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Girls Have Autism, Too

Girls Have Autism, Too.

This post comes from Roberta Scherf, parent of a young adult with autism, and the creator of MeMoves.

By Roberta Scherf

I’ve read a number of articles about Sesame Street’s groundbreaking introduction of Julia, a Muppet with autism.  As the mother of an incredible young woman on the autism spectrum, I think what’s most groundbreaking is that Sesame Street’s new character is a girl.

Current statistics show that of the 1 in 68 children in the US challenged by autism, boys are diagnosed five times more often than girls. 

It’s not that girls don’t have autism, they do. It’s that, for a variety of reasons, girls are often misdiagnosed.

The criteria for diagnosing Autism Spectrum Disorder (a developmental condition marked by social and communication difficulties, repetitive/ inflexible patterns of behavior, and restricted interests/ intense fixations) are based on data derived almost entirely from studies of boys.

It can be difficult to identify girls on the spectrum. On a measure of friendship quality and empathy, research shows that girls with autism scored as high as typically developing boys of the same age – but lower than typically developing girls (Head, McGillivray, & Stokes, 2014).

Girls on the spectrum can show a much higher interest in socialization than boys, which can make them more adept socially, but also makes social exclusion (which becomes inevitable during adolescence) especially painful.

Social life does not come naturally. Girls may painstakingly study people to imitate them, developing a greater ability to hide their symptoms – yet another reason girls with autism may be hiding in plain sight.

In addition, the criteria for an autism diagnosis in girls is often masked by overlapping diagnoses. Autism and ADHD frequently occur together – and because people diagnosed with ADHD tend to have higher levels of autism traits then typical people do – girls who seem easily distracted or hyperactive may get the ADHD label, even when autism is more appropriate.

A misdiagnosis for girls on the spectrum can be particularly difficult, especially as they enter adolescence.  Meeting the “mean girls” of junior and senior high school (and trying to decipher this new behavioral code) can be incredibly painful. Moreover, puberty involves unpredictable changes (horrifying to those with autism) that include breast development, mood swings, and menstruation.

The world is more dangerous for girls with autism as they develop sexually.  Their tendency to take things literally, their social isolation, and their deep desire to connect and to belong, can make girls and women easy prey for sexual exploitation.

People with autism who do not seem interested in social life may not obsess about what they are missing – but those who want to connect socially and cannot are tormented by loneliness.  In this way, autism may be much more painful for girls – and for women.  71% of adult women with Asperger’s reported suicidal thoughts; more than 10 times higher than the general population (Cassidy, et al., 2014).

 “As the parent of a child with autism, I wished that [Julia] had come out years before, when my own child was at the Sesame Street age,” 

-Stacy Gordon, the puppeteer who plays Julia

Me too.

 About the Author: Roberta Scherf is the parent of a young adult with autism, and the creator of MeMoves. See Roberta’s work at: www.thinkingmoves.com

HEAD, AM, MCGILLIVRAY, JA, & STOKES, MA.  GENDER DIFFERENCES IN EMOTIONALITY AND SOCIABILITY IN CHILDREN WITH AUTISM SPECTRUM DISORDERS.  MOLECULAR AUTISM.  2014; 5; 19.

CASSIDY S, BRADLEY P, ROBINSON  J, ALLISON C, MCHUGH M, BARON-COHEN S. SUICIDAL IDEATION AND SUICIDE PLANS OR ATTEMPTS IN ADULTS WITH ASPERGER’S SYNDROME ATTENDING A SPECIALIST DIAGNOSTIC CLINIC: A CLINICAL COHORT STUDY, THE LANCET, VOLUME 1, NO. 2P142–147, JULY 2014    

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Awards Info and FAQ

What Makes A Parents' Choice Award® Winner?

The Parents’ Choice Awards program honors children’s toys and media that encourage children’s development, respects their intelligence, and offer many opportunities for learning through play.

