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Verizon Viral Ad for Girls: What are We Telling Our Daughters about Math and Science?

It was a great Good Morning America segment this morning!  We focused on a new viral Verizon campaign and ad that questions whether it’s time to move from telling our girls that she’s simply “pretty” to telling them that they are “pretty brilliant” too. What are we telling our girls about their abilities in math and science?  Can we attract more girls into STEM?  We explored this topic.

GMA_verizongirlsvideo_800400Why are we seeing greater numbers of ads reaching out to young girls and women giving them the message they can be more?

First, let’s not forget that these companies want to sell products and in these ads they are appealing to big markets, women and girls. But aside from that, I think these companies are seeing that by moving away from looks and celebrating the strong minds of girls, they can inspire a larger pool of future game-changers.  These are the people who can invent something important and become the next generation of leaders in their companies. We are looking for leaders, not hood ornaments.

The ad quotes a statistic- 66% of 4th grade girls say they like science and math, but only 18% of all college engineering majors are female. So where does the disconnect happen? Is it the fault, as the ad suggests, of parents?

Parents get such a bad rap—but it’s not just parents, it’s society as a whole.  If a girl is interested in Science, Technology, Engineering or Math, many of the toys that support those interests are in the “boy” section, the protagonists of the majority of books & movies in this genre are boys—and while there are companies and wonderful grass roots efforts to change that, there is still a Read more

Teaching Children the Courage to Go A Different Way

Sometimes it’s not about having the courage to try again.  Sometimes it’s about having the courage to try something different.

As my husband and I are working on “purging” our house of stacks of papers, old books, forgotten clothes, and random “what-nots,” I came across my diaries from middle school and high school.  There are some “deep” thoughts in there. Amazing what goes through the mind of a teenager.

Stuck in between the pages of my ninth grade diary was a page from one of my leadership camps was the famous “Autobiography in Five Short Chapters” by Portia Nelson.

I walk down the street.
There is a deep hole in the sidewalk
I fall in.
I am lost … I am helpless.
It isn’t my fault.
It takes me forever to find a way out.

II

I walk down the same street.
There is a deep hole in the sidewalk.
I pretend I don’t see it.
I fall in again.
I can’t believe I am in the same place
but, it isn’t my fault.
It still takes a long time to get out.

III

I walk down the same street.
There is a deep hole in the sidewalk.
I see it is there.
I still fall in … it’s a habit.
my eyes are open
I know where I am.
It is my fault.
I get out immediately.

IV

I walk down the same street.
There is a deep hole in the sidewalk.
I walk around it.

V

I walk down another street.

Why do I bring this up?  When talking to children, sometimes we need to teach them the courage to go another way.  This may be “the road less traveled” or it may simply be a road less traveled…by them. Perhaps they need to try a new activity like martial arts, gymnastics, swim or dance– perhaps they need courage to move to a new town or enroll in a new school. Or maybe, they need the courage to make new friends when the current ones are just not the right fit anymore.

It’s hard. it’s scary.  It takes courage. But it may just be the best thing they ever did.

I was speaking to one brave and beautiful 15 year old yesterday who told me that she had to do “spring cleaning” on her so-called friends because they were not supportive of her– in fact, they made her feel awful about herself. They would tease her and make her feel self-conscious about her weight and her appearance.  Asking a teenager to switch groups of friends can be like cutting off part of yourself.  And at first, it looks like it’s a really important part of yourself, but as it turns out, it’s more like a growth you are better living without!

I lost touch with those “friends” and met all sorts of people. They were all about my size and we all wore the same size clothes and shoes. Soon we started having sleepovers randomly on weekends and going shopping. And they also had similar stories from when they were little that they were picked on for stupid things like being “ugly”. So we formed our own group of friends and we would go ice skating and meet all new friends. Eventually our group got so big that those other people started becoming jealous of us because we had real friends that loved us for who we were.”

There have been many times throughout my life that I’ve walked down the same street over and over.  Making the same mistakes and looking for different results.  It wasn’t until I decided to go a different way that well, something different happened.  Often, something better.

