Friday, September 28, 2007

Portland Press Herald Opposes Paid Sick Leave

In a slightly bizarre editorial, the Portland Press Herald opposed Paid Sick Leave because the bill is not strong enough and might scare new business away and businesses mostly do the right thing anyway. The flawed logic -- if business is going to do the right thing, why will this bill scare them? -- scares me! It would make more sense to me if they either said "we should not mandate these things" or "we don't need it" but instead they assert that workers do need increased protection but we should not support this initiative because it is not comprehensive enough. Now, I'd love to see broader coverage, but why not support a start?

Read the editorial and possibly add a comment here.

This is a great time to write a letter to the editor -

Letters to the editor should be exclusive to this paper, contain 250 words or less and include the writer's name, address and home and work phone numbers. Readers will be contacted before their letters are published. Readers not contacted within 10 days can assume their letters will not be published. To submit letters: Mail to Letters to the Editor, Portland Press Herald, P.O. Box 1460, Portland, ME 04104-5009
Fax to (207) 828-8154

Send by e-mail @ this web site

Childhood Poverty a problem in the United States

The rate of child poverty in the United States is shameful. If we don't pay attention to the ever widening gap between the ultra-wealthy and the poor we put an entire generation at risk. Two organizations provide fabulous information to help educate ourselves, our community and our children.

The Center for Child Poverty at Columbia University provides tons of data and public policy information. They provide a 50-states database to retrieve demographic information for your own particular state.

United for a Fair Economy is an activist organization that also provides easy to understand economic data. I especially appreciate access to workshops and training materials - it makes it so easy to present information to a variety of audiences. (I held a wage gap play date a few years ago -- kids played and parents looked at the posters and talked about fair pay).

Teaching Economics as if People Mattered
provides similar exercises and lessons geared toward high school students.

Thursday, September 27, 2007

Another great source for reviews of Children's Books

The University of Wisconsin hosts the Children's Book Cooperative. Among the many booklists are:

40 books about peace and social justice

50 multicultural books every kid should know

And tons more.. .

Wednesday, September 26, 2007

From the Portland Press Herald - Resources for teaching about Native American History

From the Portland Press Herald

MAINE VOICES: Native American teaching resources exist on Web
Maine teachers struggling to integrate this material into their classes don't have to reinvent the wheel.

Lynn Lowell Mayer September 26, 2007


Lynn Lowell Mayer of Enfield is a library media specialist at the Old

Town Elementary School Library.

— It's too bad that a Maine teacher spent time recreating the
wheel for her "Indian-themed project" last year (as reported in
the Maine Sunday Telegram on Aug. 26).

The article implied that no good resources exist to assist
teachers in implementing the law regarding Maine Indian

Mainers, and especially educators, should know that as a result
of L.D. 291, there are historically accurate and culturally
appropriate resources that are readily available.

First, I wonder if anyone has asked their librarians for help?
Public and school librarians around the state have had several
opportunities at recent annual library conferences to learn about
Maine's tribes, how to select appropriate materials and where
they can be acquired.

Here are a few other reputable sources.

The Penobscot Nation received a grant in 2004 from the
Administration for Native Americans to develop the "We Teach"
K-12 curriculum that is teacher-friendly, appropriate, Maine-
Learning-Results-compliant and easy to integrate into lesson
plans (not add-on units).

Workshops were held around the state in 2005, and the lessons
are available by clicking on "search lesson plans" at the L.D. 291
Web site

An entire kit with extensive K-12 lessons and resources from
the "We Teach" project can be purchased from the Penobscot
Indian Nation Cultural and Historical Preservation office.

Another round of teacher workshops from a second grant
awarded to the Penobscot Nation is being scheduled for
October. Two of the workshops will be in the Portland area.

Also, the University of Maine recently held its fourth annual
"Wabanaki Institute" for educators. Participants (usually a wide
range of educators, not just social studies teachers) are
immersed in the culture, meet people from area tribal nations
and are provided with an abundance of resources and

The Maine Indian Basketmakers Alliance holds several annual
events throughout the state where people can make contacts
and learn about the traditional basket-making process.

Educators can also meet Wabanaki people, watch
demonstrations, and listen to drumming at the annual Common
Ground Fair in Unity.

Maine teacher Betsy Sky-McIlvain has been integrating L.D. 291
into curriculums for several years, and shares her ideas, lessons
and resources
for middle-school and high-school teachers on
the Web.

Teachers could contact Tilbury Publishers to schedule a musical,
cultural or literary visit from Alan Sockabasin, author of a
wonderful Passamaquoddy tale, "Thanks to the Animals," that is
much more than a children's book.