Our judges are interested in how a product helps a child grow in many ways: socially, intellectually, emotionally, ethically, and physically. We’re not interested in products that encourage commercialism, racial or gender bias. Above all, products must not extol violence.

Parents’ Choice Award winners have long-term learning value and play value. They’re innovative in concept, appealing, skillfully produced, and fairly priced.

Why Parents' Choice?

Established

The Parents' Choice Awards is the nation's oldest and most respected nonprofit program created to recognize quality children's media and toysIt honors the best material for children: books, toys, music and storytelling, magazines, software, video games, television, websites and mobile applications.

Credible

The Parents' Choice Foundation's independent panels of educators, scientists, performing artists, librarians, parents and, yes, kids themselves, use long established criteria and field tested methodology to identify quality media and toys designed for infants to young adults of varied skills and interest areas.

Valued

Parents' Choice Award-winning products are valued by consumers, coveted by industry professionals and promoted by retailers. Displaying a Parents' Choice Award seal shines a highly respected spotlight on your products.

The Parents’ Choice Foundation® website hosts your award-winning product information for as long as the product is on the market. We highlight our award-winning products in blogs, newsletters, on our social media, and in the many requests we receive for holiday lists. At no extra cost to the winners.

Got Questions?

FAQ

Here are some of the most common questions, along with the complete answers from our support experts.

Product categories include: music, books (picture, fiction, non-fiction, audiobooks) toys and games (physical and digital), magazines, TV (broadcast, online, streaming), DVD, video games, podcasts, websites and mobile apps.

Annual Parents’ Choice Awards Calendars are published here. All “Call for Entries” emails clearly state submissions deadlines. If you are not subscribed to the Call for Entries emails, please click here.

For more than 41 years, the Parents’ Choice Awards program has used a multi-tiered and multi-layered evaluation process. We examine the package as well as its contents. We look for well-conceived and well produced age appropriate products that help a child grow in many ways: socially, intellectually, emotionally, ethically, creatively and physically.

We look for long term educational value and play value. We consider how innovative a product is and if the price is fair. And of course, the product must be fun to use.  

The evaluation process begins and ends with the core team. Parent testers participate in the weeks-long testing period, using a proprietary survey as a guide to our the rigorous criteria.

No, products that are NOT awarded a level of commendation are not eligible to be resubmitted.

  • The Parents’ Choice Awards program does not evaluate education franchises, curriculum or teacher materials. 
  • Toy or game prototypes, Beta versions of digital media, or unpublished manuscripts are not eligible for submission.
  • CD and DVD submissions must include all credits and liner notes.
  • Eligibility dates (publication and product release dates) are noted on “Call for Entries” emails and submission forms.
  • And above all, products submitted must not extol violence or bias.

Parents’ Choice Foundation send email notification letters to all Awards applicants regardless of outcome.

We do not release feedback about why a product was not selected as a Parents’ Choice Award winner. This policy ensures that testers and judges will always be free to give honest answers and opinions. 

There are specific guidelines for the legal use of the Parents’ Choice Award images, whether in advertising or to place on the packaging.

A licensing fee is associated with the use of the Parents’ Choice Award seals, which are trademarked property of Parents’ Choice Foundation.

To request the Seals Use Guidelines and Seals Order Form, please direct an email to: seals@parents-choice.org. Please include your name and email address, company, product, year and level of commendation.

The Guidelines also include approved wording that you may use, without charge, in descriptions of your winning product.

These measures are in place to protect your Parents’ Choice Award-winning products as much as the Foundation’s intellectual property.

If you have additional questions about the use of the Parents’ Choice Award seals, please contact seals@parents-choice.org

Parents' Choice Awards®

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 Sign-up here to receive the latest news and schedule information about all of our Awards.

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Charity Begins at Home

Charity Begins at Home

We asked financial literacy expert Susan Beacham, founder and CEO of Money Savvy Generation, to share her thoughts on teaching children the concept of charity and why helping others and the experience of feeling generous, means charity really does begin at home.  Click here to read Susan’s thoughts on why Charity Begins at Home.