It’s important to help our children see that change can be wonderful.  It can open up a whole new– and better– world for us…if we just have the courage to walk down another street.

Dr. Robyn Silverman signs


Ask Dr. Robyn Silverman: How do I teach courage in new situations?

Many parents children get nervous during the first month of school. Everything is so new!  So it didn’t surprise me when this note about back to school fears and dealing with new situations came to my blog box recently.

Dear Dr. Robyn,

My child seems really anxious in new situations.  Now I think I might be more anxious than my child!  We recently moved and started a new school. I wonder if there is some way that I could help my child feel more secure about these different environments.  –Patti

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When Are We Going to Do Something Serious about Bullying?

Dr. Robyn Silverman

When I was in 5th grade, I was bullied.

It was one of the worst years of my life—perhaps THE worst—because going to school was so horrible and yet I had to do it 5 days a week. I still remember the knots in the pit of my stomach—waiting on line to go into the school—waiting for the laundry list of female relational aggression to start. Everyday was the same. Target…ostracized. Rumors…sent.  Eyes…rolled.

The teachers never knew what to do.  I was labeled “sensitive.” It was my problem—they felt bad about it but “kids will be kids.”

So I stood there on the black top during recess, completely alone, clearly unhappy, clearly apart from the crowd, and yet…nothing.  The one time something was done, I was sent to the library as the rest of the class sat in the classroom with the teacher and talked about…me.  Then one of my “friends” who bullied in me in school came to get me, gave me a stare down before entering the class, told me not to “lie” and left me in her dust.  Then the teacher talked to the class with me present.  It was humiliating.  It didn’t help. At. All.

So when I read the other day in the Washington Post that the laws that were enacted to cope with the bullying problem, especially since the shootings in the 90s, offer practically no protection—mostly because, well, they aren’t really being enforced, I got that familiar knot in my stomach again. If you’ve never been bullied, it is the most sickening, exhausting, heart-wrenching feeling. You don’t feel comfortable walking around in your skin.  You want to be anywhere but there.  You want to be anyone but you.

It’s actually one of the reasons I created Powerful Words.  And one of the reasons this month’s word, courage, is so important. I wanted to help kids like me—I wanted to help kids like those who bullied me—I wanted to help them early so that maybe…I don’t know…maybe an infiltration of character education would help a few people avoid what I went through…or worse. All children need to learn about respect, courage, impulse control, kindness, and the many other Powerful Words we cover.

And as it is, the laws wouldn’t have even been helpful for someone like me.  I was only in 5th grade. The laws only apply 6th-12th. So what about those kids who aren’t yet 12 years old and in the 6th grade?  Some will never reach it.  Just take a look at these sad cases:

An 11-year-old had complained of teasing and was found hanged in his Springfield, Mass in mid-April.

A 10-year-old boy hanged himself in a restroom stall in a suburban Chicago school,

An 11-year-old boy was found dead in Chatham, south of Springfield,

An 11-year-old daughter hanged in a closet of their Chicago home.

All complaining of bullying before the tragedies.

One of the big problems here is that people are quick to point the finger at who should be in charge of teaching children not to bully and inflicting consequences if there are incidents.  Parents point to teachers and school officials to take responsibility, teachers and school officials point back at parents.

“A lot of this has to be handled in the home,” said Peter Daboul, chair of the board of trustees at New Leadership, the Massachusetts school where her son was a 6th grader.

But what happens when the fingers get pointed? Nothing gets done.  Result? Kids suffering.

I also find it very frustrating that relational aggression is clearly given “a pass.” Even those states that are doing something about bullying (like threatening that schools will lose their funding if they don’t keep good records and transfer bullies after 3 offenses, such as in Georgia), these departments are only tracking broad offenses like fighting and threats. So much for spreading rumors, being ostracized, and intense teasing. Those wouldn’t qualify or be recorded.

There is still great confusion about how to define bullying, what’s offensive, what’s child’s play, what can lead to tragedy. What counts? Blows to the head? Cyberbullying? Taunts and teasing?  “One of the questions is how do you quantify bullying? It could even be as simple as a rolling of the eyes,” said Dale Davis, a spokesman for schools in DeKalb County, Ga., where Herrera committed suicide.

