Why Adults Should Read Kids’ Books

Hello, dear Readers of all ages,

Kids, I know you read children’s books. But adults, do you?

Reading does not always have to be a progression to increasing difficulty for adults with a creeping fear that if they pause and glance back, they will lose ground and suddenly “de-mature.” Try pausing sometime. You will survive. And you just might retouch magic.

As a former kid, now grown-up kid, mom, grandmom, retired teacher, and children’s book author, I’ve been reading and rereading children’s books, my preferred genre, all my life. I don’t plan to stop–ever!

Why do I love children’s literature?

It transports me back to simpler times, where I am instantly bombarded with images, tastes, and aromas from my childhood. Like the corn chips and apples I used to eat while curled up with a Nancy Drew mystery book. The smell of dinner my grandmother was cooking in the kitchen. My grandfather’s cigar tobacco. My treks to the library, coming home with an armful of treasured mysteries. I’m back in my childhood house, happily surrounded by loved ones, most of whom are now long gone.

Children’s books are life rafts, inspiring me to beat the tall waves of this world that want to sweep me overboard. They assist me to revisit how I can be the best person I can be. Like sour Mary Lennox, who overcame obstacles that turned her frowns and pouts into smiles and acts of loving kindness in my favorite children’s book The Secret Garden

I encourage you to click HERE to read BBC Culture’s Katherine Rundell‘s fascinating article about the importance of adults continuing to read children’s books and a brief history of the evolution of children’s books. She said it best: “Children’s books say: the world is huge. They say: hope counts for something. They say: bravery will matter, wit will matter, empathy will matter, love will matter.” Refreshing reminders!

So, get a clue, all readers. The poet W.H. Auden wrote, “There are good books which are only for adults, because their comprehension presupposes adult experiences, but there are no good books which are only for children.” No matter your age, I hope you’ll pick up a children’s book soon and often and welcome golden sparks that ignite–or reignite–you. 

Photo by cottonbro on pexels.com

Juneteenth

Hi, Kids and All Readers,

As most of you know, today, June 19, is “Juneteenth”!

Juneteenth became a federal holiday in 2021, so some have the day off. The African-American community has been celebrating Juneteenth for generations.

I hope you celebrate Juneteenth as the United States’ other Independence Day!

So, what is Juneteenth? On June 19, 1865, the last slaves in the United States were finally freed, or emancipated, months after the Thirteenth Amendment passed that “abolished all slavery and involuntary servitude, except as punishment for a crime.”

Why did it take months for some slaves to find out that they had been freed? For the reason for that delay and a history of the Thirteenth Amendment to the U.S. Constitution, including then President Abraham Lincoln’s involvement in the amendment’s creation and passage, and why his Emancipation Proclamation of 1863 did not free all slaves, please click HERE.

It would take three more years, until 1868, for the Fourteenth Amendment to be adopted that “granted citizenship and equal protection under the law to all people born or naturalized in the United States.

Juneteenth has a complicated history! You can read about it in a Time magazine article by clicking HERE.

“For “Celebrating Juneteenth with [Thirteen Valuable] Tools for Support, Understanding, and Solidarity,” that might move us forward to a better humanity, from the Greater Good Science Center, please click HERE.

Kids, here are some watchwords and phrases associated with Juneteenth: Black historyremember; honor; enjoy freedom; sense of community; pride; slavery abolished; cook plenty of greens; barbecue; potato salad; peach cobbler; Southern cuisine; a taste of Harlem; indulge; picnic; jubilee; music; dance. Do you want to add to this list? Please let me know by clicking HERE.

So, get a clue, Readers. What are some ways to celebrate Juneteenth as we also remember its painful history? Food can help! Click HERE for some menus and ideas to keep Jubilee Day going. And books are always appropriate! Click HERE for some Juneteenth books for kids. Click HERE for adults’ books.

Happy Juneteenth! Let freedom ring for all.

(Photo Credit:  Khena22 on pixabay.com)

Chatting About ChatGPT

Hello, Kids, Parents/Caregivers, Teachers, Librarians, and All Readers!