By Susan Beacham

Most people think the phrase “charity begins at home” means taking care of you and your family first.  It does. And taking care of your family includes teaching your children the concept of charity – helping others and the experience of feeling generous – should be taught at home. When forming your lesson plan, consider these three thoughtful points:

“We make a living by what we get, but we make a life by what we give.” 

―Winston Churchill

“This country will not be a good place for any of us to live in unless we make it a good place for all of us to live in.” 

―Theodore Roosevelt

“I have found that among its other benefits, giving liberates the soul of the giver.”

―Maya Angelou

Teaching our children how to be charitable, by giving to others in time, talent or money, is a wonderful and long-lasting gift both for the receiver and the giver.  To make the charitable experience more memorable, and thus more likely to happen again, turn the abstract concept of charity into a concrete experience.  Find a cause or organization where kids can have hands-on experience. 

Among the things we teach at Money Savvy Generation is to put the “do” in donate. Do what you can, not what you can’t. Charitable donations aren’t only for the mega rich.  Give a pair of socks, a package of crayons, or pet food to a local animal shelter. Shovel a neighbor’s sidewalk, bring the newspaper closer to their front door, or mow their lawn

Put screen time to good use. While wrapping presents, enlist your children to find a cause that resonates. Begin your search by reading the ConsumerReports article on charities. And before you finalize your giving, visit a charity watchdog  like BBB Wise Giving Alliance,Charity Navigator or Charity Watch to help you and your family research the organization’s financial soundness. 

Here are three organizations that help others near and far, and in different ways. DonorsChooseKivaUnicefMarketplace  

Happy Giving!

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Resources

Parents' Choice Foundation®

Resources and Recommendations

Linking you to resources that are informative, useful, thought-provoking and fun.

We’re Here for Each Other

The LEGO® ‘Play Well Report​'

How to Travel With Children

How to Create a Family Media Plan

Reading to Your Toddler? Print Books Are Better Than Digital Ones

How Inuit Parents Teach Kids To Control Their Anger

Check on Product Recalls

What Teachers Should Know About the Science of Reading

The Perks of a Play-in-the-Mud Educational Philosophy

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Fiction is Alive and Page Turning

Fiction is Alive and Page Turning

 Parents’ Choice Foundation contributor Kemie Nix writes about the value of fiction books for children.

By Kemie Nix

First, let’s all acknowledge that the kerfluffle about the demise of books was not only premature but wrong. There. Now let’s ponder the role of fiction in books in general and as it pertains to the young in particular.

Because it is not medicinal, fiction is deemed to be less valuable and more frivolous than nonfiction. The theories seem to be that nonfiction is more educational. Children are encouraged to read nonfiction to increase their knowledge of various subjects. Nonfiction is generally deemed more “intellectual” than fiction. Nothing could be further from the truth.

​”Nonfiction is generally deemed more ‘intellectual’ than fiction. Nothing could be further from the truth.”

In most schools in the United States, children are taught decoding skills from textbooks. Once the purpose of  these textbooks was to teach children to read so that they could start reading “real books”as soon as possible. As usual what was designed to serve people has run amuck. Children are taught decoding skills so they can read harder textbooks and/or nonfiction.Trade book literature – stories – have been pushed to the periphery of reading.

For children affluent enough to have access to books, the emphasis has moved away from stories into acquiring knowledge through nonfiction. While the reading of any book is to be encouraged, fiction gives gifts of inestimable value to children which are not to be found anywhere else in all the world beyond fiction. The premiere gift of fiction is long-range thinking abilities. Nothing, absolutely nothing, trains long-range thinking skills like stories.  A young reader – or listener – must keep ideas, a plot, characters, setting, and emotional content in  mind from the beginning of the book to the end. This process frequently extends over many days. (This explains the great appeal of series books.The characters and setting are known quantities, and readers can focus on the fun part – the plot. Reading speed will increase in series, however.)