Maybe we should ask the kids…who are being bullied.

“In 2007, nearly a third of students ages 12 to 18 reported having been bullied during the school year, according to data on more than 55 million students compiled annually by the National Center for Education Statistics.”

So where are in this? Just spinning our wheels until something more tragic happens that leads us to wonder if what we are doing already is the right thing to do?  I can tell you now—it’s not. I mean, 55 million kids sounds like a lot to me.

Or perhaps I’m just being sensitive.

Dr. Robyn Silverman signs

Dr. Robyn Silverman Introduces the September Powerful Word: Courage

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Courage Quotes

“The important thing is this: To be able at any moment to sacrifice what we are for what we could become.” –Charles Dubois

“To dare is to lose one’s footing momentarily. To not dare is to lose oneself.” –Soren Kierkegaard

“You gain strength, courage, and confidence by every experience in which you really stop to look fear in the face. You must do the thing which you think you cannot do.” –Elenor Roosevelt

“One isn’t necessarily born with courage, but one is born with potential. Without courage, we cannot practice any other virtue with consistency. We can’t be kind, true, merciful, generous, or honest.” –Maya Angelou

Moral excellence comes about as a result of habit. We become just by doing just acts, temperate by doing temperate acts, brave by doing brave acts. –Aristotle

“The courage to commit, even when our footing is unsure, is a crucial part of powerful character. By refusing to give in to fear, we show we refuse to give up on ourselves.” –Dr. Robyn Silverman

“The test of courage comes when we are in the minority. The test of tolerance comes when we are in the majority.” –Ralph W. Sockman

“Courage is the ladder on which all the other virtues mount.” –Clare Booth Luce

“Yesterday I dared to struggle. Today I dare to win.” –Bernadette Devlin

“With courage you will dare to take risks, have the strength to be compassionate, and the wisdom to be humble. Courage is the foundation of integrity.’  –Keshavan Nair

“The best way out is always through.” –Robert Frost

“Courage is going from failure to failure without losing enthusiasm.” –Winston Churchill

Please tell us your Powerful Courage stories this month!

Dr. Robyn Silverman signs

Congratulations PowerfulKids

clap and congratulations

Powerful Words, in conjunction with Dr. Robyn Silverman and

the Powerful Parent Blog want to congratulate:

Aaron M. who is a 10 year old Black Belt in the Junior Star program at Yuen’s  in Canada.

According to his instructor, Mr. Perry Bateson,

“This month, since our POWerful word is CITIZENSHIP, we are encouraging our students to be good citizens in our community. As a school we fund raise every August for Schools supplies for students who are less fortunate than others. Arron decided to collect bottles to recycle. He took them in and raised $20.00, Aaron then went to Staples and spent all his earned money on school supplies. He brought it into the school and put it in the School supply box and was about to leave looking for no recognition of his efforts. Way to go Aaron.

And Kari J:

Mr. Bateson went on to inform us that:

“One hour later Kari J. a 9 year Black Belt in the Junior Star program did the exact same thing as Aaron. Kari came into the school with two full bags of school supplies and put them in the school supply box. Kari gathered up $50.00 worth of bottles put them in the back of her moms truck took them done the bottle depot cashed them in and went shopping. Keri is an awesome Citizen at 9. We are very proud of these two students and I know by the end of the month this list will be very long.”

WONDERFUL, Mr. Bateson, Kari and Aaron! You are Powerful Kids!

And another congratulations goes out to Zoe L from Alpha Martial Arts in Seattle Washington!

Her instructor, Mr. Herrman, tells us that he issued Zoe a challenge to clean her room as part of Citizenship month.  Of course, character begins at home!

Here’s Zoe cleaning her room as her challenge this month! Congratulations, Zoe and Mr. Herrman!

Zoe from Alpha Martial Arts doing her Citizenship Challenge for Powerful Words

Please send in your photos and stories about your students and children exhibiting the powerful word of the month!  Congrats again!

Dr. Robyn Silverman signs

Why Does My Child Keep Quitting?

Angry boyIs your child quitting everything they start? Need a Commitment Overhaul?

