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National Reading Month: 10 Ways Encourage Your Child to Read More

two children reading a book together on a bed

Today is National Read Across America Day and March is National Reading Month!

Normall, each year, National Read Across America Day  which is celebrated on March 2nd, the birthday of Dr. Seuss, focuses on the author.

This year, however, the organization is expanding their reach. The theme for 2021 is to create and celebrate a nation of diverse readers.

Bellyitch strives to focus on inclusvity in its coverage and in all areas and likewise, this year’s initiative fills me with glee.

I reached back in the archives to share thes 10 reading tips for getting your child to read more, even during difficult times such as the pandemic which is still ongoing this year.

LIbrarian holding a "we're open" sign

1. Visit the library

The library is a magical place for children! Help your child register for her own library card so that she can check out books independently. This independence will allow her to choose the books she’d like to read and help her become responsible for taking care of those treasures. Encourage her to look for books she is interested in, show her where to ask for help if she can’t find something and allow her to make her own choices.

Since the pandemic started, some libraries have reopened with mofified schedules with the requirement for patrons to wear mask and sit farther apart. Many provide masks and hand sanitizers at the entrance and various stations around the library. In lieu of shared headphones in the audio visual areas, there are single use ear buds. Many limit food and beverage and have altered their opening hours, curbside book pick ups and other accommodations for a safer experience.

father reading to child
Photo by Gabby K from Pexels

2. Read to and with your child daily

About 30 minutes of reading per day is what is recommended to encourage healthy reading habits in your child. Start at a young age by reading to your child and then gradually transition to him reading out loud to you.

The reading doesn’t have to be done all at once, but can be broken up into smaller, more manageable slices of time.

3. Role model at home

Children who see the adults around them engaging in reading are more likely to follow your example.

4. Write short notes to your child

Put them in lunch boxes, backpacks or leave them on the counter for your child to read.

You can write about anything; tell her that you love her, leave her a small fact to read or even write down her chores for her!

5. Ask open-ended questions about the story that you are reading

Asking your child open-ended questions will encourage him to think about what is going to happen next in the story and to put together what has already happened. Ask him how he’d have the story end or to predict what he thinks will happen next in the story.

Once you read more of the story, look back on your discussion and compare his thoughts to the actual story line.

6.  Add Context to check vocabulary words

Throughout your life you use context to check the meaning of words you don’t know, so encourage your child to do the same.

It’s an essential life skill.

7. Practice writing skills

Reading and writing go hand in hand because you learn one while you are learning the other!

Have your child practice sounding out words while she is writing, encourage her to create her own story with illustrations and have her write letters to people in your family (and have others write back to her!).

8. Let them pick the books that they read

Giving your child ownership of the books he chooses will mean that he is more involved in the reading process from the beginning.

Encourage him to read the classics as well, but let him pick out what he is interested in reading.

9. Make reading fun

While you are reading together have her act out stories, recreate them or illustrate them how she thinks it should be done!

10. Play reading related games

Choose games that require reading to play together. Games that involve word play (Scrabble or Boggle), games with cards that you read (Fluxx or Pictionary) or games that require you to read spaces (Life or Monopoly) all encourage children to read independently while playing.

It’s important to remain patient and calm during the learning to read process with a young child, help him when he needs help, but stand back and allow him to navigate the words on his own as much as possible.

Eventually the day will come that you are sitting side by side on the sofa, each reading your own books, and all that effort and hard work will pay off.

7 tips for keeping kids warm in freezing cold weather

Here’s a breakdown of the tips from Children’s Health about how to keep babies and kids warm when it’s freezing:

1. Layer up! Dress your baby in multiple layers and don’t forget a hat and socks.

“Parents should keep in mind that infants do not self-regulate their body temperatures well, which puts them more at risk for getting hypothermia,” Hu said. “As a rule of thumb, infants should be in one more layer than what parents are wearing.”

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5 Tips For Coping With Anxiety While Pregnant

pregnant woman cradling her belly and holding her mobile phone

Recent research shows that many women undergo mental stress during pregnancy, likely triggered by the hormonal and other changes in their body during that delicate time they are carrying life.