There are also many gifts given by children’s authors and illustrators. These people care about the concerns and sorrows of childhood and can and do teach children that they are not  alone and that there is hope.  They often teach through laughter – also not medicinal. When children discover that  characters feel their same emotions, they frequently respond with love. The first book that any child identifies  with and loves, I have dubbed the “AH-HA book.” The reader has crossed a major bridge to significant, life-long literacy thanks to an author. They teach without preaching.

Another gift is empathy. Young people are too smart to read about anti-heroes. They identify with good characters and correctly identify and reject the villains. While identifying with good characters, children learn to understand, and care for the travails of others: and they are quite capable of transferring these insights into reality.

While society is rightfully concerned about dwindling attention spans, an antidote is at hand – fiction.

Any method to get children into fiction is helpful, but the best entrance is one that most of us can enter – reading aloud. People who read aloud, including parents and teachers, freely give all the gifts embodied in fiction and are to be treasured.

Visit some of our favorite fiction books here.

Kemie Nix is the founder of Children’s Literature for Children (CLC), a non-profit, tax-exempt, educational organization dedicated to bringing children and books together. Mrs. Nix, a senior book editor for Parents’ Choice, has a remarkable sense of selecting books children love to read.

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Dirty Pig

Parents’ Choice ©2019 Parents’ Choice

Jasmine Green Rescues: A Piglet Called Truffle

Jasmine knew she was not really supposed to take the runty piglet from Mr. Carter’s farm. It was his piglet, and she was fairly sure her veterinarian mother would not approve of taking an animal off its farm. But Mr. Carter was ready to let the runt die, and Jasmine could not bear to see that happen. So she resolved to nurture the piglet in secret–just until it was strong enough to be weaned, of course. Soon, however, Jasmine is in love with Truffle the piglet. How can she prove Truffle’s worth to her parents so that she can be allowed to keep her pig?

Jasmine is a resourceful and knowledgeable heroine. Unlike many child-and-pet stories, this one is not narrated from Truffle’s point of view, so that the focus remains on Jasmine’s determination to keep her pig. As she tries to educate her parents and best friend on the virtues of pigs, she also explains to the reader the varied ways that pigs can be trained for useful purposes. At the same time, she is an endearing character who sometimes makes mistakes. Animal-loving children will enjoy this novel, one in a series about Jasmine and her growing menagerie.

 

Naomi Lesley ©2020 Parents’ Choice

Naomi Lesley taught middle and high school English for six years. She is currently in a doctoral program at the George Washington University, focusing on American young adult literature.

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Tips for Teaching Kids to Enjoy Reading

Tips for Teaching Kids to Enjoy Reading

Look below for 10 timeless tips to help your kids to enjoy reading. 

By Kristi Jemtegaard

  1. The key to reading is words: hearing them, saying them, seeing them, and connecting them to everyday life. Simply talking—in the grocery store, on the way to school, before bed—guarantees a richer vocabulary for your child.
  2. Set aside a special time each day to read together. Find a quiet place where you can focus on the book. Pretty soon, your child will make the connection between the pleasure of undivided attention and the pleasure of reading.
  3. Expect disasters. Sometimes reading just isn’t in the cards. Don’t push it. The last thing you want is to turn it into a battle. But be prepared to grab unexpected opportunities. Always have a book with you—in your bag, in the car, at the pool: waiting is a lot easier on everyone if there’s a story to share.

“Reading should not be presented to children as a chore or duty. It should be offered to them as a precious gift.” – Kate DiCamillo

  1. Read books you like. Your enjoyment will be infectious. Read books your children pick themselves … and praise their choices.
  2. Stop occasionally to ask your child questions about the pictures or about what they just heard. Try to ask questions that require more than a yes or no answer. “What do you think is going to happen next?” “Who do you like best in this story?”
  3. Connect stories to things that happen in your daily life. If you just read a story about a dog, point out all the dogs you see and talk about them: How big? What color? Who do you think they belong to? Make up a new story together about the dog … then find someone else to tell it to.
  4. Stop occasionally and point out an interesting word with your finger. Say it and have your child repeat it. Pre-readers don’t need to learn it … yet … but this reinforces the idea that those funny black lines on the page actually contain the magic of meaning.

