Q and A: Sarah Ball, Chuggington Writer and Director

Over the weekend, the kid and I did all kinds of fun stuff that were NKT-related. Among the fun events on our agenda, we went to a Chuggington screening and storytime at the Scholastic Soho store.


Along with other Chuggington fans, we had the chance to view a fan favorite, “The Chugger Championship” and preview a never-before-seen episode, “Snowstruck Wilson.” The sneak preview of “Snowstruck Wilson” involved a curious trainee straying, after being told to stay close. Having lost my own curious and adventurous kid the other week at a store, “Snowstruck Wilson” hit pretty close to home.

In addition to the screenings, Sarah Ball, Writer/Director of Chuggington, gave a brief introduction before the episodes. After the screening, the kids all enjoyed a little bit of coloring and crafts, which made for a fun afternoon.


As we’ve been reporting, Chuggington has a whole slew of new licensed products coming our way, which includes a series of Scholastic books (reviews are forthcoming.)

It’s always a pleasure to share the latest and greatest about one of our favorite properties, but it’s even cooler to be able to speak to the brains behind such a beloved show. Check out my brief Q&A with Sarah Ball who told us a little bit about the ideas behind the episodes and the new characters, Hoot and Toot.

Check it

Season two of Chuggington debuts on February 14 on the new Disney Jr.  If you’re on Twitter, join me and other Chuggington fans tonight at 9 p.m. as we celebrate the upcoming Season Two premiere. Follow @Chuggington, and #Chuggington.  And of course, my twitter handle is @jenrab.

Finally, let’s give @Chuggington a shout out for the Shorty Awards. Chuggington is currently in 8th place 7th place and needs to get to 6th to get to the finals.   To nominate Chuggington, just tweet why you think the property deserves a Shorty Award. Easy enough!

Celebrating and Giving Thanks to Dr. Martin Luther King

On August 28, 1963, the honorable Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. stood before a crowd of civil rights supporters and admonished racial inequality, discrimination and social injustice.  Dr. King’s 17-minute  “I Have a Dream,” speech is perhaps one of the most recognizable public addresses that spoke volumes, and in turn, gave a movement even more momentum.

Today, we observe the celebration of Dr. King’s life.

Though every word of the speech has inspired generations, as a parent, this line underscores the significance of Dr. King’s plight:

“I have a dream that my four little children will one day live in a nation where they will not be judged by the color of their skin, but by the content of their character.”

As a parent to a multicultural child who is the product of an interracial marriage, I’d like to say,  Thank you, Dr. King, for helping to pave the way, but we’re not all the way ‘there’ yet.

We’ve come a long way, much thanks to Dr. King’s efforts, but there’s still a long road ahead until we achieve his dream.

The day where it’s assumed that I’m not the nanny to my fair-skinned child, the day where I’m not greeted in Spanish by complete strangers who are unsure of my ethnicity and assume I don’t speak English (much less have a degree in it) or the day where our family doesn’t prompt judgmental double-takes while walking together in a crowded suburban mall, the day when crimes aren’t committed as a result of hate and ignorance…that’s when I know our society is getting even closer.

Maybe our kids will have a chance to experience this in their lifetime, but educating about the importance of equality is up to us just as well.

Today isn’t a day where our family will go ice skating to celebrate a “day off.”  Instead, it’s a day where I hope to emphasize to my young child about the beauty of color.

He’s only three, but thanks to YouTube, we started our day by listening to the speech of “I Have a Dream.”  If you or your kids haven’t seen it, then go watch and be inspired.  (My guy insisted that the video’s black and white appearance indicated the beginning of his favorite movie, “Up.”  Hey, I’m trying here.)

But I digress…

If books and dvds are more your speed, here are some suggestions for books and dvds about Dr. King that are worth checking out:

The Story of Martin Luther King Jr., by Johnny Ray Moore, is a board book that gives kids a concise primer on Dr. King’s life that’s easy for small children to understand.

The award-winning Martin’s Big Words: The Life of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. by Doreen Rappaport gives kids a pictorial glimpse of Dr. King’s life.

Part of Scholastic’s Storybook Treasures includes March On! And More Stories About African American History on dvd.  March On! The Day My Brother Martin Changed The World, the title story included on this dvd, is by Dr. Christine King Farris, who recounts her perspective of her brother’s legacy.

*And btw, another inspirational man who shares a January 15th birthday and moves mountains for family?  My dad.  Happy Birthday, dad!

It’s Election Day: Lead by Example

It’s Election Day, and the world around us is abuzz about how important it is to vote in the Midterm Elections.  Politics and elections can be a trivial time for some adults, nevermind explaining the significance of it all to smaller kids.  But, perhaps, the best way to teach kids about the importance of voting and being heard is by leading by example.

