Monday, February 29, 2016

Traits of success

Radio Commentary

According to author Doris Lee McCoy, successful people have several traits in common. The good news is that parents can help nurture and cultivate these traits among their children.

  • First, successful people enjoy their work. They can be good at it because they like doing it.
  • Successful people almost always have a positive attitude and plenty of confidence that gets them through the rough spots.
  • They invariably use negative experiences to discover their strengths. They see negatives as challenges to overcome and to learn from.
  • Successful people are also decisive, disciplined goal-setters. They don’t let distractions get in the way.
  • They have integrity, and they help others succeed.
  • Successful people are also persistent. They keep at it until the goal is reached, where others may get discouraged and choose another path.
  • They’re also risk takers, in the spirit of “Nothing ventured, nothing gained.”
  • They’ve developed good communication skills and problem-solving skills.
  • They surround themselves with competent, responsible, and supportive people, and know how to tell the difference.
  • They’re healthy, high-energy people, and they schedule time to renew themselves before problems can arise.

These traits apply to young and old alike.

Friday, February 26, 2016

Opinion differences

Radio Commentary

There will come a time when you and your child have different opinions. It’s inevitable.

Accept this fact and understand that depending on a child’s age, personality traits, and peer influences at times, he or she is certain to see things from a different perspective at times.

Accept these differences of opinion and use the opportunity to discuss the topic in question.

Encourage independent thinking and listening to others. Getting to know people better and understanding their perspectives can be vital to future emotional and psychological well-being.
It’s also very healthy and affirming for children to hear you say these words when appropriate: “You’re right — I hadn’t thought about it that way.”

When children grasp the idea that we can always learn something new and see something from another point of view, they are more likely to keep open minds as they engage in a spirited defense of their own beliefs.

Help them flesh out their arguments and approach issues from different sides. Show them that everyone is entitled to an opinion but that not all opinions are equally valid, especially if they are based on emotion or misconceptions, rather than fact.

A thoughtful debate is often very educational and stimulating. Helping your children become articulate, thoughtful, and respectful will help them at all stages of their lives. 

Thursday, February 25, 2016

Education pays dividends

By Bill Cirone

“An investment in knowledge,” Benjamin Franklin famously observed, “pays the best interest.”

Few would argue with this bit of wisdom from one of our nation’s most famous forefathers. But, to the concern of millions of young Americans and their families, that investment is becoming increasingly difficult to make.

In an article published earlier this year on MarketWatch, journalist Jillian Berman laid out some of the stark facts about the crushing college debt crisis facing American students and their families.

Approximately 70% of recent college graduates leave their universities not only with a diploma, but also with a significant debt burden. Government sources estimate total student loans to be approximately $1.2 trillion. Nearly 40 million Americans—about 1 in 8—struggle with managing some kind of student loan debt. These are staggering numbers.

There are several factors contributing to this mounting problem. Among them is the fact that states’ investments in higher education have been trending down, in relative terms, over the last several decades. While in California that trend has reversed over the last two years, funding is still below pre-recession levels. Consequently, colleges and universities have been forced to make up for those shortfalls by raising tuition on students.

Unfortunately, that increase in tuition has considerably outpaced the rise in household income. A recent article in Forbes noted that “since 1982 a typical family income increased by 147%, more than inflation but significantly behind the huge increase in college costs,” the authors note. Meanwhile, they observe, “the college education inflation rate has risen nearly 500%.”

Few would argue about life-changing impacts of continuing one’s education. But with the mounting difficulties of being able to afford that education, the importance of developing lifelong habits of fiscal responsibility is as great as ever.

That is where the Scholarship Foundation of Santa Barbara, which has been working with local high school students and their families since 1962, comes in.

The Foundation is truly a local treasure. They consistently earn stellar 4-star ratings from Charity Navigator, a leading independent charity watchdog group that assesses American charitable organizations. For 12 of the last 14 years, the Foundation has scored in Charity Navigator’s 90th percentile and above. They proudly note that 100% of the monies they receive that is earmarked for scholarships go out as scholarships.

