Category Archives: Books

Reading Rainbow Kickstarter Campaign

Remember “Reading Rainbow”?


That delightful children’s series which encouraged reading, hosted by LeVar Burton and aired on PBS from 1983-2009? Burton has just launched a Kickstarter campaign to raise one million dollars to create an online version to expand the program’s reach.

When Reading Rainbow went off the air in 2009 Burton bought the rights to the show and its name and created the company RRKidz, which produces a Reading Rainbow tablet app. The Kickstarter campaign is raising funds to expand on that app, making it available on the Web and updating it with special tools for teachers on a subscription basis.

The campaign has gotten off to a very impressive start: it has already exceeded its pledge goal, with 29,145 backers having already pledged over $1,295,000. With 34 more days to go on the campaign, the Reading Rainbow team is hoping to raise additional funds to meet more ambitious production goals.

Read more about Burton’s efforts here and check out the Kickstarter campaign here.


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Filed under Academics, Ages 0-5, Ages 8-12, Books, Entertainment

New Report: Time to Focus on Reading


Common Sense Media has recently issued a report on children, teens and reading. While the report found here has some good news about children and reading, some of its findings relating to boys of color are particularly troubling.

First, the good news: Reading is still a big part of many children’s lives. Young children read or are read to for an average of between 30 -60 minutes daily, and 50 percent of parents with children under 12 read with their children every day. 60 percent of children 8 and under read daily. (Where do you and your children fall with respect to these statistics?) Reading scores among children and young teens have improved steadily between 1971 and 2012.

Now the not-so-good news: There continues to be a persistent and significant reading achievement gap between white children and Black and Hispanic children. Only 18 percent of black and 20 percent of Hispanic fourth graders are rated as “proficient” in reading, while 46 percent of white fourth graders earn this rating. Even more troubling is the fact that the size of this reading achievement gap has been largely unchanged over the past two decades. And there’s more bad news: There is also a gender gap in reading time and achievement, as girls read for pleasure for an average of 10 minutes more per day than boys. This gender gap persists as the children get older, and has remained statistically the same over the past 20 years.

What Can Parents Do? Common Sense Media’s report suggests that there are specific things that parents can do in order to increase their children’s reading frequency: They can keep print books in their home, spend time reading themselves, and set aside time daily for their children to read.

How do you encourage your son to read? GCP wants to know!!!


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Filed under Academics, Ages 13-15, Ages 5-7, Ages 8-12, Books

Quick Study Tips for Tests

As finals and other year end tests approach, pass on to your sons these tips for effective studying:

Find a Good Study Spot: Identify a place in your home which will be the designated study spot for tests and quizzes. Make sure it is free from clutter and distraction, and is away from noise and activity.

Review the Main Concepts: Begin your overall study plan by reading through your notes and refreshing your memory on major concepts. This will make it easier to fill in the details later on.

Rephrase What You Know: Restate the main concepts in your own words as if you were teaching it to someone. Being able to clearly explain things ensures that you fully understand them.

Study Out Loud: Read your notes aloud and talk to yourself about them. When you hear yourself think, it is easier to figure out what you know well and what you need to study more.

Rewrite your notes: Make a study guide using your notes. The process of writing what you already know will help cement it into your brain. Organizing the information by subject and section helps keep the information organized in your memory. After you write the guide, continue to use it to study.

We’ll be passing on additional study tips over the next few weeks. Good luck to all our boys on their final exams!!!

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Filed under Academics, Admissions, Books, Resources

Black Folks Are Missing From Children’s Books

Celebrated children’s and young adult book author Walter Dean Myers has a great essay asking “Where Are the People of Color in Children’s Books?” in this past Sunday’s New York Times. In his essay, found here, Myers responds to a recent report that only 93 of the 3,200 children’s books published in 2013 were about African Americans. He describes how important it is for children’s books to feature people of color, not only to inspire young boys and girls of color, but to help all readers understand and appreciate that moms and dads and doctors and lawyers and engineers and teachers and neighbors can come in all colors.

Myers tells the story of working in a personnel office under a boss who tried to eliminate a black chemist applicant for a position because as he told Myers, “That black guy’s no chemist”, even as he looked at the candidate’s resume filled with chemist training and experience. Myers understood that this was a more complicated brand of racism. He explains, “I realized that we hired people not so much on their résumés, but rather on our preconceived notions of what the successful candidate should be like. And where was my boss going to get the notion that a chemist should be black?” If Black people, including Black professionals lived in more children’s books on a regular basis, all children would have a chance at having a more realistic (and less biased) perception of the real world.

We’ve got a long way to go, with our boys in hoodies getting profiled in stores, stopped and frisked and even shot and killed because the way they look is what people know from TV, hip hop and publicized perp walks to be the look of someone up to no good. We’ve got to do all we can to find books for our children, and for their friends of all colors, that show the world the way it multiculturally is, not the way it looks so often on TV, and as we now know, in children’s books as well.

