Giving Tuesday 2021

Dearest friends and family,

I hope this finds you and yours well. For many reasons which I don’t wish to recount here, we have been through some challenging times in 2020 and 2021. As you may recall, despite keeping Story Spark closed during 2020, I maintained and deepened our mission while giving back to the Amarillo community through the Story Spark Christmas Project. With your support and generosity, we were able to provide carefully curated gift sets which included a book and related play and educational items to over 60 children from low-income families in Amarillo.

This year through the generosity of the St. Andrew’s Episcopal School community, we have collected over 120 books to date, but now it’s time to play Santa and purchase all the play and educational items that will transform each book into a more meaningful and hands-on learning experience. My hope is that you will again support this project by giving any amount you can and by spreading the news to friends and contacts who may also be able to give at this time. Thank you for helping me spread peace, love, and books! The children, their families and their teachers are so very grateful.

Visit, donate, and share the GoFundMe Page today: https://gofund.me/fbc45243 or click on the red picture above.

With much love,
Annika

“Reading should not be presented to children as a chore, a duty. It should be offered as a gift.” -Kate DiCamillo, children’s author

“Play gives children a chance to practice what they are learning.” -Mr. Rogers

Books that Celebrate our Darling Dads and Fatherhood

Isn’t June a crazy month, or is it just me? Weren’t we just celebrating our mommas and springtime? Now, BOOM, it’s June and summer!

If your children are school-age, there are a million end of year events. Then suddenly, you’re pulling your hair out trying to keep them busy. And entertained. And fed. You can’t seem to keep the fridge or pantry stocked quickly enough. The sun is up forever, so they are up forever! And, why is there so much more laundry? But, also don’t forget (even though your brain is sizzling), Father’s Day is around the corner! And the father figures in our lives definitely deserve being celebrated too! Continue reading Books that Celebrate our Darling Dads and Fatherhood

Halloween: DIY Room on the Broom and More Fun Ideas!

With two weeks left until Halloween, the last place I want to be is anywhere that sells Halloween costumes. I don’t need to leave the house to hear the sounds of  chaos or multiple children pleading for something they don’t need all at the same time. But don’t get me wrong, I am SUPER excited for Halloween and to share a few more costume ideas that you can make for your whole family, still in time for Halloween!

Continue reading Halloween: DIY Room on the Broom and More Fun Ideas!

5 Keepsake Crafts for the Holidays

There are few things cuter than baby hands or feet. I can’t get enough of the way those little toes curl or the way those little hands clap with glee or  manipulate things around them. Ok, except for the hair grabbing, poking me in the eye, or trying to pull off parts of my body like a nose or nipple… yikes! But seriously, those sweet toes and fingers are the cutest torture devices that exist.

Because they’ll grow way too fast and because messy play is so much fun, why not create some keepsake crafts to decorate with during the holiday season, using those adorable hands and feet!

Continue reading 5 Keepsake Crafts for the Holidays

5 Bilingual Latino Books about Christmas

It’s always magical to see children learning from a young age to appreciate and celebrate their heritage as well as the diverse heritage of others. I’m one of those people who loves the word diverse, y mas en español, diverso, porque todo suena mejor en español. I can’t help but mention here that I recently had a conversation with a man who shuddered as I described my high school alma mater as diverse. He claimed that “diverse” is a word that democrats have stolen and made dirty… don’t get me started on that. So I just want to say it again: (Dear Sir) I LOVE THE WORD “DIVERSE”!

Continue reading 5 Bilingual Latino Books about Christmas

A Toddler’s Lesson on Generosity

“I don’t want to be generous,” he said as we stood in a Target aisle full of toys.

“I know, love. Being generous is hard…”

“It’s TOO hard mommy,” he interjected.

“… but it will make other people SO happy.”

“It will make other people so happy?” he said with puzzled big brown eyes, head tilted to the side.

Continue reading A Toddler’s Lesson on Generosity

5 Books that Teach Generosity

As teachers, sometimes our hands are tied by school or district policies when it comes to exposing our little learners to cultural or religious holidays. I was always glad to be allowed to teach holidays, as long as these were taught in an all-inclusive way that made children aware of the diverse ways and days people celebrate but didn’t promote one over another.

Continue reading 5 Books that Teach Generosity

Be Kind Because You’re Decent: A Rant about Santa and Elves

We have made it to my favorite time of the year: The Christmas and Advent season! I recognize and respect the diversity of holidays and ways people celebrate them, but for me, it’s Christmas and there are a lot of family Christmas traditions that make me all warm and gooey inside.

Continue reading Be Kind Because You’re Decent: A Rant about Santa and Elves

15 Children’s Books that Teach Gratitude

As promised in Teaching Gratitude, here are some recommendations for 15 books that help accomplish just that. I spent some quality time making this list and book descriptions as useful as possible. (I hope you find it SUPER useful!)  In my opinion, recommended target ages are helpful but VERY flexible, and they’ll often differ from source to source. (I cited the range I most agree with.) The books on this list can be used year-round, not solely at Thanksgiving time.

Happy reading and teaching gratitude!

Image result for the giving treeThe Giving Tree by Shel Silverstein (Ages 5-8 per Scholastic)

Honestly, this book is great for all ages, as it can lead to some pretty deep reflection and conversations. I’ve also read it with great success to Pre-K students to celebrate Earth Day and discuss gratitude for and stewardship of our planet and environment.

Check out the 1973 animated short film of The Giving Tree with soothing narration from the author himself. There are some controversial interpretations of this book (which for fun, I encourage you to look into), so pre-read it and be prepared to guide the conversation in the direction that you want. Available in multiple languages, called El arbol generso in Spanish.

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The Thankful Book by Todd Parr (Ages 3-6 per B&N)

A little something for everyone, but mommas will love this one: “I am thankful for walks because they are special times for just you and me.” Aw. Let me go for a walk with my kids now and cry.

Continue reading 15 Children’s Books that Teach Gratitude

Teaching Gratitude

November is here. Along with the holiday music and all the planning we busy ourselves with (who is hosting what and when, coordinating adorable outfits, travel plans, conniving to get people the most perfect gifts, food shopping, gift buying…is your head spinning like a dreidel yet?!?), November causes us to pause and reflect on all we are grateful for. As parents and educators, our thoughts also turn to being intentional with how we model and teach gratitude to our children.

Of course, children won’t learn to be grateful from one day, week, or even month of thanksgiving, but we can use this time to reflect on what we are doing right, what we might do better, and put some of our ideas into action.

Continue reading Teaching Gratitude