WHAT I LEARNED AT THE LIBRARY

Lucky am I to have been hired as a Youth Services Library Associate at Winnetka Library! If you live in the area, you’ll know where to find me. That is when the library re-opens. For now, here I am.

Libraries have gone way beyond their original purpose, and now often serve as the community centers for their patrons. For ex. did you know you can borrow ebooks from libraries at any time? Just download FREE apps like hoopla using your library card number. Also, some libraries feed kids after school snacks, register voters, host seminars on biz topics, provide hours of entertaining, educational enrichment for little and big kids alike…ALL FOR FREE! (My library even gives out STEAM kits.)

I’m getting access to all kinds of neat library resources. So when I learn or do something new, I’m gonna share it here with all of you.

For my first share, I’d like to give you all the tools to create ‘STORYTIME’ at home with your kids. (If you are ‘big kids,’ take what I’ve shared here and make a DIY book club kit. I’ll be doing those for older kids later on.) The idea is to get off your screens for a while, and do something in real life. (Though some of the offerings do require a screen.) All of the suggestions here are either free or very inexpensive.

So without further ado, here’s my first Storytime kit using the picture book, I’M BORED by Michael Ian Black and Debbie Ridpath Ohi. Seemed like a timely book for these times. 🙂

DIY STORYTIME KIT

I’M BORED is a fun, clever story about a little girl rediscovering the power of imagination once she’s called boring by a potato. Yep, a potato. The bold, emotional illustrations bring the text to the next level, while giving kids ideas of what to do next so they’re not bored even after the story ends.

  1. WATCH: Michael Ian Black read the story, and then Debbie Ridpath Ohi (illustrator) offers an art demo and creative challenge at timestamp 5:17.
  2. Other book related activities to extend your learning:

READ: The Boring Book by Shinsuke Yoshitake (Available on Hoopla) This LOL picture book uses the feeling of boredom as a doorway into an engaging and enriching experience.

-PRINT READY ACTIVITY SHEETS, including how to make finger puppets and coloring pages

https://www.debbieohi.com/im-bored-activity-pages/

-MAKE POTATO ART

https://www.gardeningknowhow.com/special/children/potato-craft-ideas-for-kids.htm

https://www.fun-stuff-to-do.com/easy-crafts-for-kids-8.html

Potato Sprout People

https://www.pbs.org/parents/crafts-and-experiments/potato-sprout-people

Potato Book Characters:

http://fourcheekymonkeys.com/play-love-learn/read-play-learn-potato-book-characters/

-DANCE AND SING while learning about Flamingos, do they fly, where do they live

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=CsUWR9hkT5M

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=FhNrC0VjzMU

ENCOURAGE IMAGINATIVE PLAY

https://www.horizoneducationcenters.org/blog/5-easy-ways-to-encourage-imaginative-play

Make an Imagination Prop Box:

-Consider creating a prop box or corner filled with objects to spark your child’s fantasy world. You might include:

Large plastic crates, cardboard blocks, or a large, empty box for creating a “home”

  • Old clothes, shoes, backpacks, hats
  • Old telephones, phone books, magazines
  • Cooking utensils, dishes, plastic food containers, table napkins, silk flowers
  • Stuffed animals and dolls of all sizes
  • Fabric pieces, blankets, or old sheets for making costumes or a fort
  • Theme-appropriate materials such as postcards, used plane tickets, foreign coins, and photos for a pretend vacation trip
  • Writing materials for taking phone messages, leaving notes, and making shopping lists

IF YOU’VE GOT MORE TIME:

Teacher Guide for kids 5-10 yrs old using book to teach ideas in most subjects including: Math, English, Science, Art etc.

http://static1.1.sqspcdn.com/static/f/605335/24139138/1388670294790/IM+BORED+Guide-v2.pdf?token=bt%2F%2FYt4wh9tTG%2FcXxwEYyMJVfeI%3D

Don’t forget to have fun!


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Behind The Vids: Anny & Christina tackle Colby Sharp’s The Creativity Project

On the surface, Colby Sharp is a 5th grade teacher in Parma, MI. But scratch the surface a little bit, and you find out he is so much more.