If you are one of the millions of women who suffer from clinical anxiety, you may be wondering how best to navigate this diagnosis during your pregnancy journey in the most healthy way without jeopardizing the health of your unborn baby.

Dr. Alan Lindemann, an obstetrician and maternal mortality expert collected some of the most common questions asked by his patients over anxiety experienced during pregnancy:

Lindemann, who teaches women and their families how to create the outcomes they want for their own personal health and pregnancy, offered a disclaimer before dispensing the following five Q & A tips: “As with any pregnancy advice you read, I recommend you connect with your personal care providers to help support you through your unique pregnancy experience.”

1. Are many pregnant women bothered by anxiety? 

Anxiety is the most common psychiatric disorder, and women are twice as likely as men to be diagnosed with it. If you historically suffer from anxiety, you are likely to need strategies to deal with it and keep you and your baby happy and healthy during your pregnancy. Onset of new pathologic anxiety during pregnancy is not common, but communicate with your care provider if this is your experience so you can get additional support as needed. (Normal pregnancy related anxiety is common, and doesn’t need any treatment.)

2. Does anxiety carry risks to my pregnancy? 

Anxiety and other stresses in pregnancy are associated with miscarriage, preterm delivery, and delivery complications. If you are suffering from anxiety and become pregnant, it’s important to work with your care provider to create an action plan so you can optimize your pregnancy outcomes.

3. What are some natural (drug-free) ways to deal with anxiety during pregnancy? 

Enlist the help of your partner in creating and maintaining a calm pregnancy environment. You can also tryyoga, meditation, and walking. Be sure to talk to your obstetrician, as well. If s/he doesn’t feel comfortable helping you with your anxiety, ask for a referral to a counselor

4. Is it safe to take anxiety medications while pregnant? 

Taking anxiety medications during pregnancy does carry some risks to your baby (depending on the medication), including cleft lip and “floppy baby syndrome” (i.e., hypothermia, lethargy, poor respiratory effort, and feeding problems). Your infant may also suffer from withdrawal from certain medications. Be sure to consult with your prescribing physician and understand all the risks before making your decision.

5. What if I’m on anxiety medication when I get pregnant? 

Work with your prescribing physician to slowly decrease dosage over a period of about three weeks until you can wean yourself off. While some anxiety medications can be taken during pregnancy, they all cause some risk to your baby, and it is best to go off the medications if possible.

In the end, the decision needs to be weighed from the perspective of where the greatest benefit will be compared to the greatest harm. If not taking your medication could result in self-harm, for example, your physician may recommend you continue taking it in spite of the potential risks to your pregnancy.

Graphic featuring a woman looking down, holding her pregnant belly

Black History Month: 100+ Books for School Aged Kids {And 10 in My Family Bookshelf}

Black History Month

It’s Black History Month and a lot of parents are looking for recommendations on what book to introduce to their family.

I searched the Internet and discovered a few awesome curated lists to share.

I would like you to check out the 55 elementary school level books curated by Life With Tanay because she broke down her list for age appropriateness. {Visit Her Blog}

Today Parent also curated a wonderful collection of 28 books which may overlap with Life With Tanay’s but is still worth the review. {Visit Today Parent}

Add the 15 books curated by Family Education {Visit Family Education}

I equally enjoyed reading through the collection of 10 books put together by Teacher Vision. {Visit Teacher Vision}

The website and blog Hide the Chocolate also assembled a list of 11 books to consider { Visit Hide the Chocolate }

Curiously, the books on these list do not include my own collection that I assembled for my brood of teens still living with me (my 18 year old is off to college).

While the last two books on this list are not part of Black history, per se, they are connected to my family as a Sierra Leonean native and given that a lot of black Americans have ancestral roots in Sierra Leone, I decided to add them here as well.

