Book shelf

Simple, practical advice makes it easy to get organized


Today’s busy family spends a great deal of time rushing from sports practice to music lessons to the grocery store, with several stops in between. Christine Klein’s book offers practical advice and ideas to help parents simplify their lives and organize their families. For example, she explains how keeping a master grocery shopping list taped to the refrigerator can help reduce stress. Then, when you run low on flour—or one kid wants a special lunch treat—it’s easy to add to the list, avoiding those painful moments standing in the grocery trying to remember what it was that Sally wanted. It also helps to plan meals a week or two in advance. You know what you need to buy and can budget for the expense. Her advice is peppered with quick and easy recipes designed to increase the amount of time parents spend with children. She suggests involving the whole family by assigning everyone chores, from setting the table to chopping the vegetables. Her money-saving suggestions run the gamut from shopping at thrift stores, resale shops and garage sales to reducing utility expenses by winterizing your home and checking the seals on doors and windows to make your home more energy efficient. She also offers a host of practical ideas for organizing leisure time. Make the most of your weekend and time off by planning ahead. Then, give yourself a break by eliminating one activity so you can have more time to relax and play with the kids. Klein draws on her own experience as a consultant and mother of two to provide ideas on ways to include children in household activities. She outlines a 12-month seasonal home maintenance calendar that highlights tips to make common tasks trouble free. Simple steps such as keeping the lawn mower blades sharp and cleaning the lint trap on the clothes dryer will speed up household tasks and help you to be more efficient as well. The strategies for setting goals, decorating with things you love, and doing homework together after school are among many of the easily-implemented tips that should make life easy for any family. This book’s focus on adding joy and productivity to your life will be a useful tool for your active family.

Gina Roberts-Grey

Video offers tips to deal with bullies

GUM IN MY HAIR: HOW TO COPE WITH A BULLY, produced by Twisted Scholar, $24.95,

Although it’s been many moons since I belonged to the 8-14 crowd myself, my adult self gives a thumbs up to Gum In My Hair. It’s hard to find material attractive to the 8-14 market that handles important content like the serious issue of bullying in a way that doesn’t turn them off and which actually teaches better behavior in the process. During the first few minutes of this 20-minute video, I was painfully aware that most of the characters were white. The cast grew more diverse as the video progressed, but in this day and age, it is in everyone’s best interests to ensure that no one feels left out. But that is the only drawback to this otherwise fantastic video. Humor and exaggeration are the tools of choice for this flick. That, and a main character with long, unruly hair who wears oversized shorts, jumps around a lot and does unexpected things (like open his own locker door and actually get in it) to help young people hang in there long enough to actually hear the message. The message is that bullying hurts, is sometimes scary and dangerous and is not normal. No one deserves to be bullied and we all play a role in stopping it. And, viewers are encouraged to involve an adult if the bullying escalates to a point where they are worried about their safety. My 8-14 focus group liked the video and predicted their peers would like it too. For my two young viewers, bullying is definitely on their list of problems to overcome. Piajha wished she had seen Gum In My Hair when, in her younger-than-13 years, she was bullied. Malcolm, 10, hopes bullies will watch the video and see how their victims might respond. The 8-14 audience deserves high quality media and creative support to address this insidious behavior. Gum In My Hair provides a challenge with a chuckle for those who do it, see it or suffer it.

Anne Parry

Book offers advice for coping with autistic kids

DANGEROUS ENCOUNTERS: AVOIDING PERILOUS SITUATIONS WITH AUTISM, by Bill Davis and Wendy Goldband Schunick, Jessica Kingsley Publishers, $19.95. While all parents of children with disabilities face challenges in dealing with the outside world, parents of kids with autism face even greater challenges since there are no physical indications these children are different. The unusual behaviors associated with autism frequently attract unwanted attention and can lead to encounters with the police. This book attempts to identify some of these behaviors and offer methods to deal with individuals who may exhibit them. It is written in a clear and straight-forward manner, often using Davis’ experiences with his autistic son as examples. The book explains autism, details the behaviors that may result and suggests ways of communicating with people with autism. It describes how an autistic child’s self-injurious behavior could be mistaken for parental child abuse; how his compulsive need for order could be mistaken for shop-lifting when he is simply rearranging store shelves; how his inability to wait in line could make him leave a store without paying; how his inability to "read" people could make him an easy target or even an unwitting participant in a crime.  There are chapters aimed at emergency workers and a chapter for retailers. The book attempts to avert the disastrous situations that can, and have, resulted from lack of education about autism. The authors stress parents should train emergency professionals themselves, using this book as a reference. The last part of the book offers tips to parents on keeping their children safe, including rehearsing and re-rehearsing emergency situations. It also recommends introducing the autistic child to neighbors, business owners, the community at large and even local politicians—anyone who the child may encounter or who could be an ally in the future. All of this may sound overwhelming to parents already stretched to their limits but, unfortunately, if they don’t do it, probably no one else will. This book is highly recommended for anyone who has a child with autism. It should be required reading for all police officers, firefighters, paramedics, doctors, nurses and emergency personnel. This being an imperfect world, however, I suggest parents do as the authors suggest: read "Dangerous Encounters" and teach your community about autism yourselves. 

