By Ashley Vaughan, CNN
(CNN) - Maria D'Angelo is a former private school teacher who has made the shelters of Los Angeles her classroom.
Her goal: to transform the lives of homeless children through academic and social opportunities. Through her nonprofit, the Children's Lifesaving Foundation, D'Angelo believes she can spread hope to a community often overlooked.
"I believe everyone is fundamentally good," she explained. "I don't like to give up on people."
For D'Angelo, the reality of growing up poor is personal. When she was 13, D'Angelo and her siblings immigrated to Staten Island, New York, from Naples, Italy. Her father, an artist and chef, had moved three years earlier to establish a life for his children.
"We moved into a $30-a-month walkup apartment," she said. "None of us spoke English."
To help her parents make ends meet, D'Angelo and her siblings went to work. Her first job was in a bakery after school, which foreshadowed her love of service.
"Each Saturday night, (my boss) would give me all the baked goods and cakes that were left over," she said. "So, I would bring them to the entire neighborhood. ... I was so thrilled."
Despite growing up in poverty, D'Angelo never saw herself as poor. "Being poor is a real state of mind," she said. "We never felt poor; we just lived in a poor environment."
D'Angelo went on to college and became a high school Spanish and Italian teacher. She also served as a tour guide for New York's Rockefeller Center. But it was on a trip to a homeless shelter that D'Angelo was "accidentally" introduced to a future life of nonprofit work.
After moving to Los Angeles in 1990, D'Angelo worked as a volunteer in a shelter and met an 8-year-old boy who couldn't read. She learned that the boy never attended school because his mother never took him for the required physical exam. Without hesitation, she got the mother's permission and took him for the exam. Soon, D'Angelo was taking other kids to the doctor and eventually on field trips.
By Leslie Wade, CNN
(CNN) - For years, pediatricians have recommended that young children watch no TV, or as little as possible, because it can lead to problems in school and behavior issues. Now a new study concedes children are sitting in front of the TV a lot longer. However, controlling what they watch can improve how they behave.
When preschoolers watch educational programs instead of violent TV shows, they tend to be more compassionate and less aggressive, according to a study published Monday in the journal Pediatrics.
About 600 families were recruited and assigned to one of two groups. Parents in the first group were encouraged to substitute violent shows with educational and pro-social ones – shows that stressed compassion and cooperation.
Families were given monthly TV guides listing educational programming for their area: shows such as "Dora the Explorer," "Super WHY," "Sesame Street" and "It's a Big, Big World." Parents were also encouraged to watch TV with their kids.
The children went from watching a half-hour of violent programming a day to 23 minutes. Parents then increased educational viewing from about 30 to 43 minutes a day.
Families in the second group did not change their viewing habits.
"This is the first study to try to modify the viewing habits of preschool kids," says Dr. Vic Strasburger, spokesperson for the American Academy of Pediatrics. "That's one of the significances of this study."
After a year, researchers found that children watching less violent and more child-appropriate shows scored better on tests that measured cooperation, a willingness to share or compromise. They also had fewer incidents of aggressive behavior such as yelling and hitting.
By Jamie Gumbrecht, CNN
(CNN) – The latest round of books you'll be seeing in your kid's backpack and waiting for at the library was announced Monday. That is, the American Library Association named the winners of its annual youth media awards, including its oldest and best-known prizes, the Newbery and Caldecott medals.
The Newbery Medal went to “The One and Only Ivan” by Katherine Applegate. It's a fictional story about Ivan, a real-life gorilla who lived for years in a cage in a circus-themed mall before moving to Zoo Atlanta in 1994.
In its 75th years, the Caldecott Medal went to “This Is Not My Hat," written and illustrated by Jon Klassen. It's the story of a little fish who tries to get away with the hat of a much larger fish. Klassen also illustrated the Caldecott honor book, "Extra Yarn."
"Bomb: The Race to Build - and Steal - the World's Most Dangerous Weapon," by Steve Sheinkin and "Aristotle and Dante Discover the Secrets of the Universe," by Benjamin Alire Sáenz, also received multiple honors from the library association on Monday. Katherine Paterson, author of "Bridge to Terabithia" and "Jacob Have I Loved," received the Laura Ingalls Wilder Award for "substantial and lasting" contributions to children's literature. Tamora Pierce, author of "The Song of the Lioness," won the Margaret A. Edwards Award for lifetime achievement in writing for young adults.
The award announcements lit up Twitter as teachers and librarians streamed the awards announcement live, and classes watched to see how their mock Caldecott and Newbery votes held up.
The awards are big business, too, meaning prominent placement for winners on bookstore and library displays.