Shades of Black

By Sandra L. Pinkney

Recommended ages: 5 and up

I am Black / I am Unique / I am the creamy white frost in vanilla ice cream / and the milky smooth brown in a chocolate bar…Using simple poetic language and stunning photographs, Sandra and Myles Pinkney have created a remarkable book of affirmation for African-American children. Photographic portraits and striking descriptions of varied skin tones, hair texture, and eye color convey a strong sense of pride in a unique heritage. A joyous celebration of the rich diversity among African-Americans.

The Harlem Hellfighters

By Max Brooks

Recommended ages: 8 and up

n 1919, the 369th infantry regiment marched home triumphantly from World War I. They had spent more time in combat than any other American unit, never losing a foot of ground to the enemy, or a man to capture, and winning countless decorations. Though they returned as heroes, this African American unit faced tremendous discrimination, even from their own government. The Harlem Hellfighters, as the Germans called them, fought courageously on—and off—the battlefield to make Europe, and America, safe for democracy.  

In THE HARLEM HELLFIGHTERS, bestselling author Max Brooks and acclaimed illustrator Caanan White bring this history to life. From the enlistment lines in Harlem to the training camp at Spartanburg, South Carolina, to the trenches in France, they tell the heroic story of the 369th in an action-packed and powerful tale of honor and heart.

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All American Boys

By Jason Reynolds and Brendan Kiely

Recommended ages: 15 and up

There were witnesses: Quinn Collins—a varsity basketball player and Rashad’s classmate who has been raised by Paul since his own father died in Afghanistan—and a video camera. Soon the beating is all over the news and Paul is getting threatened with accusations of prejudice and racial brutality. Quinn refuses to believe that the man who has basically been his savior could possibly be guilty. But then Rashad is absent. And absent again. And again. And the basketball team—half of whom are Rashad’s best friends—start to take sides. As does the school. And the town. Simmering tensions threaten to explode as Rashad and Quinn are forced to face decisions and consequences they had never considered before.

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Shuri

By Nic Stone

Recommended ages: 9 and up

An original, upper-middle-grade series starring the break-out character from the Black Panther comics and films: T’Challa’s younger sister, Shuri! Crafted by New York Times bestselling author Nic Stone. Shuri is a skilled martial artist, a genius, and a master of science and technology. But, she’s also a teenager. And a princess. This story follows Shuri as she sets out on a quest to save her homeland of Wakanda.

For centuries, the Chieftain of Wakanda (the Black Panther) has gained his powers through the juices of the Heart-Shaped Herb. Much like Vibranium, the Heart-Shaped Herb is essential to the survival and prosperity of Wakanda. But something is wrong. The plants are dying. No matter what the people of Wakanda do, they can’t save them. And their supply is running short. It’s up to Shuri to travel from Wakanda in order to discover what is killing the Herb, and how she can save it, in the first volume of this all-new, original adventure.

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Shuri: Book 2

Rebound

By Kwame Alexander

Recommended ages: 10 and up

From the New York Times bestselling author Kwame Alexander comes Rebound, a dynamic novel in verse and companion to his Newbery Award-winner, The Crossover, illustrated with striking graphic novel panels.

Before Josh and Jordan Bell were streaking up and down the court, their father was learning his own moves. In this prequel to Newbery Medal winner The Crossover, Chuck Bell takes center stage, as readers get a glimpse of his childhood and how he became the jazz music worshiping, basketball star his sons look up to.   

A novel in verse with all the impact and rhythm readers have come to expect from Kwame Alexander, Rebound will go back in time to visit the childhood of Chuck “Da Man” Bell during one pivotal summer when young Charlie is sent to stay with his grandparents where he discovers basketball and learns more about his family’s past.  

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Reach for the Skai: How to Inspire, Empower, and Clapback

By Skai Jackson

Recommended ages: 10 and up

Actress and activist Skai Jackson is a star! Her rise to fame started on the popular Disney Channel shows Bunk’d and Jessie. Her cool sense of style led her to create her own fashion line. And her success has made her a major influencer, with millions of followers on Instagram, who isn’t afraid to stand up for what she believes in.

