a school for just special education students. Warren, also a magnet school, at 9239 South Jeffrey is where I completed my junior high education.

Many my age do not remember those early years but it is the teacher that makes the difference regardless of how young. It is the teacher that touches a life forever.

Still love reading together

Over 50 days were spent in person as a teacher assistant in the first grade and now the week after Thanksgiving, all staff and students are remote, taking an adaptive pause, as they call it, in our district. Students are at home while staff are still in their perspective classrooms, offices, and conference rooms. We meet and greet on our devices, some more complex than others, but everyone agrees on one thing; it’s weird. Even though some students have been remote since the first day of school, it can be unsettling having a building not filled with students even those with masks and social distancing. They did a great job with that and are adjusting well remotely. Once again, they are successful with new challenges. They are children! What is the commonly used adjective to describe most of them? Resilient!

However, we have experienced the occasional child’s tear wanting to know when all of this will be over. Teacher assistants are diligently learning Google Meets and other computer applications. Though we don’t have the same intense responsibilities as the teachers, it is, once again, a new experience, a new schedule and ultimately, a new destination. We, too, have experienced the occasional adult tear. What this pandemic has truly taught all of us is how much we miss the physical presence of children. That eye-to-eye connection or sharing that moment where we surprise them with a whispered wonderful as we oversee their work on their desk or gracefully catch a mistake. Yes, we can see it on Seesaw when they take a sometimes blurred photo, but it is not the same.

I was worried; afraid that my own diminished computer skills would interfere in providing student expectations. Then one of my scheduled students online surprised me by doing an excellent job with sight words. We had more time available in our session which I had not planned so I grabbed a book near me called Stick and Stone by Beth Ferry and Tom Lichtenheld. Stick and Stone is a beautiful book about friendship and that day we loved reading it together. He was so excited when I mentioned that the copy I had was his best friend’s book. He told me that he was Stone and his friend was Stick. He was actually able to read with me.

Now, I am on a mission to select all sorts of books and practice reading to a screen. I know they especially love the books by Mo Willems like The Pigeon Has to go School. Many have talked about the Elf on the Shelf and their Elves arriving at their home.

I am going to research now……….or what about?????? And I am also learning how to surprise them online and make comments they don’t expect. I can do this…….we can do this! Once again, each day, I am constantly reminded of our teachers dedication, enthusiasm and ability to problem solve and provide solutions. They, too, are just as resilent as their students.

The best of the Polar Express

When the classic Christmas book came out in 1985, it was a present under my Christmas tree for me and my son. The Polar Express was the tale of a boy’s dreamlike train ride with other children to the North Pole to meet Santa Claus. The young boy asks for a bell from Santa.When the children return to the train, the boy realizes the bell has fallen through a hole in his pocket. The train drops him at his door and he goes to bed but in the morning, his sister finds one small box with the boy’s name on it among the presents. Inside is the silver bell! They hear it ring and ring but their parents cannot hear the sound at all.

Beautifully wrapped from Grandma, the hard cover was presented in a special gold, gilded box. The book sat comfortably next to the inspired sleigh bell. As my family grew, we read the Polar Express every year. Every year it was a new story. The book was a beautiful meditation on Christmas magic.

In 2004, Tom Hanks played the mystical conductor in the Polar Express, now a timeless holiday movie. Many classrooms watch the Polar Express at school as a parting gift to start the winter break every year. But the Polar Express movie has always scared me a little.The roller coaster train drama was a bit frightening and the elf workshops on the North Pole were cold factories; losing their graceful appeal that other North Pole stories usually offer.

For me, I just wanted to read the book, eat chocolate and pretend. Ultimately, believe.

This week, the last week of school in which I assist, elementary classes received tickets to ride the Polar Express in the IMC, better known as the library. Please wear pajamas and hot chocolate will be served.  Ms. Hendron, the library specialist, is a wonderful creator of magic herself. She has quickly transformed herself into the conductor on the Polar Express. Oh Boy, I can’t wait. Especially a time to wear my pj’s.

The library lights have been dimmed with sheeting overhead. White lights and silver snowflakes hang from the ceiling giving us the feeling of a cold snowy night as we take a seat on the benches that face a huge screen.  A fire roars in the background. We even get hats and our servers, her assistant, Ms. Wisdom, Ms. Kerfin, along with parent and grandparent helpers, pass out cups of hot chocolate. Each page of the book is highlighted on the big screen while being read by a screen reader. As the story proceeds, each student receives a string with Santa’s sleigh bell to take home. I got one too and we jiggled to make sure we could all hear them ring. One kindergarten boy told the staff that this was the best day of his life. Mine too.

If you want to take a ride on a public Polar Express, Rail Events Productions announces service on board THE POLAR EXPRESS™ Train Ride at Chicago Union Station this holiday season. Groups of 20 or more are eligible for a 10% discount which must be booked over the phone at (312) 471-2501.  The fun doesn’t end on Christmas. Use promo code 12DAYS for $12 off tickets on any train Dec. 26-Jan 1!

However,though many schools and neighborhoods are offering the Polar Express experience, not much can top the magnificent event of listening and watching the Polar Express book at Elizabeth Ide School.  Even better than with my own children.

And when I got home, I could still hear my library Polar Express sleigh bell ring!!!

 

The little engine that could

I think I can….I can…I can. The values of today as well as yesteryear have not changed. Because the boys and girls are still reading the little engine that could. Some are still reading the original that was published in 1930 stressing optimism and hard work.

This was also a book that encouraged me to become a better reader. Reading was a struggle in first and second grades but it was the little engine that could that told me I could do this too. And I did…I did.

I began to think about the little engine while watching a student in my class follow the words being read out loud on his starfall iPad reading app. But this was a tale of two little engines that together, they could do it. The book talks about the  little red engine who trys and trys while a similar blue little engine helps push the cars of toys over the mountain. Other engines also pass them by.  This version focuses on true teamwork.

The student was excited about the story adding the types of childhood inflection repeating words as I did decades ago. He read it over and over in class. The same week that I noticed him become entranced in little engines, another student selected a book from the wide variety in the classroom. The original Little Engine that could.

And she did the same with the small, hard copy book. She decided to read it outloud while others listened. Later that day we had an assembly with a few members from the Kane county cougar team supporting are reading program.  Once again, one baseball player said that his favorite book was …guess what? Three times. … a charm.

So, of course, after school that same day, I went to the community library. I had saved many of my childhood favorites in a bookcase at home but not this one. There were many editions of the book as I discovered through the digital card catalog  including , a DVD, and a movie. But copies were checked out and the librarian said that it was always like that with The Little Engine That Could. Would I like The Little Engine That Could Gets a Check Up?

No, that is fine. I will just have the students read to me the copies at the school I assist,  whenever I need to be reminded of my childhood..my beginnings of academic success. Whenever I need to know,today, that I still can!