VIDEO: A Simple way to Spread Joy on #WorldBookDay

Wheres Wally Batman World Book Day 2014

Reading and Africa are two subjects close to my heart.

As a little girl in Enugu, Nigeria, books were a window into worlds where foreign concepts like snow, and lashings of ginger beer, and Peruvian bears in train stations, came magically to life.

Now as an adult raising my family in the UK, writing by the likes of Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie takes me back to my childhood home.

I can’t imagine a life without books.

Sadly too many African children, among others around the world, are growing up without this basic educational resource.

In this short but sweet video, British kids talk about their favourite books and how they feel knowing that some school kids have no books to read.

They offer a simple solution: collect books and send them to Africa – the exact same model devised by charity Promoting Global Learning.

The not-for-profit organisation wants to encourage children from kindergarten through secondary school to experience the joys of reading by providing each child with an opportunity to have a book of their own.

How You Can Help

To get involved, all you need to do is contact the charity and they will collect the books from you and deliver them to the most needy parts of Africa – it’s that simple. To offer your books simply contact Sue Gerrish at Promoting Global Learning by emailing info@promotinggloballearning.org or calling 0800 195 7522.

Did you know?

In a recent study in Ghana:
• Only 23% of the English text books and 20% of the Maths text books were available in Primary Schools
• None of the Kindergarten schools have recreational equipment or facilities
• Teachers use a ‘chalk-and-talk’ method of teaching a class of up to 60 pupils, yet only 78% of schools had a blackboard and less than 50% of the schools have chalk!

Find out more at www.promotinggloballearning.org

Photo of the babes

A Birthday Wish #EndFGM

Christine FGM survivor

Today is my birthday and I’m celebrating the rights of girls and women everywhere.

I share a birth sign with the wonderful author Alice Walker. It was by reading her book, Possessing the Secret of Joy, that I first learned intimately about the horrors of female genital mutilation.

FGM is a dangerous practice, carried out in many cultures around the world, including some areas of my birth country Nigeria. It involves the removal of parts of the female genitalia, sometimes with basic instruments like a razor blade.

FGM is typically carried out on girls before they reach puberty, even children as young as 4 years old.

It can cause severe bleeding, infection, infertility and even death.

One girl’s story

Christine (pictured), a 17-year-old from Kenya, was subjected to female genital mutilation when she was 15, before being forced to marry a much older man.

“On my first night in the house with the old man we were left alone together. He forced himself on me and I felt so much pain that I cried. The other wife was waiting at the door and he asked her to come in so that she could make me bigger using a cow’s horn. The eldest daughter of the man also came in to help. It was very shaming and I felt sad afterwards.”

Christine managed to escape her situation and with help from ActionAid and the Kongelai Women’s Network, now has a place at school and is rebuilding a relationship with her family.

Today is the International Day of Zero Tolerance to Female Genital Mutilation. ActionAid is calling on you to join the global fight to end FGM.

How can you help?

Donate to support ActionAid’s work. Follow @ActionAidUK #ENDfgm on Twitter or visit www.actionaid.org.uk/endfgm. Or simply spread the message with your friends and loved ones.

Please help me celebrate the rights of girls and women everywhere.

“the God of woman is autonomy”
― Alice Walker, Possessing the Secret of Joy

Photo credit: Kate Holt/Shoot The Earth/ActionAid

Now you are 8! A message from Mummy

Ezra loses front tooth

My beautiful boy. You are 8 today.

Daddy described you as being half-way to 16 and my heart nearly stopped.

I don’t know why that shocks me as you’re practically a teenager already in your moods and attitudes.

‘I wish I was 17!’ you shout during those famous door-slamming, book-throwing strops. For you, 17 is that magic age when you’ll be pretty much a grown-up, independent, a free state. The same age as your big brother Isaac, your hero.

I watch you asleep, curled up with best friend and confidante Winnie the Pooh.

Ezra and Pooh

Your eyelids twitch and I know you’re escaping dungeons or fighting crime or scoring your 1000th goal in the World Cup 2025. You have always had such an active imagination and an amazing way with words.

God is a storyteller. He tells stories about the world. – Ezra, age 6

I’ve had strangers listening in on our conversations and later tapping me to remark on how bright you are. And don’t you know it. Even though sometimes you’re painfully self-conscious, you also have your father’s habit of telling me about your brilliance. *Eye roll*

I’m very clever at school, Mum.
Who told you that?
I am!
But who said you were clever?
Myself. – Ezra, age 3

But I have to acknowledge how often you blow me away. I love watching you express yourself in words, on the football pitch, on the dance floor. You have always moved to the beat of your own DJ.