The Scholarship Foundation provides not only means and knowledge about financial options and higher education; it is also the embodiment of the financial stewardship they promote in the students and families they serve.

“We aim to inspire, encourage, and support Santa Barbara County students in their pursuit of college, graduate, and vocational school education, through financial aid advising and the granting of scholarships,” says Scholarship Foundation President and CEO Candace Winkler.

“In the U.S., a higher education has long been the key to the door of opportunity and financial sufficiency,” Winkler notes, “but rapidly increasing costs and the subsequent debt burden our students carry upon graduation is pushing back their horizons. The Scholarship Foundation believes that every student with the motivation to earn a higher degree should be given chance to do so.”

The Scholarship Foundation takes that principle to heart. Last academic year, they awarded over 2,900 scholarships to Santa Barbara County students, totaling over $8.7 million. Yet they take just as much pride in the 45,000 people they reached in their free individual financial aid advising sessions and other outreach events. “In so doing,” Winkler says, “we were able to help those students and families leverage over $40 million in financial aid from government, institutional, and private sources.”

“In Santa Barbara County, close to 20% of residents live in poverty, as compared to the national average of just below 15%. Furthermore, as our housing costs are some of the most expensive in the nation, so low and middle income families find it very challenging to pay college tuition,” Winkler notes. “That’s where we offer help, and the reward is tremendous. Research shows that individuals who obtain a college degree will be happier, healthier, and productive and engaged citizens.”

Indeed, their efforts have been having tremendous impacts for Santa Barbara County residents since the Scholarship Foundation’s inception 54 years ago. They know as well as anyone that helping young people invest in knowledge truly pays dividends.

Spelling bee winners advance to state competition

News release

Four local students have won the right to compete at the state level after coming out on top at the Santa Barbara County Spelling Bee, which was held Thursday at the Santa Barbara County Education Office.

Photographer credit: Luis Medina
Left to right:
Elementary winners Brooks McQueen,
 2nd place; Katie Hellman, 1st place;
 and Wendy Benitez Jaramillo, 3rd place.
Katie Hellman, a sixth grader at Mountain View School in the Goleta Union School District, took first place in the elementary division by correctly spelling “wretchedness.” Brooks McQueen, a sixth grader at Vieja Valley School in the Hope School District, took second place with “inflammable.” Third place went to Wendy Benitez Jaramillo, a sixth grader at Monroe School in the Santa Barbara Unified School District. Her winning word was “perchance.”

Photographer credit: Luis Medina
Left to right:
Junior high winners Matthew Helkey, 
3rd place; Rhea Kommerell, 1st place; 
 and Max Lantz, 2nd place. 
In the junior high division, Rhea Kommerell, an eighth grader from La Colina Jr. High School in the Santa Barbara Unified School District, took first place by correctly spelling “effervescent.” Second place went to Max Lantz, an eighth grader from Vandenberg Middle School in the Lompoc Unified School District. His winning word was “paradigm.” Third place was won by Matthew Helkey, an eighth grader from Trivium Charter School in Lompoc, correctly spelling “loquacious.” The two top winners in each division will proceed to the state level.

Thanks to The Masons Lodge, The Women’s Service Club of Goleta, and Town and Country Women’s Club for their donations. "Rafael Saavedra and Claudia Mazzotti also donated $1000 to the Spelling Bee winners to help defray some of the travel costs to the State Spelling Bee.”

The 2016 Elementary State Spelling Bee, for grades 4 through 6, will be held April 23 at the San Joaquin County Office of Education in Stockton. The 2016 State Junior High Spelling Bee, for grades 7 through 9, will be held May 14 at Miller Creek Middle School in San Rafael.

More information is available from Rose Koller of the Santa Barbara County Education Office at 964-4710, ext. 5222. 

Teens and alcohol

Radio Commentary

Teenagers love to party.

