Browsing articles in "Community Blog"

Characters with Disabilities: The Deficiency of Difference in Children’s Media

Jun 9, 2017   //   by   //   Community Blog  //  No Comments
Understanding Sam and Asperger Syndrome book cover

Understanding Sam and Asperger Syndrome, by Clarabelle van Niekerk, Liezl Venter

As I’ve grown, I realized that there was no one like me in any of my recreational distractions. I’m and African American female who also happens to be completely deaf in one ear. Granted these may be setbacks that don’t outrageously affect my everyday life, but they are still part of who I am and I’d like to see that portrayed in the media. Once my difference became apparent to me I began a full-fledged examination on the shortage of characters with disabilities in the media. When entertainment doesn’t do its best to reflect real people and real-life experiences by diversifying its characters, we “real people” feel cheated. It affects the self-esteem of any child with a disability who can never relate to what they watch or read, and it creates a strain on children who haven’t learned how to properly approach other children who are disabled.

Wrong Representation:

Secondary Character Syndrome

The problem is not only the matter of the lack of children’s media that feature characters with disabilities but also the way they portray them. There is a difference between media about a character with a disability and media that includes a disabled character. The latter could easily be ensnared by “secondary character syndrome”, i.e. creating this character that is different from the others in race, sexual orientation, or special needs and using them as a prop or a filler instead of a character the audience can actually relate to. They have no story, they barely have a voice, and by the end of it you probably won’t remember their name (if they are given one). More effort should be put into making those characters count and creating a storyline around them that develops their needs and lifestyle in a way that accurately portrays someone who is disabled.

The Writing on the Digital Wall: Kids and Creativity

May 26, 2017   //   by   //   Community Blog  //  No Comments

girl holding a pen

As a child makes their way through their educational journey, one universal truth cannot be escaped. That is, one must learn how to write, and write well, in order to succeed. Essays, reports, emails, and tweets are at the mercy of their author. With such an explosion of digital media and the social media revolution, the written word is more important than ever before. The main ingredient for great writing, like all forms of expression, is a great idea.

Across the Atlantic in merry old England resides the Ministry of Stories (Hoxton St., London). The Ministry is a creative writing playground with colourful tables and inspiring art on the walls. Founded by best-selling artist Nick Hornby, along with Ben Payne and Lucy Macnab, the Ministry runs workshops, writing clubs, and one-on-one mentoring, supporting young imaginations and encouraging children to express their inner authors and dreamers. Funding this venture, in part, is the wonderfully imaginative Hoxton Street Monster Supplies.


Lessons from ‘Little Lunch’

May 12, 2017   //   by   //   Community Blog  //  Comments Off on Lessons from ‘Little Lunch’

We need more shows like Little Lunch.

In a Saturday morning TV landscape dominated by kid crime fighters, genius inventors, and superheroes, Little Lunch provides a refreshing focus on regular kids.

The Australian television series is set at recess. It features six kids who look and sound like kids you would find in any schoolyard. They experience the common highs and lows of being 10 years old.

There’s the episode when Melanie and Tamara explore friendship while battling for exclusive use of the monkey bars. The episode when Atticus learns to love the unfamiliar food prepared for him by his ya-ya (his grandma). And there’s the one when Battie doesn’t get over his fear of dogs.

Their stories aren’t extraordinary. There isn’t a neatly packaged lesson for them to learn every episode. The show features kids being kids. And as kids, their stories are witty, moving, and honest.


To Post or Not to Post: Baby Edition

Apr 28, 2017   //   by   //   Community Blog  //  Comments Off on To Post or Not to Post: Baby Edition

Do you remember the days when everyone was nervous about posting baby pictures online? Parents were warning the new generation of parents not to post photos on social media of their new kids. But with technology running rampant these days, people are posting whatever they like. As I’ve gotten older I see more and more of my friends posting pictures of their adorable offspring. I’m scrolling through Facebook thinking: have they forgotten these warnings?

small kids walkingParents had good reasons to heed warnings. The latest news reports of digital kidnapping, wherein people will repost a child’s pictures online and create new identities for them and claim the photos as their own, sound terrifying, right? Melanie, a young Torontonian mom, says that her mother was ‘concerned’ about posting photos. Though she loves receiving photos of her granddaughter, she worries, as people see photos and are quick to think of the worst possible scenario.

Melanie said that while she was pregnant, she didn’t want to post pictures because she was worried what others would think. After her daughter, ELSA, was born, she said she was so overwhelmed with love and joy she wanted to share with the world what had given her so much love. She says, “I don’t limit how many photos I put up of ELSA. It just depends on what I’m doing that day with her and if it’s worth posting at the time.”


Finding the Right Piece: Autism and Children’s Media – Sesame Street Introduces Julia

Apr 21, 2017   //   by   //   Community Blog  //  Comments Off on Finding the Right Piece: Autism and Children’s Media – Sesame Street Introduces Julia

Dustin Hoffman’s eccentric portrayal of Raymond Babbitt in the 1988 classic Rain Man popularized the autistic individual on an unprecedented scale. Overnight, autism became associated with extraordinary savant skills (memory and math), and quirky behaviours – with the corresponding social difficulties and odd mannerisms.