Here is a letter from a parent to Dr. Robyn Silverman asking about why her child keeps quitting his activities. What’s interfering with her child’s commitment level?

Dear Dr. Robyn,

I hate to admit it, but my child is a quitter.  Knowing the Powerful Word of the Month at our school this month is commitment, it seemed that now was the perfect time to ask what’s going on here.  I don’t want to raise a quitter.  Have any ideas on why a child quits everything they start?

–Jan K, Baltimore, MD

The question of commitment and quitting comes up every time our Powerful Words schools present Powerful Words like commitment, determination, attitude, or goal-setting.  As Powerful Parents, we want our children to show commitment and determination.  So what’s making them quit?

Children quit for all different reasons.  Some children feel bored while others feel overwhelmed.  Some children have unrealistic expectations that they are going to be performing the kind of martial arts, gymnastics, swimming, or other sport that they see “in the movies” or in the Olympics on the first day that they attend.  Other children see “today’s activity”  simply as another activity that they do—easily interchanged with football, basketball or dance lessons– so why stick with one thing?  Still other children feel invisible to the instructor, picked on, misunderstood or scared when they take class.

The first major reason for quitting is the instance of a curriculum-based clash. Simply put, when children feel overwhelmed or under-challenged, they will want to quit.  After all, when something is too difficult or too easy, it isn’t fun anymore! The over-challenged child may feel as though he cannot keep up, catch up, or otherwise progress at the pace that the other children in class are progressing.  The under-challenged child may feel uninterested, disinterested, or just plain bored.  You can determine this if your child would rather play with friends than go to class or fights you on practicing when they used to find it exciting to do so. Whatever it is, there is clearly a clash between the child’s learning level and the curriculum they’re learning at this time.  These children will surely start looking for other ways, whether it is in football, hockey, dance or marching band, to fill their time and hold their interest– sometimes, they just keep moving from activity to activity looking for something to hold their interest.  It’s important that we delve into this issue with our child because it’s easy enough to move our children to a different class, get them extra help, or have them take some extra classes to address this issue.

The second major reason for quitting is the case of the value-based clash. If you, as a parent, don’t value what the child is learning at their current activity,  the child will often sense it and want to quit.  For example, if you regard their current activity, like martial arts or gymnastics,  as “just another stop on the way between football and piano,” the child will too.  After all, a child will want to quit something if it has little or no perceived value to the parent.  Children tend to take their cues from their parents—so when Mom and Dad don’t care, neither will they.  As parents, we need to make sure to check our own attitude when determining why our children might be quitting.  If we can adjust our own behavior and attitude, our children will too.

The third major reason for quitting is the often elusive personal-based clash. When children or parents feel uncomfortable at an activity, uncomfortable around a coach or teacher, uncomfortable around another child or another parent who is there at the same time, or undervalued by staff, they will likely want to quit.  Perhaps there has been a misunderstanding or a miscommunication.  Boundaries may have been breached or buttons may have been pushed in some way.  Perhaps the most common personal clash is when the child perceives that the teacher or coach doesn’t “like him” or “care about him”.  It’s vital to find out if something happened between your child and another person in the class so that the issue can be addressed and any misunderstandings can be cleared up.

The fourth major reason for quitting is the instance of the situational-based clash. While the above reasons have a negative undertone causing a “falling away” or a “falling out,” situational clashes are due to an actual lack of money, resources, or ability to continue.  When families do not have the money to pay for lessons, the car to get their children to your class, or the person to bring the child to your school, they will likely need to quit.  There may have been a divorce or a death, a new job opportunity, and illness or a lay-off that caused this situation to arise. Schools and sports facilities are often very sorry to see these students leave, given that they would stay if they could.

Finally, the fifth major reason children might quit is…because they can! We want to make sure that children aren’t creating a pattern of quitting that is being supported by their parents.  Sometimes, we are just too overprotective or too easily swayed by our children’s attempts to get out of fulfilling their promises. While it is easier to have children quit something that making them stick it out til the end, children learn their patterns early.  If they see that they can quit without consequence, they will learn this as a fact and quit whatever feels uncomfortable, challenging, frustrating or boring to them as they develop and become teens and adults.  It may not seem like a big deal when they are 8 years old but it certainly becomes so when they become 18 or 28 years old! Set positive patterns now so that they learn commitment and the benefits of seeing goals and promises through to the end.

