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Children’s Books and Teaching Ethics: A Conversation with Janet Wong, Betsy Bird and Stuart J. Murphy at NYPL, January 7, 2 p.m.
by J.A. Ginsburg
Triclosan. Add it to the ever-growing list of ingredients you don’t want to see on a label. Banned in Europe, Japan and Canada, under review in the US and literally in just about every child’s product you can imagine, antimicrobial Triclosan has been linked to allergies, superbugs, messed up hormones and the demise of diatoms, microscopic aquatic algae critical both to the food chain and the generation of the planet’s oxygen.
That is a whole lot of bad for something marketed as an “added value” product—and a product that actually can do some good in very specific cases.
Triclosan isn’t a typical “vizlearning” topic, but growing evidence that it could represent a significant health risk to young children tipped the balance.
Recently, I attended ICAAC, an infectious disease conference (pronounced “ick ack”) sponsored by the American Society for Microbiology (I wear a few different hats, including that of science geek…) Dr. Stuart Levy, the director of the Center for Adaptation Genetics and Drug Resistance at Tufts University, spoke about Triclosan (webcast time code 41:30). “There is no evidence it improves health… It captures the imagination, but it’s a real mistake,” Levy noted, a point he has been making for well over a decade.
The problems arise from triclosan’s ubiquity. It is in everything from hand sanitizers, antibacterial soaps and toothpaste, to shampoos, plastic toys, cosmetics and paint. It is also, apparently, in 75% of us. More specifically, it is in 75% of the urine samples tested by the CDC. Although it swirls through our bodies rather than accumulates, there is a constant circulation, so constant exposure.
Triclosan is sturdy enough to survive sewage treatment. Once released into a stream or lake , it continues to kill microbes, including diatoms, affecting the balance of entire ecosystems. Exposed to sunlight, it breaks down into dioxins, which then settle in sediments.
In commercial products, triclosan is used at low dilutions, which, ironically, only makes it more harmful. Antibiotic resistance is almost inevitable because enough microbes survive to evolve and thrive. Even if 99.99% of germs are, in fact, killed (a claim that has been disputed), that effectively clears the playing field for the 0.01% that are naturally resistant, such as Pseudomonas and Streptococcus pneumoniae.
Since antibacterial resistance genes are routinely shared among bacteria though a process called horizontal transfer, simply hanging out with resistant microbes can turn other microbes into “superbugs.” That’s something to consider the next time your child has an ear ache or other infection, first line antibiotics don’t work and the only drugs that do are really expensive.
One way to help bring down health care costs is to make sure older, cheaper antibiotics remain effective.
Soap and water do a fine job, according to Dr. Levy. Alcohol-based hand disinfectants work, too (the alcohol dissipates, so doesn’t stick around long enough to generate resistance).
So let’s lose the triclosan, wash those hands and stay healthy!
- Is the Soap Lobby Right That Anti-Bacterials Are Safe? by Keira Butler, Mother Jones
- Triclosan in Waterways Harmful to Important Microorganisms, Beyond Pesticides
- FDA says studies on triclosan, used in sanitizers and soaps, raise concerns, by Lindsey Layton, Washington Post
- Triclosan, Wikipedia overview
- Pew Commission on Industrial Farm Animal Production (another major source of antibiotic resistance)
on getting help when lost: important tips for children, parents, teachers & caregivers
by J. A. Ginsburg
Being lost is scary. So is that awful feeling someone in your charge has gone missing. Freda Is Found focuses on skills that can:
- help keep a child from getting lost
- make being lost a little less frightening
- help a child get found
Freda—the Hermione Granger of the I See I Learn set—is the last child you would expect to get lost. Freda follows directions! Freda loves directions! But anyone can get lost, which is important to remember. It takes only a moment to let go of a hand and become separated from the group. Suddenly, nothing looks familiar. Everybody is a stranger. And… it’s…scary!
Still, this is Freda we are talking about. How did this happen? The day started out so brilliantly. During the morning “circle time” at Ready Set Pre-K, Miss Cathy told the class they were going on a field trip to the fire station. Freda loves fire trucks! She could barely contain her excitement as she held hands with Percy, her safety partner, walking with the class over to the station.