Let’s face it. AI–Artificial Intelligence is here, and it intends to stay! That can be exciting, scary, or both depending on your perspective!

Recently, while researching the ramifications of AI for authors, employees, students, and others, I encountered an aspect of AI called ChatGPT. Have you heard of it? What is it? Do you use it? Do you use it safely and ethically?

For this month’s blog, especially as it pertains to kids, let’s begin with ChatGPT, or Chat Generative Pre-Trained Transformer, which was developed by an AI research company called Open AI:

Basically, ChatGPT gathers large amounts of data from the internet to create responses on demand. ChatGPT is unique because its answers are in conversational format, similar to how people write and speak. Click HERE for a child-friendly explanation of what ChatGPT is.

Here is what I have learned from scratching the surface of this topic. I have also provided some resources:

More technically, “ChatGPT is an AI chatbot technology computer software that interacts with users. It can process our natural human language and provide answers to our questions or generate text about a given topic. People can ask ChatGPT questions in conversational, or natural, language–as if they were chatting with another person. Such programs are called chatbots. ChatGPT can answer complex questions,” among other tasks.

Necessary caveats: “It is important to check the credibility of a source before trusting a chatbot’s information.” My addition: It is important for everyone not to become overly reliant on chatbots!

My initial question was can ChatGPT be a threat to kids? Yes! “Open AI’s ‘Terms of Use’ state that users must be 18 or older; however, it doesn’t ask users to verify their age when creating an account. Younger kids could easily access ChatGPT . . . ” It can be alluring for kids to go beyond the limitations of ChatGPT, i.e., expose themselves to inappropriate content, and/or to make themselves rely on it for producing their assignments (cheating and plagiarism), and lose sight of academic integrity.

And can ChatGPT be useful to kids? Yes! It can help them become proficient in a language, gain valuable information, be a 24/7 tutor, and assist with their schoolwork, i.e., help them become smarter and model how they can improve their work.

Here are some RESOURCES for you on this topic:

What can parents/caregivers do to keep their kids safe with chatbots? Click HERE for “5 Ways Kids Can Use ChatGPT Safely.”

What do parents/caregivers need to know about ChatGPT?  Click HERE for “How Your Kids Can Use ChatGPT Safely, According to a Mom.”

How are some schools responding to students using ChatGPT? Some are banning the use of ChatGPT. “The concern is that students could use it to do their schoolwork for them, from writing papers to solving equations [loss of academic integrity]. They could also be turning in work with inaccurate information. Educators are worried the program could affect students’ learning if they rely on it.” Click HERE to read more on this topic.

What are some overall guidelines for parents/teachers/caregivers/librarians to kids using ChatGPT? Click HERE.

What are the pros and cons of ChatGPT, and where is this technology going? Click HERE.

How can parents talk to their kids about ChatGPT (from Psychology Today)? Click HERE.

Do tools exist for detecting AI-produced text? Yes! Click HERE.

 

So, get a clue, Everyone. Chatbots have their pros and cons. Assistive technology discussions will burgeon. I will continue providing resources for you as I find them and share the pluses and minuses of ChatGPT for authors and others. Stay safe out there!

(Photo Credit:  cottonbro studio on pexels.com)

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

What Moms Need

Hello, Readers,

On the eve of Mother’s Day, I want to say, “Let’s hear it for moms everywhere–those with us and those departed. Traditional moms and untraditional moms.”

I’ve been a mom since 1981. My daughter’s birth was the happiest day of my life. She left home in 1999 to attend college on the U.S. East Coast, found the man of her dreams, married him six years later, and still lives on the opposite side of the country from me. They have blessed me with two adorable grandchildren. Yay!

But I’m still a mom. It’s a mindset. And a heartset. (Self-created word.) Once a mom, always a mom. Moms love, laugh, cry, and worry no matter the years or miles.

Coincidentally, I ran across a helpful article, dated May 10, 2023, entitled What Kind of Support Do Moms Need? written by Maryam Abdullah, Ph.D., the  Parenting Program Director of the Greater Good Science Center at UC Berkeley. She is a developmental psychologist with expertise in parent-child relationships and children’s development of prosocial behaviors.