Ezra is Batman

Like many kids, you’re a walking contradiction. One minute, pinning Jed to the floor with your knees. The next, you sound like Gandhi.

I don’t do rough battling. Violence isn’t the answer. Violence only makes you lose. – Ezra, age 7

It’s been such a privilege watching you develop into this boisterous, shy, quietly confident, ultra loud, thoughtful, bicep-curling, book-toting, breakdancing, ball-obsessed individual.

A natural striker, who’s learning the joy of passing and assists. A slapstick comedian, who laughs at all his own jokes (another trick from Daddy).

Ezra in wheelbarrow

I won’t pretend it’s all been hugs and giggles. I’ve probably yelled at you louder and with more feeling than anyone else in my life. I’m sorry, especially for that time I scared both of us with the force of it.

Neither of us deserved to be at breaking point but I love that we can talk it over and keep learning from where and how we clash. Little Miss Stubborn and her even more obstinate progeny.

Ezra in Corsica

I want to go to MacDonald’s!
You’re not in control.
You’re not in control! You’re out of control! – Ezra, age 4

I love that you are learning to take a time-out on your own, rather than always turn the room upside down. And that you listen, really listen, when I talk to you about big concepts like perspective and values and responsibility.

Back in the day, you handled things differently.

Jed grabbed my hair so I knocked him down. I’m giving him advice – Ezra, age 4

Ezra and Jed on playmat

Sure, much of the time you talk over me. Then there are the times when you know exactly what to say.

When I was born I was so happy to see that you were my mummy. That’s why I cried. – Ezra, age 5

Sweet baby, are you really eight years old?

And has it only been eight years and nine months since I’ve had you as my near-constant companion? It feels like we’ve known each other much longer. In fact, I know we have.

I’m a man. But not yet. Not today. Maybe tomorrow. – Ezra, age 2

Happy birthday, little man. Eight is going to be a beautiful year. Love, Mum x

PHOT0042.JPG

*Quotes from ‘The Book of Ezra’ – a work in progress!

22 Ideas for New Year’s Eve with Kids!

Festive afternoon tea

 
Is it that time of year already?

If you haven’t managed to sort childcare for the big night, I’ve rounded up some fun and family-friendly activities to do with the kids on New Year’s Eve.

Whether you go out to explore New Year’s in London or celebrate at home, here’s a mix of ideas to make sure you and your brood see 2013 out in style.

From all of us, Happy New Year!

 
Mary Poppins
 

Where to Go on New Year’s Eve in London with Kids

 
Board the Mince Pie Special steam and diesel train heritage rides along the Epping-Ongar Railway and receive a free pie and gift! (9am until around 6pm, Dec 31 and Jan 1)

Take the kids for some movie magic with Mary Poppins or fantasy fun with Rise of the Guardians at Vue Kids AM screenings (from 10am)

Take part in Family Events at V&A Museum in SW7 with Imagination Stations, Digital Kids and Pop-Up Performances (until Jan 5)

See a family-friendly production of A Christmas Carol at Museum of London, EC2 (Dec 31, 12-1pm, 2.30-3.30pm & Jan 1, 2-3pm)

Catch one of our Top 20 London Kids Theatre picks for Christmas 2013 – we recommend The Snowman, The Wind in the Willows, Puss in Boots and Slava’s Snow Show for an unforgettable New Year’s Eve!

Watch Music and Dance from the Ballet at Raymond Gubbay’s Christmas Festival at Barbican Centre (2.30pm)

Glam up for a matinee screening of Oscar-winning flick The Artist at Royal Albert Hall, with live orchestra accompaniment (3pm)

Hear arias and scenes from favourite operas at the New Year’s Eve Operetta Matinee at St-Martins-in-the-Fields, WC2 (3.30-5.30pm)

Tuck into a Festive Afternoon Tea inspired by Charlie and the Chocolate Factory at One Aldwych hotel in Covent Garden (until Jan 5)

Indulge in a family feast at London Marriot County Hall’s New Year’s Eve Dining in King George V Suite (Dec 31, from 5.30pm)

Go ice skating at Hyde Park Winter Wonderland (to Jan 5, until 10pm) or on the gorgeous Natural History Museum Ice Rink (to Jan 5, until 1am on New Year’s Eve), both on our 30 Coolest Things to Do at Christmas

 
IMG_0426
 

Celebrating New Year’s Eve at Home with Kids

 
Every year we pimp our Xmas tree with glitter balls, champagne bubble blowers, party masks and Christmas crackers that you pull at midnight

Sing your hearts out to cheesy classics with the The Karaoke Channel YouTube selection

Set up a DIY photo booth with homemade props and get snap happy as 2014 rolls in

Invite other friends with kids round for an old-fashioned pyjama party with music and/or family games

Camp in the living room with sleeping bags, duvets and piles of cushions and settle in for an all-night movie marathon (younger ones can nod off as they please). Pillow fights optional!