Make sure to ask questions rather than lecture.  Why do they want to quit?  Did anything happen in class? Are they bored? Overwhelmed? How do they feel about their friends in class? Their teachers? Is the curriculum too hard? Too easy?  And also, remember, to watch what you say and you do.  If you are quitting your activities, or someone else of influence in your home or family is doing so, children will learn volumes about the loop holes in commitment.  Take your cues from your child’s Powerful Words instructors this month and expand on what they are talking about in class with your children. Discuss it at the dinner table and in the car.  Tell stories about your own triumphs and how you stuck with something even when it was difficult. Talk about the importance of seeing the end and setting goals. And of course, set the precedent that your family always finishes what they start– everyone should have that “no quit, go-for-it attitude!” that helps each member to lead with commitment– and your children will surely learn to follow suit.

Dr. Robyn Silverman signs

Getting children to redefine what their best is…everyday

Dr. Robyn SIlverman as a young teenager

Do you see “vision” in the eyes of your child?

Dr. Robyn Silverman for Powerful Words

Some might say that the difference between a successful child and an unsuccessful child is brains.  Others might say talent. Still others, might realize that it may just be the vision and belief that one can set goals, go after those goals, and succeed in achieving those goals.

When I was about 8-12 years old, I was convinced that I was stupid.  My brothers had been in all the advanced classes- I hadn’t. My brothers got high marks on all their tests—I didn’t.  My brothers were among those kids invited to their teacher’s home for a special celebration of “smartness” and I…played with the Barbie dream home.

It wasn’t like I was failing anything—I was pretty much just average. But boy—it was convenient to believe otherwise. “I’m not as smart as my brothers” and “I’m stupid” became my mantra.  It was my answer to all things challenging at school—all bad grades, the reason I was more of a follower than a leader among my friends, my fallback mantra anytime I got stuck in a pickle–  it provided my perfect excuse for mediocrity.

What’s funny about the repetition of a mantra is that not only do you begin to believe what you are saying—but so do others around you. My family just knew that they needed to help me out quite a bit since I could hardly do things myself.  My mother barely would say anything about the Cs on my report card because they were clearly the best I could do. My father admitted later on in life that he began to thank God that I was cute since I didn’t get blessed with the brains in the family. It’s not their fault.  I was VERY convincing.

So, when I entered 8th grade, I didn’t expect anything different than my typical average performance. Nobody did. But in meeting Mr. Hendrickson, who asked us all to call him “Hendi” since he was only 24 years old at the time, I had met my match.  Still young enough to know what a cop out looked like and old enough to know the difference between poor self esteem and actual stupidity, he called me into his office.

“What do you need in order to ace this next math test?”

“I can’t ace any test.  I’m a horrible test taker and I stink at math.”

“But what if you could?”

“Could what?”

“Ace the test. What would you need to do it?”

“Someone else’s brain?”

(The parent/teacher look.  You know the one.  You probably give it to your children when they make such remarks.)

“OK. I guess I would need a lot of extra help (but I couldn’t resist)…but a brain transplant couldn’t hurt.”

“Fine. My door is open to you everyday during free periods and after school. As for the brain transplant, you don’t need it.  But you need a thought transplant. You need a new definition of what your best is.”

“I try my best.”

“No, you try what you once believed was your best. You need a new definition. Your current definition is yesterday’s news. What do you want now? What can you do now? I don’t think you know what you are capable of.”

“Not much.”

“You’re doing it again. I’m not buying it. I want you to wipe clean the slate and see what’s possible now.  You’re going to ace this test.”

“If you say so.”

No , I want you to say so.”

“I’m not there yet.”

“Get there.”

“I’ll try.”

You see, I was basing my performance level, my attitude, and my belief in myself on who I believed I was—the stupid one—not on who I could be. Once this belief was exposed, I needed to either prove him wrong or prove him right.