Judging by all the activity on Facebook and Foursquare, it sounds like many of you have already done your civic duty.  Hooray!

Looking for a learning resource to engage the kids in the election?  Scholastic has a variety of non-fiction books that overview the voting process.  Skimming over the content, I think Let’s Vote on It! by Janice Behrens is a great primer for preschoolers and younger grade schoolers to learn more about the voting process.


The book introduces terms that are relevant to elections and voting within the classroom.  It also touches up on the topic of how adults vote, which is timely for Election Day.

Regardless of when and how you do it, go vote and lead by example!

Check it

I love the way social networks have created a dialogue for civic participation.  There’s no ignoring this election if you’re on Twitter, Facebook or read any sort of website. If you haven’t already, don’t forget to show off that you voted on Facebook, grab your I Voted Badge on Foursquare (check in at your polling location and shout #Ivoted) or tweet #Ivoted.

Happy 90 Years, Scholastic!

I can still remember those awesome days, sitting in a circle, indian-style at the library, listening to my grade school librarian read a silly story about Amelia Bedelia aloud during story time.  Or, how about those days when the latest Scholastic book club flyers went out?  I can still remember circling every awesome book on every page.  Or what about those awesome book fairs? Or how about collecting every single Babysitter’s Club book and re-reading them five times over.

These days, I practically squeal with excitement when we head to Soho, because that usually means a gratuitous trip to the Scholastic store—a trip that I wholeheartedly enjoy as a lifelong book lover grooming the next generation of book nerds. My boy embraces his Clifford classics.  And hello, a specific Pirate potty training book made life a little easier during these trying months.

Perhaps you have similar memories, or maybe more current ones of how Scholastic has impacted your life?

Today, Scholastic celebrates quite a monumental anniversary.  Ninety years ago, Robbie Robinson created the first issue of a magazine called The Western Pennsylvania Scholastic. Today, Scholastic is now the world’s largest publisher and distributor of children’s books.

Based on the awesome microsite to celebrate this anniversary, Scholastic has had a fabulous 90 years thus far!

If you’re in the NYC area today, be on the lookout for the many ways Scholastic is celebrating their special day.  They’ll be in Times Square, Central Park, outside the American Museum of Natural History, at the Liberty/Ellis Island Ferry Terminal, and  outside Scholastic HQ at 557 Broadway and will even be ringing the closing NASDAQ bell.  A busy day celebrating in NYC will be capped off with the Empire State building glowing a bright red as a nod to Scholastic’s amazing 90 years.

To emphasize their impact on the importance in reading for kids of all ages, Scholastic also announced their latest global campaign, Read Every Day/ Lead a Better Life.  It’s so fitting, isn’t it?  Check it out and be sure to fill out the Reading Bill of Rights to take part.

Congrats, and here’s to 90 more years of awesomeness, Scholastic!



Toe Tapping Goodness: Putumayo Kids Jazz Playground Concert Tour

Jazz will endure just as long people hear it through their feet instead of their brains, said John Philip Sousa, the musician who put marching band on the map.

…if only he could see and hear all the tiny little feet tapping and dancing to the rich, vibrant beats at the Putumayo Kids Jazz Playground Concert last Saturday.


a glimpse of the Putumayo Kids Jazz Playground cd's kid-friendly booklet

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SmartyCard: earn while you learn

The end of the school year for many kids is upon us.  If they’re not already out, then they will be soon!  Ah, the endless days of summer…Some kids go to camp, some go to the beach, some go play outside all day and then, of course, they’ll play video games.  Hours spent playing video games won’t be so bad, especially if SmartyCard is in the equation.


SmartyCard is quite simple: parents pay for the card (smallest increment is $10), kids participate in interactive online games, quizzes and lessons; as they learn, they earn. The rewards rendered are SmartyCard’s virtual currency that can be redeemed at online destinations like, ClubPenguin, WebKinz, Stardoll, or used toward Wii games or iTunes giftcards.  SmartyCard recognizes the importance of refining reading skills during summer break and has partnered with the Scholastic Summer Challenge, a program that encourages kids to read for fun over summer break.  Every Scholastic Summer Challenge participant who reads and logs a minimum of 20 minutes is offered free SmartyCard points.

Call it learning 2.0:  I love the concept of SmartyCard, and how it leverages technology and video games to encourage educational activities targeted specifically toward tweens.  I know plenty of kids who consider reading a reward in itself, so earning cool rewards will be like extra credit!