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One Act of Kindness

Compassion is one of the most important lessons a caregiver can teach children, but it can be a little tough with the world we live in. A survey conducted by Sesame Workshop, the nonprofit behind the beloved Sesame Street, shows that 70 percent of parents and 86 percent of teachers “often worry that the world is an unkind place for children.” Though the high marks are worrisome, the survey also provides hope for the direction in which caregivers aim to take the next generation: 81 percent of parents and 84 percent of teachers agree that “people need to be responsible for helping their own children and families and other people in society.”

 

As children grow and learn more about the world they inhabit, we hope they become compassionate and empathetic toward everyone, without the awful –isms and –phobias of society. Aside from making the world a better place, there are other reasons for kids to be kind—it is human nature. Research shows that humans are inherently good and have an instinct to be cooperative. This is great news for humanity, but sometimes children still need a little nudge in the right direction to fulfill this human need.

 

Raising children to become thoughtful and generous humanitarians may seem like a tall order. How can adults expect that from children when it is not always easy for adults themselves to be kind? It is, however, important to remember that being kind is a choice. As with other choice-based behaviors, kindness can be learned and internalized. Ages 4-7 is a critical learning period for children, so lessons on how to be kind should start as soon as possible and be consistently reinforced as they grow.

 

One way to demonstrate the importance of kindness is through modeling. According to Albert Bandura’s Social Learning Theory, people internalize behaviors by observing others perform those same behaviors. In short, children often imitate adults. With this in mind, adults can model kind behaviors that align with the lessons they teach children; thus, children can internalize the information and perform the same behaviors themselves. Consistency between the lessons being taught and one’s own behavior will help a child understand how to truly be kind in practice.

 

Another way to encourage kind behavior in children is to volunteer for the community together. There are many ways to get involved! Sit down with children and discuss the impact of each option and which avenue to take. Some examples include volunteering at an animal shelter, starting a canned-food drive, or picking up trash at the beach. Even gathering clothes and items around the house and donating them to a charitable cause can have a huge impact on those who need it—and inspire children to continue doing good deeds from the kindness of their hearts.

 

It is important to remember that no act of kindness is too small. This lesson is apparent in A Circle of Friends, where one child’s generous act of sharing his snack with a homeless man sparks a chain reaction of caring. An action that may seem miniscule to one person can mean the world to another.

 

Being kind is not always easy, especially when one is told to do otherwise. In Hunter and His Dog, a hunter takes his new dog on a hunting trip. However, upon seeing injured birds, the dog feels compassion and takes them away from the hunter to heal. In going against the hunter’s orders and instead choosing to be kind and empathetic, the dog saves the birds’ lives.

 

During this season of giving, what acts of kindness can you take to help someone in need?

A Bird’s Eye View of the City

Sixty years ago, the peregrine falcon was on the verge of dying off in the United States. At the time, dichlorodiphenyltrichloroethane (DDT) was widely used as a pesticide for both agriculture and households, and it proved to be poisonous to many forms of wildlife, including fish, bald eagles, and falcons. DDT was especially harmful to apex predators because the chemicals accumulated internally as infected animals were eaten. DDT also caused falcon eggshells to thin, leading to higher rates of broken eggs.

 

It was not until biologist and conservationist Rachel Carson that these issues became known. Her book Silent Spring exposed the harmful side effects that pesticides such as DDT had on the environment. Although Carson’s findings were initially dismissed or criticized, John F. Kennedy’s Science Advisory Committee eventually investigated and confirmed the truth of her book, leading to policy changes.

 

With the ban of DDT  and the passing of the Endangered Species Act in the early ’70s, the peregrine falcon population finally had a chance to recover from years of decline. A captive breeding program was put into place to help boost the dwindling population. But another issue arose when it came time to release the fledgling falcons into the wild. Because they were not yet fully mature, the falcons were vulnerable to a number of predators, including owls and foxes. In order to survive, this was not a gamble the species could afford.

 

Then, researchers came up with a radical solution inspired by history. Falcons have been documented nesting in cathedrals and towers as far back as the Middle Ages. In hopes that an urban environment would present fewer threats to growing falcons, researchers garnered the support of government agencies, environmental groups, and the public to introduce the birds to their new homes. The captive birds were released on high-rise buildings in various cities across the US, particularly in regions where the falcon population was especially low. By the mid-1980s, the falcon population had slowly, but steadily, increased. Driven by this success, researchers continued releasing falcons into cities.

 

Eventually, high-rise buildings became homes for more than just captive bred falcons. Wild falcons were also able to adapt to changing landscapes and rapid urbanization by settling into cities. This adaptability is attributed to similarities in habitat. Falcons outside of cities often nest on cliff edges, a habitat well mimicked by tall structures like skyscrapers and bridges. Moreover, falcons mainly feed on medium-sized birds such as pigeons, which are abundant in urban areas.