How do we find these books? We can start with the Brown Sugar and Spice Book Service, found here, which features “True Stories about People of Color”. But we need as many resources as we can find. GCP readers, send us your favorite children’s books featuring people of color! We’ll keep looking for recommendations as well.

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Filed under Ages 0-5, Ages 5-7, Books, Parents

Summer Learning, Summer Fun

If school is not out already for your sons, they (and you) are counting down the days until summer vacation begins. As you are locking in their schedules, don’t forget to make time for summer learning. As we’ve noted in previous posts, research indicates that children lose learning skills over the summer, and summer learning programs can not only stem that loss but can also have a significant positive effect on reading and math skills.

Looking for ways to incorporate learning into your son’s summer? Here are some suggestions:

Common Sense Media’s Digital Fun for Creative Kids: 100+ Summer Learning Ideas– Common Sense Media has created a guide to more than 100 apps, games, and websites to pique the interest of children from 2 to 17. You can find the guide here. Storytelling, Building, and Coding are just some of the categories you and your sons can explore here. While some of the digital media reviewed in this guide is free, much of it is not, and if it is not the site tells you where you can buy it. I loved reading about the coding games and apps. This is a skill we’d be wise to encourage our boys to acquire, and playing games seems like a fun way to do so.

KIDS: Summer Planning 2013–The State of Connecticut’s website for children includes a “Summer Planning Guide 2013”, found here, which is worth perusing. While many of the links on this site are most relevant for Connecticut residents, there are several links from which all parents can benefit. Clicking on the “Summer Fun” link will lead you to articles like “I’m Bored – Summer Tips for Parents” and “Summer Tips for Parents of Teens”. Click on “Summer Safety” and you will be led to “Summer Safety Tips for Parents”. The “Summer Reading” link offers book lists as well as “Summer Reading Tips for Parents”. Lots of good stuff here, worth taking the time to find it.

Barnes and Nobles Summer Reading: Barnes and Nobles offers a summer reading program for children which gives them the opportunity to earn a free book over the summer. All they have to do is read eight books, record them in the reading journal provided on their site, bring in the completed journal to their local Barnes and Nobles, and they can choose a free book from the Barnes and Noble Reading Journal list of books. Check out the details here or visit your local Barnes and Nobles for more info.

Summer Reading at New York Libraries: This site, found here, is chock full of reading activities, games, and crafts suggestions for toddlers through teens, courtesy of the New York State Library.

Summer Reading 2013: The New York Public Library system has compiled a lengthy list (in English and Spanish) of great books to read for everyone from babies to adults. Click on the list here.

We’ll keep looking for resources and will pass any we find along. Let us know if you find any good ones. Happy Beginning of Summer Vacation to us all!!!

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Filed under Academics, Books, Holidays, Resources

How to Encourage Summer Reading

Want to help your son improve his reading skills over the summer? A good idea, since many children lose ground in reading over the course of the summer and start the new school year with rusty skills which can zap their academic confidence. Here are a few ways to focus on reading this summer:

Public Library Summer Reading Programs: Most public libraries have free summer reading programs for students through middle school, and some have innovative programs for teens as well. Search online for summer reading programs at your local public library.

The Institute of Reading Development: The Institute of Reading Development, a California-based company which helps students of all ages reach their full potential as readers, offers summer reading programs throughout the summer. The fee-based programs start for children as young as 4, and are offered for students in grades 1-12, as well as college students and adults. The summer reading programs are offered through the Institute’s various partners, which include colleges and parks and recreational departments nationwide. For more information go to

Barnes and Noble Summer Reading Program for Kids: The Barnes and Noble 2012 summer reading program “Imagination Destination” gives children in grades 1-6 a free book when they read 8 books over the summer. Here’s how it works: Your child downloads and prints a reading journal from the Barnes and Nobles Summer Reading website, found here, and fills out the student information on the first page of the journal. A parent must sign on this page in order for the child to get a free book. After your child reads a book, he records in his reading journal the title, author, and whether he would recommend the book and why (or why not). After he has read and recorded 8 books, bring the completed and signed reading journal into your local Barnes and Noble book store between May 22, 2012 and September 4, 2012. Present it to an employee and they will let him choose a book from their free book list. Be sure to download the "Fun Activities and Teaching Tips" kit from this summer reading website to help make your son’s summer reading fun.