Then she saw a toy fire truck in the window of her favorite toy shop. Freda let go of Percy’s hand, thinking he would follow her to get a better look. But she darted away too fast. By the time she turned around, Percy was nowhere to be seen. All her friends had disappeared. Miss Cathy and Mr. D., her assistant, were gone, too!
Freda knew she had made a serious mistake by letting go of Percy’s hand, but she remembered what she had been taught about how to get found.
While Freda was trying to get help, so was Percy, who immediately told Miss Cathy what had happened.
Mr. D. and Percy went back to look for Freda and boy, was she ever happy to be found! And really REALLY happy when then let her ring the bell at the fire station.
Getting found is way more fun than being lost!
MISS CATHY RECOMMENDS:
- Keeping Kids from Getting Lost (and What to Do If They Do) by Alyssa Dver / babyzone: Lots of great tips, such as dressing children in eye-catching clothing to make them easier to spot in a crowd. H’mmm. Maybe Mr. D. will help me design some special Ready Set Pre-K t-shirts for field trip days. So you think we should we include a picture of Pickle, Emma’s green bulldog?
- National Center for Missing and Exploited Children: According to government statistics, nearly 800,000 children are reported missing annually. Most children are reunited with their families quickly, but some find themselves is frightening and dangerous situations. The NCMEC site has lots information and helpful links.
- AMBER Alert Program: This is a voluntary partnership between law-enforcement agencies, broadcasters, and transportation agencies to activate an urgent bulletin in the most serious child-abduction cases.
- Boy Scout Jared Ropelato Found in Utah Wilderness / ABC News (print & video): Look at how happy Jared—and his mom—are when he’s found.Freda knows exactly how that feels! Don’t wander off alone! (Really, “an encounter with a moose”?!)
Be sure to check out all of Stuart J. Murphy’s I See I Learn books, including titles in Spanish! Stuart’s Level 1 MathStart books are perfect for Pre-K. You can follow us on twitter and Facebook. Sign up for our FREE e-newsletter, too! (sample)
On the the thrill of learning to write your own name, Percy’s pedal-car diversion, helpful moms, practice, practice, practice & Miss Cathy’s (no longer) secret love of ancient Runes…
by J.A. Ginsburg
Cleaning out old boxes the other day, I came across one of the first books that was mine, all mine, not a hand-me-down from my sister or brother: a Golden Book classic, We Help Mommy. The story line followed the seemingly endless labors of young Martha and Bobby, who helped prepare breakfast, make beds, dust, mop, wash, shop, bake, set the table, and, of course, put away all their toys without even a hint of complaint. Who were these Stepford children?
I don’t blame my mother for trying. Still, I was rather delighted to see I used the book mainly for coloring. Martha and Bobby may not have known the joy of play, but I sure did.
For me, the very best part of the book was the inside cover where I wrote my name. I remember writing it, too, because it was something a “big person” would do. Thrilling.
Carlos wants to learn how to write his name, just like is friend Ajay. He knows the alphabet, so is off to a good start (the alphabet runs along the bottom border each double-page spread as a reference). His mom is a big help, too, spelling out the first three letters—C-a-r.
At the park the next day, Carlos and some of his friends from Ready, Set Pre-K—Freda, Percy and Ajay—are playing in the sandbox, writing their names in the sand. Percy, of course, being Percy, draws a self-portrait. When Carlos spells “C-a-r,” Percy (oh that Percy!), jumps into his pedal-car and leads everyone for quick spin around the playground.
That night, Carlos works on the last three letters of his name next: “l-o-s.” His mom gives him lots of paper and he practices and practices and practices!
A few days later, he joins his friends who are writing their names in chalk on the sidewalk (except, of course, for Percy, who, being Percy, has drawn a self-portrait). C-a-r. Percy is off in his pedal-car again, but Carlos keeps writing: l-o-s. Freda and Ajay stop to watch. Even Percy pedals over.
“‘Carlos. That’s ME!,’ shouted Carlos.”
Yes it is!
Being able to write one’s name is a cognitive skill: letter recognition is stepping stone to reading. It also boosts self confidence. A child who can write his own name knows he can write anything. All it takes is practice!