But, because accidents involving alcohol are the number one killer of teens, parties can be particularly worrisome. The PTA’s party guidelines are very helpful:

When your own teen is having a party, be sure to supervise — and to be visible while doing it. Parents are legally responsible for what happens to minors in their home.

Take a strong stand prohibiting alcohol and drugs.

Call the parents of anyone who arrives with drugs or alcohol or seems to be under the influence. Or call a taxi to take the teen home.

Agree with your teen in advance that law enforcement may be called if a party gets out of hand.

Useful rules to enforce include: No drinking. No smoking. No crashers allowed. Lights should be left on. Some rooms in the house are off limits. Also, set a definite start and ending time.

If your teen is going to a party elsewhere, make sure you know where it is. Call the parents to verify the occasion.

Maybe most important, take the time to assure your teens they are important to you. Let them know they can call you for a ride home at any time a situation arises, no questions asked.

Loving parents need to be available to provide support as teens attempt to exercise good judgment. 

Wednesday, February 24, 2016

Santa Barbara Rotary Club recognizes teacher James Beddard

News release

L to R: La Cuesta Principal Elise Simmons, James Beddard, 
Meghan Roarty, and Paul Zink from the Rotary Club  of Santa Barbara.
On Feb. 19, The Rotary Club of Santa Barbara recognized La Cuesta Continuation High School teacher James Beddard for his significant contributions to public education. It is the third of four such awards the Rotarians will present to area educators this academic year. Beddard teaches English, math and, on Friday afternoons, a cooking class for La Cuesta students.

Since 1986, the Rotary Club has honored outstanding teachers from South Coast schools each year. It awards a high school, junior high, elementary, and special education teacher with a certificate and a $1,000 check to spend on classroom needs.

“We are delighted that the annual Rotary awards recognize the contributions of these great teachers, and helps provide them the resources to enhance the classroom experience for local school children,” said Santa Barbara County Superintendent of Schools Bill Cirone, whose office coordinates the recognition with the Rotary Club of Santa Barbara. “Our educators do amazing things for the students and families of our community.”

“The Rotary Club of Santa Barbara is committed to supporting the Santa Barbara County Education Office, and it gives us great pleasure to recognize the efforts of outstanding teachers like James,” said Brian Sarvis, chairman of the Teacher Recognition Committee of the Rotary Club of Santa Barbara. “Rotary of Santa Barbara and Rotary International members know that educators like James Beddard have a tremendous impact on their students, and we respect and applaud the kind of selfless attitude that makes him so deserving of this distinction.”

“James is just an all around amazing human being,” says La Cuesta Principal Elise Simmons. “He has the biggest heart and never gives up on his students. He is a dependable colleague, makes you laugh when you need it the most, and has developed good relationships with sensitivity to everyone's needs and abilities.”

Beddard is in his third year teaching at La Cuesta. He was at Santa Barbara High School for eight years prior to his current teaching post. He also taught for a year at Devereux in Goleta. He earned his undergraduate degree in psychology from UCSB, and his teaching credential as an educational specialist at CSU Channel Islands. His wife, Meghan, teaches at Laguna Blanca School.

“I want students to have a connection at school,” Beddard says. “We have a number of students who do not have active role models in their lives, and I hope to provide support and encouragement to them. As an educator, I know that relationships are of the utmost importance to learning. I try to engage students with energy, new information, and even a little bit of self-deprecation.”

The Rotary Club of Santa Barbara meets at Fess Parker’s Doubletree Resort in Santa Barbara for lunch from noon to 1:30 p.m. on Fridays. Recipients of the club’s Teacher Recognition Awards are made with the assistance of the Teacher Programs and Support department of the Santa Barbara County Education Office.

For more information, visit or

Business, community leaders to be principals for a day

News release

Almost 40 Santa Maria Valley business and community leaders will have a unique opportunity to be a principal for a day at public and private school campuses on Wednesday, March 9 when the Santa Maria Valley Industry Education Council (SMVIEC) and the Santa Maria Valley Chamber of Commerce and Visitors and Convention Bureau co-sponsor the popular Principal For a Day event.