One of the most important issues in teaching about any native
peoples is stereotypes. These have been perpetuated through
children's literature (among other places), so I would encourage
educators to take a look at the whats and whys of appropriate
Native literature on the Web

L.D. 291 is long overdue, and is, unfortunately, another example
of legislation without financial support. Although educators and
librarians tend to be resourceful, they need not recreate the
wheel for Wabanaki studies.

From a non-Native perspective, trying to learn "all about it" can
seem overwhelming. I hope my suggestions will help every
educator in Maine to make a beginning.

We need to ensure that our next generation of educators will
have the knowledge they need to appropriately integrate Maine
Native studies instead of doing token Indian projects.

– Special to the Press Herald

Saturday, September 22, 2007

American Indians in Children's Literature

This blog is an amazing resource to learn more about Native American history and to find home and classroom resources.

Wage Gap and Family Policy - Breakfast of Champions in October!

Laura Fortman, Commissioner of Labor and former director of the Maine Women's Lobby/Maine Women's Policy Center does a brilliant job explaining the complexities of the wage gap on this episode of Maine Watch.

The prospects for working women are bleak, and the wage gap remains stuck at $0.77 to men's $1.00. This means that thousands of Maine children live in poverty and maine families struggle because maine women are not earning a living wage.

The Maine Women's Policy Center is hosting a series of breakfasts to discuss this essential issue, as well as other public policy ideas that could help Maine families.

Register now for the Breakfast of Champions!

Thursday, October 4, from 7:30-9:00 a.m.
Holiday Inn By the Bay, Portland

Wednesday, October 10, from 7:30-9:00 a.m.
Spectacular Event Center, Bangor

Thursday, October 11, from 7:30-9:00 a.m.
Northern Maine Community College, Presque Isle

This year's Breakfast of Champions series will make the case for why family friendly public policies should be a political priority. Joining us in Portland and Bangor will be Judith Stadtman Tucker, editor of Mothers Movement Online and advocate for sound policies that benefit mothers and families.

Tickets are $35 in advance, $40 at the door, and student tickets are $15. We are committed to representing women of all economic means; please contact us for discounted tickets. For tickets or sponsorship information, contact Bonnie at or
207-622-0851, ext. 22.

Real Teens, Real Talk in Portland Maine

Real Life, Real Talk is a Planned Parenthood project that helps adults learn strategies to create dialouge with the young people in our lives. There are tons of resources on the web site and many live workshops around the state. Here is the most recent Portland Calendar:

October 2 - "Sex Ed for Parents," 6:30-8:00 pm, The Family Center at
Youth Alternatives, 50 Lydia Lane, S. Portland.

October 10 - "Sex Ed for Parents - Part 2: Internet Safety for Kids,"
6:30-8:00 pm, Charles A. Dana Center Auditorium, Maine Medical Center,
22 Bramhall Street, Portland.

October 17 - "When Turtles Make Love," Add Verb Productions' newest
play, followed by a World Cafe discussion, 6:30-9:00 pm, Deering High
School, 370 Stevens Avenue, Portland.

October 22 - "When Turtles Make Love," as above, 6:30-9:00 pm, Portland
High School, 284 Cumberland Avenue, Portland.

To register for any/some/all of these events, follow this link:

Thursday, September 20, 2007

Love Your Body October 17th (and always)

Loving ourselves is clearly the first step toward creating love in the world, but sometimes it is the hardest. Consumer pressures emphasize all that we should do differently with our bodies -- if we're never good enough, maybe we'll buy more stuff. There are several local and national groups working to counter this message:

NOW sponsors Love Your Body Day on October 17th -- they offer many resources for community organizing.

Girlformation offers body image camps:

Two Body Image Camps!

Two Body Image camps will be running this fall. The first camp will take place on Saturday September 29th & Sunday September 30th in Waldoboro, Maine. The second Body Image Camp will run on Saturday, December 8th and Sunday December 9th in the Fryeburg area. The camps run from 10 AM-3PM on both days, and transportation is not provided.

Each day the group of 6-10 girls, ranging in age from 12-14, will meet with facilitators, Kathleen Hastings, RN, social worker Christina Francis, LCSW, and Carrie Charpentier, certified elementary teacher, to discuss themes pertaining to positive and negative images that society and culture have created in respect to women's bodies.

The Body Image Camp is free to participants and there are a limited number of available spaces filled on a first come, first serve basis. Both days a catered lunch will be available to participants. After attending both seminar days, participants will receive a $100 gift card to Target and families will receive a $50 gas card to reimburse travel expenses. If you would like to participate in one of the two Body Image Camps, please contact us., and indicate if you are interested in the September camp or the December camp.