Prepare an ‘Around the World’ midnight feast by gathering snacks and treats from different countries and tucking in once the clock strikes 12

Create New Year’s Eve crafts with these fab ideas from Maggie at Red Ted Art

Pull out the projector and big screen (or big blank wall) and turn your living room into a live music arena with a concert film DVD – we recommend Talking Heads Stop Making Sense, Bob Marley: The Legend or (for when the babes are sleeping) Prince’s Sign of the Times and Dave Chapelle’s Block Party!

Make and decorate your own capes and throw a Superhero costume party to kick 2014 off in style

Get out the glow sticks, headbands and old-skool dance tunes and hold a family disco in your living room

Toast the New Year with bubbly for the grown-ups and these sweet milk and cookies shots or glasses for kids, a la The Inspired Room

IDEAS FROM THE ARCHIVES

31 Ideas for New Years Eve (with Kids)

12 Things to do on New Year’s Eve with Kids in London

31 MORE Ideas for New Year’s Eve with Kids

Strictly Come Dancing with Ben Cohen: Dad, Rugby Champ and Cuddle Master!

Ben Cohen with rugby ball

He’s been raising temperatures (and some eyebrows) with his buff, and occasionally shirtless physique, as he swishes partner Kristina around the floor on Strictly Come Dancing.

Former Rugby world champ Ben Cohen is sweeping audiences off their feet with his surprisingly nifty moves on the top reality show. Although swapping his rugby ball for dancing shoes and lifting women into the air is probably less sweat for Ben than becoming a dad to twin girls a few years back!

Ben Cohen and Kristina Rihanoff on Strictly Come Dancing

I had the pleasure of cuddling with Ben Cohen a few months back, at a lovely afternoon tea where he spoke about his guide for new fathers, created in association with Persil Non-Bio and Comfort Pure.

Check out How to Cuddle with Ben Cohen!

Ben Cohen for Persil

The online booklet was produced in response to research that many fathers are a bag of nerves when holding their babies for the very first time.

Ben posed with infants for the Cuddle Mastery Guide, emphasising the importance of a good old-fashioned hug and especially skin to skin contact for bonding with your newborn.

Ben Cohen with infant

As Jean Robinson, British Skin Foundation trustee and children’s dermatology nurse advises, ‘Babies who are given lots of cuddles and love and affection may find stress or anxiety easier to deal with as they grow up.’

But if you’re a fully grown woman, warning: these pictures might make your pulse race!

To download the Persil Non-Bio and Comfort Pure Cuddle Mastery Guide or share your cuddling tips visit www.facebook.com/comfortzoneUK

Chicken soup for Body and Soul: Fighting colds & flu this winter

Chicken soup

Featured Guest Post

Working parents will understand that over the Christmas season there’s not much time for rest – work is hectic, your Christmas shopping list is endless and there are plenty of seasonal activities that will keep you and your family busy. Getting sick isn’t really an option.

Let us share some handy tips to help you defeat those seasonal colds and flu so you can get on with the fun of Christmas time.

Wash your hands

Basic germ control

One of the common problems with being a parent is the delightful germs that find their way home from nurseries or school. For starters, make sure everyone is washing their hands regularly with soap and water to keep germs at bay.
At the office, clean work surfaces, keyboards and telephones as often as you can to prevent the spread of germs.

Flu jab

Find out what you’re entitled to

It’s not always general knowledge that flu vaccinations are available, not only to those over a certain age or with a serious health condition. Check with your GP if you are eligible to receive an annual flu jab, usually from October each year.
You could be entitled to the flu vaccination if you fall under the following:
• You’re pregnant
• You have a medical condition
• You’re a carer of someone at risk of complications of the flu
• You’re a healthcare professional

Good night's sleep

Maintain a healthy lifestyle

While there might not be direct evidence that this will prevent the common cold or flu, it is still a certainty that it will keep your immune system in good working order by maintaining a healthy lifestyle.

Remember to exercise regularly, get a good night sleep and eat well, making sure you aim to eat your five-a-day and stay hydrated throughout the winter period.