They will spend the morning at a school site to learn more about the challenges facing educators. It is a unique opportunity to interact one on one with the school principal and create ongoing partnerships.

The luncheon event will also include recognition of the Chamber of Commerce Youth of the Month award recipients as well as a performance by the Santa Maria High School Jazz Ensemble.

More information is available by contacting Debra Hood, SMVIEC Liaison, at 349-0443.

Road rage

Radio Commentary

It seems that more and more drivers are acting out their anger when they get behind the wheel.

After they've been cut off, tailgated, or slowed down by a car in front of them, these angry drivers can even commit acts of violence.

Teaching your children about road rage, and how to prevent it, is vital to their health and well-being.

One study of more than 10,000 incidents of aggressive driving revealed that at least 200 people were killed and another 12,600 people were injured because of driver anger.

Remember that you are a role model for your children. Keep your anger in check, and model behavior for your teens that shows them how to be a safe driver.

One good rule: Don't take actions that might offend other drivers. These might include cutting drivers off, driving slowly in the left lane, or tailgating. Avoid these actions at all costs.

Also, don't engage. One angry driver can't start a fight unless another one is willing to join in. So take a deep breath and move on.

It also helps to “steer clear.” Give angry drivers lots of room and avoid eye contact. If an angry driver is following you or using a car as a weapon against you, call for help.

Anger-management courses have helped many individuals gain insight and practical techniques to keep their tempers under control.

When your children are riding in the car with you, remember that they will copy your behavior. Be a good role model for their sake as well as for your own.

Tuesday, February 23, 2016

Sparking curiosity

Radio Commentary

Sparking a child’s curiosity can be one of the important keys to lifelong learning. Parents can play a vital role in this process.

For example, you can make up trivia games to play with children, even when you’re on the run.

You can also help children become active partners in the learning process by giving them a chance to experiment around the house with measuring, cooking, repairing broken items, and other activities that require finding and using information.

You’d be surprised at what your home yields if you look around with a curious eye.

Also, be sure to keep up with what’s going on in your child’s school.

Attend school events and send notes to teachers to express your availability to help. Write teachers when you have questions or concerns, and make an appointment to share your observations.

Get involved with your children by asking for detailed descriptions of what they’re studying at school. Have them teach you some parts of what they’ve learned.

Be sure your children know that you consider their education to be very important.

Even if you can attend only a few school events, your presence will show your children that you’re interested in their school life and you value its importance.

That’s a crucial lesson for them to learn, and it can only come from the home. 

Monday, February 22, 2016

Reducing gun violence

Radio Commentary

Sadly, firearms are second only to motor vehicle accidents in their claim on young lives.

Research indicates that educational efforts aimed at persuading young people to behave responsibly around guns are limited in their effectiveness.

Parents must monitor children’s exposure to guns and protect them from unsupervised use. Any stored guns in a home should be locked, unloaded, and separated from ammunition.

Community leaders can also help. They can promote young people’s safety by sending unequivocal messages that gun violence is not an acceptable way to resolve conflict.
It’s also been shown that requiring safety features on guns can reduce unintentional shootings among young children and adults.

In addition, emerging technologies will enable manufacturers to personalize guns and prevent unauthorized users from operating them.

Most important, as a society we must limit the flow of illegal guns to youth. Federal and state laws regarding gun sales should be tightened so that fewer weapons are accessible to young people.

The physical, economic, and emotional toll of gun violence against young people is unacceptable, regardless of one’s position on adult ownership and use of guns.

Friday, February 19, 2016

Signs of drug use

Radio Commentary

The Council on Alcoholism and Drug Abuse has developed eight points to help raise drug-free kids:

  • Talk to your children.
  • Listen to your children.
  • Set standards of right and wrong.
  • Remember they learn by example.
  • Love, support, and praise them so they will have a sense of self-worth.
  • Keep them busy.
  • Be involved with their lives.
  • Educate yourself about drugs.