So for the next 2 weeks I came in every day for extra help.  An opportunity had opened up—not that it wasn’t always there but I hadn’t been willing to take it.  After all, why bother when the results were bound to be the same?  Perhaps even with extra help, I wasn’t going to be able to do it.  But in the back of my head, a tiny voice asked meekly, but what if you could?

The day of the test came. I took it and didn’t feel half bad about it. Not that that would make a difference—since the results were bound to be the same.  But what if they weren’t?

It was later on in the day that I bumped into Hendi.  He stopped me in the hallway and said; “You did it.”

Not believing my ears I asked, “I did what?”

“You aced the test.”

Doubting these different results I questioned, “are you sure?”

To which he joked, “I’m not checking it again.  See… you can do it.  And now we all know.  We all have a new definition of what your best is. So, now you’re really in for it!”

It’s a day that changed more than just my definition of my best. It told me what was possible. It changed my vision of the future and redefined what I was capable of NOW rather than going by what I thought I was capable of then.  It infused me with confidence and the ability to push myself and to redefine what my best is every day.

Children must have the ability to dream if you want to see them rise to their potential . They must believe in what’s possible even if it hasn’t been done before.  They must be willing to challenge themselves and others. And yes, they must redefine what is “their best” everyday and refuse to live by yesterday’s definition of one’s best.

As parents and teachers,we must give children the permission to succeed—dropping who they might have been and building on who they can be. Sometimes we all get stuck in believing their performance sabotaging mantras. It’s time to stop allowing it to happen.

So, how are you inspiring your children to redefine their definition of their best?  Looking forward to hearing from you.

Dr. Robyn Silverman signs

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Questions to Ask Your Children about Trust

Family around dinner tableDr. Robyn Silverman

Some parents have asked me for some great conversations they can have at their dinner tables about the Powerful Wordtrust.  It’s a great idea to set aside time to talk about values and listen to what your children have to say.  You can even put some questions on cards and put them in the middle of the table, have each person pick a card, read it, and answer.  Or simply take turns answering the question around the table.

You can take the same principal and do “sentence stems.” This is when you start a sentence and have someone else finish it.  It reveals how your family members think is a fun way.

Here are some examples of “Powerful conversation starters” and “Sentence stems” you can use to talk about trust and honesty.

  1. Is it ever alright to lie? Can you think of a time when you might have to lie? What would the rest of the family think about that?
  2. Is it ever alright to steal? Can you think of a time when you might have to steal? What would the rest of the family think about that?
  3. Who are the people, other than those in your family, who you trust the most? What makes you trust them?
  4. When was the last time that you showed someone that you are a trustworthy person?
  5. If someone breaks trust once, do you think he’ll do it again? Why or why not?
  6. When I make a promise…
  7. When someone tells me a secret…
  8. When someone trusts me I feel…

I’m sure you can think of your own Powerful Conversation Starters and Powerful Sentence Stems that you can bring to your dinner table. Sometimes you might find that you’ll go through many– other times you might find that an involved and interesting conversation comes from one little question.

Try it– and let us know the results!

Dr. Robyn Silverman signs

Children's Books on Trust

trust_bookDr. Robyn Silverman

I’ve recently been asked about ways to bring up the Powerful Word, Trust, in your family.  One way to do that is through Children’s Literature.  With so many books to choose from– and books for all ages, reading is a great way to get kids thinking. Not everything is about computers, right? Ask your librarian to help you choose books that echo the themes you’re learning in your Powerful Words Member School.

Here are just a few children’s books that use trust as a central theme:

Books on Trust

The Berenstain Bears and the Truth, written and illustrated by Stan and Jan Berenstain
This book from the popular Berenstain Bear series teaches your children about the importance of telling the truth. When Brother and Sister Bear accidentally break Mama’s favorite lamp, a little lie grows bigger and bigger until Papa Bear helps them find the words that set everything right again.