Karen Fischer


Book offers the secrets to healthy eating for kids

BETTER FOOD FOR KIDS: YOUR ESSENTIAL GUIDE TO NUTRITION FOR ALL CHILDREN FROM AGE 2 TO 6: THE HOSPITAL FOR SICK CHILDREN, by Daina Kalnins and Joanne Saab, Robert Rose, $17.95. It is clear that authors Daina Kalnins and Joanne Saab truly understand the issues parents of small children face. These dietitians together have more than 20 years of experience in pediatric nutrition and it shows. Their new book, "Better Food for Kids: Your Essential Guide to Nutrition for All Children from Age 2 to 6"  is an easy-to-read volume filled with tons of practical answers to the most commonly asked questions such as: • How do I know whether day care meals provide adequate nutrition? • How much juice is too much? • How do I get my 3-year-old to eat vegetables? • Is it OK to give my child a bottle at bedtime? • How can I get my 2-year old to try new foods? The first half of the book presents a wide variety of practical ideas and informative sidebars on age-specific nutritional needs. The first two chapters include a question-and-answer section. Among the great information is tips on introducing unfamiliar foods to toddlers, recommendations on encouraging children to eat more vegetables and suggestions on dealing with your child’s likes and dislikes. The book also offers common-sense suggestions children’s food intake and hints on adding nutrition to your child’s lunch box; information on children’s vitamin needs and combating food allergies. An entire chapter is devoted to combating childhood obesity, including practical tips on ways to encourage your child to be more active and methods for promoting a positive body image The second half of the book is loaded with "kid-friendly" recipes that are good enough for the entire family. You’ll find homemade fruit yogurt, strawberry banana smoothie, oven-baked french toast sandwich and egg fajitas for breakfast. For lunch and dinner, you’ll find focaccia pizza squares, eggs baked in cheese, zucchini sticks, rice and tofu, tuna burgers, rice and broccoli casserole, meatball medley, speedy fettuccine alfredo and family cheese fondue. All recipes have a complete nutritional analysis based on the dietary reference intakes for North American children ages 4-8.

Maria Karalis ­ Illinois Dietetic Association

Negotiating strategies build better parents

HOW TO NEGOTIATE WITH KIDS EVEN WHEN YOU THINK YOU SHOULDN’T, by Scott Brown, Viking, $24.95. In this book, Scott Brown offers parents guidance on disciplining and communicating with their children without being perceived as a ogre or a pushover. He blends his experience with the Harvard Negotiation Project and parent of four children to demonstrate his empathic suggestions to frustrated parents. By defining the differences between hard bargaining and accommodating, Brown adapted his negotiation techniques to educate parents. This book not only explains how to identify your parenting style, but offer suggestions on ways to develop your style as well. Parents will find helpful practices to teach their children how to solve their own problems and how to focus their attention. From listening techniques to communication styles, the book uses several examples to demonstrate its message. Brown creates mock conversations and dialogue responses to common scenarios to illustrate several typical family topics. By reading them, parents can learn how to manage their own emotions during conflict. They also can learn to manage their children’s emotions and listen in ways that will build understanding. Finally, Brown notes, parents need to learn there are times when it is best not to negotiate.  Because children learn better when several of their senses are engaged at one time, Brown recommends parents learn how to talk when their children are listening and how to speak so their children will not only understand, but respond. By knowing when to intervene in sibling disputes over toys and unwelcome intrusions, parents can strengthen the relationship and communication skills between siblings, Brown says.  Although the book is geared toward parents of children ages 2-12, it includes practical tips for parents of teens and adult children as well. Brown masterfully applies his experiences as he presents the material in a direct manner. The book presents strategies for helping children develop that can be used throughout their lifetime. Every parent will relate to the examples presented, as well as appreciate the strategies offered to effectively handle conflicts and build solid relationships.

Gina Roberts-Grey

Highly-sensitive children need help to cope with life

THE HIGHLY SENSITIVE CHILD: HELPING OUR CHILDREN THRIVE WHEN THE WORLD OVERWHELMS THEM, by Elaine N. Aron, Random House, $14.95. Author Elaine Aron, a highly-sensitive person herself, clearly identifies the specific traits and characteristics of highly-sensitive children in her latest book, "The Highly Sensitive Child: Helping Our Children Thrive When the World Overwhelms Them." The widely published psychologist begins with a checklist for identifying behaviors common in sensitive children and young adults. For example, she notes, many parents will notice their child is exceptionally intuitive or overly cautious. Highly-sensitive children tend to be easily over stimulated—a situation that calls for quick response on the part of a parent who wants to avoid temper tantrums or stress-related illnesses. In all, Aron lists 23 characteristics common in many highly sensitive children. She explains that while many children display some of these tendencies, highly-sensitive children experience several, if not all, of them to an extreme. With chapters addressing the needs of specific age groups she explores the four key steps to raising highly-sensitive children and helping them thrive in a not-so-sensitive world. For example, highly-sensitive children tend to have difficulty with change. So she recommends preparing them gently so they will feel empowered during a transition. She also offers "20 tips for teachers" and gender-specific information for parents.  Through useful examples and actual case studies, both sensitive and nonsensitive parents will be better prepared to help their children understand their feelings and adapt in every day scenarios. She explains how some highly-sensitive children seem to bounce off walls, while others have "meltdowns" when they are over stimulated, and gives advice on how to eliminate stress in your home or in their lives. Her innovative ideas for making school and friendships more enjoyable apply to children of all ages and offer parents a variety of ways to relate to sensitive children. Because Aron is a highly-sensitive person herself as well as the mother of a highly sensitive child, her book is written with an easy-to-read flair that offers parents, caregivers and educators a wealth of information and guidance. 

Gina Roberts-Grey

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