“Receiving a Caldecott Medal practically guarantees that the winning title will remain in print and on library and bookstore shelves for decades to come,” the library association posted on its website.
Here’s a list of winners:
By Rose Arce, CNN
(CNN) - The very last New York school closed because of damage from Superstorm Sandy re-opened Friday, marking the end of a period that displaced 73,000 students.
The 1,100 students of Scholars' Academy walked into the building wearing blue T-shirts that said “Scholars' Strong” on the front and “Rockaway Resilient” on the back. The Rockaway Peninsula school is surrounded by water from the ocean and bay and located near a sewage treatment plant. Water from all three met on October 29 as the storm engulfed the school's first floor, leaving it unusable.
Many students suffered significant damage to their homes and continue to live in temporary housing. Even the school's principal, Brian O’Connell, lives in a hotel provided by FEMA.
“The way you get through this is to look at the positives of it,” O'Connell said. “You can say, 'Isn’t this an adventure to look at the opportunity to be with my family in one room spending time together…we gained a deeper closeness.'
“Through commitment to collaboration, hard work, organization and communication, our school community rallied to quell the ripples of Hurricane Sandy’s aftermath for our students."
This is the first in a two-part series about recovery from Superstorm Sandy. The first story follows one student as his family struggles to keep kids in class while trying to rebuild. The second story shows how one school, Scholars' Academy, is faring after the storm.
By Rose Arce, CNN
New York (CNN) - The sky is still dark when 13-year-old Ryan Panetta wakes in his temporary apartment beneath the Brooklyn Bridge. The one-bedroom loaner has just a queen-sized bed, a couch and a folding table; he shares it all with his parents and three siblings.
He has traveled a long way from his family's beachfront bungalow to this high-rise housing. After Superstorm Sandy, his house near the Rockaways in Queens is just a shell. His new daily commute - from makeshift home to temporary school - can take up to two hours.
“I’m tired, really tired,” he said at 6 a.m. one day in early December, already awake for a half-hour.
“It’s pretty hard. It's just adjusting to the new school, the long commutes in the morning to get to school, waking up really early to get ready for school and rebuilding the house. It's tough,” he said, his eyes red from sleep and sadness. “The house is destroyed and every time I look in there, it's like, ‘Wow. I never thought a storm could do that much.'”
Weeks after Sandy hit, Ryan is one of many still living through the ongoing aftermath of the storm. He's one of 73,000 students initially displaced from their schools, one of about 5,400 still attending classes in borrowed spaces. His double loss - home and school - means his life is in upheaval.
“We lost so much. All our things, the stove I’ve cooked so many meals on, the home my children were born in, the kids’ toys, everything except, thank God, the most valuable thing in the world, our kids,” said Karen Panetta, Ryan’s mother. “We can rebuild everything else. And we will.”
By Ruchi Gupta, Special to CNN
(CNN) - Children should not die in schools. Children should not die from eating common foods. A minuscule speck of a peanut, not even visible, should not take a young child's life in minutes.
And yet this has happened in the past two years - to 13-year-old Kaitlyn in Chicago and to 7-year-old Ammaria in Virginia. As the holidays approach and celebratory treats are brought into schools from home, we must ensure children with food allergies are safe.
Congress can contribute to that by rapidly passing the School Access to Emergency Epinephrine Act. This bill would provide states with incentives to require elementary schools and secondary schools to maintain, and permit school personnel to administer, epinephrine - a form of adrenaline that eases hives and breathing difficulties and when injected, prevents rapid death.FULL STORY
By Vincent DiCaro, Special to CNN
Editor’s note: Vincent DiCaro is vice president of development and communication for the National Fatherhood Initiative, where he has worked for more than 10 years to promote involved, responsible and committed fatherhood. He lives in Maryland with his wife and toddler-age son.
(CNN) - I’ll always remember the first time my son spontaneously said, “Thank you,” to me. It was only a few months ago. He has Type 1 diabetes and was having a low blood sugar episode. I brought him his favorite juice to get his blood sugar up, and when I handed him the juice he said, “Thank you, daddy” in his adorable toddler voice.
I melted of course, but I was also grateful that my son was picking up one of the most important character traits he will need as he grows up: thankfulness. But as the father of a 2½-year-old, I can say with confidence that thankfulness does not come naturally to children, mine included.
While my son is starting to say “thank you” on his own, it was only after making him say it over and over again; the first few hundred times he said those magical words, he didn’t even know what they meant. But somehow, he knew what “no” and “mine” meant right away - funny how that works.
So raising thankful children is an uphill battle against the generally selfish tendencies of children. But not all hope is lost. Parenting, like having a good jump shot, is a skill that can be learned through the right techniques and practice.