For one, he’s a rockstar in the kidlit world. Among his achievements is Nerd Camp, which he, his wife, and a team of volunteers run every year in Parma, MI. It’s main goal is to promote a love of reading in children. In order to do that, Colby and Alaina realize they have to educate us too–us being writers, educators, parents, aunts etc. So the first two days of Nerd Camp is jam packed with chats and workshops led by some of the leading lights in kidlit and kid education. (R. J. Palacio, Wonder, Tracey Baptiste, Jumbies, and Debbie Ridpath Ohi, one of my fav illustrators, teacher Chad Everett)

I had the pleasure of attending the event last year. Two takeaways of many: Discovered why it’s vital not to classify books by gender, i.e. ‘boy’ or ‘girl’ books, but to encourage kids to read whatever strikes their fancy. For one thing, a boy reading a book about girls can help him gain empathy for what it’s like to be a girl in our world, and vice versa. This wisdom supplied by the best-selling Fantasy author Shannon Hale (Princess Academy among others.) Met and learned about how to talk about and promote diversity in the kidtlit world from librarian Kathy Burnette, who is starting The Brain Lair, a diverse bookstore in South Bend, IN.

Colby’s latest contribution to kids, and the rest of us, is The Creativity Project. Colby asked well-known kidlit writers and illustrators to supply creative prompts for each other, and then use those prompts to create a short story or illustration. You see the fruits of the creators’ labor, and then there are about 40 prompts in the back of the book created for us, the readers. (Of course you can do any of the prompts in the book.)

For this week’s vid, Christina and I each did a prompt. Not only were we pleased with the results, but more importantly, they allowed us to stretch our creative wings. Colby’s book reawakens, or strengthens your creativity muscles. And creativity leads to innovation, a stronger and more diverse community, learning, and so much more. In my case, I discovered something new about my Uncle Earl.

I hope you’ll listen or watch our video about the Creativity Project when it posts tomorrow. For now, here’s a moment from the video: Uncle Earl and the journal I used to write his story.

Please spread the word about our project/channel and encourage others to subscribe to this newsletter and/or our YouTube Channel if you think they would speak to them.

Because we view our channel as a shared experience, we’d love it if you’d send us suggestions of what you’d like to explore next on this journey. Ex. You want us to look at how personal identity plays a part in choosing acceptance. You may even know someone who can help lead us along this path. If so, brilliant! You can send us names/contact info, video ideas, and whatever else you can think of by replying to this letter, or tweeting me, or posting a comment on our YouTube channel. We can use all the help we can get.  
 
#ChooseAcceptance

Purple Passion of the Fortnight:
A purple Hummingbird


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Behind The Vids: Elisa Gall, Inclusion and Play

This week we’re playing the Acceptance Game with Elisa Gall.

Elisa is the Youth Collection Development Librarian at Deerfield Public Library in Deerfield, IL and is also a contributor to the Reading While White blog. (One of the best blogs about diversity and inclusion period, and esp if you fit the title’s demographic.)

Reading While White’s Mission:
We are White librarians organizing to confront racism in the field of children’s and young adult literature. We are committed to working in the ongoing struggle for authenticity and visibility in books. We are learning, and hold ourselves responsible for understanding how our Whiteness impacts our perspectives and our behavior as we strive to advocate for this movement.

Because Elisa’s passion is inclusion and empowering underrepresented voices, we wanted her to help us test our theory that play makes it easier to choose acceptance. That play creates a safe space where tough and honest conversations can be had.

Watch this week and let us know what you think. Does playing with others allow acceptance to flourish?

Please spread the word about our project/channel and encourage others to subscribe to this newsletter and/or our YouTube Channel if you think they would speak to them.

Because we view our channel as a shared experience, we’d love it if you’d send us suggestions of what you’d like to explore next on this journey. Ex. You want us to look at how personal identity plays a part in choosing acceptance. You may even know someone who can help lead us along this path. If so, brilliant! You can send us names/contact info, video ideas, and whatever else you can think of by replying to this letter, or tweeting me, or posting a comment on our YouTube channel. We can use all the help we can get.
 