 

As well as peregrine falcons have taken to urban areas, the unnatural environment does present threats and challenges not found in the wild. Falcons are not nest builders, preferring instead to dig a hole in which to lay eggs. Since this is not possible on a human-made structure, nesting boxes must be provided to keep eggs from rolling off buildings. Falcons are also particular about nest disturbances. Anything from helicopters to construction—and even nearby human activities—could prevent a successful nesting. Young falcons just spreading their wings also face the possibility of falling off structures without the updraft winds found at cliffs to help them learn to fly. The falcon population has an effect on humans as well. In some cities such as New York, which is home to about 40 falcons, they can interfere with construction projects due to their territorial nature.

 

Despite the challenges, peregrine falcons have made an astounding comeback and have even become a shining example of urban wildlife. Today, peregrine falcons are no longer endangered; they are now classified as a species of least concern. Their success story can hopefully serve as a model for the rescue efforts of other species on the brink of dying off.

 

Is your city home to peregrine falcons? In City Birds, two falcon hatchlings named Stars and Stripes call a skyscraper in Cleveland, Ohio, home. The humorous story follows the two young birds as they learn to navigate the real-life challenges of their big-city home.

Remembering Kristallnacht

It has been 80 years since Kristallnacht (“Crystal Night”), yet today there are still eerie echoes of the horrific event. Kristallnacht was an organized attack against Jewish people in Nazi Germany that took place on November 9 and 10, 1938. Kristallnacht is also known as the Night of Broken Glass, named for the shattered glass from store windows and synagogues that blanketed the streets in the aftermath of the attacks. These attacks devastated the Jewish community, leaving over 7,000 Jewish businesses destroyed and nearly 100 Jews dead. More than 30,000 Jewish men were arrested and sent to concentration camps.

 

Although news of the brutal event was met by shock and outrage internationally, Kristallnacht was the culmination of anti-Semitic policies and beliefs in Nazi Germany. Prior to the rise of the Nazis, Jews in Germany generally had the same legal rights as all German citizens, although they were banned from university teaching positions. However, after Hitler came to power as chancellor in 1933, the Nazis began to broadcast propaganda that singled out German Jews as the reason for various misfortunes, such as Germany’s loss in World War I. This was quickly followed by anti-Semitic laws that systematically removed Jews’ rights. Jewish people could no longer be employed in civil service posts, including any teaching positions, not just at the university level. The Nazis also organized a boycott of Jewish businesses, and German businesses stopped serving Jews.

 

These policies culminated in the Nuremberg Race Laws in 1935. The Law for the Protection of German Blood and German Honour forbade marriage and extramarital intercourse between Jews and Germans. It also prevented the employment of German women under 45 in Jewish households, under the assumption workers would be forced into such relations by Jewish men. Another policy, the Reich Citizenship Law, stated that only those with “German or kindred blood” were citizens of Germany; everyone else would be subjects of the state, stripped of basic rights. This law never defined “German or kindred blood,” but it did identify Jews as a race, rather than a religious community. Therefore, anyone who had a grandparent born into a Jewish religious community was considered Jewish, whether or not they identified as one. German allies such as Italy, Romania, and Slovakia passed similar laws. It is important to note that although these laws specifically targeted Jews, they also applied to black and Romani people.

 

The Nuremberg Race Laws allowed Hitler and the Nazis to spread the anti-Semitic sentiments that fueled their party in an organized manner. Many Jews sought to emigrate elsewhere, but faced difficulties both domestically (they were required to pay 90 percent of their wealth to Germany as tax for leaving) and internationally (other countries condemned Germany’s anti-Semitism, but refused to take in Jewish immigrants). The Nazis wanted to further escalate their anti-Semitic campaign; they just needed the right opportunity.

 

And then came the perfect scenario: the shooting of German diplomat Ernst vom Rath at the German embassy in Paris. The perpetrator was Herschel Grynszpan, a Polish-Jew refugee born in Germany. The shooting is commonly thought to be politically motivated, as anti-Semitism displaced the Grynszpan family from Germany, where they had lived for many years. Grynszpan made no attempt to escape arrest after the shooting. In custody, the French police found in Grynszpan’s pocket a postcard addressed to his parents that, in part, read, “. . . I could not do otherwise, may God forgive me, the heart bleeds when I hear of your tragedy and that of the 12,000 Jews. I must protest so that the whole world hears my protest, and that I will do. Forgive me. . . .” Grynszpan was taken into Nazi custody, but his scheduled trial was canceled and his fate remains unknown to this day.