But being a teen celebrity isn’t always glamorous. For the first time, Skai discusses the negative experiences that sometimes come with living in the spotlight–the insecurities about her appearance, the challenges of separating her real personality from her TV roles, and the bullying she’s faced both personally and professionally. She knows firsthand the struggles tweens and teens face today, and she has found her calling as an antibullying activist, known as the queen of the classy clapback.

Skai is a positive force and a role model for inspiring change and embracing differences in others. Her story will encourage girls and boys alike to believe in themselves and to have the courage to reach for the sky and follow their dreams.

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March

By John Lewis, Andrew Aydin and Nate Powell

Recommended ages: 13 and up

Congressman John Lewis (GA-5) is an American icon, one of the key figures of the civil rights movement. His commitment to justice and nonviolence has taken him from an Alabama sharecropper’s farm to the halls of Congress, from a segregated schoolroom to the 1963 March on Washington, and from receiving beatings from state troopers to receiving the Medal of Freedom from the first African-American president.

Now, to share his remarkable story with new generations, Lewis presents March, a graphic novel trilogy, in collaboration with co-writer Andrew Aydin and New York Times best-selling artist Nate Powell (winner of the Eisner Award and LA Times Book Prize finalist for Swallow Me Whole).

March is a vivid first-hand account of John Lewis’ lifelong struggle for civil and human rights, meditating in the modern age on the distance traveled since the days of Jim Crow and segregation. Rooted in Lewis’ personal story, it also reflects on the highs and lows of the broader civil rights movement.

Book One spans John Lewis’ youth in rural Alabama, his life-changing meeting with Martin Luther King, Jr., the birth of the Nashville Student Movement, and their battle to tear down segregation through nonviolent lunch counter sit-ins, building to a stunning climax on the steps of City Hall.

Many years ago, John Lewis and other student activists drew inspiration from the 1958 comic book “Martin Luther King and the Montgomery Story.” Now, his own comics bring those days to life for a new audience, testifying to a movement whose echoes will be heard for generations.

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And March: Book 2

Sunne’s Gift: How Sunne Overcame Bullying to Reclaim God’s Gift

By Ama Karikari Yawson

Recommended ages: 13 and up

Sunne is a magical being or “magbee”. God imbues Sunne with the power of the sun. Sunne’s straight-haired siblings, Earth, Watre, and Winde have unique powers of their own. When Sunne is teased and bullied by siblings because of Sunne’s natural, kinky, curly, “nappy” and spirally afro-textured hair, Sunne desperately tries to change. Join Sunne as Sunne learns that there is beauty and power in difference. Sunne’s Gift’s message of self-love and bullying prevention, coupled with its sci-fi imagery, make it hit with people of all ages. The book contains Forest Stewardship Council Certified Paper.

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And March: Book 2

20 Icons of Sierra Leone: Who Shaped History

By Akindele Decker  

Recommended ages: 13 and up

Our primary goal for the Sierra Leone Icon series is to increase awareness about people who helped shape the history of Sierra Leone and around the world. We have done our best to balance facts, the emotions and the illustrations to deliver a book that will inspire a wide range of young adults about Sierra Leone.

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And March: Book 2

Adama Loves Akara

By Vickie Remoe

Recommended ages: 9 and up

Jumpstart early reading success with this lovable storybook that celebrates African culture, and father-daughter relationships. Meet Adama and Adamu a Sierra Leonean daughter and father duo who enjoy playing, learning games, and eating their favorite snack. Adama loves Akara is part of an early reader series that celebrates African culture while helping children ages 3-5 learn short letter vowel sounds. Each page has simple short vowel a sounds to help children learn to read with ease and confidence.

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Self Care in Kids: 9 Ways To Combat Anxiety and Depression Daily

Photo by Ketut Subiyanto from Pexels

This past year had been tough on everyone, including our children. 

Whilst kids are young and resilient they are often impacted much more by the “energy” in their environment than adults, says Clinical Psychologist, Health Service Psychologist, a Board Certified Music Therapist and Momprenuer, Dr. Bethany Cook .