Media portrayals of autism since Rain Man have often obscured autism rather than illuminated this complex condition. Jim Parsons’ Sheldon Cooper of The Big Bang Theory is often described as a poster boy for Asperger’s syndrome, but he too is an exceptional case of savant traits (eidetic memory, extraordinarily high IQ), and verbal fluency that is non-existent for many on the Autism Spectrum.

Is it not time for popular media to address autism accurately in programming, given that approximately 1 in 68 children in North America are autistic?


Superheroes Aren’t for Kids Anymore

Apr 14, 2017   //   by   //   Community Blog  //  Comments Off on Superheroes Aren’t for Kids Anymore

Every kid grows up idolizing a superhero. For me it was Batman. I was in love with the city that he lives to protect–––Gotham, his trusty sidekick–––Robin, and even the villains he faced, my favourite being The Joker. Most of all I loved the fact that Batman was so relatable. He had no otherworldly powers whatsoever, just his brain, his billions and his brute strength. I thought that if Batman could defeat some nasty people with no real help, anyone has the potential to as well.

It’s obvious that not only Batman, but superheroes in general had a large impact on my life from childhood. Now though, as I enjoy the new movies and TV shows based on superheroes that come out–––I can’t help thinking about how hard it will be to introduce my potential children to them. It continuously crosses my mind how the market of superheroes for children is declining.

Those of us who read Batman, Superman and Avengers comics are no doubt stoked about the movies. Everyone wants to see something they love created in a different media. Though with children, what do they have to look forward to? The cinematic industry is always growing, always changing, and now they are shameless with their Rated R explicit superhero remakes.


Social Media for Kids: What’s Out There?

Apr 7, 2017   //   by   //   Community Blog  //  Comments Off on Social Media for Kids: What’s Out There?

Children using a smartphone

In a world of smartphones and tablets, it’s pretty hard to keep children away from the internet. Many parents still go for the veto approach, but there are also parents who are trying to find a balance when it comes to allowing their little ones into social media. Targeting the growing number of more experimental fathers and mothers, a series of applications and websites are popping up with the same concept: internet can be fun and safe.


Meme, Myself and I

Mar 31, 2017   //   by   //   Community Blog  //  Comments Off on Meme, Myself and I

Ah, memes – possibly the best thing to happen on the Internet! Who knew that so few words and the perfect picture can bring people from all over the globe together? It seems as though they have become popular overnight… literally, those Caveman Spongebob memes appeared from nowhere, but were everywhere this past summer!

Why are kids so obsessed with memes? Well, there’s a simple answer to this – it is either hilarious to them, or relatable. I sent out a collection of six memes to one fourteen-year-old and one sixteen-year-old, and both of them sent me back these following memes as their top two, which features a weird, white monkey-looking animal and Mr. Bean.

Both of these were the favourites because they are “so true,” as both these teenagers put it. At their age, I find that anything school related is usually retweeted the most because you can’t help but share something that is relevant to your current situation. For example, the bulk of memes that I personally see on my twitter and Facebook pages are all mostly school related, because everyone I’m connected with is still stuck there…I mean, attending.


Parents, Back to You: New Screen Time Guidelines for Children

Mar 17, 2017   //   by   //   Community Blog  //  Comments Off on Parents, Back to You: New Screen Time Guidelines for Children

child with smartphoneAnywhere you go nowadays, there is one thing you are almost guaranteed to see ­­­­– small children glued to their parents’ (or in some cases their own), phones and tablets. You can’t sit on a bus or walk through a grocery store without seeing a young child (I’m talking 2 or 3 years old), staring down at a screen so that their parents can run errands without too much distraction.

Technology is a huge part of our lives and can be very effective at keeping kids occupied. But there needs to be a limit on how much of their worldview comes from a screen instead of actually experiencing the world around them. The American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) is calling parents to action, to decide what is best for their children in regards to how much screen time they are allowed per day.

Generally speaking, screen time is defined as any time that is spent in front of digital media for entertainment purposes, (online research and homework do not count). It used to be that the AAP had some relatively rigid guidelines surrounding screen time for young kids. The old guidelines recommended keeping children under the age of two away from all screen media. In October 2016, these guidelines were revised so that instead of focusing on counting down the minutes, the focus is now on how to use technology responsibly with children, no matter what their age.


Indigenous Reads

Mar 3, 2017   //   by   //   Community Blog  //  Comments Off on Indigenous Reads

A lady came into the kid’s bookstore where I work a couple of days ago. She gravitated immediately towards the display showcasing Indigenous kids’ stories. Usually, it garners an occasional glance, but never the same attention as this woman paid them.

She straightaway took a heaping stack and went to the store bench to go through each one. She then told me that many, many of these authors are not Indigenous, and cautioned against the promotion of such appropriation.

Many, which I will not name as I do not want to distract from the focus of this piece, also showed “Indigenous” art – not actually by any Indigenous artists. Somehow, these books got published. I felt immediately uncomfortable seeing these books and recalling the history of residential schools, where colonizers wiped out the “Indian” in the children, and imposed religion along with brutal violence – blurring the lines between the two.



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