These are wonderful general principles that all parents should keep in mind. But they are not guarantees in any sense.

Many parents have asked how they can know, in time to be helpful, whether their children are involved with drugs.

The council has listed some warning signs for parents to look for that could signal involvement with drugs. These include:

  • A drop in school performance
  • A lack of interest in grooming
  • Withdrawal, isolation, or depression
  • Aggressive or rebellious behavior
  • Excessive influence by peers
  • Hostility and lack of cooperation
  • Deteriorating relationships with family
  • Loss of interest in hobbies and sports
  • A change of friends
  • A change in eating or sleeping habits

Always remember: help is available.

Thursday, February 18, 2016

Advising preteens

Radio Commentary

I’ve heard some parents express concern that their preteens don’t listen to them.

This is because preteens may adopt an oblivious attitude or appear to “tune out.”

But parents should not underestimate their influence. Preteens want to know their parents’ opinions and values. They only tune out when parents lecture, preach, or scold.

So, a helpful tool for communication with preteens is to express your opinions indirectly.

For example, you might comment on the behavior of a television character to get a point across.

If a character is driving recklessly, you could say, “It seems he’s being awfully irresponsible about his friend’s safety.”

This kind of statement is usually more effective with preteens than a direct statement like “How could he be so reckless?” or “Don’t you ever drive like that!”

Along the same lines, if your preteen wants to see a movie that you consider controversial, you might go see it with her and then ask her opinions about it.

Instead of lecturing about how bad the movie was, ask what she thought about the characters’ actions and decisions.

This will not only give you insight into her thinking, but can help you get your values across.

Finally, modeling the way you want your children to act can be a very useful way of ‘giving advice’ silently. It works. 

Wednesday, February 17, 2016

Dealing with bullies

Radio Commentary

Children as young as five can start jockeying for social power, and some may even begin to inflict cruelty on other children.
Young people who are victims of bullies respond in various ways. Some may talk about the torment they are receiving. Others may just come home and fall apart. They might cry or throw tantrums for no apparent reason.

If you know that your child is being bullied, talk to the principal or school counselor as soon as possible.

Describe in detail what is happening and how often. Let school officials explain the steps they will take to promote a healthy learning environment and keep your child safe.

At home, help empower your child by letting her know you believe she can handle social situations.

Help her find the right words to say, like “You can’t do that to me,” or “You need to stay away from me.” Practice role-playing to help prepare your child and build his courage.

Bullies seem less likely to pick on children who have friends, so encourage your child’s friendships.

Host “play dates” and help your child find extracurricular activities. Having friends in other places, outside of school, can build confidence.

A child who feels successful socially will be able to see that it’s the bully’s problem, not hers.

In fact, a child who feels more secure and less vulnerable is less likely to be picked on, so work hard to reinforce those traits. 

Tuesday, February 16, 2016

Signs of stress

Radio Commentary

Stress can be positive or negative, and children experience both kinds.

Positive stress can motivate children and cause them to explore new things—like the excitement of trying out for a sports team or going on a trip.

Negative stress may make children feel overwhelmed. It may cause problems unless children learn ways to cope with it.

Causes of negative stress in children can include difficult events, such as death or divorce.  But even positive events, such as a new sibling or new home, can cause children to feel overwhelmed.
Stress can also be caused by children’s everyday, ordinary activities.

These might include interacting with peers, taking tests, or going through physical and emotional changes.

Parents should watch children for signs of stress. These may include: 

  • Not getting along well with other people, especially in the child’s age group. 
  • A drastic drop in grades.
  • A serious change in behavior—if  a cheerful, happy child becomes sullen or withdrawn.
  • Physical symptoms—such as chronic headaches or stomach aches, a racing heartbeat, nightmares, bedwetting, nail-biting, or poor eating.

A child who shows more than one of these signs may need help. Recognizing stress in children is an important first step in reducing its impact. 