Girls Health Conference from Girlformation

Girls' Health Conference
Saturday, November 17, 2007
8:45 AM - 3:15 PM
Village by the Sea Conference Center,
Wells ME
GirlFormation is hosting a Girls' Health Conference appropriate for girls ages 9-12. Doctors and other health professionals will be speaking on health issues that girls face today in the areas of puberty, dermatology, nutrition, exercise and mental health. A brief question and answer session will follow each speaker. Girls are asked to attend the conference with a female in their lives, such as mother, aunt, grandmother. Pre-registration is encouraged, and you can now register by visiting our website,, or calling Carrie @ 207-251-1947. First forty participants will be entered in a raffle to win prize (raffle done on day of event).

Tuesday, September 18, 2007

Youth Activism Contest

Something about this doesn't feel quite perfect to me - perhaps the competitive part, or the tv part - but it still has promise :

New Contest Highlights Positive Youth Activism

An innovative new Web broadcaster is using the power of the Internet to inspire children and youth in schools across North America to make a difference. Quantum Shift TV is challenging students from grades one to twelve across the United States and Canada to participate in the "Be the Change! Share the Story!" School Video Contest. Students are invited to work on a social or environmental project of their choice, and document their progress in two short videos to be uploaded on the web. In addition to making a difference in their community, students have an opportunity to win up to $50,000 in prizes for their school.

Projects can range from volunteering at a homeless shelter to educating the community about human rights, measuring a school's carbon footprint to building a hospital in a developing country-anything that addresses an environmental or social concern in a positive, solution-oriented way. Student teams will execute their project and document their progress in a series of two short videos. The first video, introducing the team's project, must be uploaded to by December 15, 2007. The second, reporting on the project's execution and results, is due by March 31, 2008.

In May, the 25 top-ranked videos in each age category will be reviewed by a panel of celebrity judges who will select the 3 finalists in each age group and invite the public to choose the winners. Judges include bestselling author and environmentalist Paul Hawken, actress Pleasant Wayne, skateboarder Bob Burnquist, executive-with-a-cause John Wood, Bioneers founder Kenny Ausubel and Nigerian women's rights activist Hafsat Abiola. Winners will be chosen based on community involvement, project execution, video quality, and overall social and environmental impact.

To provide project ideas and resources for both students and teachers, Quantum Shift TV has partnered with key organizations like UNICEF, Free the Children, Room to Read, TransFair, NAAEE, TakingITGlobal, The Pembina Institute, New Global Citizens, Sierra Youth Coalition, Rainforest Action Network, Care and Oxfam.

Students and educators can find out more and sign up for the contest at

Sunday, September 16, 2007

Morningside Center for Teaching Social Responsibility

Called Teachable Moment, this web site offers a large number of activities to explore current events / US politics as well as great ideas for social and emotional learning. The site is easily divided between age groups.

Teaching about Native American History

Acadia National Park Service offers a very detailed kit for teaching about Passamaquoddy History and Culture -- dates for a training are TBA but much of the kit is available online

From the
Spring 2007 - Date TBD
Passamaquoddy History and Culture: A Teaching Kit for Grades 5-8
Experience the National Park Service’s new learning tool for Maine teachers: Passamaquoddy History and Culture: A Teaching Kit for Grades 5-8! Participate in kit activities and be introduced to the hands-on teaching tools in the kit; learn how to build a Passamaquoddy kit for the classroom or borrow one of four kits available for loan; and garner a greater understanding of Saint Croix Island International Historic Site—Maine’s second National Park Unit—and the important relationship that developed between the French and Passamaquoddy in 1604.
Teachers will receive:
1. six contact hours for workshop participation;
2. handouts related to Passamaquoddy history and culture;
3. a CD of the kit’s Teacher’s Guide;
4. handouts that link the kit’s activities to specific Maine Learning Results; and more!
Check back later for details or contact Meg Scheid at 207-454-3871.

Friday, September 14, 2007

Kids and Health Care

It is a basic fact that kids can't begin to do their best learning if they are struggling to meet basic needs.

Eric Steele has a compelling op-ed in the Bangor Daily News encouraging the expansion of health care to all children -- shouldn't it be a no-brainer?

To take local action on this issue, check in with the Maine Children's Alliance, the Maine Equal Justice Project, or Consumers for Affordable Health Care

Momsrising is working on the same issue, on a national level -- here is there plea:

THE LOWDOWN: For just a moment, imagine that any child, anywhere in America, could see the doctor when they got sick. No more horror stories about uninsured kids getting sicker and sicker because their parents can't afford the cost of health care. No more parents going bankrupt because of a costly childhood illness. Just a whole nation full of healthier kids getting the care they need.

