Blogs: Parents

Stella Brings the FamilyWhen my kids were younger, I was always on the lookout for children’s books that stood up against stereotypes of all kinds. In King and King, a prince falls in love with another prince, not a princess. In bell hooks' Happy to Be Nappy, a little girl celebrates the beauty of her natural African-American hair. My Princess Boy tells the story of a little boy who loves to dress in pink, sparkly clothes. These titles are all classics of the anti-bias genre, and they still deserve to be read.

New ShoesBut a couple of weeks ago, a library patron asked me to suggest some anti-bias books that have been published more recently, and I discovered some real gems that I wish had existed when my kids were still the right age for picture books. It might not be too late for your kids, though, so check out this list! And let me know if you have more titles that should be included on it.

When it seems like the rain is never going to stop, don’t despair! Whether your tastes run more towards Portland puppets or Troutdale trains, Multnomah County has no shortage of fascinating and quirky museums that won’t cost you anything. (Check the links for updated hours and contact information.)

Whimsy. Revisit the toys of your (or your grandparents') childhood at Kidd's Toy Museum. And if your pipsqueaks are pleading to ponder a plethora of puppets, perhaps Ping Pong's Pint Size Puppet Museum is your pleasure.

Safety. Witness the evolution of fire fighting at the Historic Belmont Firehouse. You also might find the Portland Police Museum rather arresting.

History. We love that the Gresham Historical Society museum is housed in an original Carnegie library! Not to be outdone, the Troutdale Historical Society has three museums: The Barn Exhibit Hall, The Harlow House, and The Rail Depot. And don’t forget, the expansive and amazing Oregon Historical Society is free to all Multnomah County residents; just be sure to bring a proof of residency that includes photo identification.

Miscellany. Check up on medical history with the fascinating exhibits in the Main Library of Oregon Health & Science University or the Dr. Ernest E. Starr Memorial Museum of Dental Anomalies in the OHSU School of Dentistry. If you're interested in "the art and industry of the cast letterform," then the Museum of Metal Typography is definitely your type. Then float on over to the Lincoln Street Kayak and Canoe Museum to learn more about indigenous small watercraft and suck up some cleaning history at the Vacuum Museum at Stark's Vacuums.

Free Museum Day Portland and Portland on the Cheap both have information about when paid admission museums might cut you a break!

P.S. More in the mood for an art gallery ? Check out Rainy Days, Part 1: Free Art.

When it seems like the rain is never (ever) going to stop, don’t despair! Multnomah County has a lot of hidden art to see that will get you out of the house and won’t cost you anything.

The area’s colleges and universities are a treasure trove of free art galleries! Here are links to some all over town:

Government buildings are a great place to see rotating exhibits, usually by local artists. Experience interactive and experimental media installations in the Portland Building Installation Space; visit the art gallery in the Gresham City Council Chamber Foyer; and check out the current exhibition at Central Library’s Collins Gallery.

The Regional Arts & Culture Council has a searchable database of public art around the county. (Tip: Click on Advanced Options to search by Collection and Discipline.)

View work by local photographers at Blue Sky Gallery, originally founded as the Oregon Center for the Photographic Arts.

Learn more about contemporary art in the Portland Institute for Contemporary Art’s Resource Room. It is both an archive and library, housing over 3,500 artist publications, magazines, and audio and video recordings, as well as a video archive of performances and lectures presented by PICA over the span of the organization's history.

But wait, there's more! Check out Rainy Days, Part 2: Free Museums!

From what I hear from my kids about sex education at their schools, kids in the Portland area are getting abbreviated, inadequate information about sex in these classes. Studies show that kids are probably also getting plenty of information from Internet porn. Neither of these options are very good.

I want them to know things that are never talked about in sex ed class-- that sex is supposed to feel good for girls, too. That pornography almost always presents an insanely stylized, but also unimaginative version of sex, and that real sex won’t and shouldn’t look like that. And then, of course, there’s a whole host of conversations to have about our culture’s weird over-sexualization of girls.

Clearly, we need to talk to our kids about sex, even though it is perhaps not their favorite subject for a chat with parents. For those questions they would never ask you, there’s a great sex-positive website called scarleteen you can point them to. And, of course, library books can help, too, so I created this list of really good books for kids of all ages.

I feel like author Catherine Newman has been right there in the trenches of parenting with me for the past twelve years or so. I started reading a parenting column she wrote when she and I were both pregnant with our second children. Later, I enjoyed her book, Waiting for Birdy. She writes funny, thoughtful essays that show up all over the place, and she has her own blog. Her two kids are right about the same ages as mine, and she's got exactly the irreverent but warm sense of humor I most enjoy. She’s a passionate home cook, too, the kind of person who, like me, not only makes her own granola but glories in making it (even though neither of us would ever consider ourselves “granola”).