“One of the greatest gifts adults can give—to their offspring and to their society—is to read to children.” – Carl Sagan

  1. Capitalize on your child’s interests. If he or she likes bugs, find all the bug books you can. Read fiction and fact books. If they ask you a question, go together to a book to look for the answer—even if you know the answer already.
  2. Watch television together and talk about it. Compare what you see on the tube to real life and to real books. Ask questions. Make connections. Find books about things you’ve seen and read them as a follow-up.
  3. Visit the library. You don’t have to be rich to have a house full of books. Attend storytimes. Ask the librarian for books suggestions. And check out a book for yourself. You’re the best advertisement for reading there is!

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The Benefits of Free Play

The Benefits of Free Play

Parents’ Choice Foundation President, Claire Green fills us in on the latest prescription for play.

By Claire Green

Free play is just what it sounds like. There are no prepackaged instructions, no game pieces, no specific goals – unless the children make it so.

Free play flings imaginations wide open, explores backyards, unleashes enthusiasm, and tests life lessons.   

Free play is what childhood is all about.

The benefits of free play fills conversations and scholarly work. Dr. Stuart Brown, National Institute for Play founder, author and professor David Elkind, PhD are among those who have charted their courses based on play’s role in child development. Journalist Jessica Lahey reports on play in the Atlantic. Peter Gray writes about it in books and articles. And they all agree: free play helps children develop socially, physically and cognitively. A visit to the National Museum of Play shows that many a career has been mapped by play.

But what does free play mean to a parent? What should it mean? What should it do?

First to know is that free play is vitally important to your child’s development. Free play is how children learn to negotiate roles (you’re the boss, I’m the customer) and develop and follow rules (count to 10 then jump on one foot, then). Free play is about problem solving (that didn’t work; let’s try this), scientific discovery (where did you find that bug?) and creative expression (I’m flying on my magic dragon to the kingdom of …).   

Next, don’t panic. You don’t need a PhD to raise playful, well balanced and inquisitive kids. Kids are born ready to play – and learn. You do need to know that free play is a valuable commodity.

Free play isn’t expensive It’s less about being equipped with specific playthings than it is about the providing the time, space and encouragement. Free play is a great gift.

Give up control, not supervision. Just because free play isn’t a scheduled and scripted activity doesn’t mean that you should abandon parenting. Keep an eye and an ear tuned in. After all, Moms do have eyes in the backs of their heads and extraordinary powers of hearing. Just give the kids a chance to work things out. Don’t jump in to solve a problem that doesn’t exist.

Free play is an enrichment activity. Ditch specific learning goals. Free play breeds all kinds of success. On the playground or the playroom floor, free play is child directed and that’s the best kind of learning.

And as many pediatricians say, play is powerful medicine.

So fill the prescription for free play – and call me in the morning.

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Parents’ Choice Awards: The “Helpers”

Parents' Choice Awards: The "Helpers"

In these topsy-turvy times, we all need to sing, and dance, and learn something new.
 
A BIG thank you to the Parents’ Choice Award winner “helpers” for providing these wonderful resources.

By Parents' Choice

Copy of Learn

Music:

Justin Roberts is performing a “live concert” on his Facebook page – https://www.facebook.com/justinrobertsmusic4kids/ . And on his website, he has a page where he teaches kids how to make homemade musical instruments and other craft projects – https://bit.ly/3ddh5Bf
For Parents’ Choice review – https://bit.ly/3b78wGr

Bill Harley is doing free concerts for kids! For more details, go here billharley.com/miniconcerts 
He’s also released The Wash Your Hands song as a free download: https://bill-harley.myshopify.com/products/wash-your-hands 
For Parents’ Choice reviews – https://bit.ly/2xSSUIm and https://bit.ly/2xSMZmB

Mi Amigo Hamlet and Alina Celeste are performing daily free bilingual concerts together on their YouTube and Instagram channels!