 

In response, Propaganda Minister Joseph Goebbels ordered Nazi Stormtroopers to ignite violent riots disguised as German people protesting against Jews. Then, he sent instructions to the police and army to only interfere if the rioting threatened non-Jewish businesses. And thus, Kristallnacht commenced.

 

Kristallnacht has been largely regarded as a precursor to the “Final Solution” and the Holocaust. Although several countries severed diplomatic relations with Germany over the attacks, there were largely no consequences to the Nazis, enabling them to further destroy the Jewish community.

 

It is more important now than ever to teach tragic events like Kristallnacht so we as a society do not repeat the atrocities. By studying Kristallnacht and the Holocaust, we come to understand how these events were not isolated incidents, but rather a climax of variables such as authoritarianism, racism, dehumanization, and the neutral response of people not directly affected by such policies. It is only by becoming aware of the cause and effect of Kristallnacht, the Holocaust, and other similar events that we can work to prevent future brutal incidents.

 

Here at Star Bright Books, we aim to do our part to teach the lessons gleaned from the Holocaust by engaging readers with books about the time period from varying perspectives. Hidden Letters provides a look at life under Nazi rule. Philip “Flip” Slier, only 18 when he was sent to a concentration camp in Holland, wrote detailed letters to his parents almost every day, chronicling his life under German occupation. In Poland, German officer Wilm Hosenfeld lived his life in accordance to his own moral compass, despite the contradiction with the beliefs of Germany’s leadership. Defying the Nazis follows Hosenfeld’s life from his youth absorbed in nationalist propaganda to his maturity into a brave soul who helped rescue dozens of people from the Nazi regime.

 

Never again.

A Sweet Story for Sweet Dreams

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Good Night, Little Sea Otter

Written by Janet Halfmann | Illustrated by Wish Williams

Ages 3 – 6

With their sweet faces and mischievous, playful personalities, sea otters may be one of the most “kid-like” animals on the planet. And, like children, they sure know how to have fun! Underwater, they glide, twist, twirl, and tumble with the same enthusiasm as kids on a playground, popping up to float on their backs like little ones lying on the ground to watch the clouds float by.

 

Sea otters also seem to know all about friendship—holding hands, playing in groups, and even sharing snacks (ingeniously prepared and served on their tummies!) When it’s naptime or bedtime, little sea otters are as snuggly as kids—or are kids as snuggly as little sea otters? Either way, both love to cuddle in a warm hug and a cozy blanket as they drift off to sleep.

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Good Night Little Sea Otter text copyright Janet Halfmann, Illustration copyright Wish Williams.

Janet Halfmann’s and Wish Williams’ adorable Good Night, Little Sea Otter delights in the lively antics of these loveable sea animals as the baby sea otter can’t go to sleep without saying “good-night” to all of her friends. As Little Sea Otter calls out to the seals, seagulls, snails and sea slugs, the fish, crabs, sea stars and sea urchins, they in turn are excited to say “good-night” to her as well. But as the gently rocking waves, twinkling stars, and Mama’s whispers quiet the baby, Little Sea Otter still feels she’s left someone out. Who can it be?

 

Young readers will be enchanted by this charming and joyful bedtime story that reassures them that even as they are going to sleep, they have a world of friends waiting and happy to greet them in the morning.

 

Sweet dreams!

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Good Night Little Sea Otter text copyright Janet Halfmann, Illustration copyright Wish Williams.

Good Night, Little Sea Otter is also published in these bilingual editions:

 

Arabic/English | Burmese Karen/English | Burmese/English | Chinese English/English | French/English | Hmong/English | Navajo/English | Portuguese/English | Spanish/English | Spanish/English (Board Book) 

 

Good Night, Little Sea Otter is available on the Star Bright Books Website:

Hardcover | Paperback | Board Book

 

And with these booksellers:

Amazon | IndieBound

 

You can connect with author Janet Halfmann on:

Her Website | Facebook | Twitter

 

Download These Fun Good Night, Little Sea Otter Activities!

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Here are the Solutions: Word Search Solution | Maze Solution

Sharing Time with Grandparents Has Many Benefits

 

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Images are from these Star Bright Books titles – Top Row: Read to Me; Loving Me; Grandma is a Slowpoke. Bottom Row: Loving Me; Read to Me; Cake Day

 

The relationship between a child and grandparents is a special bond that grows in the heart and provides comfort, laughter, and memories that last a lifetime. Spending time with grandparents benefits children in many ways. As family, grandparents offer unconditional love and support. When they tell stories about their lives, they connect children to other relatives and give them a sense of belonging, now and as a part of the family’s history. And, of course, kids are thrilled to learn those humorous nuggets from their parents’ past.