Some of the topics she discusses are Mom Guilt; Unfair Mom Judging; Society’s Five Primary “Good Mother” Expectations; Parenting in America Today; Four Important, Nourishing Supports for Moms; and, How Moms Can Build Their Support Networks.

So, get a clue, Readers, especially Moms. You are not alone. Moms can help each other build resilience and find support in their important jobs as mothers. I hope you’ll click the link above for helpful tips from Dr. Abdullah as well as to find links to related studies. Happy Mother’s Day! 

 

“The Party in Your Brain”

Hello to all my Readers,

Today, I present a timely guest blog from my fellow Blackbird Writer, Joy Ann Ribar, author of The Deep Lakes Cozy Mysteries series. She entitled her blog, “The Party in Your Brain.” I hope you find the following information as exciting as I do:

Did you know that April 17-23 is World Creativity and Innovation Week, declared by the United Nations? (Of course, creativity extends beyond one week!)

Joy says, “Its aim is to empower creativity from all people in all functions of life to improve our world. That may sound lofty and maybe even cliché to some, but according to the United Nations Conference on Trade and Development, every occupational field in the world is seeking creative minds to move the world forward in the 21st century. In the world we live in, creativity has become an essential skill and tool for a better future.”

Not feeling creative? Maybe you don’t think you are a creative person. Of course you are. As Joy says, “You have creativity. . . . And it is the truth. . . . Both hemispheres of our dynamic brains are connected with nerve pathways that communicate and work together. I call it the party in your brain.

The key to creativity is to cultivate it, like a garden. The soil is already present, it just needs fertilizing.

Joy goes on to say, “World Creativity and Innovation Week celebrates creativity of all sorts and empowers individuals to share their everyday creative ideas and to collaborate with others to find answers to problems. Because creative thinkers are able to see problems as opportunities, most everything has multiple right answers from a creative standpoint.”

Storytelling is one form of creativity, but there are thousands more!

You can check out ways to participate in this celebration and find all listed events at https://wciw.org/

And if you’d like to read Joy’s entire blog to see how important creativity is and some ideas to spark your own brand of creativity, please click HERE.

So, get a clue, Readers. I wholeheartedly agree with Joy’s closing statements: “I steadfastly believe that the stories we tell will always matter. Never doubt that somewhere out there is a reader who needed to read or hear your story for a particular moment in their life. It was your words that mattered, and that is why words have power.”

 

Are You a Synesthete?

Dear Kids and All Readers,

I am a member of Blackbird Writers, a group of mystery, suspense, thriller, and crime fiction authors scattered across the U.S. Our motto is “We flock together to bring mystery and mayhem to the world.”

Each member is tasked about once every five months on a rotating basis with writing a blog that is posted on the group’s website.

Today was my turn.

My topic was “Are You a Synesthete?” That’s someone with synesthesia. Ever heard of it? Are you a synesthete?

Here are some opening paragraphs from my blog:

“Ms. J, what does my name make you taste?”

A fair question, the kind I am always asked by school students when I attend an author visit.

My kid-lit fans know I’m a synesthete. That’s a person with synesthesia. So is Rani Kumar, one of my detective characters. No worries. It’s not a fatal disease. She and I were born as synesthetes. We didn’t know the term until I stumbled across an article about the condition five years ago.  

What exactly is synesthesia?

The word synesthesia derives from two Greek roots: syn = union; aesthesis = sensation: a union of two or more senses. About four percent of the world’s population (roughly 320 million as of 2023) was born with this interesting neurological condition, resulting in unusual cross connections in the brain. Those cause one sense to trigger another, allowing synesthetes to apply two or more senses simultaneously. This “sensory fusion” is considered by many to be a mental ability, not a disability. . . . 

If you would like to read the rest of my blog on synesthesia, please click HERE

So, get a clue, Readers. I think you will find my article enlightening. And maybe revealing!

Want to know what your name makes me taste or smell? You may ask me HERE! I’ll do my best to reply.

Photo Credit:  Thank you, wikimedia.commons