Common Sense Media has a very worthwhile list of back to school tips from the people who’ve been there — other parents. I especially like the idea of taking cell phones and putting them on an out-of-bedroom charger before bed and telling kids that privileges are earned by good behavior, not by reaching a particular age or grade. I support a no-television-or-movies-or-games-on-school-nights rule from kindergarten on, and strongly urge parents not to allow televisions or computers in a child’s bedroom, at meals, or on car trips of under an hour. Most important on the CSM list is, as always, for parents to set a good example. One of the best things you can do to get your child’s school year off to a good start is to let them see you sitting down often to enjoy a good book.
$100,000 Worth of Children’s Books for Seeing ‘Waiting for Superman’
Posted on August 18, 2010 at 3:17 pm
Paramount Pictures, Participant Media and Walden Media jointly announced that global education leader Houghton Mifflin Harcourt has joined the WaitingforSuperman “Pledge Progress Meter” by committing to provide $100,000 worth of new children’s books to U.S. libraries in need once 60,000 people pledge to see the award-winning documentary film WAITING FOR “SUPERMAN.”
What does your school need? Tweet #MySchoolNeeds
Houghton Mifflin Harcourt is the world’s largest provider of educational materials for pre-K-12 schools. Since 1832, the Boston-based company has combined its tradition of academic excellence with a commitment to innovation for the future.
“We are proud to support this film because it shares our mission to promote literacy and an appetite for learning among the nation’s students,” said Barry O’Callaghan, Chief Executive Officer of Houghton Mifflin Harcourt. “An essential first step to improving our education system is providing those students with better quality and more accessible literacy-based resources within and outside of the classroom.”
Houghton Mifflin Harcourt is the fourth major organization to take the pledge and join the WaitingforSuperman.com “Pledge Progress Meter.” FirstBook, OfficeMax® and DonorsChoose.org have already committed to making a difference in education by taking the pledge.
“Waiting for Superman” is an already-acclaimed documentary directed by Davis Guggenheim (“An Inconvenient Truth”). It examines the crisis of public education in the United States through multiple interlocking stories. Designed to start a national conversation, the movie and corresponding “Take the Pledge” campaign aim to inspire everyone to create innovative and long-term solutions to help change the course of our kids’ lives for the better. The “Pledge Progress Meter” launched in May as a way for non-profits, foundations and corporations to match individual pledge levels with powerful action items aimed at helping both students and public schools.
The film opens in New York and Los Angeles on September 24, nationwide in October.
Get more information about the movie, or take the pledge. You can also text “PLEDGE” to 77177.
“Middle school may be the dumbest idea ever,” says Greg Heffley (Zachary Gordon), and I think he speaks for all of us. If you ask most adults whether they would rather be audited by the IRS or go back through middle school again, they’d have a hard time making a choice. No one understands that better than Jeff Kinney, whose wildly popular series of Wimpy kid books are so true to the middle school experience — and so funny about it as well — that more than 11 million copies have been sold.
The reason that middle school is so agonizing is that it is the time when we first realize that we would really like to be cool at the same time we are struck with the horrifying realization that we have no idea how to get there. It is a time of agonizing self-examination, growing uncertainty about everything we thought we knew, diminishing willingness to rely on our parents, and the terrifying conviction that everyone else seems to have it figured out. It is the time of the great hormone divide, where boys who look like they are 10 share a classroom — and a locker room — with kids who look like they could be in college. It is a time when we rethink everything we thought we knew about who we are and what we want from our friends. So much suddenly seems GROSS and EMBARRASSING. Everything suddenly seems so disgusting we end up projecting all of those feelings onto some weird object like a piece of moldy cheese, which then assumes urban legendary status with the power to cooty-fy anyone who touches it. And in the middle of this we are also expected to live through algebra and PE.
Greg thinks he understands what it takes to succeed in middle school, despite the endless list of “don’ts” he gets from his older brother Rodrick (an enjoyably predatory Devon Bostick). “You’ll be dead or homeschooled by the end of the year,” he concludes. Greg is sure that his elementary school best friend Rowley (Robert Capron) is clueless — Rowley still says things like “You want to come over and play?” instead of “You want to hang out?” and does a dance number WITH HIS MOM at a school party. But this wouldn’t be a movie — and it wouldn’t be middle school — unless Greg had some important lessons to learn about coolness, friendship, and just how much he still needs to learn.
The movie captures the tone of the books, even including animated segments featuring the book’s stick figures. Gordon has an engaging screen presence that keeps us on his side. He and Capron seem like real kids, centering even the heightened situations and emotions by reminding us that in middle school, that’s how it really feels.
Whose life does the title refer to? “To Save a Life” begins with a funeral, a tragic loss of a high school kid who committed suicide because he felt isolated and friendless. Jake (Randy Wayne), a popular senior who thinks he has it all attends the funeral, remembering Roger, who was his closest friend when they were children. Roger once saved Jake’s life when they were on their bicycles, putting himself in the path of an accident that left him with a permanent limp, and Jake wonders how they grew apart and when the last time was that he even said hello to Roger in the school hallway.
Other lives will be at risk, metaphorically and literally, as this story continues, and one of its strengths is its willingness to engage candidly and open-heartedly with the real issues that confront teenagers, giving it some heft and credibility. It also benefits from better production values than most Christian-identified entertainment, with sound, lighting, script, direction and acting that compare with the kinds of content kids are used to on television and in theaters. While some adult audience members looking for family-friendly fare may not be happy about the frank portrayal of some high-risk teen behavior, the target age group will appreciate its honesty about high school life and stress. Even more important is the portrayal of a clergyman who walks the walk, making his leadership about meaning and values and most of all kindness. He does not try to make God the explanation for everything, just the beginning of the answer. And he handles one of teenagers’ most frequent complaints about “churchy” people, that some of them are hypocrites who do not practice what they preach, in a forthright and believable manner that is genuinely disarming.
I have one DVD and one Blu-Ray to give away. Write to me at email@example.com with “Life DVD” or “Life Blu-Ray” in the subject line and the first to arrive will win. Good luck!