Get on the Good Foot- Happy Birthday Dr. King

Looking for a way to be involved, the kids and I will be heading down to Salem for the Stand For Children Rally at the state capitol.   The event is NEXT MONTH and a great way to involve kids in something which has a direct result in their lives and the community around them.  With the onset of a couple head colds this isn’t sounding like the most responsible plan for today.  Stand for Children is an amazing grass roots organization and we’re planning on being more involved with them in the future.   Here’s a blip from their vision statement…

Stand for Children exists because children in communities across America do not have the power to influence our democratic system to meet their fundamental needs. We seek to make children and their needs a higher political priority.

We envision a society where all children receive the education and community supports that will enable them to live successful, fulfilling lives, and where parents and other concerned citizens are engaged and vigilant in ensuring that elected officials make decisions in the best interest of children and families.

One of their main goals in Oregon is to advance tax reform and defeat dangerous ballot measures.  Last year the organization was key in defeating the wacked out measures  56 , 57 , 58, 59, 60 generated by Kevin Mannix and corrupt “political” hack Bill Sizemore.

For today though, the peeps and I will be armchair activists- So far we’ve watched “Mighty Times: The Children’s March” by Hudson and Houston.  The film took an Oscar in 2005 for best documentary and is a stunning retelling of the student demonstrations which took place in Birmingham Al. in 1963 which paved the way for national desegregation. The Children’s March highlights a week of demonstrations where over four thousand CHILDREN  were arrested with interviews and archival footage.  I’ve shown the film at a number of children’s film festival programs and I still can’t get through it without getting weepy.  It is absolutely chilling to see images of four and five year olds behind bars.  One woman interviewed was arrested when she was nine was asked, “Weren’t you scared you were going to get hurt?” She said, “as a black child born in Alabama, there was no way I wasn’t going to get hurt”.  It was the first time my daughter, who is five had seen it and of course she had a lot of questions.   I have fantastic  teacher’s guide which came with the film, which has helped us explore the material further and look at ways at ways our lives are affected today.  Childrens March comes from Teaching Tolerance an educational resource project of the Southern Poverty Law Center.

The Teaching Tolerance website is a wonderful resource with lots of great activities for families and in the classroom.  The films they produce come with educator resources and they also have an outstanding newsletter.  The activities are broken up into appropriate grade levels and  materials for teachers including films and books  are free.

Wanting to do something meaningful today, but stuck indoors, each of us is planning to write a thank you note to a volunteer whom we admire.  Lucy has made a birthday card for Dr. King, she said, “even though he’s not here anymore, I think he got his wish”.  I’m sending a letter to my father-in-law who is an elections observer and helps seniors and native Spanish speakers with their taxes.  My son is sending a note to his Grandpa who is a community organizer extraordinaire for environmental and political causes in Northern Colorado, and was a motivated general handy man in New Orleans.

We’re also going to catch a couple great videos courtesy of youtube including MLK’s I Have a Dream Speech and kid made shorts from Media that Matters including Children of Birmingham


Bryan Collier at the Central Library

Uptown by Bryan Collier

Uptown by Bryan Collier

Multnomah County Library puts on some great programs for kids, we feel very fortunate to have access to such dynamic library services.  This Thursday, chidren’s book illustrator Bryan Collier will speak at the Central Library followed by a book signing.  Bryan’s art is a lush combination of paint and collage which captures not just his subject, but the moods of moment.  His illustrations for Rosa, a biography of Rosa Parks, and Martin’s Big Words, about Dr. Martin Luther King, were both given a Caldecott Honor and Coretta Scott King Award.

Bryan spends a great deal of his time working with children and young artists and was the director of the  Harlem Horizon Art Studio for twelve years.  In interviews he seems as encouraging for his audience as he is passionate about his subject matter. In an interview with Reading Rockets, Collier said,

“1992 and 1993, I would go to the bookstores in the children’s books section, and I never really saw books that looked like me. And this sort of set me on the quest of wanting to illustrate and tell stories and do stories that sort of sounded and felt like me, where I would paint people of color, mainly, and sort of tell our stories. And there’re so many wonderful and diverse ways to do that, and I just think that that’ll be wonderful as an artist, to sort of use your artwork to sort of do something like that.”

He has a new book which he’s illustrated, which is a biography of Barack Obama.  I’ll let the kids each pick out a book to get signed, the Obama book will be for me.  For more information about his Thursday talk and exhibit which runs through November 6th, check out the library’s website here…

Yes on 26-94

Today, like a number of other organizations in Portland, we’re urging you to vote YES on measure 26-94, also known as the Portland Children’s Levy.  Every five years Portlanders have the opportunity to approve funding which goes to local early childhood education, programs in child abuse prevention and intervention, and services for children in foster care.  The Oregonian, Willamette Week, Portand Tribune and Portland Mercury have all endoresed the levy as well as dozens of other businesses and individuals. By supporting the levy we are ensuring a healty community which is proactive in the lives of our young children.

In it’s endorsement, the Portland Tribune writes,

“This proposal, referred to voters by the Portland City Council, deserves support for two reasons: It’s a program that already exists – and it’s a program that works to improve the lives of Portland’s neediest children.