To get you started, here are five things you can start to do right away that will build a character of thankfulness in your children.
by Michael Schulder, CNN
Follow on Twitter: @Schuldercnn
(CNN) – This is the time in the school year when parents really have a sense of whether their children are struggling academically.
For those parents whose children are having a hard time with math, and are seeking help, one name seems to be popping up more and more: Salman Khan.
Each month, 7 million children and adults log on to Sal Khan’s website, the Khan Academy, to get clear, entertaining, informal video tutorials on everything from basic addition to advanced calculus and more.
So who is Sal Khan? Where does he get his credibility?
Is it from the three degrees he earned from MIT or the Masters he received from Harvard after being raised by a single mother who struggled to make ends meet?
Is it from the raves he gets from Bill Gates who uses Khan’s online videos for his own children?Read the full story and hear the podcast from CNN Radio.
by John Martin, CNN
Editor's note: This post is part of the Overheard on CNN.com series, a regular feature that examines interesting comments and thought-provoking conversations posted by the community. Some comments have been edited for space or clarity.
(CNN) - Donna McClintock, the chief operating officer of Children’s Choice Learning Centers, Inc. wrote last week's op-ed on redshirting kindergartners. You may have heard the term applied to college football players, but this isn't a sports story. Academic redshirting means holding a child back from school until he or she is ready. In the U.S., most kindergartners are five-year olds, so a redshirted kindergartner is usually six. McClintock says that when asking whether to redshirt a young child, "parents and educators must determine what that answer is by considering his individual needs and development and not by blindly following a trend."
Some readers questioned whether any child should ever be redshirted:
Rob Breisch: I can honestly say by my own example that it's far better not to redshirt your children – you are causing a life of issues from being not good enough for anyone's standards,and your children will face ridicule all their lives about it. So do them and yourself a favor – advance them and if required spend more time helping them learn.You can destroy a child by just setting them back like it's no big deal. Your child is not a toy nor a rat – so treat them with more respect and dignity and reach out and help them along – but don't make them repeat any grade!
Scott B: I know holding my kid back would be a very last resort. Regardless of what the article says, I went to school and remember how some of those held back kids were treated. About the only time it was a good thing was when they had a car before most of the class. Also, unless the kid simply can't cut it, I'd rather they be in a learning environment that challenges them more than I would want them to get better grades.
Amy: Everyone says "each child is different," and that's certainly true to some extent; however, there is a tendency for some parents to think that their child is particularly unique, different, special, etc. and must be treated differently (i.e. holding him/her back) because of that dazzling uniqueness.... With respect, I think some parents (especially moms) need to stop obsessing about this. Kids are more capable than many parents give them credit for.
Jeanne: What really annoys me is the parents who hold their kids back, so their kids are more than a year older than my kid, and then they claim that the curriculum isn't challenging enough. That is because your 7 1/2-year-old is supposed to be doing second grade work, not first grade.... So then the kid needs differentiated instruction, special trips to the library, and reading enrichment. Meanwhile my age appropriate 5-year-old summer birthday learns at the pace of the curriculum, because that is the age it is designed for. No, she's not special or advanced like your kid, but hey, she's a year and a half younger, and would have gone nuts being stuck in preschool another year. I still think my kid is getting the better end of the deal.
By Donna McClintock, Special to CNN
Editor’s note: Donna McClintock is the chief operating officer of Children’s Choice Learning Centers, Inc. She has served in a leadership role in early childhood education for more than 29 years and has been in a senior executive leadership role for more than a decade. She has authored several books on the topic of early childhood education, including “The Heart Connector Series.”
I often read materials that approach a subject as if there were only one solution. Such is the case of “redshirting” children for kindergarten, which is the practice of holding a child back from school until he turns six. There is certainly a best answer for each child, and parents and educators must determine what that answer is by considering his individual needs and development and not by blindly following a trend.
No matter WHAT you decide to do, we know for sure that parents must understand that a child’s brain cannot be redshirted or held back. The child’s experiences during the fifth and sixth year of life are extremely important because the brain continues to develop and form synapses, and learning is at an all-time high.
It is the responsibility of parents and educators to challenge, nurture, inspire and ignite in our children a love of learning and exploration during this critical time. How do you do this when formal education in a school system begins as an individual choice for each child? There are several key factors to consider, but the child’s individual needs are the trump card in this decision.
Most research clearly shows that any gaps in levels of success between younger and older children are usually bridged by the third grade. This leaves parents to wonder if there is an advantage to holding their child back. I offer the position that the type of program your child is in during the first year of formal school is really the key to success.
Each child deserves a developmentally appropriate setting that understands how children 5 to 6 years of age learn, whether that is a formalized kindergarten program, the home environment provided by parents, or another alternative.