Now compare that vision to reality: A million more children in our nation are uninsured now than just two years ago. Now 1 in 8 children are without any health care coverage at all. Our nation is on the brink of missing an important opportunity to help these uninsured children. Congress must pass the proposed expanded reauthorization of the State Children's Health Insurance Program (SCHIP) by the end of this month. Sad to say, the President is already threatening to veto the bill--despite the fact that there is broad support from Governors of both parties.

We're up against the clock. We need to send a strong message now that we cannot play politics with the health of our nation's children--and that an expanded SCHIP program should be reauthorized before the deadline! We have an opportunity to send a strong message this coming Tuesday when petition signatures from several different organizations will be delivered together in Washington, D.C. to show broad support for children's health care coverage.

SIGN THE PETITION FOR HEALTHIER KIDS IN AMERICA: Sign our petition now to support better health care coverage for children through expansion of the popular, bi-partisan State Children's Health Insurance Program (SCHIP). Send a message to Congress and the President that all children deserve health care coverage.

*Sign the petition now.

We need to get as many petition signatures as possible by this coming Tuesday so we can have a big impact when they are delivered on Capitol Hill--so please pass this around to friends to get them to sign on by Monday night as well. Thank you!

THE SCOOP ON SCHIP: This federal health care program (one of our favorites!) helps families afford health coverage for uninsured children (and this help is critically important because right now 1 in 8 children are without health care coverage at all!). Here's how it works--the federal government gives funds to the 50 states, who then use that money plus some of their own dollars to offer affordable health care coverage to working families, usually through private insurance companies. Families that don't meet the low-income standards for Medicaid coverage, but still don't make enough to purchase private insurance, can apply for their children to be covered by these SCHIP-funded plans.

What makes this program so powerful is that it allows states to decide what level of assistance makes sense for their populations--taking into account the state economy, local cost of living, and the total number of uninsured children in their state.

MAKE KIDS' HEALTH CARE A PRIORITY: As a part of a nation-wide, bi-partisan multi-organizational effort, we've been working hard to re-authorize and expand SCHIP this year. Let's tell Congress again, in as many ways as we can (maybe we should hire a blimp!), that we need health care coverage for all kids. Now.

*Don't forget to sign the petition

Teen Activism

Youth Noise is offering teen grassroots activist conferences/parties around the country.

Tuesday, September 11, 2007

Born to Read- Peaceable Stories Seminar starting Sept 19

There are still spaces available for the peaceable stories program in South Portland starting Wednesday, September 19. The seminar will have a Peaceable Stories theme, so the twelve children's books that participants receive include titles like The Story of Ferdinand and When Sophie Gets Angry...Really, Really Angry. Our wonderful facilitators, Vicky Smith and Janet Lyons, will lend their wit, energy, and insight to the discussions. The seminar works out to 15 hours, and 1.5 CEUs are available.

There is a registration form available here: (feel free to call if you have trouble accessing the form - and please ignore the deadline).

Thank you so much!

Brita Kate Zitin
Born to Read Program Officer
Maine Humanities Council
674 Brighton Avenue
Portland, Maine 04102

Monday, September 10, 2007

Kids, Service, Books

Kate and I stumbled on 2 lovely picture books last night that address service in understated ways. The first, Pumpkins, by Mary Lou Ray is a story about a man who wants to save a field. He does so by growing and selling pumpkins around the world -- it has a bit of magic and wonder and prompted a great discussion about how people can solve problems and help the land and others in creative ways. Plus, it was about pumpkins, which is a hot topic around here right now.

The second book, Miss Rumphius by Barbara Cooney, is a classic, but it was the first time Kate really listened intently. This story traces Alice Rumphius's life -- Kate was intrigued by her aging process -- as she goes about 1) living in far away places, 2) living by the sea, and 3) making the world more beautiful. The book challenges all of us to really think about our place and purpose in the world, and it is really fun to discuss ideas of beauty with a small person.

Wednesday, September 5, 2007

Bullying Prevention Resources

Maine commissioned a study group to assemble a report for best practices in bullying prevention in 2006. The site includes a lot of resources for schools and communities and emphasizes the importance of SEL and diversity awareness as elements of prevention.

LGBTQ resources

Children's media -- books included -- are significant sources of socialization. Kids learn the unspoken norms of culture by watching. Unfortunately, most media depicts very heterogeneous families. Furthermore, the creepy early-sexualization of girls emphasizes heterosexual romance as the pinnacle event of a girls life. It takes intentionality to open up the possibility that romance, love and family is expressed in a huge range of ways. However, the books don't have to pedantic (in fact, they shouldn't be) - - Everywhere Babies is my favorite -- a board book about the daily life of babies that mixes in images of all kinds of families.