“This means they pick up on the non-verbal stress levels around them such as parents fighting, a pandemic raging across the globe, lack of physical contact with friends and extended family, etc,” adding that “given what we know about childhood depression, our current life’s added ‘stressors’ are placing many children at a higher risk of developing depression than ever before.” 

Cook, who authors What it’s Worth – a prospective on How to Thrive and Survive Parenting, shares what signs/symptoms should parents be on the lookout for:

  • Feeling sad, hopeless, or irritable a lot of the time
  • Not wanting to do or enjoy doing fun things
  • Social withdrawal
  • Feeling worthless, useless, or guilty
  • Exhibiting self-injury and self-destructive behavior (such as cutting)
  • Increased sensitivity to rejection
  • Changes in energy – being tired and sluggish or tense and restless a lot of the time
  • Changes in appetite – increased or decreased
  • Changes in sleep – sleeplessness or excessive sleep
  • Vocal outbursts or crying
  • Trouble concentrating
  • Physical complaints (such as stomachaches, headaches) that don’t respond to treatment
  • Reduced ability to function during events and activities at home or in school, in extracurricular activities or other hobbies and interests, or with friends
  • Thoughts of or talking about death or suicide

Since the pandemic started, the suicide rate in children has risen as well as a multitude of mental health problems. 

Calls to DCFS have decreased by 50% in some places NOT because abuse is down but because the kids getting abused are not going to school so mandated reporters aren’t able to see what’s going on in the home.

Self-care practice among children can actualy reduce the risk of developing conditions like anxiety and depression, and better yet, getting them to partake in such habits cand ensure they take these steps into adulthood.

Laguna Beach, California psychotherapist and yoga instructor Ashleigh Louis, Ph.D., LMFT offered four ways children can exercise self-care in these uncertain times:

Photo by Ketut Subiyanto from Pexels
  1. Begin with the basics.  If you help your child take a bath, brush her teeth, eat wholesome foods, prepare her own meals, then you have already started setting the foundation for good self-care. These basic self-care habits can help kids handle whatever life throws at them.

2. Nourish the mind. Encourage your child to take screen breaks and put down their toys and take time for some mindfulness activity like yoga, tai chi, and guided imagery are powerful tools that help build insight, awareness, and perhaps most importantly, tolerance for discomfort.

3. Get Better Zzzz. Sleep deprivation can be the cause of weight fluctuation, and mood swings. Sleep deprivation is a huge contributor of mental health issues for children, especially teenagers.  Even the typical teenager requires 9 hours of sleep each night, and while activities may dictate the need for a slightly later bedtime, ensuring a full night of rest will go a long way in helping teenagers’ mood and academic performance.  With an early bedtime of 7-8pm provides children with more deep sleep and higher levels of concentration the next day.  4.

4. Color Me Mine It has long been established that even for adults, coloring inside a coloring book can be theraupeutic. The activity of staying inside the lines while bringing a black and white template of an image to live is a mindfulness actvity because we stop focusing on the past (which is often associated with depression) and future (a common tendency of the over-anxious) and become present to the here and now, according to a Pschology Today post.

5. Fitness is Key.  While it may be difficult to squeeze fitness through school sports or club because of pandemic restrictions, most communities have started to open up recreation centers, parks and trails. Encourage your child to take time each day walking around the neighborhood or just putting on some fun upbeat music and dancing in their room to their favorite recording artist. That activity is not just good for their fitness level but can actually lift their mood.

6. Schedule In Breaks. Doreen Arcus, an associate professor of psychology at UMass Lowell who specializes in child development, says even young children can benefit from downtime told Parent that “Routines that include quiet time, even if it is a few moments being held in a rocking chair, perhaps being sung to or read to, offer opportunities for centering and connection.”

She added: “Older children and teenagers should be encouraged to take time out of their busy schedules. Take a break in between school and diving into homework, then take a break after each assignment is completed to go outside or get some exercise or even go back to the old rocking chair.”

7. Write It Down According to HealthPsych.com, journaling is an excellent practice to introduce to your child around the age of 6-7, as it provides a private space in which they can write out their thoughts and work through them.