Catherine NewmanAnd now there's a new book. Catastrophic Happiness is more of a series of appreciations about kids and family life than a story about anything actually happening, although she does have some pointed things to say about how our culture foists its stupid ideas about gender on our children. If you have kids in your house, this book will make you laugh--a lot. It also might make you feel more present, make you stop spacing out long enough to love the life you have with your family.

 

Pimpón - Español
 
Pimpón es un muñeco 
con manos de cartón
se lava la carita
con agua y con jabón.
 
Se desenreda el pelo
con peine de marfil
y aunque se da estirones
no llora ni hace así.
 
Pimpón dame la mano 
con un fuerte apretón
que quiero ser tu amigo
Pimpón, Pimpón, Pimpón.
 
Y cuando la estrellas
comienzan a salir
Pimpón se va a la cama,
Pimpón se va dormir.
 
Pimpón - English
 
Pimpón is very handsome doll
made of cardboard
he will wash his face
with soap and water. 
 
When he combs his hair
with an ivory comb
when he pulls his hair
he will not cry nor go like this.
 
Pimpón give me your hand
give it a good squeeze
because I want to be your friend
Pimpón, Pimpón, Pimpón.
 
When the stars in the sky
start to blink
Pimpón goes to bed
Pimpón goes to sleep.

Victoria Jamieson; photo: Herminio JacomeVictoria Jamieson is the author and illustrator of  books for children, including the Newbery Honor book Roller Girl. Along with writing and illustrating, she teaches children's book illustration at Pacific Northwest College of Art.

A good percentage of my childhood was spent at the library. When my brothers and I were young, my mom helped organize the summer reading program at our local library outside of Philadelphia. I created many a diorama based on books during those summers. A few years later, my mom started working there as a children’s librarian where, much to our chagrin, she seemed to learn all of the gossip in town (“So, I hear you’re dating so-and-so!”)

The most formative books for me as a kid were the Ramona books by Beverly Cleary. I related to her so much -- she seemed like a real kid. I appreciated the fact that her family worried about money, and her dad worried about finding a job. It reassured me to no end to read about kids facing real-life situations. I can’t tell you how many times I read those books. They MAY have been a factor in my deciding to move to Portland.

Other childhood favorites included Anne of Green Gables and all of the Roald Dahl, but especially The BFG.  That book inspired a lifetime of whizpopper jokes. I love re-reading childhood favorites. I teach a continuing education class in writing and illustrating children’s books at Pacific Northwest College of Art, and I always recommend re-reading old favorites. It’s fascinating to read them from an adult perspective, and if you want to write children’s books yourself, it’s a great way to remember what you loved about reading as a child.

Here’s a list of my recent favorites:
The One and Only Ivan by Katherine Applegate
This was the last book that made me cry — like, a deep, body-shaking sob. If you like a body-shaking sob as much as I do, this is the book for you.

Where the Mountain Meets the Moon by Grace Lin
As soon as I read this book, I knew it would be a book I would read to my kids someday. It’s just a book you want to share. Now I just need to wait for my son to be old enough.

The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian by Sherman Alexie
You just have to read it. It’s an amazing book.

Ida B by Katherine Hannigan
This book is both laugh-out-loud funny and cry-out-loud touching. Be careful where you read this one; I was reading it on the subway in New York when I started ugly crying.

A few more:

Inside Out & Back Again by Thanhha Lai

American Born Chinese by Gene Luen Yang

El Deafo by Cece Bell

One Crazy Summer by Rita Willams-Garcia

Get even more reading recommendations hand-picked for you by My Librarian.

“No, I cannot help you build a portal to The Nether to mine soul sand.”

Photo of My Librarian Darcee reading Minecraft for DummiesIt felt like overnight my 7-year-old became totally absorbed in a world full of “Mooshrooms” and “Snow Golem” that I knew nothing about. He had discovered Minecraft.

I think most parents experience some sort of struggle between accepting early exposure to technology as part of this generation’s reality, while worrying that their kids will become so engrossed in it, that it will hinder their ability to develop other skills and interests. It was out of this sort of concern, that I started exploring Minecraft on my own.

On my first venture I added an unintentional water feature in my son’s igloo which turned his carefully crafted home into a flood zone. Oops. I’ve since sharpened my construction skills with the help of Minecraft books from the library and even added the Minecraft Pocket Edition app on my phone so I can play with my son. An awesome side-benefit is that setting limits has actually gotten easier. It’s clear to me now why he needs ample warning  to get back to his shelter and stow his inventory before re-joining the real world. I also understand that when you find an abandoned mineshaft or a desert temple you may need an extra ten minutes to explore, because “that is super rare.”

Check out this list for parents who want to get up to speed on Minecraft basics or you might encourage your kid to put down the pickaxe long enough to enjoy one of these books that share themes with their favorite game.

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