#ChooseAcceptance

Purple Passion of the Fortnight:
Watch the video to find out why…


Posted in Acceptance, choose acceptance, Inspired Creativity, PLAY, Self-Acceptance, Thinking Outside The Box by with no comments yet.

Am I Doing What’s Needed?

I’ve been struggling with the best way to help move our country forward in light of recent events. Am I doing enough? Am I doing what’s needed?  In the end I always come back to the same conclusion I’ve had for years. FOCUS ON THE KIDS.

So in that spirit, The Patronuses* are launching our next campaign, #LendAHandLikeKamalaKhan, tonight! (For those of you who don’t know, Kamala Khan, is the first Pakistani-American, Muslim Ms. Marvel.)

I’m co-hosting an event for the The Comics Education Outreach program. CEO is a non-profit tax deductible group that’s devoted to getting educators to view comics/graphic novels as an integral part of their school’s curriculum—no different than regular non-graphic textbooks/books.

Their first initiative is their Lending Library, which puts graphic novels and comics into the hands of students in need. The library link will take you to their Amazon Wish list. If you can buy a book and send it to them, thank you! If you already have the book and want to donate it, let me know so I can get it to them.

The library will create classroom kits that focus on issues of social change/justice and then loan these kits out to schools in need.  Topics such as civil rights, or gender equality, or what it’s like being different can be shared with kids who otherwise would have no access to these books, and maybe even these discussions.

Though I believe wholeheartedly in CEO’s mission, sometimes I’m frustrated I can’t do more the way a J.K. Rowling can, or a Warren Buffet. But it’s said that a thousand mile journey starts with the first step, and through the Patronuses, and SCBWI (The Society for Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators) who’s sponsoring the event, I am taking some first steps.

What steps are you taking to make your world a better place?

Please share your efforts with me, whether it’s with your own kid’s soccer team, or something for a colleague, or helping refugees, whatever it is, I want to know. MORE THAN THAT, I WANT TO SPREAD THE WORD, AND HELP YOU IF I CAN. So please respond to this letter, or post something on my FB page, or tweet me.

If you’d like to help CEO, please spread the word to your friends by sharing this letter, or posting some info and the library wish list link to your social media channels using the hashtag: #LendAHandLikeKamalaKhan. More info about our campaign can be found on The Patronuses FB page.

*The Patronuses are the Chicago Community Chapter of the non-profit Harry Potter Alliance. http://www.thehpalliance.org/what_we_do

FYI: Please share this letter with others you think would enjoy it.

#CreativityEmpowers
#AcceptanceEncourages

Purple Passion of the Fortnight:
Ok, so it’s not purple, but it makes the point. 🙂


Posted in Acceptance, Empowerment, Inspired Creativity by with no comments yet.

Hidden Figures, How a Woman’s Creativity Saved NASA

KatherineJohnsonQuote

Hidden Figures is hands down the best movie I saw in 2016!

It’s the story of how one woman’s creativity saved not only a man’s life, but also the entire NASA program itself.

Katherine Johnson was one of a handful of African-American women who worked at NASA in the ‘50s. She referred to herself and her female colleagues as ‘virtual computers who wore skirts.’

Katherine says that she was pulled from the ‘colored computer pool’ to work on flight research because she always asked a lot of questions, while the rest of the women just did as they were told.

But it was Katherine’s creative use of geometry that made the all white male division “[forget] to return me to the pool.”

In 1962 John Glenn was slated to become the first American to orbit the earth. Right before launch, Katherine’s supervisor discovered that the fancy new IBM computer had turned our conflicting return longitudes and latitudes. When he shared this info with Glenn, Glenn refused to go up until Katherine had verified which of the computer’s numbers for launch and landing were correct.

Once in orbit Glenn’s heat shield started to fail.  Again Glenn and a panicked NASA supervisor turned to Katherine. She reassured them that her ‘return window’ numbers would get Glenn safely back to earth.

If Katherine’s geometry had been wrong, Glenn would’ve been incinerated upon re-entry.  In addition, his death would’ve most likely given Congress the reason they needed to stop funding NASA.