Chicken soup isn’t just for the soul

Believe it or not, this old wives tale that a bowl of chicken soup will help you feel better actually has some grounding in science. The tried and tested remedy that’s been served by parents for years has now been shown via a scientific study to contain substances that ease the symptoms related to colds and flu.

According to the research, chicken soup has a mild effect on slowing down the cells that cause the virus to spread in your body, acting as a mild anti-inflammatory. Adding a little pepper to your soup can help to clear up a blocked nose, too.

So the next time you get a cold or flu and you’re looking for ways to ease your discomfort, reach for some chicken soup.

Half-Term: 30 Things to do in London with Kids (October 2013)

Story Stock

We’ve rounded up our Top 30 things to do with the kids over October half-term in London. It’s a monster of a guide. Enjoy and look out for our Halloween Special coming soon!

GO

 
1. Get your panto costumes on for the Dame Dash Charity Fundraiser race, in aid of St Joseph’s Hospice and Hackney Empire, both on Mare St, E8 (Hackney Central overground). 12pm, registration adult £15/child £5/family £35 (Oct 27)

2. Travel back in time to the era of Elizabeth I & Her People for a week of storytelling, crafts and tours for families inspired by the bold new exhibition at National Portrait Gallery, St Martin’s Place, WC2 (Charing Cross tube). 11.30-4pm, all FREE (some events require tickets) (Oct 28-Nov 1)

3. Visit the Puppet Zoo for stories and crafts at London Transport Museum, WC2 (Covent Garden tube) and go on a family tour of railway memorabilia at the Depot Open Weekend in Acton (Nov 1-3). Museum entrance adult £15 (annual); under 16s FREE (Oct 28-Nov 3)

4. Head to Greenwich and find out what it means to be an Island Nation with a week of free family activities at National Maritime Museum, Queens House and Cutty Sark, SE1 (Greenwich/Cutty Sark DLR). Dates and times vary, FREE (Oct 28-Nov 3)

5. Blast off on an intergalactic odyssey in Journey to Space, the hugely popular interactive exhibition at Discover Story Centre, 383-387 Stratford High St, E15 (Stratford tube/overground). 10am-5pm (Tue-Fri), 11am-5pm (Sat-Sun); adult/child £5/family £18/under 2s FREE (until Nov 3)

6. Kids go free this half-term at the View from the Shard, London’s highest building in SE1 (London Bridge tube). 1 adult £29.95 + up to 2 children under 15 FREE (ages 0-3 are free as standard) (Oct 28-Nov 2)
 
Pyjama Party Stratford
 

DO

 

7. Take a teddy for repair at the Teddy Bear Hospital, meet Barbie and snap a photo on a kiddie motorbike at the Barbour pop-up shop, all during Half-Term at Selfridges, Oxford St, W1 (Bond St tube). Daily, FREE (Oct 26-Nov 2)

8. There’s a Monster Takeover throughout half-term at Museum of London, 150 London Wall, EC2 (Barbican/St. Paul’s tube) and Museum of London Docklands), E14 (West India Quay DLR), with loads of beastly activities daily. Times vary, all FREE (Oct 26-Nov 3)

9. Indulge in a Mad Hatter’s Afternoon Tea at Dorchester, Park Lane, W1 (Hyde Park Corner tube) with performances by English National Ballet school dancers while you munch. 2.15pm & 4.45pm daily, adult £51 (includes glass of champers), child age 5-11 £30 (Oct 28-Nov 1)

10. Bookworm babes head for StoryStock, a brilliant storytelling festival for ages 0-13, at Bush Theatre, 7 Uxbridge Rd, W12 (Shepherd’s Bush tube/overground). Times and prices vary, including several FREE events (Oct 31-Nov 2)

11. Get your skates on as the stunning Natural History Museum Ice Rink opens for the winter season. 11am-9pm (Mon-Fri) & 9am-9pm (Sat-Sun); from £8 (Oct 31-Jan 5)

12. There’s bedtime acrobatics, popcorn, storytelling and a midnight feast planned at the Pyjama Party at Stratford Circus, E15 (Stratford tube/overground). Ages 0-5 at 3pm/ages 0-8 at 6pm (Fri), ages 0-5 at 9.30am, 12pm & 3pm/ages 0-8 at 6pm (Sat); £6-£8 (Nov 1 & 2)
 
Amazing Autumn Geffrye Museum
 

MAKE

 

13. Design your own Tattoo Tshirts aboard the HMS Belfast, Queen’s Walk, SE1 (London Bridge tube) as part of the Big Draw festival. 11am-12.30pm, 2-4pm, free with entry ticket adult £14.50/under 16s FREE (Oct 26-Nov 3)