Mi Amigo Hamlet – https://www.instagram.com/miamigohamlet/ and https://bit.ly/2w9Jo37

Alina Celeste – https://www.instagram.com/alinaceleste/ and https://bit.ly/3a6gY8L

For Parents’ Choice reviews of their music go here – https://bit.ly/2U3cn1y and https://bit.ly/3923f1v

Aaron Nigel Smith is launching a YouTube program later today called The Big Up Show. It’s a music based variety show that promotes peace. To watch, go here – https://bit.ly/3dg1Es3
For Parents’ Choice reviews – https://bit.ly/2vvYbVg

Laura Doherty Music is performing “live concerts” on her Facebook page  https://www.facebook.com/lauradohertymusic/
For the Parents’ Choice review – https://bit.ly/39XkCBZ

Maria Rossoto is making lyric videos from the songs on her CD!She started with “The Rot Thing to Do”, which teaches about composting – https://www.reverbnation.com/artist/video/16412243 
For Parents’ Choice review –  https://bit.ly/2WtT5nE

Animal Farm are hosting Music Circle Time and other activities on our Facebook page every day – https://www.facebook.com/AnimalFarmMusic/
For Parents’ Choice review –  https://bit.ly/2U4EUnC

 

“When I was a boy and I would see scary things in the news, my mother would say to me, ‘Look for the helpers. You will always find people who are helping.’ “

– Fred Rogers

Learning for All Ages:

Daniel Tiger’s Neighborhood offers advice about ways to stay healthy as well as helping young children navigate new things, including at the following links –  Germs, Germs Go Away Handwashing and A Germ Fighting Superhero videos; Draw Your Feelings activity page; Doctor Daniel  game; and article on How to Prepare Children for Unexpected Events.
For Parents’ Choice review –  https://bit.ly/2vzvyGV

Yellow Scope Science Kits website, they have lots of free and fun science experiments that can be done at home with everyday items! Go here to start experimenting – https://yellow-scope.com/blogs/news
For Parents’ Choice review – https://bit.ly/2U4UsaA

Ranger Rick Mags is giving free access to their website and digital magazines thru the end of June. Go here to access – https://bit.ly/3dfsu3K
For Parents’ Choice reviews – https://bit.ly/2TZLzz5https://bit.ly/2U1vqcyhttps://bit.ly/3b1figO

Bravery Mag presents Bravery School – a free 4-week daily curriculum delivered right to your inbox! Go here to access – https://bit.ly/3daUIwl
For the Parents’ Choice review of this Gold Award winner, go here- https://bit.ly/33nQcGg

Todo Math by Enuma is offering up a 14-day trial code! Go here to access – https://bit.ly/2x9vQVg
For the Parents’ Choice review go here – https://bit.ly/2TVm95G

KidLit TV has free read aloud videos and other resources for homeschooling –  https://kidlit.tv 
For Parents’ Choice review – https://bit.ly/2WtZ9MW

WURRLYedu. is offering schools free access to their music education program until July 1st.Go here for more information – https://www.wurrlyedu.com.
For Parents’ Choice review – https://bit.ly/2U4x9hp

Kodable is offering up free resources here: http://blog.kodable.com/covid-19-resources/ 
For Parents’ Choice review –  https://bit.ly/3a2tSEI 