Fortunately for Glenn, Katherine’s numbers were spot on as usual.

Once Glenn survived, NASA had its eye on the moon, but had no idea how to get there. Katherine was told that she’d have to invent math that didn’t exist yet in order to make it happen. She did just that.

Lest you think I’ve given the whole movie away, I haven’t.  The story is powerful because it’s really about race, sexism, and the few folks on both sides that decided that they were going to move beyond their prejudices and make history.

So please read the book Hidden Figures, or go see the movie, or both. You’ll come out of it encouraged, empowered and ready to create something of your own. And who knows? Your creation just might be the thing that takes us to Mars, or saves an endangered species in the ocean, or adds beauty to the wall of a museum.
 
Would love to know what you thought of the movie/book. Please let me know by replying to this letter, or post your comments on my Facebook page, or tweet me.

FYI: Please share this letter with others you think would enjoy it.

#CreativityEmpowers

Purple Passion of the Fortnight:
Thank God Katherine is better at math than I am!

purplemath


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HOW TO BRUSH YOUR TEETH IN SPACE & WRITE A POEM ABOUT IT

saturn

Saturn prances around
Like he’s the only game in town
 
His rings on display
Make girls swoon in his wake
 
Ladies beware
This boy is full of hot air
 
So just walk on by
This peacock’s not worth your time
–Anny Rusk
 
There’s a new poetry book out about space and aliens called Watcher of the Skies. (Published by the small British company The Emma Press.) It’s for kids aged 8-108.
 
Inside its pages poets muse about all aspects of space such as how astronauts brush their teeth (You don’t want morning breath if an alien drops by for tea.), how planets talk, and how to make a cosmic cupcake. (Recipe included.)
 
At the back of the book editor Rachel Piercey encourages readers to write their own space poems using prompts and examples from the anthology. My poem was inspired by the How Planets Talk prompt.
 
Example: “Write your own cosmic recipe for another kind of food, for example Star Stew or Moon Muffins. Try to include some relevant ingredients – so if it’s Star Stew, you might have hydrogen, helium and mouldy old light.
Where will you serve your food, on what, and to whom? Let your imagination run riot!”
 
Please, please write a space poem and share it with me by leaving it in a comment below, or post it on my Facebook page, or tweet me. 
 
Creativity Can Encourage & Empower Us All!
 
FYI: Please share this letter with others you think would enjoy it.

Purple Passion of the Fortnight:
Of course the cool astronauts brush their teeth with purple toothpaste!

purpletoothpaste


Posted in Creativity, Imagination, Inspired Creativity, Uncategorized, World Building-Fictional Lands by with no comments yet.

Using Creativity to Encourage Grrl Power

a-mighty-girl-logo

All of the stories I’m working on have one thing in common: they feature strong female protagonists. My aim is to empower girls, and the guys around them (Think #HeForShe ) of all ages through my writing.

My first finished project is my fictional, science-based graphic novel story for tweens, Hidden Heroes. Think the movie Inside Out starring Estrogen as a superhero, and Samantha, the girl Estrogen has to turn into a woman. Think a story, not a textbook, on the beginning stages of female puberty.

Facts I had to learn about graphic novels before I could attempt to write one:

–GNs are comics, but usually much longer, and don’t have tons of issues. They can be a series though—think Zita Spacrgirl, a trilogy, or Hereville, trilogy.

–Graphic novel text is written for the illustrator, NOT the reader.

–The text is written in script form. From Hidden Heroes:

PAGE 1
SPLASH PAGE: (This means only one panel for the whole page.)
Estrogen and Antibody come around the bend in a vein, cruising on the blood stream. Estrogen is in an inner tube. Antibody is swimming. Estrogen is wearing a one-piece bathing suit. Antibody resembles a friendly Mammalian sea creature. (This is the panel description that the illustrator needs, but won’t end up in the published book. BTW: Things like captions and dialogue do end up in book.)

Caption: Inside Samanthaland, Estrogen and Antibody are riding the blood slide around Ovarian Island.
Estrogen: Wheeeeee!
Antibody: Owamp!