TD Bank Summer Reading Program: If your son reads 10 books this summer, he can earn $10! TD Bank is offering to deposit $10 into a new or existing TD Young Saver account for children 18 and under who read 10 books this summer. They must download and print the Summer Reading Form which can be found on their summer reading website, list the books they’ve read, and take the form to the nearest TD Bank from now until September 29th, 2012 to be eligible for the $10 deposit. Note that your son will have to open a Young Saver account or be prepared to open one in order to receive the $10. If your son does not have a Young Saver Account bring an I.D. for him when you accompany him to the bank. The TD Bank Summer Reading website also offers tips to make summer reading more enjoyable, and
a link to games (some goofy, some helpful), which provide basic financial information for children.

Pottery Barn Kids Summer Reading Challenge: If your son (aged 10 and under) reads all of the books on the Pottery Barn Early Readers list or their Caldecott Medal and Honor Books List between now and 8/24/12, tracks their progress and downloads a certificate of completion, he can visit a Pottery Barn Kids store and receive a free book, and also be eligible to win a backpack full of books. Both book lists and more details are on their summer reading challenge page, found here.

Hope these programs inspire you to encourage your son’s summer reading. Tell us what you are doing this summer to get him reading!

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For the Tucks, Reading is Fundamental and Fun

Take a look at this charming NY Times story, found here, about how Giants leading defensive end Justin Tuck and his wife Lauran’s commitment to children’s literacy is evident in their charitable organization, R.U.S.H. for Literacy, and in their parenting of their adorable two-year old son.

This is a great story on so many levels. It is lovely to see a family focused on parenting their son well, good to see a professional athlete who is a college graduate (Notre Dame ’05) and appreciates the value of his off-the-field education, and heartening to see that Justin and Lauran (who was at Notre Dame with him and was just awarded a graduate degree this year from the University of Pennsylvania) understand the importance of being philanthropic, giving back and helping others. Good stuff.

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Reading Matters!

Interesting article in the Huffington Post by Lisa Bloom, who has written a book called , “Swagger: 10 Urgent Rules for Raising Boys in an Era of Failing Schools, Mass Joblessness and Thug Culture”. (Provocative title, no?) Bloom, a lawyer and television journalist, focuses on the national under achievement of boys across racial and economic lines, and “the cultural forces which are dumbing down our boys”.

In this article, found here, she highlights the importance of encouraging boys to read, by making your home “a reading mecca”, and modeling for your son that reading is “your default pleasure activity”. Her research has indicated that many boys believe reading to be a “girlie” activity, in part because they are more accustomed to seeing Mom reading than they are to seeing Dad buried in a book. “Time to turn that ship around”, says Bloom, and let these boys see both parents and other role models (male and female) regularly reading. Not just reading, but talking about books, raving about books they’ve read, recommending books, reading to them, reading with them, side by side.

Sounds good to me. How do you encourage your sons to read? One of my sons is an avid reader, the other loves his English classes but is unlikely to pick up a book he hasn’t been assigned in his spare time. I am always looking for ways to encourage them both to read more. Would love to hear what works for you, especially as we approach the season of summer reading. Gotta keep those skills sharp for next September!!!

Thanks to Oliver C. Sutton III, proud father of two young sons, for the heads up on this article!

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Boy Books!

Here’s a list of “Boy Books”, courtesy of the Eagle Academy Foundation, who hosted its third annual “Saving Our Sons” Professional Development Institute Conference this week in New York City. The Foundation has established and runs a series of all male, grades 6 through 12, college-preparatory schools in challenged, urban communities. They’ve opened three schools in New York City and are preparing to open its fourth in Newark, NJ this fall.

These books could be appealing summer reading for your middle school or older sons. Here at GCP we know and love some of these books, but others are new to us. We will continue to add to this list. Let us know what your boys think of these books, and send us info on their favorites.

The Absolutely True Diary of A Part-Time Indian
by Sherman Alexie

Junior, a 14 year old boy growing up on the Spokane Indian Reservation, makes the tough decision to leave his troubled school on the rez to attend an all-white high school where the only other Indian is the school mascot. He struggles through the consequences of this choice when his new classmates shun him and his old friends and tribe turn against him.

by Sherman Alexie

“Call me Zits” begins the story of an orphaned 15 year old Irish/ Native American boy with a bad attitude who is constantly in trouble with the law. When he is shot while randomly shooting people in a bank he becomes a time traveler, going back and forth through time in a charged search for his true identity. Flight follows the troubled teenager as he learns that violence is not the answer.

Laurie Halse Anderson

High school senior Tyler Miller used to be the kind of guy who faded into the background—average student, average looks, average dysfunctional family. But since he got arrested for doing graffiti on the school, and spent the summer doing outdoor work to pay for it, he stands out like you wouldn’t believe. His new physique attracts the attention of queen bee Bethany Milbury, who is his father’s boss’s daughter, the sister of his biggest enemy—and Tyler’s secret crush. That sets off a string of events and changes that have Tyler questioning his place in the school, in his family, and in the world.