 

Common history isn’t the only thing grandparents can pass down to their grandchildren. Afternoons or weekends spent together are perfect times for grandma or grandpa to share and teach favorite hobbies or special talents. Even the slower pace of an older person’s life can have a positive effect on kids. With today’s busy schedules, kids need downtime to think, to assimilate what they see, learn, and do, and to relax. Taking walks, baking, or reading together can give grandparents and children time to talk and observe the world around them in a close-up, unhurried way.

 

Grandparents also gain from listening to and interacting with their younger family members. The world is changing in so many ways, with technology often taking the lead. Children make wonderful teachers themselves, proud to show off what they know and what they can do. Keeping up with current culture by listening to a grandchild’s favorite music, going to the movies or watching funny Internet videos together, and discussing news events is a great way to stay young and informed.

 

The loving relationship between grandparents and their grandchildren is reflected in three of Star Bright Books titles that are wonderful for sharing and reading together. They can also inspire the kinds of interactions that allow for talking with one another and getting to know each other better.

 

Grandma is a Slowpoke

Written by Janet Halfmann | Illustrated by Michele Coxon

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In Grandma Is a Slowpoke, a little girl is happy to walk through the woods with her grandma. But Grandma stops so often—she’s such a slowpoke! Each time they take a rest, though, they see wondrous wildlife. After watching cardinals, ants, bunnies, squirrels, ducks, geese, and muskrats, the little girl wants to see more. They sit together as the sun sets and the fireflies begin twinkling in the grasses. “‘Time to go, slowpoke,’” Grandma says. At home the little girl tells her family how much fun it was being a slowpoke with Grandma. Beautiful, detailed illustrations take children along on the adventure.

Rosa’s Very Big Job

Written by Ellen Mayer | Illustrated by Sarah Vonthron-Laver

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When Rosa’s Mama goes to the grocery store in Rosa’s Very Big Job, the little girl is proud to help out at home by folding and putting away the laundry. She and her grandpa make it an adventure as they use their imaginations to turn the laundry basket and a sheet into a sailboat. When a storm blows up, Grandpa steers their little craft around rocks and over the wind-whipped waves. As the seas subside, Rosa casts her clothes-hanger fishing pole over the edge of the boat and catches a sockfish for dinner. When Mama gets home, she’s happy to see the neatly stacked laundry and is excited to hear all about Rosa and Grandpa’s escapade. The light, playful, and engaging illustrations will inspire children and grandparents to talk – and play -together.

Cake Day

Written by Ellen Mayer | Illustrated by Estelle Corke

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Cake Day invites little ones into a sunny kitchen to bake a very special treat. As Grandma and her grandchild gather ingredients, measure, pour, and mix it all together, they talk about each step. Once the cake is in the oven, waiting is so hard! Finally, the timer dings, and it’s time to frost the cake and add a shower of rainbow sprinkles to the top! The little one is proud to have helped make a delicious cake for a very exciting day. The sweet relationship between the child and grandma is shown on every page as they have fun working in the kitchen together.

 

Cake Day also models ways that grandparents, parents, and other caregivers can turn everyday activities into joyful teachable moments.

 

You can find Grandma is a Slow Poke here:

Star Bright Books | Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Books-a-MillionIndieBound

 

Look for Rosa’s Very Big Job here:

Star Bright Books | Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Books-a-Million | IndieBound

 

Cake Day is available here:

Star Bright Books | Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Books-a-MillionIndieBound

Make Meals Colorful, Delicious, and Fun!

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Eating the Rainbow

Part of the Babies Everywhere™ Series

 

Farmers markets and grocery stores are bursting with the vibrant colors of summer! Radiant red tomatoes and peppers, brilliant yellow bananas and squash, fiery orange peppers and carrots, and deep green broccoli, herbs, and zucchini all look so delicious and enticing! With so much to choose from, summer is a wonderful time to invite children to try new foods!

 

Eating the Rainbow is an award-winning board book that little ones will love! Babies and toddlers will delight in the photographs of other children enjoying a variety of foods as they learn the names of fruit, vegetables, and nuts. The book also gives young children a unique way to learn colors.

 

Its small size makes Eating the Rainbow a great take-along book for the grocery store and farmers market as well as for picnics and playground outings!

Eating the Rainbow is also available in these languages:

 

Arabic/English | Chinese/English | French/English | Portuguese/English | Spanish/English | Spanish | Vietnamese/English

Awards:

Oppenheim Toy Portfolio Gold Award

Oppenheim Toy Portfolio SNAP (Special Need Adaptable Products)

 

In the Bag Scavenger Hunt!

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Make grocery shopping fun with this printable In the Bag Scavenger Hunt! As children find items, they practice early language skills and develop an understanding of early math, including shape and number recognition as well as sorting.

 

Other books in the Babies Everywhere™ Series include: