President’s Corner

Maricela Arias-Cantu, Daniel Jackson, Representative Raja Krishnamoorthi, Matthew John Rodriguez, Lisa Garbaty, Vanessa Richardson, and Deb Strauss

We were blessed to meet with quite a few Representatives in the House and both of our Illinois Senator’s offices.

Everyone we met with was SO passionate about kids and families. They were very informative as well as reinforcing that they NEED PTA’s voice to be loud, front, and center, as it has been these 120 years.

HB 899 at the federal level is written to get rid of the Federal Department of Education as of Dec 31, 2018.

HB 610 is written to get rid of the school breakfast and lunch programs, the nutrition requirements (despite Illinois’s 30.6% obesity rate in our kids entering Kindergarten), vouchers, and more.

There are at least 3 bills scaling back on teacher preparation rules. Making it easier for non licensed or appropriately trained teachers to be in charge of our children’s education.

The devastating cuts to Medicaid would lose funding for our school nurses, our aids helping our most vulnerable special needs students, and much more that we do not realize is affected.

Lakeisha Steele, Matthew John Rodriguez, Lisa Garbaty, Deb Strauss, Maricela Arias-Cantu, and Vanessa Richardson

At the state level we are also watching many dangerous bills but one example is HB 443 the voucher bill. (Committee hearing is March 29th at 10am in Springfield) Making it so that the Illinois School Board of Education provide vouchers to fund private and non public schools. Taking away dollars away from already very grossly underfunded public schools. (Note: Families that spend more than $250 a year on non public schools are able to have that expenditure as a tax deduction) in addition to that they are asking to acquire these additional funds from ISBE. What tax incentives do families with public school students get? Right now the bill has 255 opponents and 3 proponents. This is how we can fight. Our voices count!!

I can go on and on but the bottom line is we are under attack and our children and families at the end of the day have everything to lose and nothing to gain.

With our 115th year anniversary underway, I want to tell you we are fighting as fiercely as ever! Sometimes the right thing is not the popular thing but our children and families deserve to be defended and be provided with the best possible future they can have. Our entire team is dedicated to you. You may ask why does your membership matter? The answer is because we all need a champion in our corner to fight when we are down and we all need people around us to fight the good fight even when we are up. Your membership matter because it’s your voice in all these crucial matters that we carry with us at every meeting across the state and country. That’s why it matters. United together we provide a stronger impact. Your voice matters, EVERY voice matters. EVERY CHILD ONE VOICE!!!

Don’t forget to come to our annual convention April 7, 8 at the Hilton in Lisle. Our guest speaker will be The Illinois Secretary of Education, Beth Purvis.

Here to serve,

Matthew John Rodriguez
Illinois PTA President

Parenting Film Festival

Parenting is tough. We do our best to raise our kids and hope we don’t leave them with years of therapy. TED is a non-profit devoted to spreading ideas, usually in conferences of short talks (generally 18 minutes or less). Those talks are shared through video online. Here is a parenting film festival from selected TED Talks.

Let’s Talk Parenting Taboos

Rufus Griscom and Alisa Volkman are the founders of and the parents of three boys. When they found that the picture of parenting in magazines and books was so different from their actual experience. In this humorous talk, they share four parenting facts that parents never admit to and why they should.

How to Raise Successful Kids—Without Over-Parenting

Julie Lythcott-Haims, a speaker at last year’s National PTA convention and the former Dean of Freshmen at Stanford University, shares how her experiences with freshmen students caused her to rethink how she (and we) raise our children through high expectations and micromanaging. She explains with humor and passion how we can stop measuring our children’s success by their grades and achievements and take a better path.

5 Dangerous Things You Should Let Your Kids Do

Gever Tully, founder of the Tinkering School, shares five dangerous things you should let your kids do and why a little danger is good for both you and your kids.

Love, No Matter What

Andrew Solomon, author of Far from the Tree: Parents, Children, and the Search for Identity, shares some of what he learned from researching that book on how families deal with exceptional children—whether they be a prodigy, differently abled, or a criminal. When your child is distinctly different from you in a fundamental way, what is the line between unconditional love and unconditional acceptance?

Agile Programming—For Your Family

Bruce Feiler, author of The Secrets of Happy Families, shares an approach he discovered in researching his book that draws from the world of software development—agile development. Applying those principles to their family—with ideas flowing from the bottom-up, feedback and accountability are constant, and adaptability is encouraged—Mr. Feiler discovered a wonderful change in his family dynamics. Among the more surprising parts that worked is that kids pick their own punishments.


To Raise Brave Girls, Encourage Adventure

Caroline Paul, firefighter and author of The Gutsy Girl: Escapades for Your Life of Epic Adventure, tells how her experience as a female firefighter taught her about how we often inhibit bravery and encourage fear in raising girls and how to change that.

How Movies Teach Manhood

Colin Stokes shares his son’s and daughter’s different experiences with The Wizard of Oz and Star Wars, and how that got him thinking about what messages movies are teaching our boys about being a man.

Teach Girls Bravery, Not Perfection

Reshma Saujani, the founder of Girls Who Code, says we’re raising boys to be brave and girls to be perfect. She shares why it is important for young women to be comfortable with imperfection.

It’s Time for “The Talk”

Comedian Julia Sweeny shares a funny story of the unexpected “talk” she had with her 8-year-old daughter that started with a question about frog reproduction.


4 Ways to Stop Siblings from Fighting

Sibling conflict has happened for as long as there have been siblings. With spring break happening for many families across Illinois, the opportunities for siblings to get on each other’s nerves abound. For those times when you feel more like a referee than a parent, iMom has four suggestions to stop siblings from fighting.

  1. Create physical space. The best approach for immediate results from the physical fighting and or the dreaded “She’s looking at me!” complaint. Just like sending boxers to opposite corners, separating your fighters gives you some time to sort out what set things off and how to put an end to the conflict.
  1. Teach them how to compromise. Compromise is something we all need to learn, and still often struggle with as adults (e.g., our politicians in both Springfield and Washington, D.C.). It’s easy for someone to know what they want, but much harder, especially for children, to understand what someone else wants. Help your children see the conflict from the other’s point of view and how both of them giving up some of what they want to the other makes life run smoother for everyone.
  1. Emphasize turn-taking. Waiting for your turn to do something is a critical skill for a child to develop, and when a conflict arises, taking turns can be a solution. Put the kitchen timer to use if necessary to help keep track of how long each turn lasts. If the conflict is over a video game (“But, Mom, I can’t stop right now!”), consider allowing a five minute grace period enforced by the timer to wrap things up. Just don’t let it become a snooze button that’s hit over and over. If taking turns continues to be a struggle for your children, consider playing some board games together as a family to help reinforce the idea.
  1. Learn to live with “No Fair.” Kids have very sensitive injustice detectors, and part of growing up is learning that sometimes life is just not fair. These are the times to sit down with our child, let them vent, and empathize with their plight. Let them know how hard it is to accept something that seems unfair to them. Consider sharing one of your experiences when you were upset at life being unfair, and how you moved past your disappointment. Let them know that they are not alone in the way that they are feeling.

Be sure to check out the iMom article to see how one family implements these four ideas.

New Research on Kids and Reading

Reading is the key to learning, as reading is a part of every subject. Here’s the latest research on kids and reading.

Children Read Paper Books More

In a study of Australian children in 4th and 6th grade looked at their reading habits and access to devices with reading capability (e.g., Kindles, iPads, and mobile phones). While many tend to think of younger people as being “digital natives” who prefer to read on screens, the study found that students tended not to use devices for recreational book reading even when they were daily book readers. In addition, the more access children were given to devices, the less they read. The reasons behind these effects are due in part to the greater opportunity to be distracted on a device, with the immediate rewards of playing a game easily outweighing the long-term benefits of reading even among regular readers.

Scholastic Kids & Family Reading Report

Every two years, Scholastic releases the Kids & Family Reading Report, a survey of a nationally representative sample of parents of children ages 0 to 5, parents of children ages 6 to 17, and one child age 6 to 17 from the same household as a parent surveyed. The survey focuses on five areas:

  • What kids and parents want in children’s books
  • Reading books for fun
  • Reading aloud
  • Summer reading
  • Favorite children’s books

Among the key findings of the survey are that access to books in the home is strongly correlated both with reading frequency and with household income, with frequent readers (reading for fun 5 to 7 days per week) having more than twice as many books at home as infrequent readers (reading for fun less than 1 day per week). In addition, 65% of children agree with the statement, “I’ll always want to read books printed on paper even though there are eBooks available.”

Children’s favorite books tend to be those that they have picked out themselves, and those are also the books that they are most likely to finish. While 29% of parents say that their kids need help finding books to read for fun, children report struggling to find books they like at a much higher rate. 41% say they have trouble finding books, and that percentage is higher for infrequent readers (57%), boys (45%), and older children (44% for ages 12 to 14 and 45% for ages 15 to 17).

More parents report reading aloud to their child between the ages of 0 and 5 and doing so more frequently than in the 2014 report. Reading aloud together is enjoyed by both parents (82%) and kids (87%) ages 6 to 11. Yet the frequency of reading aloud drops dramatically from 59% of families with kids aged 0 to 5 to 38% of families with kids ages 6 to 8 to 17% of families with kids ages 9 to 11.

Both parents and kids agree that summer reading is important, with kids enjoying summer reading as a fun way to pass the time or just because they enjoy reading. Regarding the “summer slide” of children slipping back from what they learned in school over the summer months, only 48% of parents were aware of it. Low income families were less likely to be aware of the summer slide. Parents who were aware of the summer slide said that teachers and schools were their number one source of information on it.

Among the favorite books listed by kids and parents were classics like Dr. Seuss’s works and The Chronicles of Narnia. However, newer series were also quite popular, including the Magic Tree House series, the Harry Potter series, and the Diary of a Wimpy Kid series.

What Kids Are Reading Report

Renaissance®, the maker of the Accelerated Reader 360® platform, uses information compiled from the data it collects to identify trends in student reading. Among the key findings of the 2017 report:

  • Girls continue to lead boys by 23% in total words read.
  • Increasing reading to 30 minutes per day from kindergarten through high school can mean exposure to 8 million more words compared to students who only read 15 minutes per day.
  • Struggling students who increase their daily reading practice with high comprehension and significant vocabulary exposure can surge ahead of their peers who don’t increase their reading.
  • While To Kill a Mockingbird and Dr. Seuss continue to be popular, the Diary of a Wimpy Kid has become popular with kids in grades 4 through 8, while The Hunger Games series continues to be popular among high school students.

Photo © 2010 courtesy of woodleywonderworks under Creative Commons license.