Monday, February 15, 2016

Loving discipline

Radio Commentary

Punishment is a negative consequence of bad behavior that has already occurred. Discipline is a positive way to focus on future behavior.

Here are rules for loving discipline that many parents have found helpful:

  • Change misbehavior by setting positive goals to strive for, rather than negative ones to avoid. 
  • Say what you mean and mean what you say. Children have an uncanny way of knowing the difference.
  • Involve your children in solving problems to show you value their judgment.
  • Talk less; do more. 
  • Ask what happened to cause a certain misbehavior. The cause may be very different from what you suspected.
  • Make clear what you want from your children and praise them when they do it. 
  • Impose logical consequences for any misbehavior. Be sure the cause-and-effect link is clear.
  • Give your children choices — but make sure you can live with them. If not, discuss the issue and explain why another choice might be better.
  • Focus on what’s good about your children, and expect their very best. 

And always show your love.

Friday, February 12, 2016

Children and crises

Radio Commentary

Whether it's a hurricane, tornado, or earthquake far away, or a fire or shooting closer to home, parents and other caregivers must meet the challenge of reassuring children during times of crisis.

The way caregivers respond has a huge impact on how children will react.
To help, a booklet from the American Academy of Pediatrics and the Johnson & Johnson Pediatric Institute, called When Terrible Things Happen: A Parent’s Guide to Talking with Their Children, offers some good advice.

For example, infants and toddlers, age zero to three, can’t understand how a crisis or a loss has changed their environment.
But they can recognize and respond to changes in adult behavior.

The best way to help infants and toddlers is to keep a routine and resume normal activities as soon as possible.
Pre-school children, age three to five, may not talk about their feelings openly. Talking while playing games or drawing pictures can help children of this age group express their thoughts more easily.
School-aged children, age five to 12, have more understanding of how and why things happen and will want to ask questions. Parents can help by talking, listening and answering their questions directly and honestly.

We cannot control a crisis or a catastrophe. We can only control how we react to them, especially with our children. 

Thursday, February 11, 2016

Masons, Town & Country Women’s Club, Women's Service Club of Goleta to judge county spelling bee

News release

Members of Santa Barbara Masonic Lodge #192, the Town and Country Women’s Club, and the Women’s Service Club of Goleta will serve as judges at the annual county spelling bee, Thursday, Feb. 25, in the auditorium of the Santa Barbara County Education Office, 4400 Cathedral Oaks Road.

The elementary contest for students in grades 4 to 6 will begin at 9 a.m. The junior high contest for students in grades 7 to 9 will begin at 1:30 p.m.

Some 200 students from public and private schools throughout the county will vie for trophies and honors in the annual event. The top winners in each category will proceed to the state contest.

Further information is available from Rose Koller at the SBCEO, 964-4710, ext. 5222.

Concentration skills

Radio Commentary

Young children’s minds are full of information. This can make their attention span very short.

You can help build their attention span through activities that develop concentration.

You want them to learn how to pick one piece of information from the brain and focus on it. Concentration is key.

First, help your child pay attention to what you say by being very clear and focused when you talk. Look your child in the eye and use simple, direct sentences. Repeat important points several times.

Talk about what happened on a given day. Ask children questions that will help them focus on a specific event.

Have them talk about the event as long as they are able. At first this may be for just a few seconds.

It also helps to read together. Many children will sit to hear a book read aloud even when they won’t sit still for anything else.

When a story is over, ask children questions that will help them concentrate on specific characters or actions.

Finally, use pictures or props to focus a child’s attention. A child will be more interested in talking about a neighbor’s new kitten if you are both looking at a picture of a kitten while you talk.

The most important behavior you can demonstrate during these conversations is patience. Concentration skills can take years to fully develop, but it’s worth the effort. 

Wednesday, February 10, 2016

The power of partnerships

By Bill Cirone

February 2016 marks National Children’s Dental Heath Month. This month-long national health observance spotlights the thousands of dedicated dental healthcare and educational professionals who work in partnership to promote the benefits of good oral health to children, their caregivers, and teachers.

