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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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Parents’ Choice Foundation/Michael Cohen Group Survey

Parents' Choice Foundation & MCG Survey Shows Similarities in How Parents Select and Choose Toys

Findings from a recent Parents’ Choice Foundation/Michael Cohen Group survey highlight the similarities in parental and caregiver concerns about their children – and their recognition of the positive role of toys and play in their children’s’ development and learning.

By Parents' Choice

Timonium, MD — February 12, 2019 – Parents’ Choice Foundation and the Michael Cohen Group (MCG) have released the findings from an online quantitative survey of 332 primary caregivers (parents, grandparents and teachers) of children (ages 1-10) conducted in December 2018. Focused on toys and learning, the survey findings reveal a striking consensus regarding parental concerns about their children, the role of toys, and toy purchasing behaviors. Key findings include the following.

Shared beliefs, concerns, and purchase behaviors across all demographic variables


A major finding is that the vast majority of parents – regardless of age, locale, or household income – share similar concerns about their children, have similar expectations and goals for the toys they buy, and report similar shopping and purchase behaviors.

Shared emphasis on safety, fun, and learning

The top three criteria that parents and caregivers use when selecting toys for their children are “toys that are safe” (90%), “toys that are fun” (80%), and toys that “help children learn” (72%).

Widespread belief that toys contribute to learning 
The vast majority of parents (over 80%) believe that toys facilitate their child’s learning of important skills and knowledge. Seventy percent (70%) classify the toys that they purchased during the past year as “educational” or “learning” toys. Overall, parents report the highest interest in toys that facilitate the acquisition of problem-solving skills (72%) and engender positive social-emotional development (69%).

A growing concern about children’s social and emotional development
Two-thirds of parents (65%) report that the development of “social and emotional skills” represents their greatest concern regarding their children’s learning and development, followed by “problem-solving skills (51%), “school-related language and early reading” (35%), and “school-related STEM” (30%). These findings support other recent MCG research findings highlighting parent and educator concerns regarding young children’s social skills and social-emotional development.

Widespread interest in third-party labeling
The majority of parents (71%) report that they would welcome a “third-party labeling system that displays the learning value of toys.” Two-thirds of parents (63%) report a preference for third-party labeling displayed directly on the packaging. This finding supports the recent activities and efforts of Parents’ Choice Foundation to meet this need.

“For the past five years, we’ve been developing and refining the PlayAbility Scale ™, a scientifically based measurement tool – akin to nutrition labeling – for toys and games. We’re delighted that the survey data confirm parents’ interest in using the PlayAbility Scale to help with toy and game purchasing decisions.”

Claire Green, Parents’ Choice Foundation president

“These findings highlight several important trends. The first is that parents – no matter where they live or where they fall on the income scale – are more like each other than not — they share similar concerns. The second is parents’ universal appreciation of the role of toys in their children’s development and learning. The third provides confirmation for the increasing concern about young children’s social-emotional development. The fourth is parents’ desire for third-party assessment and package labeling of toys’ play and learning value.”

Michael Cohen, PhD, President, MCG

Note on the sample for the survey: The survey was conducted with 332 U.S. primary caregivers (including parents and grandparents), representing toy purchasers for 453 children. The sample, which was recruited from Parents’ Choice Foundation’s subscribers and followers represented the full range of socioeconomic status; locale (urban, suburban and rural); children’s ages from 0 to 10; familial configurations (single-parent and dual-parent households); number of children per household (1-5); and preschool and non-preschool attendance.

About Parents’ Choice Foundation
Established in 1978 as a 501c3, Parents’ Choice Foundation is the nation’s oldest nonprofit guide to quality children’s media and toys. Best known for the Parents’ Choice Awards® program, the Parents’ Choice Award® Seals are the Foundation’s internationally recognized and respected icons of quality. The PlayAbility Scale ™ is a scientifically based tool that measures the skill building properties of toys and games.

About the Michael Cohen Group, LLC (MCG) 
The Michael Cohen Group, LLC (MCG) is an applied research, evaluation and consulting firm headquartered in NYC. MCG has conducted research in over fifty countries with children, parents, and educators on a range of topics, including: toys & play; education & learning; media: entertainment; and health & safety. MCG clients include The U.S. Department of Education; YouTube; LEGO; The New York State Department of Education; Nickelodeon; and Hasbro.