The success of the Children’s Investment Fund has been based on its partnership with nonprofit agencies. This isn’t a case of government creating new programs or bureaucracies. The funding – aimed at early childhood education, preventing child abuse and providing after-school options – is directed toward nonprofit groups that are skilled at providing such services.

Among the dozens of recipients of Children’s Investment Fund dollars are such groups as Albina Head Start, Morrison Child and Family Services, Big Brothers Big Sisters and Friends of the Children. Due to these investments, children are receiving the help they need to be ready to start kindergarten. They are getting tutoring, and they are being assigned to mentors. Their health is being monitored and they receive therapy for abuse.

In the time since the investment fund was created following the November 2002 election, the project has been evaluated by objective researchers, including a comprehensive 2005 study by Portland State University. The evaluators found that the 16,000 mostly low-income children being helped by the fund are hitting key benchmarks and that their prospects are being improved.”

At best we can remember that the children who will benefit by your vote are individuals who are too young to advocate for themselves.  They are our future and our now and today they’ve asked for our help.

Make sure to fill out your ballot completely, this is the last item and on the back side.  For more information about the Children’s Levy please see their website

More Summer Reading– Goodnight Bush

Margaret Wise Brown’s book Goodnight Moon has long been a favorite in my house. My younger son was obsessed with finding the mouse on every page and for a very good friend’s 40th birthday, my husband slammed it out, set to The Who’s Won’t Get Fooled Again. You shoulda been there.

Now, the joy continues. There’s a hilarious new book for parents and (mature) kids alike, Goodnight Bush, which lets us glorify in the final days (208 and counting) of the Bush administration. Check it out. The website also has a contest for the person coming up with the best couplet, with the prize being a new book.  It’s been hell for the past eight years — at this point, we deserve a laugh.

Summer Reading for Progressive Kids and their Parents

Ack! Summer! All of a sudden, we have little creatures running around our houses, asking for something to do. Who knew?! More organized parents have their craft supplies fully stocked, a plethora of summer camps planned, or at least a large bottle of gin handy.

Well, I may not be completely organized, but Shawn and I do have resources at the ready and we are oh-so-happy to share. We got the books — a long, long list of progressive books to educate you and your child, as well as get us all ready for the upcoming election.

Ready for a trip to the library?

Here we go…a reading list for progressive kids and their parents.

Duck for President, Doreen Cronin, writer and Betsy Lewin, illustrator
Kids with an eye to the White House will appreciate this tale of what inspires a common duck to run for the presidency and then what he encounters when he gets there. 2 and up.

Grace for President, Kelly DiPucchio, writer and LeUyen Pham, illustrator. When Grace discovers that a woman or an African American has never been president, she is justifiably outraged and decides she’s going to be the one. Her teacher encourages her by putting her up for a class election and very real culture clash ensues. Great for 4 and up.

If I Ran for President, Catherine Stier, author and Lynne Avril, illustrator. Narrated by a multicultural group of six children, this excellent book describes the process of getting elected and then, what the heck to do once you get into the Oval Office.

American Votes: How Our President is Elected, Linda Granfield, writer and Steve Bjorkman, illustrator. My six year old just could NOT believe that he couldn’t vote for Barack Obama (MOMMY, YOU ARE KIDDING ME!!!), but this book helps explain this and other mind-boggling complexities of the electoral process. 5 and up.

Vote, Eileen Christlow, writer and illustrator. Another great book that explains, using the example of a mayoral election, the process of electing our leaders. Believe me, there will be questions come November and we need to be prepared.

And Tango Makes Three, Peter Parnell, author and Justin Richardson, illustrator. When I heard that this book was being banned by some Kansas libraries, I immediately went on-line and ordered a heap to give away for holiday gifts. It tells the touching story of a male penguin couple who adopt a penguin egg and raises the chick as their own. Any age.

Why War is Never A Good Idea, Alice Walker, writer and Stefano Vitale, illustrator. An absolutely beautiful, tear-popping poem by the queen herself inspiring us to redouble our commitment to end this horrible war. When you’re done with this one, sample any of the other fabulous children’s books written by Walker. 4 and up.

Why Daddy is a Democrat and Why Mommy is a Democrat, Jeremy Zilber, writer and Yuliya Firsova, illustrator. No points for subtlety but big ones for humor and for describing many key Democratic values. 3 and up.

The Peace Book, Todd Parr, writer and illustrator. All bow down to the talent of Parr. I’m a believer. Among his many amazing books, this one stands out in describing the perfect and multifaceted concept of peace, i.e., “peace is making new friends,” or “peace is having enough pizza in the world for everybody.” Written for all ages.

With Courage and Cloth: Winning the Fight for a Woman’s Right to Vote, Ann Bausum, writer. This nonfiction book for more mature readers tells the real story of how women won their struggle for the right to vote. 9 and up.

Whoever You Are, Mem Fox, author and Leslie Staub, illustrator. This book for small children uses beautiful pictures and simple phrases to teach kids about how we all have so much more in common than we may think. 3 and up.

So You Want to Be President, Judith St. George, author and David Small, illustrator. For your history buff, this fun book describes the obstacles and opportunities faced by past presidential candidates. 6 and up.

Lu and the Swamp Ghost, James Carville and Patricia McKissick, authors and David Catrow, illustrator. While I’ve been a bit peeved at Carville since he called Bill Richardson “Judas” for endorsing Obama, the book is nonetheless a gem. It tells the story of a Louisiana girl who faces her fears in order to help others. Great for kids 3 and up.

There are many more, which is so great. We’ll post another list later in the summer. In the meantime, happy reading!

Breaking the Kryptonite Ceiling

We’re cooking up some fun summer activities to share in the very near future. For the moment I wanted to pass along a great resource for young readers and comic fans… Girl-Wonder is a site dedicated to balancing the scales of power in comic books, their motto, “Because capes aren’t just for boys”. The site is fantastic with recommendations, forums, critical papers and webcomics. Here is a direct link to reviews they’ve posted of work made for kids…. I was very happy to see Ted Naifeh’s Polly and the Pirates there. My kids and I are half way through it and it’s a delightful read about a young girl’s transformation into reluctant pirate. The art is first rate and the characters appealing to my son and daughter (who are both bizarrely fixated on traditional gender roles).

I got a huge kick out of one of their papers,Comparative Sex-Specific Body Mass Index in the Marvel Universe and the “Real” World, by Karen Healey. M.A. University of Canterbury, New Zealand.”

It’s absolutely fascinating, for one, I was pleasantly surprised to see that a number of the Marvel women characters had “normal” height and weight statistics, though there were trends to idealized sizes. My assumption would be that the twiggy model figures we see in movies and tv would be replicated in the comics arena, nice to see these crime fighters have enough weight on them to stop a speeding bullet! It seems that the heroine Misty Knight and I share the exact same body dimensions, lucky me, though she has enhanced bionic parts and can generate a wide anti-gravity repulsor field and has the ability to shoot a field of ice. Then again, I wonder if our miss Misty can juggle carpools, violin lessons, part time job(s), dinner on the table at 5 and still find time to blog, you hear me Misty, who’s the superhero now? Sorry, I digress…

Independent Films for Families, screening tomorrow!

Well, this is tangentially related to politics… I’m putting together a screening for kids and families tomorrow at Portland’s Kennedy School. I’m posting here because kid film making is inherently a political act. At its most basic, it’s an empowering emancipation proclamation, children are taking the media into their own hands as active producers, not passive consumers. By giving children a venue and the respect normally shown to adult artists we are validating their experience and opinions, challenging them to create work worthy of examination and exhibition. A large proportion of the funding which goes to young film makers comes from non-profit groups who have a mandate to teach either media literacy or other public service messages like AIDS prevention or anti-smoking PSAs. Often times young people are given cameras and instruction with the expectation that they will use these tools to create films which are political or educational. It’s a pretty remarkable phenomenon when we realize that very rarely are these criteria established for adult film makers looking for funding. As a result there is an amazing oeuvre of films which have been produced by young people in the last twenty years and a number of great resources to support them. What has been missing is a tangible system of distribution where the work is being seen by large audiences outside the schools or classes where the work was produced. There are a few big US festivals including the Chicago International Children’s Film Festival, which are amazing, but on the whole, these kid made works don’t get much screen time.

Kid films are predominately short and would never get picked up by a big studio and almost never seen on TV, even internet distribution is slim though there are some great channels hosted by PBS for young adult work. I started putting together traveling festivals for kids four years ago, when I realized the films in the theaters which were targeted to my kids really sucked. I’ve a background in film making and festival work and I knew there was great work out there, it was just a matter of rounding it up. By showing my kids work made by young people on the other side of the planet, I’m teaching them empathy, and tolerance. My kids relate to the people they see, and statistics and headlines have suddenly been humanized.

PNCA + INDIEKID Films Screening & Show

MAY 31st, 2008

Kennedy School Theater

10 AM

This event for all ages features 2D, 3D and time-based art created by youth artists this spring at PNCA, as well as an outstanding selection of independent global cinema for kids. Featured in this screening are films from a Video Production class for 10 to 13-year-olds at PNCA.


Hosted by PNCA Continuing Education and Indiekid Films, the screening begins 10 am with free popcorn.


Admission — Adults: $3; Children under 11: $1; Children under 3: free; Filmmakers: free.

+About Indiekid Films:

Founded in 2002, Indiekid Films presents award winning international films created by children and adults for a young audience featuring a mix of live action and animation. Their workshops empower young people to create their own films, participating in a cinematic dialog.


+About PNCA Youth Program:

The philosophy of Anna Belle Crocker, who founded the program in 1910, put art at the center of a truly fulfilled life. Today, the PNCA Youth Program continues her legacy. Practicing artists teach artistic skills and creative thinking to youth, ages 4 to 18, in a nurturing and supportive environment.


Continuing Education offers a year-round program of art and design courses for children and teens (ages 4-18) as well as a comprehensive Pre-College program for high school students interested in a college education and career in the arts and design.

Contact Sara Kaltwasser at 503.821.8967 or for more information on the PNCA Youth Program.