 Expressive writing like journaling helps to manage and reduce stress by allowing your child to map out their emotions and make sense of what they are experiencing. This can help them explore solutions to their life challenges and prioritize certain aspects that are causing them the most stress.

8. Let the Music Play – It is an undisputed fact that music can affect one’s mood. Put on calming classical or other soothing music to pipe in the home and turn up the calming vibes.

Also, as noted by HealthPsych.com, “encouraging your child to practice creating music, whether it be through songwriting or playing an instrument, will help with cognitive development, which can lead to a greater sense of self-awareness.

“Helping your child remain connected with their emotions will make coping with mental health concerns an easier feat.

In general, listening to music can have a tremendously positive impact on your child’s mental health. Music, through its rhythmic appeal, engages your child’s brain, specifically the neocortex, which reduces stress and lowers impulsivity . If your child is struggling with severe anxiety or depressive episodes, play softer or more uplifting music to counter these dips in mood.”

family game night

9. It’s all Fun and Games: Hosting a family game night at least once a week is a great way to get all the children in your home together for fun and competitive play. It is quite easy for everyone to retreat to their corner in the house or apartment and to keep themselves busy alone but break up that solitude and force siblings to play with one another and be on the same team!

I love the way the Parents piece ended with a final quote from Louis:

While teaching your child self-care habits, don’t forget to take care of yourself.

Parents may feel like they’re neglecting the many demands on them when they take time for self-care, but taking time to recharge and re-center can provide reserves of energy for work and family tasks. And setting this example is important as children may learn more from what we do than what we say.”

Even if it’s something small like time for a cup of tea in the evening when mom takes a few minutes in a no-one-bother-me zone, it can be a positive example. 

woman hugging bear

Why Elon Musk Said YouTube and Reddit Educated his Children

elon musk
Elon musk and kids

Elusive Tesla Founder Elon Musk gave an hour and a half interview to podcasters on the audio only app Clubhouse last night and confirmed that YouTube and Reddit educated his children.

In context, the world’s richest man agreed to be interviewed by the founders of the “Good Time” club on Clubhouse and during the conversation, one of the fan interviewers asked him for advice on educating a 5-year old.

To that query, he then responded, “My kids were mostly educated by YouTube and Reddit” 

following up with “generally, with education, you want to make it as interesting and exciting as possible.” 

This morning, I saw a few people try to decode what he meant by that, wanting him to extrapolate and expand on his pronoucement.

Twitter user Jhony Guttierez added his spin which I believe got it right.

“The gist of it being that learning by doing is better than just learning and that a narrative is much better instilling relevancy as you learn,” Gutierrez hypothesized. “I think he’s spot on because we learn best when we’re driven by curiosity.”

He added: “My extrapolation from that comment is that they’re doing their own research based on curiosity, thus better and longer-lasting learning. Also, kids nowadays have access to digital resources we didn’t.”

It is quite true. Without prodding, guidance or cuing them, my children have managed to discover the lyrics to old 90s songs I used to dance to, they have visited other cultures, watched documentaries, found odd webseries that incorporate ethical decisions into common problems and more…all on YouTube.

My now 18-year old used to get into deep philosopical discussions and debates with his Reddit friends and go deep with it. I don’t recall having such intellectual conversations with my friends at the mall and arcade as was the common hang outs when I was a child.

I am always amazed and surprised when I discover that my children are aware of a certain concept, and I ask did they learn it in school and they shake their heads leading me to say in my head, “YouTube!”

So it is quite true that they discover through exploring and engaging and interacting with their peers online.

Musk’s comment is almost the exact opposite of Apple CEO Tim Cook who has said that children should not use social media, stating in 2017 that “it can also be a place where basic rules of decency are suspended and pettiness and negativity thrive.” Similarly, the heads of other Tech Giants at Microsoft, Google and even Steve Jobs have said they too limit their children’s access to technology.

Agreed that social and digital media has its problems with bullying, misinformation, toxic behavior, age inappropriate materials and creeps, but it can be quite the tool for developing sharp and intellectually curious minds.