On Feb. 2, the Santa Barbara County Board of Supervisors passed a resolution, sponsored by Salud Carbajal, underscoring the importance of oral health to children and their education, and supporting the work of the local collaborative.

A little known fact is that tooth decay is the most common illness affecting U.S. children today. Yet we know that it can be prevented or improved with proper identification, preventative education, and treatment.

The importance of prevention cannot be overstated. Untreated dental disease can be extremely painful, which in turn can cause poor academic performance and behavior problems.

It can also cause problems with chewing or speaking, and reduced self-esteem. If dental disease is not treated early, it can result in the need for more serious and expensive intervention later.

The good news for Santa Barbara County school children is that a broad based local coalition of parents, educators, dental professionals, government, and foundation officials are working together to address the problem.

More good news is that this coalition is making progress. The incidents of untreated dental disease are decreasing countywide, according to the results of recent State Preschool Dental Screenings. Santa Maria students showed an incident rate of 20% last year — down from 50% just five years earlier. Goleta/Isla Vista’s incident rate is down 15% over the last five years. Lompoc’s incident rates have decreased by 11% over that same time period.

I salute the work of all involved in making such a difference. A special nod goes to the Public Health Department’s Women, Infants and Children (WIC), and Maternal Child & Adolescent Health (MCAH) Programs, which offered preventative oral health education to 7,200 families in 2015.

In addition, the Santa Barbara County Education Office Health Linkages Program offered oral health education to 4,000 families with preschool children. They also provide 8,000 fluoride varnish applications a year and have trained medical providers countywide to provide an additional 10,000 applications to children at well-child check ups.

Brighter smiles among our community’s children are also due to the efforts of local philanthropists and dentists. Last year, local foundations provided over $820,000 for the Oral Health Collaborative’s “Children’s Orthodontia Project” for 2016-18. The grant will provide 100 low-income students per year, for two years, with orthodontia.

Ten high caliber community orthodontists are instrumental to this program, too. To participate in this project, each orthodontist is willing to take reduced fees to treat students.

“We have been coordinating efforts to address the unmet dental needs of the county’s children for over 25 years. Collaborations like this, with input and support from government officials, private practitioners, and compassionate non-profit organizations, are what make our work so gratifying,” say Health Linkages Program officials Georgene Lowe and MaryEllen Rehse. “People do care, and they demonstrate time and again their willingness to walk the walk.”

Talk about a perfect illustration of the power of partnerships. What a great local story to mark National Children’s Dental Health Month.

Activities for literacy

Radio Commentary

To help encourage literacy, ask your young child to draw a picture and tell you what the picture is about. Match pictures with written words. Write words or help your child cut out a word from a magazine.

Encourage writing skills, even scribbling, at an early age.

To help develop strong language skills, practice clapping out the sounds in words, saying letters, and sounding out words.

Use songs, poems, games, rhymes, repetition, and patterns to help develop your child’s language skills.

Teach your child new words, explaining the meaning in simple terms. Over time, this really helps.

Simple conversation also helps encourage literacy in children, so talk to your child about the colors, sounds, and images in your home and surroundings.

Talk to your child about daily activities — for example, name the clothing as you dress your child, or locations as you drive.

Ask your child questions and encourage your child to ask you questions.

Speak in whole sentences and use a variety of words when talking to your child.

Encourage children to tell you about experiences and ideas that are important to them.  It’s fun AND educational. 

Tuesday, February 9, 2016

Growing up at risk

Radio Commentary

Peter Benson’s book, “The Troubled Journey,” paints a portrait of youth from sixth through twelfth grade.

In it, he made an interesting observation.
He wrote: “It is not clear whether growing up now is riskier business than it once was, or whether we are simply doing a better job naming and counting problems that have always existed.

“It doesn’t really matter,” he wrote. “What matters is that there are too many casualties, too many wounded, too many close calls.”