–A typical graphic novel as 4-7 panels per page.
This is an example page from Zita Spacegirl (6 panels):

zita-page

–Because a picture tells a 1000 words, your words can’t repeat what’s going on in the panel illustration, but rather, need to show what’s not going on…think dialogue, sound effects etc.

–GNs ask readers to engage with its story on two levels: Language and pictures. This means kids are using two parts of their brains to comprehend what they are reading. Schools are noticing a significant increase in test scores when kids can study complex topics, like the Constitution, using a graphic novel instead of a regular textbook. (Check out my buds at: The Comics Education Offensive to learn more about it!)

This is the advantage of doing a science-based story as a graphic novel…accessibility and deeper comprehension.

If you haven’t read a graphic novel yet, try one out. You might be surprised at how much you enjoy it.

Some suggestions of fictional graphic novels with strong female characters for tweens:
Zita Spacegirl
Hereville: How Mirka Got Her Sword
Princeless
Lumberjanes
Find these and other suggestions at the A Mighty Girl site.

A list of posts on  graphic novels for older girls, aka women, can be found in this Huff Post page.

Which graphic novels have you enjoyed and why? Send me your answer by replying to this letter, or post it on my Facebook page, or tweet me. 

FYI: Please share this letter with others you think would enjoy it.

Purple Passion of the Fortnight:
Batgirl costume

purplebatgirlcostume

 


Posted in Creativity, EmpowerGirlsOfAllAges, Empowerment, Girls, Inspired Creativity, Uncategorized by with no comments yet.

Do You Know How To Use Fear? I’m Still Learning.

“But you must not change one thing, one pebble, one grain of sand, until you know what good {love} and evil {fear} will follow on that act. {Power} must follow knowledge, and serve need. To light a candle is to cast a shadow…”
The Wizard of Earthsea, Ursula K. LeGuin
 
Sometimes I want to give my reptilian brain, the oldest part of our brains, a lobotomy. With no lions or tigers to face down, it feels useless. So it injects fear into all sorts of situations where it doesn’t belong, and makes them ten times worse.
 
If there’s one skill I wish I’d learned as a kid, it’s how to use fear properly. Being scared when confronted by a bear while hiking in the woods is appropriate. Suing a stranger because you’re scared of being broke, or getting your colleague fired because you’re scared they’ll take your job is not ok. Yet it happens everyday.

grizzly-bear

What if we were taught from birth to slow down? What if the golden rule required us to question our actions, to identify whether we were motivated by fear (evil) or love (good), and to act only if the answer was love?
 
For the wizards in Ursula K. LeGuin’s Earthsea, it’s not enough to learn how to control your magic; you must learn how and when to use it as well. This is because abusing magic upsets the natural order of things. When that order, known as The Equilibrium, is disturbed, bad things happen.

wizard-of-eaethsea

Despite being trained to do otherwise, Ged, a powerful young wizard hero, lets his pride and hate unleash a shadow creature that destroys everything that stands between it and killing him.
 
Ged flees from the shadow until he discovers he must face it in order to stop it. Along the way he learns to use magic appropriately, even if it serves others’ needs instead of his own.
 
Books like The Wizard of Earthsea remind us that it’s important to disengage our autopilot, so that we act, rather than react.
 
Have you read other stories that address using fear properly?  If so, please share them with me by commenting upon this letter, or post on my Facebook page, or tweet me.

FYI: Please share this letter with others you think would enjoy it.

Purple Passion of the Fortnight: A glow-in-the-dark purple magic wand! Oh, I want one!!

purple-magic-wand


Posted in EmpowerGirlsOfAllAges, Empowerment, Inspired Creativity, Self-Acceptance, World Building-Fictional Lands by with no comments yet.

Do You Welcome Inspiration Into Your Life?

A Slice of AnnyWorld:

My Muse can be a slippery gal.  Sometimes when I need her the most, she’s off vacationing in Paris or Hawaii.  (I wouldn’t mind if she’d take me with her!) 

I’m not sure what triggers her to leave–maybe a challenge that seems overwhelming or painful, or maybe she just wants to smell the gardenias or eat some French pastries.  All I know is that when I need her, it’d be nice to be able to cut her vacation short.  Thanks to my friend, writer/teacher Sarah Aronson, I now have a way to invite my Muse back.