Two Lives Publishing specializes in books for LGBTQ families -- they publish a baby book (journal) which looks beautiful. The online catalog allows browsing by age of intended reader and also has a section for schools. (An alternative baby book, The Making of Me, also looks wonderful and has gender-neutral language).

Mountainmeadow provides a booklist for children with LGBTQ parents, but these books (for children ages 2 - 12) would be great for all kids. (They also have a list for teens and young adults)

Rainbow Rumpus
is a magazine for kids with LGBTQ parents and also has a resource page for parents -- many of the same books are reviewed here.

The Center for Children's Books
has a bibliography through 2004 and many links. (This bibliography is unfortunately not annotated, but the newer ones are).

Resources for Schools / Teachers

Hardy Girls, Healthy Women produced Ugly Ducklings: a film "designed to educate and inspire people to take action against bias-based bullying and harassment gay and lesbian youth." The film is FREE for all Maine school districts and is available for purchase nationwide. They provide links for hate violence and suicide prevention.

The Safe Schools Coalition provides links to curricula, books, etc for different age ranges.

The Gay, Lesbian and Straight Education Network is one of the most established national organizations, provides resources for LGBTQ teachers and students and for increasing diversity education in schools.

Frameline produces and distributes films, including many made by/for youth (7th grade and up)

Maine Resources

Equality Maine
is the leading activist organization in the state. Check with them for up-to-date information, actions and speakers, etc.

The Maine SpeakOut Project: "The mission of the Maine Speakout Project is to create a society that is inclusive and respectful of people of differing sexual and gender orientations by providing opportunities for non-divisive dialogue."

Saturday, September 1, 2007

Girls, Pt 2

Lyn Michel Brown has authored several really important books for thinking about girls development. Girlfighting is one of many books that address relational aggression among girls (the idea that girls fight with words and exclusive behaviors) however she approaches it with a keen feminist perspective. Brown argues that sexism disempowers girls from knowing /naming the people and institutions that they are really mad at. It is often unsafe to express anger toward a more powerful target and without literacy around the idea of sexism a girl might not even know that her sense that things aren't fair has historical and cultural and structural dimensions. Instead she blames herself, blames being a "girl" or blames/puts-down other girls and women as a way of gaining power or distancing herself from girlhood. Brown helped to establish the non-profit Hardy Girls, Healthy Women as a way of developing a space for girls to both live more fully, live in connection with other girls, and begin examining the messages that they get about gender through a critical lens.

Brown recently wrote, with co-author Sharon Lamb, a book that keeps me up at night. Packaging Girlhood analyzes the ways that the media shapes the message that girls, boys and adults all get about what it means to be a girl today. They find that girls have a very narrow range of "acceptable" choices -- movies, books, ads, television, etc. come together to present an image of girlhood that is either "for the boys" or "one of the boys." For all of us who came of age before text-messaging and ipods, the explanation of viral marketing is hugely important. They also provide some ideas about how to teach girls to become more critical consumers (step 1 - start with ourselves).

Some of my friends felt that there was a "selection bias" to the text - that the authors found what they were looking for. The book was written for a popular audience so there isn't an in-depth methods section to analyze. However, I think that even if that is true, the astonishing amount of similar images that occur in popular media are going to have an impact on our consciousness and consumer behaviors, even if there are also alternative images available to us.

If you get the chance to see a presentation about this material, do it! This is a visual project and the images matter and are compelling when viewed in and out of context. Keep up with the latest on their blog.

Lyn Michel Brown will be featured at two local conferences this fall.

In Portland, HGHW offers :

Beyond Bully Prevention: Strategies That Work
Join us November 5, 2007 in Portland, Maine for a cutting-edge conference: Beyond Bully Prevention: Strategies that Work. Designed for teachers, school counselors, school social workers, administrators, and all adults who work with youth; this conference moves beyond popular notions of bully prevention that overlook school expereinces that make children and adolescents feel unsafe.The conference brings together experts in the field of adolescent development to discuss bullying as an educational hindrance and work out strategies to address the social factors that produce it.

Workshop topics will include girlfighting/ building girl allies, relationships between stereotypical masculinity, violence and boys' academic success, bias-based harassment of GLBTQ youth, the effects of sexist and racist media messages, the impact of poverty and social class on students' school experiences, and the misuse of technology and cyber-bullying.

and in November, the University of New Hampshire is offering:

Special One-Day Conference
Tackling Gender Issues
Facing Teens & Pre-Teens