The Boy who Cried Wolf, Fable

“A liar will not be believed, even when telling the truth.” There was a Shepherd Boy who tended his sheep at the foot of a mountain near a dark forest. He thought it would be funny to play a trick on the villagers. He rushed down towards the village calling out “Wolf, Wolf,” and the villagers came out to meet him. This pleased the boy so much that a few days after he tried the same trick, and again the villagers came to his help. Shortly after this a Wolf actually did come out from the forest. The boy cried out “Wolf, Wolf,” still louder than before. But this time the villagers, who had been fooled twice before, thought the boy was again lying, and nobody came to his aid.

The Butter Battle Book, by Dr. Seuss. NY: Random House, 1984.
This story presents a ridiculous example of prejudice against people who do things differently. It looks at pride in one’s own beliefs and examines trust, respect and responsibility.

Falling Up – Poems and Drawings, by Shel Silverstein. NY: HarperCollins Publishers, 1996.
This collection of poems includes several that focus on trust, respect, responsibility, caring, fairness and citizenship.

George and Martha Rise and Shine, by James Marshall. Boston, MA: Houghton Mifflin Company, 1976.
This is comprised of Five short stories teach about lying, helping people, joining in, comforting and trusting.

A Light in the Attic – Poems and Drawings, by Shel Silverstein. NY: HarperCollins Publishers, 1981.
This collection of poems includes several that focus on trust, respect, responsibility, caring, fairness and citizenship.

The Lion and the Mouse- Aesop’s Fable

This fable features the story of a lion who was awakened from sleep by a Mouse running over his face. Rising up angrily, he caught him and was about to kill him, when the Mouse piteously entreated, saying: “If you would only spare my life, I would be sure to repay your kindness.” The Lion laughed and let him go. It happened shortly after this that the Lion was caught in some ropes by the hands of some hunters. The Mouse, recognizing his roar, came gnawed the rope with his teeth, and set him free. The story shows that even someone weaker and smaller can uphold their promises and be trustworthy.

The Real Thief by W. Steig, Farrar, Straus, and Giroux

Gawain the goose is really devoted to King Basil the bear and so he takes his job as Chief Guard of the Royal Treasury seriously. When rubies, then gold ducats, and finally the world-famous Kalikak diamond vanish from the treasure house, there is no way to account for the disappearances. Only Gawain and the King have keys! Gawain is falsely accused of stealing the precious commodities until the real thief steps forward with a guilty conscience.

Trust Me, Mom! by Angela McAllister

Today is the day that Ollie will finally be allowed to go to the store all by himself. He can barely contain his excitement, and Collins’s exuberant illustrations show him leaping down the stairs. His mother’s instructions are also very comically rendered, as she dons fake glasses and a mustache when warning him not to talk to anyone. He is quite confident and reassures her with the title phrase, Trust me, Mom. But he doesn’t venture far before he encounters a monster, something his mother didn’t caution him about. After scaring the creature away with a loud roar, Oliver resourcefully deals with a ghost, a witch, a bear, and two aliens before successfully completing his errand. The text has appealing turns of phrase, as when the ghost fades away like a sad puff of breath after Oliver tells it that he doesn’t believe in it.

The Wild Kid by Harry Mazer (1998) Gr. 4-6.

Sammy, a 12-year-old with Down syndrome, doesn’t intend to run away. But he ends up lost in a forest preserve, eventually falling over the hideout of Kevin, a reform-school escapee who has been living in the preserve for months or, perhaps, years. Not willing to have his cover blown, Kevin doesn’t know what to do about Sammy. As the two share fragments of their life stories, Kevin shows Sammy the ropes, and both find their mutual distrust fading. Ignoring Kevin’s scorn, Sammy decides that Kevin should come live with him and be his brother. The 13-day adventure is seen entirely from Sammy’s point of view, and Mazer captures his world, his feelings, and his reactions with convincing surety. Readers will be equally drawn by Kevin’s internal struggle between loneliness and fear of discovery, though he remains a less well defined character. In the end, Kevin makes an anonymous call to police, then fades back into the forest, leaving Sammy with a story that no one really believes, plus the poignant expectation that his “brother” will come soon. Kevin’s sudden disappearance makes a stimulating loose end that may, paradoxically, strengthen readers’ responses to this survival-story-with-a-difference.

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