Letters to a Young Brother
Hill Harper

Harper, a young black actor and graduate of Brown University and Harvard Law School, offers young men inspirational advice in a down-to-earth style. This unique compilation of letters provides wisdom, guidance, and heartfelt insight to help the reader chart their own path to success. to young men clamoring for advice and encouragement at a time when popular culture offers little positive direction.

The First Part Last
by Angela Johnson

16 year old Bobby has to struggle through the responsibilities of single fatherhood after his girlfriend Nia has a baby while they are in high school, and he has to deal with raising their daughter alone.


Mike Lupica

12 year old Michael Arroyo has talent and ambition on the baseball field. But Michael and his brother, 17-year-old Carlos, have a problem: their father, who was their only living relative, has died, and the boys are hoping to avoid a foster home by pretending Papi is visiting a sick relative in Miami. When a rival accuses him of being older than the Little League limit, with no parents and a birth certificate stuck in his native Cuba, Michael’s secret world is blown wide open, and he discovers that family can come from the most unexpected sources.

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Boy Trouble

Today’s NY Daily News features a piece by Rishawn Biddle, author and editor of online education news magazine Dropout Nation, and Richard Whitmire, an author of books about educating boys. Biddle and Whitmire use the presidential campaigns’ very public debate about who has done more to help women to suggest that the candidates should be more worried about helping boys. Most significantly, this article reminds us that the crisis of underachieving boys is a national one, which cuts across all racial and economic lines.

It’s boys who are in trouble
By Rishawn Biddle And Richard Whitmire

We have no way of knowing who will win the “war on women” political debate now topping broadcasts and newspaper pages. But with great certainty, we can identify the losers in this battle: boys.
Contrary to what you hear in the political campaign broadsides, females are actually doing pretty well. In our elementary, middle and high schools, they earn the best grades, win most of the academic prizes, get suspended less and graduate at very high rates. That success helps explain why women currently dominate higher education, with many college campuses spilling over the 60% female threshold.
Workforce trends favoring women continue to rain down, with record numbers of women in the workforce. Well-educated women living in large cities out-earn their male counterparts. Their biggest challenge: finding equally educated males to marry.
But that’s not what you’ll hear from either President Obama or Mitt Romney.
Earlier this month, the White House released a “special report” on women in the economy, which promoted “an economy that’s built to last for America’s women.”
Most Presidents try to keep their children out of the public debate, but in this case, Obama made an exception: “As a father, one of the highlights of my day is asking my daughters about theirs. Their hopes and their futures are what drive me every day I step into the Oval Office.”
Obama, of all people, knows that boys, not girls (especially his two daughters attending the elite Sidwell Friends School) are the ones in trouble. There is no way he is unaware of the alarming social indicators we see among African-American males.
But we should not be surprised by the President’s opportunism. Obama won the White House with 8 million more female votes than male votes. If he can’t re-create that same gender vote cushion, he’s toast.
As for Romney, his latest push is to claim most of the jobs lost during the Obama years were female-held positions. So? Not only is workforce participation by females pushing all-time highs, but the striking number of well-educated females hovering just outside the labor market means that number may go even higher.
By contrast, male employment rates among those 25-and-older have been in steady decline.
Again, a politician has his reasons for glossing over the more important gender trends. Romney’s numbers among female voters look abysmal, especially among college-educated white women.
Here’s why we need politicians to get past the pandering and posturing and propose solutions for the group truly in trouble: Boys account for three out of every five high school students who drop out of school. Boys make up 67% of the 5.8 million kids relegated to special education programs. The likelihood of any boy in special education graduating by age 21 is bleak.
Boys, regardless of race, ethnicity or economic class, are also more likely to struggle in reading. Forty percent of Asian fourth-grade boys who qualified for free or reduced lunch were functionally illiterate versus 32% of their female peers, while 37% of fourth-grade black boys who didn’t qualify for free or reduced lunch read at “below basic” proficiency, versus 26% of their female peers.
Young male high school dropouts are at least five times as likely to land in prison by adulthood than peers who graduate, according to Princeton University researcher Bruce Western, in part because boys who struggle in reading in first grade begin acting out and become discipline problems. They are also less likely to marry by the time they reach middle age because women with higher earnings don’t consider them marriage material. They are also more likely to have children out of wedlock, perpetuating the social ills that plague low-income black, white and Latino communities.
Educational and political leaders have long known the consequences of these boy troubles, yet have done little to address illiteracy and the other underlying factors.
Both Obama and Romney have put forth visions of a better educated, more competitive America. As long as the “war on women” dominates the political discourse — and the battle for the future of boys is ignored — those visions will remain on hold.

* * * *

We know the problems. We need to make sure we are part of the solutions. We at GCP are determined to identify ways parents can help our boys and encourage us all to use them.

Thanks to Jemina Bernard for the heads up on this article.



Filed under Books