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Wild Life

Wild Life, Justin Roberts’ 15th album for children, is once more supported by his wonderful selected musicians including pianist Lisa Kaplan (Eighth Blackbird), Anna Jacobson on horns, percussionist Gerald Dowd (Robbie Fulks), and vocalist Nora O’Connor (Flat Five, the Decemberists). The ten songs that make up this CD reflect his gentle, reflective and finely crafted approach to making music for children. The album opens with Roberts’ soft, comforting voice (a hybrid of Paul Simon and Iron and Wine singer Sam Beam’s mellifluous tones) calling out across the airwaves to connect with the natural sense of wonder children possess. “Maybe She’ll Have Curly Hair” is a beautiful song of anticipation and imagination for an expectant family. “I’ve Got The World (for You)” is a rocking song of love and support through good and bad times, expressed by parents to their well-loved children, and in many ways the sentiments are similarly expressed in “Glad You’re Hear,” which uses a bouncy Islands beat to tell its tale. “You Grew” is a gorgeous parental love letter to a child changing and growing, told with a refreshing eye for detail and absence of regret. “When You First Let Go” is bathed in cascading mandolin, flute and sweeping cello for this tale of parent’s special connection with their children. “Ain’t No Way” is a fine folk declaration of parent’s dedication, supported by sturdy brass and Nora O’Connor’s lovely harmony vocal, while Anna Steinhoff’s viola da gamba colors the air with hope in the reassuring “Be Not Afraid.” Roberts’ Dylan/Guthrie style harmonica adds a new color to the palette of the Springsteen-like acoustic strains of “Hide and Seek.” The title track ending tune poses a question inspired by a famous Mary Oliver poem, which asks what you will do with your amazing “Wild Life.” While the album is filled with emotion, it is never overly sentimental or cloy. Roberts’ lyrics expertly express images of kinship, connectedness and family, set to music that is both satisfying and soothing. Wild Life is a sumptuous antidote to the fearful times we live in, it is both reassuring and forward looking; it is perhaps what every family could use right now.

 

Lahri Bond ©2020 Parents’ Choice

Lahri Bond is a father, a writer, music historian and an art professor in Western Massachusetts. His published books include Spinning Tales Weaving Hope (with the Stories For World Change Network) for New Society Press and People of the Earth (coauthored with Ellen Evert Hopman) for Destiny Books.

Max & Ruby Twin Trouble

Ann Oldenburg ©2019 Parents’ Choice

Ann Oldenburg, lecturer and interim director of the journalism program at Georgetown University, writes about television, food, workplace issues and other pop culture topics. A University of Florida Gator with a degree in journalism, she began her career at The Washington Post and spent more than two decades with USA TODAY. She and her husband have three sons and live in McLean, Virginia.

Our Team

Meet the Team

The Parents’ Choice core team is a smart, talented, and fun-loving group that leads the experts and family testers with whom we are so fortunate to work. Whether at our desks, playing on the floor, walking the aisles of Toy Fair, attending conferences or reading up on industry trends, it would be rare to find a more dedicated and hard-working bunch.

Claire 2

Claire Green

PRESIDENT

In addition to helming the Foundation’s work, Claire is a member of the National Toy Hall of Fame® and Toy of the Year (TOTY) nomination committees. She lives with her husband Tom in the Maryland woods where they’re constantly searching for plants the deer won’t eat.

Krist

Krista Kane

Content Director

Before joining Parents’ Choice in 2016, Krista spent 10+ years researching, testing, and playing with all manner of toys, games and gadgets at FamilyFun magazine. Although she spends her days with the latest and greatest, the classics are what she loves best.

 

Karena

Karena Rush

Principal Investigator

Currently a psychology professor at Millersville University, Karena previously served on the faculty at Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine and as a psychologist at Sheppard Pratt Hospital where she worked with children with special needs. 

 

Jennifer Wells

Jennifer Wells

Editor, Digital Toys

Jennifer has been developing kids’ digital products for 20+ years for organizations from Highlights Magazine to LEGO. As a child she and her group of imaginary friends went everywhere together, playing with refrigerator boxes-turned-spacecraft and an Apple IIc. But Fisher-Price’s Little People were always closest to her heart.

Contributing Editors

Our contributing editors help guide us through the ever-changing landscape of children’s media and toys. They evaluate and review with the eyes, ears, and experience of skilled professionals. Only a parent or once-in-a-lifetime teacher can provide the perspectives they share.