14. Discover your super powers at fun and crafty Heroes & Sheroes workshops at V&A Museum of Childhood, Cambridge Heath Rd, E2 (Bethnal Green tube). 10.30-4pm daily, FREE (Oct 28-Nov 1)

15. Make owls in flight, model diva lamps and more in Family Art Fun at Horniman Museum, 100 London Rd, SE23 (Forest Hill overground), for ages 3+. 11am-2.45pm, FREE (Oct 28-Nov 1)

16. Kids and carers learn to make yummy pasta sauce and gnocchi from scratch with Sutra Kitchen Kids Cooking Class & Lunch at The Kitchen Clinic, Carnaby St, W1 (Oxford Circus tube). Ages 3-10. 1.30-4.30pm, £35 adult and child (Oct 29)

17. Create leaf crowns, bake seasonal treats and make light decorations in Amazing Autumn family activities at Geffrye Museum, Kingsland Rd, E2 (Hoxton tube). 10.30am-12.30pm and 2-4pm, FREE (Oct 29-Nov 1)

18.Try felt making, pumpkin carving and more at Freightliners Farm, Sheringham Rd, N7 (Highbury & Islington tube), throughout half-term. 11am-4pm (Tue-Fri), FREE (Oct 29-Nov 1)
 
Moscow State Circus
 

SEE

 

19. Dazzling flips, aerial and juggling from the world famous Moscow State Circus at Ealing Common, W5 (Ealing Broadway tube). 2pm, 3pm, 5.45pm, 6pm, 7.45pm (dates and times vary); £10-£32 (Oct 23-Nov 3)

20. Lavish costumes, acrobatics and skaters on a shimmering winter wonderland in Nutcracker on Ice at London Palladium, 8 Argyll St, W1. 2.30pm & 7.30pm (Tue-Sat); £21-£76 (Oct 24-Nov 3)

21. Award-winning kids theatre company Look Left Look Right bring enchanting show The Many Whoops of Whoop Town to Lyric Theatre, Hammersmith W6 (Hammersmith tube). Ages 4+ 11am & 1pm (Tue-Sat), 3pm (Sat only); £8 (Oct 29-Nov 2)

22. Creepy crawlies perform death-defying stunts in hit show the Insect Circus at Jacksons Lane, 269a Archway Rd, N6 (Highgate tube). 12pm & 3pm, £12.95/family ticket £10 per person. (Oct 29-Nov 2)

23. Follow the adventures of one boy and his penguin pal in Ga Ga Theatre Presents: Oliver Jeffers’ Up & Down with live performance with big screen projections based on the illustrations from the book. Show is touring venues around London. (until Nov 3)

24. Watch the brilliant Monsters University and Planes at pocket money prices at Vue Kids Am (various cinemas); or the hilarious Despicable Me 2 at Odeon Kids Club (various cinemas). Top box office family films include Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs 2, Turbo, playing over half-term.
 
Giant Whale

 

EXPLORE

 

25. Watch water birds on the move with Inflight Entertainment at London Wetland Centre, Queen Elizabeth Walk, Barnes SW13 (Hammersmith tube). 9.30am-5pm, adult £11.65/child £6.50/under 4s FREE (Oct 26-Nov 3)

26. Visit an African Market (12-7pm, Oct 27) and browse food, crafts and fashion, then come along the next Saturday for the Film Africa Family Day (11am-4pm, Nov 2) featuring brilliant mix of short films, family photography and workshops. Both at Rich Mix, Bethnal Green Rd, E1 (Shoreditch High St overground)

27. There’s stories and crafts at the interactive Peter Pan and the Ticking Crocodile family day (11am-1pm & 2-4pm, Oct 29). Also check out Picture This: Exhibition of Children’s Classics (Oct 4-Jan 26), 9.30am-6pm (Fri), 9.30am-5pm (Sat) and 11am-5pm (Sun): FREE. Both at British Library, 96 Euston Rd, NW1 (King’s Cross/Euston tube)

28. Enter a 50ft Giant Inflatable Whale at N1 Centre, Islington (Angel tube) and discover a stunning seascape. 11am-3pm, FREE (Nov 1)

29. BP Family Weekend: Time Loop is a free weekend of live music, visual arts and performance on a time-travelling theme at Tate Britain, Millbank, SW1 (Pimlico tube). For ages 0-100. 10am-5pm, FREE (Nov 2-3)

30. Find more events throughout the Family Arts Festival, across London (Oct 18-Nov 3)