The SpaceX founder recently welcomed a son with his partner Grimes last May and also has five children with his first wife, Justine Wilson

The two were married from 2000 to 2008, and they utilized IVF to help Wilson’s pregnancies that lead to the birth of twins, Griffin and Xavier, in 2004, and triplets, Saxon, Kai, and Damian, in 2006.  

They lost their first child together, son Nevada Alexander, to Sudden Infant Death Syndrome in 2002 when Nevada was just 10 weeks old.

W.H.O. Warns Pregnant Women Can get COVID-19 Vaccines

A pregnant woman being vaccinated in Tel Aviv. Credit…Jack Guez/Agence France-Presse — Getty Images

The World Health Organization on Friday changed its guidance for pregnant women considering a Covid-19 vaccine, abandoning opposition to immunization for most expectant mothers unless they were at high risk.

The change followed an outcry to the W.H.O.’s previous stance, which stated that the organization did “not recommend the vaccination of pregnant women” with the vaccines made by Pfizer-BioNTech and Moderna.

Several experts had expressed disappointment on Thursday with the W.H.O.’s earlier position. The experts noted that it was inconsistent with guidance on the same issue from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, and would confuse pregnant women looking for clear advice.

The vaccines made by Pfizer-BioNTech and Moderna, while they have not been tested in pregnant women, have not shown any harmful effects in animal studies. And the technology used in the vaccines is generally known to be safe, experts said.

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MLK Day of Service Activities for Kids

Tomorrow is the Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr, MLK Day of Service.

Normally, all around the nation, schools, philanthropic organizations and civic groups have planned service events in honor of the memory of the civil rights icon who gave his life for others.

This pandemic year is a little different. However, there are still last minute and virtual options available.

it’s actually NOT too late to find a service activities organized around the nation to participate in tomorrow or in an ongoing basis, and there is still time for you and the children to do something kind on their own for their neighbors or fellow man.

Here are a 6 other  suggestions besides watching a speech and reflecting on its meaning:

  1. Take garbage bags down to the town creek or some other littered area near your home and clean it up.
  2. Make sandwiches and pack fruit and a snack into about a few dozen brown bags and pass them to homeless people in the closest town or city to you.
  3. Gather old toys and bag them up to donate to Goodwill or a local family shelter.
  4. Call a local home for the elderly and ask if you can there are any virtual outreach opportunities.
  5. Make Homemade colorful Get Well Greetings cards to send to a local children’s hospital/
  6. Make Festive Thank You Cards to send to the local USO to ship off to military serving abroad.

Good luck and Happy MLK Day of Service!

EXPECTANT & NEW MOM GUIDE TO FILING TAXES THIS YEAR

mom in chair

It’s tax filing season and if you are expecting or just had a new baby, there are some expenses related to your journey to parenthood that you may or may not know about.

The fact of the matter is that babies do in fact change your tax situation and here are a few tax tax deductions and credits available to families this year.

Before Baby

Pregnancy Test Kits. Birth Control Pills. Fertility Enhancement. These count as medical expense deductions. For medical expenses to be deductible, you’ll have to itemize your tax deductions, and your medical expenses must exceed 7.5 percent of your adjusted gross income.

Expecting Baby

Nursing moms can include the cost of breast pumps and supplies in their medical expense deductions. Lactation expenses are also deductible as are laboratory fees that may be a part of your medical care.

The New Arrival

The tax deduction that comes with your new arrival can’t match the joy, but this still should make you happy.

Under the new tax law, the child tax credit has doubled to $2,000 per qualifying child. And, unlike a tax deduction, which reduces the amount of your income subject to tax, a tax credit reduces your tax bill dollar for dollar.

Planning for Baby’s Future

The new tax law lets parents save tax-free for their child’s education. Under the law you can use up to $10,000 per child from a 529 plan to pay qualified expenses for elementary and secondary school and home school.

The 529 plans can also be used to pay for college.