TEACHERS! PARENTS! CARE-GIVERS!
Each I See I Learn book includes a two-page spread called “A Closer Look,” designed to review key points:
- How do you write your name?
- Can you write the names of other members of your family?
- Can you write the names of any of your friends, or pets?
MISS CATHY RECOMMENDS:
- Writing Paper to Practice Handwriting for Preschool and Kindergarten: Free printables (website)
- Learn to Write…Free Tracing Paper: What a fun program from “My Moondrops!” Type your child’s name in a box and it generates a printable page with traceable letters. (website)
- Message in a Backpack: Supporting writing at home / NAEYC’s “Teaching Young Children” magazine: Teachers: TIY’s aptly named “Message in a Backpack” pdf’s are full of useful suggestions for parents. Great writers write all the time—at school and at home, too!
- Your Name In Runes / PBS Can I tell you a secret? I adore old alphabets! Type your child’s name in the box on the website and you can see what it looks like in 15th century Viking letters. Now that’s Write On!
Be sure to check out all of Stuart J. Murphy’s I See I Learn books! His Level 1 MathStart books are perfect for Pre-K. You can follow us on twitter and Facebook. Sign up for our FREE e-newsletter, too! (sample)
Does your class like make maps? We would love to see and share them!
We are still basically newbies on Facebook, just starting to get our social media sea-legs (ahem, ahem: please “like” us…and tell your friends!) We have been experimenting with features such a “MathStart Book of the Day!” and, of course, news about Stuart’s new Pre-K series, I See I Learn.
It has been delightful to see who has discovered us. We have made some wonderful new connections.
Mr. Murphy: The students in my class are confused about the weird pictures in your book Treasure Map. We love the book and love the pictures, but we do not understand why there are giant objects by the small kids. Any help explaining these crazy pictures to us? Thanks a bunch. Please write back.
— Mr. Jason and the Star Room Kids, Circle School, SA, TX
I handle most of the posts for Stuart on Facebook and Twitter (@vizlearning), so wrote a brief reply, but clearly this called for Stuart’s insights.
Hello Mr. Jason & the Star Room Kids!
I love this question!
Janet’s right. Tricia Tusa, the illustrator, wanted to emphasize the fact that a map represents a section of the real world at another scale. Therefore, on pages 8-9, the map actually “becomes” the environment that it represents. On pages 10-11, the members of the Elm Street Kids’ Club have been reduced to the scale of the map and actually step right into it. From that point on, Tricia plays with dimension and scale to complement what is happening in the story.
On page 30, Tricia brilliantly added the returning Rocky River Rascals to her illustration. This was not part of the manuscript. She wanted readers to be constantly thinking of time, place, size, dimension and scale.
You didn’t ask about the “upside-down” map on the endpapers. Again, this was Tricia’s idea. She positioned the map, which is of Houston, where Tricia lived at the time, to be from the point of view of Matthew, who is pictured carrying the map, rather than from the perspective of the reader.
Here’s an idea for the visually alert Star Room Kids. Maybe they could create a map of their classroom, cafeteria or playground. Then they could try to figure how big the desks, tables, or they themselves would be at that scale. If it’s really cool, you can send it to us and we’ll include it on our blog.
We would love to see maps of every classroom, cafeteria and playground! If your class has some fantastic maps you would like to share, please send photographs to feedback (@) stuartjmurphy (dot) com. Be sure to include contact information.
Did you know that Treasure Map is one of six MathStart stories featured in a new musical called The Main Street Kids’ Club? The play was adapted by the talented Scott (“Schoolhouse Rock Live!”) Ferguson through a special workshop class at Northwestern University. It’s a lot of fun. The music is great and the math is spot on!
If you know a regional theatre that would be interested in performing the show or would like to find out about school tours, please get in touch with Scott at TheatreBAM Chicago.
It’s the Main Street Kids’ Club / Where the laughs are loud in the the fun is free / We’re in the Main Street Kids’ Club / That’s the MSKC to you and me!
- Creative Cartography: 7 Must-Read Books on Maps / Maria Popova, Brain Pickings