For additional information please contact:

Claire Green
President, Parents’ Choice Foundation
www.parents-choice.org
claire@parents-choice.org
+1 410-308-3858

Michael Cohen, PhD
President, Michael Cohen Group LLC
www.mcgrc.com
mcohen@mcgrc.com
+1 212-431-2252

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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.     

Untitled-8

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.

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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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Parents’ Choice Foundation

Read More. Play More. Learn More.

Parents' Choice Foundation

Established in 1978 as a 501c3, Parents’ Choice Foundation® is the nation’s oldest nonprofit guide to quality children’s media and toys. Best known for the Parents’ Choice Awards® program, the Parents’ Choice Award® Seals are the Foundation’s internationally recognized and respected icons of quality. 

Blue circle

We Believe...

that children are born scientists, musicians, creatives, linguists, and artists.

We Believe...

that children’s toys and media help children build and hone skills through play.

We Believe...

that children should practice kindness, generosity and empathy.

Green Circle

We Believe...

that learning is fun, and we want kids to know that, too.

We Believe...

that STEAM learning begins with a box of Cheerios.

We Believe...

in teaching children how to learn, not just what to learn.

Above all, we want to help parents find ways to encourage the probing, questioning and experimenting that children do so naturally – and so well. 

Through reading, play, talking, and building, parents and children can learn together. And there’s not much more fun than that.

See Parents’ Choice Award winners here.

For anything earlier than 2018, visit our archive.  

GirlRocket1400x600

Read More. Play More. Learn More

Parents' Choice Foundation

Established in 1978 as a 501c3, Parents’ Choice Foundation® is the nation’s oldest nonprofit guide to quality children’s media and toys. Best known for the Parents’ Choice Awards® program, the Parents’ Choice Award® Seals are the Foundation’s internationally recognized and respected icons of quality. 

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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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About Us

About Us

Established in 1978 as a 501c3, Parents’ Choice Foundation® is the nation’s oldest nonprofit guide to quality children’s media and toys.

Best known for the Parents’ Choice Awards® program, the Parents’ Choice Award® Seals are the Foundation’s internationally recognized and respected icons of quality. 

Yellow Circle

We Believe...

that children are born scientists, musicians, creatives, linguists, and artists.

We Believe...

that children’s toys and media help children build and hone skills through play.

We Believe...

that children should practice kindness, generosity and empathy.

Green Circle

We Believe...

that learning is fun, and we want kids to know that, too.

We Believe...

that STEAM learning begins with a box of Cheerios.

We Believe...

in teaching children how to learn, not just what to learn.

Above all, we want to help parents find ways to encourage the probing, questioning and experimenting that children do so naturally – and so well. 

Through reading, play, talking, and building, parents and children can learn together. And there’s not much more fun than that.

See Parents’ Choice Award winners here.

For anything earlier than 2018, visit our archive.  

 

Parents’ Choice Foundation

Read More. Play More. Learn More.

Parents' Choice Foundation

Established in 1978 as a 501c3, Parents’ Choice Foundation® is the nation’s oldest nonprofit guide to quality children’s media and toys. Best known for the Parents’ Choice Awards® program, the Parents’ Choice Award® Seals are the Foundation’s internationally recognized and respected icons of quality. 

Blue circle

We Believe...

that children are born scientists, musicians, creatives, linguists, and artists.

We Believe...

that children’s toys and media help children build and hone skills through play.

We Believe...

that children should practice kindness, generosity and empathy.

Green Circle

We Believe...

that learning is fun, and we want kids to know that, too.

We Believe...

that STEAM learning begins with a box of Cheerios.

We Believe...

in teaching children how to learn, not just what to learn.

Above all, we want to help parents find ways to encourage the probing, questioning and experimenting that children do so naturally – and so well. 

Through reading, play, talking, and building, parents and children can learn together. And there’s not much more fun than that.

See Parents’ Choice Award winners here.

For anything earlier than 2018, visit our archive.