Speaking of college, if you want to think that far ahead, two tax credits are available to help with qualified educational expenses. Those credits are the American Opportunity Tax Credit, which provides a credit of up to $2,500 for qualified tuition and expenses for the first four years of college, and the Lifetime Learning Credit, which provides up to $2,000 per return.

I apologize if I’ve gotten too far ahead of you by talking about schooling and college and all those things. I’ll bring it back to the here and now by reminding you that whether your bundle of joy is born on January 1 or December 31 of the year, you can take a full $2,000 child tax credit.

tax saving

And remember, as your child grows, the tax code is bound to change. You’ll want to make sure you get all the tax deductions to which your family is entitled. The best way to do that is to talk with a tax professional. It’s their job to keep up with the tax code. And, because they do their job, you can do yours, enjoying life with your new addition

3 Book Subscription Services For Kids

girl reading
Girl reading
Photo by Jerry Wang on Unsplash

These subscription boxes will tear kids away from the devices and nurture a love of books.

This year, many school children got homeschooled or went to school via distance learning and in between, maybe watched TV, played video games or engaged with mobile devices to distract.

Parents who want to make sure their children develop a love and passion for reading and books during this pandemic and beyonc should consider investing in a monthly subscription service or giving one as a gift to a child in their lives who loves to read or who should read more!

The global pandemic is restricting the ability for a lot of us to get outside this year which is frustrating especially to kids who love the great outdoor.

While a book cannot replace outside activity, it can be a way to exercise the brain.

In fact, book subscription businesses are trending.

Here are three that will deliver titles tailored to your child and his or her interests.

Atlas Book club logo

ATLAS BOOK CLUB

Maryland attorney and mom of three, Bunmi Emenanjo started a book club in 2017 so she could teach her Nigerian American kids about their culture and people from all around the world.

Emenano said she when she would guest read to children as part of the book club back then, she became intrigued and fascinated by how how responsive the kids were and how much they thirst to learn about cultures different from their own.

That curiousity turned into the Atlas Book Club subcription box business in 2019 for culturally curious kids!

The service delivers more than just books each month. Each box comes with souvenirs, postcards and other knick knacks related to whatever country is being featured that month.

subscription box about India from Atlas Book Club

Subscribers get a comprehensive and immersive experience in each box!

Since launching as a business in November 2019, Atlas Book Club has explored 20 countries including South Africa, Guatemala, the Philippines, Nigeria, Haiti, India, Chile and so many more.

Monthly subscriptions are $37.99. A three month goes for $110 and a 6 month about $215, which would make a great gift!

The box, while pricier than the other two in this list, is worth the value for parents, grandparents and caregivers who seek to grow a child who is a world citizen and who is cognizant and aware of the contributions of different people’s to society.

10 Books for Babies

EPIC!

Epic is another parent-founding platfom and is currently the largest digital reading platform. I’ve blogged about this company before which owns a a collection of over 40,000 popular children’s books from over 250 of the top book publishers.

Epic curates collections based on age, topic, and other categories.

Founded by two parents, Epic was born out of a single question: How do we make books more accessible to kids? 

Wanting to make books as accessible as games and other digital content, dads Kevin Donahue and Suren Markosian founded Epic in 2013.

Today, Epic has grown into an award-winning subscription service which gives millions of families and classrooms instant, unlimited access to thousands of books, videos and quizzes from leading publishers to help kids everywhere read, learn and grow.

While it is normaly $9.99 for monthly access, you can get an annual subscription for $4.99 now through December 31st if you pay for the full year in advance!

Epic Book club
10 Chapter Books

While it is normaly $9.99 for monthly access, you can get an annual subscription for $4.99 now through the end of the year 2020.


lily post

Lily Post

A committee of parents carefully curate Lily Post’s monthy subscription boxes. Delivered in a nice box is either a set of 4 hard back books or three picture books.

And with Lily Post’s charitable One Book, One Box donation program, each purchase supports the company’s mission to donate to charities that give the gift of books and literacy to communties and children in need.

Your gift or subscription would have altruistic purposes as well this gift giving season!

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