Sarah invites inspiration into her life everyday by being open to what her world has to offer her.

What that means in practical terms is that she completely unplugs from the virtual world and takes a walk in the real world.  For her that usually means her neighborhood, or along the shore of Lake Michigan. While walking she’s present, using all of her senses to take in what’s coming at her so she doesn’t miss any ‘gifts.’

For example, on one of her walks she tripped over a harmonica. She asked herself, “What is the world saying to me?” Should I listen to some harmonica music, or does this character I’m wrestling with play a harmonica to call her minions (hopefully the blue and yellow kind), or calm her troubled child, or does it mean I should call  this friend of mine that I’ve not spoken to for a while? Maybe it means all three. 

Sarah says that “Inspiration is always there. Welcome it in, and the answers will come to you.”

The next time your boss, or your child, who can feel like a boss sometimes, throws a challenge your way consider connecting to your Muse via actively engaging in the real world around you.  I bet you’ll be pleasantly surprised at the help you receive.

Please post stories about the gifts you’ve received while opening to your world by replying to this letter, or posting to my Facebook page.

If you need more creative writing inspiration, sign up for Sarah’s weekly newsletters.

Displaying

Purple Passion of the Fortnight

Destination of the Fortnight: The Present


Posted in EmpowerGirlsOfAllAges, Imagination, Inspired Creativity by with no comments yet.

How Can You Use Your Imagination To Make The Rest Of Us Care?

A Slice of AnnyWorld:

Imagine that you’ve decided to become a doctor.  You’re good in school and work hard, but your parents tell you it’ll never happen because they can’t afford the education you need.  One day a strange man shows up and tells your parents that he’ll make you a doctor.  All you have to do is work for a few hours after school on his boat.  You’re terrified to leave your family, but they tell you it’s for your own good.  And you really want to be a doctor!
You wake up your first morning with the man scared, but also excited about your future.  Instead of taking you to school, the man puts you on his boat.  Day after day, you do back breaking work in the sun, wondering when school will start.  It never does.  The man lied to your parents.  He bought you for cheap so you could be his slave. Oh, and you’re only eight years old.

This is not the beginning of my latest novel, but rather a daily occurrence in Ghana.
Surprised?  So was my friend Lori Dillon when an Oprah show profiled the Right To Be Free Organization (RTBF) that both rescues these kids, and prevents more kids from becoming enslaved.

In response, Lori founded the U.S. branch of Right To Be Free, and started to encounter a struggle of her own.  Namely, how do you get the rest of us to care enough to donate to your cause? Especially when there are so many causes that hit closer to home?

For Lori it meant figuring out a way to get the rest of us to walk a mile in a young Ghanian slave’s feet.  (Many of them don’t have shoes.)  To do this, she had to get creative.  First off believing that she had to use “imagery to convey truth,” Lori, along with her fifteen year old daughter, went to Ghana to film a rescue mission.  The film tugs at heartstrings to be sure, but sometimes that isn’t enough to stir action.

Sometimes you need to take a cue from branding land and come up with a clever and catchy campaign.  Thus the 5 For Freedom Campaign was born.
Give $5, tell 5 friends, which these days takes 5 seconds, and that’s it.

But it’s not really it.  Because Lori knows that she has to keep coming up with new, and even more creative ways to keep our hearts and wallets open.

Which leads me to my big question…how have you used your imagination to further a cause you believe in?

And if you’ve any innovative ideas of your own that can help Lori further Right To Be Free, please respond to this email or post them on my Facebook page!

Then sit back and imagine the smile on the face of the next child RTBF saves!

Purple Passion of the Fortnight: Ghanian students whose school had the good taste to make their uniforms purple!

Purple Passion of the Fortnight: Ghanian students whose school had the good taste to make their uniforms purple!

Destination of the Fortnight: Ghana at sunset

Destination of the Fortnight: Ghana at sunset

EinsteinQuote


Posted in Imagination, Inspired Creativity, Thinking Outside The Box by with 1 comment.