Lahri

Lahri Bond

Father, writer, music historian, designer and illustrator, and a professor of art at Holyoke Community College, Lahri lives in Massachusetts with his wife, two cats and way too many books.

Gina

Gina Catanzarite

Gina is an award-winning television producer, writer, teacher, and media consultant. Her work includes national documentaries for PBS. She lives in Pittsburgh with her husband and twin sons.

Emily Crawford

Emily holds a BSE in electrical engineering and computer science. She is a homeschooling parent and lives with her husband, three children, three cats, and thousands of LEGOs.     

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Lynne Heffley

Lynne spent more than 20 years writing about the arts and children’s arts and entertainment for the Los Angeles Times. When not on assignment, Lynne is apt to be found strumming one of her seven ukuleles. 

Naomi Lesley

Naomi Lesley taught young adult literature for six years. After earning her Ph.D. from George Washington University, she’s now teaching at Holyoke Community College in Massachusetts.

Kemie Crop

Kemie Nix

Kemie, Children’s Literature for Children, Inc. founder, began teaching literature to children four decades ago. Since its inception, CLC has placed more than two million books in hospitals and schools around the globe.

Ann 2

Ann Oldenburg

Assistant Director of Georgetown University’s journalism program, Ann began her career at The Washington Post and went on to spend more than two decades with USA Today, where she covered pop culture. 

Don 2

Don Oldenburg

Director of publications and editor for the National Italian American Foundation, Don spent 22 years as a feature writer for the Washington Post. The coauthor of two books, his legendary muse continues to be his first baseball 

DS

David Shirley

David’s recent titles include A History of Brooklyn Bridge Park. His biographies, Every Day I Sing the Blues: The Story of B. B. King and Satchel Paige: Baseball Legend were honored as the NYPL’s Best Books for Teens.

Boys’ Life Magazine

Boys' Life Magazine

Don Oldenburg ©2018 Parents’ Choice

A former feature writer and consumer columnist at The Washington Post for 22 years, Don Oldenburg is the Director of Publications and Editor of the National Italian American Foundation, in Washington, D.C. He regularly reviews books for USA Today and is the coauthor of “The Washington DC-Baltimore Dog Lovers Companion” (Avalon Travel). The proud father of three sons, he lives with his journalist-author wife, Ann Oldenburg, in McLean, VA.

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Brady Rymer Presents: “Drop in the Bucket”

Brady Rymer Presents:
“Drop in the Bucket”

The song, off of Brady’s Parents’ Choice Award-winning album “Under the Big Umbrella” offers an important message about how easy it is to be kind, and how even a small gesture can mean a lot.

By Parents' Choice

 

Conceived and filmed by young students, the video offers a genuine look inside the school community and the challenges and effort it takes to be a kind and conscientious individual.

“A few of the songs on our latest album, Under the Big Umbrella were inspired by the collaborative work that I had done with HC Johnson Elementary School’s music teacher, Missy O’Keeffe and her students. The students contributed lyrical ideas, song titles and even sang on a few tracks. While working with Missy on the recording, I was introduced to the High School award winning film department and the instructor, Ethan Noble. I asked if his high school kids would like to get involved and produce a music video for one of the songs on the album. We all agreed on “Drop in the Bucket” as a good choice because of the universal message of showing kindness in the schools. The kids took the idea and ran with it – creating different scenarios that explored kindness in the schools and community. The video was shot in two days with 300 elementary school extras and thousands of kindness balls.” – Brady Rymer

Produced and Directed by Jackson Liberty High School (NJ) Seniors: Rebecca Chiafullo and Lianne Richards.

Based on Bucket Fillers, the national elementary school initiative designed to promote kindness and compassionate behavior in the schools.

Produced and directed by two award winning Jackson High School seniors, Rebecca Chiafullo and Lianne Richards, the music video includes over 300 kids from the HC Johnson Elementary School as actors and extras. The video explores various scenarios on how to be kind and inclusive in the school environment.

 

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