Looking around our community, it is clear that he is correct.

His recommendation is one we can all agree with. He wrote: “Our highest national priority should be to mobilize our collective energy, commitment, and ingenuity to ensure a bright future for each and every child.”

It is hard to argue with that worthy goal.

The good news is that efforts are underway locally to help in that battle, particularly through various nonprofit and government organizations, and through our local school districts.

We should not, and cannot, rest until we make sure we’ve given every child an equal chance to succeed, in a safe and supportive environment.

Monday, February 8, 2016

Math tips

Radio Commentary

Here are some good math homework tips for parents:

It can be helpful to encourage children to use a daily math assignment book, even if one is not provided at school. Follow the progress your child is making, and check with your child every day about math homework.

Engage in frequent talks with your child’s teacher, especially if you don’t understand the math assignments. Terminology and techniques have evolved over the years, and it’s common for parents to be unfamiliar with the format of a question.

Ask your child’s teacher whether your child is working at grade level and, if not, what can be done at home to help.

If your child needs help, request after-school math support. Sometimes peer tutoring is the most effective, and children often enjoy learning from peers even more than from teachers.

Try to become familiar with how your child is being taught math skills, and resist the temptation to teach strategies or shortcuts that conflict with the approach the teacher is using. Ask your child’s teacher if there are online resources you could use at home.

Math is an essential skill for almost every human endeavor, and parents can often be very helpful in enabling their children to master these critical skills. When in doubt, check with the teacher. That’s the best advice of all.

Friday, February 5, 2016

Planning and structuring

Radio Commentary

The toughest time for parents to communicate with their children is during the young adolescent years. Thinking ahead about your own standards, and helping children structure their tasks, can be a great help.

In fact, one of the best tools for parents is being prepared.

In the middle school years, get ready for some conflicts. Before any issue reaches a boiling point, think carefully about what is truly important to you.

Know ahead of time what areas you are willing to negotiate and which are absolute for you.
Here’s another tip. When young people are feeling overwhelmed, help them organize their goals and tasks clearly.

Think about it: A disastrous bedroom, 12 overdue math assignments, a long-term project that’s “suddenly” due in a few days or hours. All of these combined can make a preteen decide to give up, rather than get started.

Help your child break those chores into smaller parts. For example: clean off the bed, get five assignments done tonight, and assemble materials for the project.

This will help them structure the tasks so that they seem more approachable and doable. 

Thursday, February 4, 2016

Birmingham pledge

Radio Commentary

Dr. Martin Luther King had a dream that one day human beings would be judged not by the color of their skin but by the content of their character.
That dream is not yet a reality. But we can all help bring it closer by giving our children the tools that will help them grow up as tolerant adults who embrace and celebrate America's great diversity.
 One of those tools is the Birmingham Pledge, an effort which aims to recognize the dignity and worth of every individual.
The pledge is a personal, daily commitment to remove prejudice from our lives, and to treat all people with respect.
The pledge states:
I believe that every person has worth as an individual and is entitled to dignity and respect, regardless of race or color.
I believe that every thought and every act of racial prejudice is harmful; if it is my thought or act, then it is harmful to me as well as to others.
Therefore, from this day forward I will strive daily to eliminate racial prejudice from my thoughts and actions.
I will discourage racial prejudice by others at every opportunity. I will treat all people with dignity and respect; and I will strive daily to honor this pledge, knowing that the world will be a better place because of my effort.
It’s a pledge we can all make.

Wednesday, February 3, 2016

Detail skills

Radio Commentary

People generally talk about reading and writing together. Certainly, many of the skills that make children successful at one make them good at the other.

For example, one important reading skill that benefits from writing practice is identifying details.

Parents should encourage children to provide details in their own oral and written stories. This will help them become more aware of the way other authors use detail.

One writing exercise requiring details is to have children give directions. Ask them to write very specifically how to get from home to school, or how to make a peanut butter and jelly sandwich.

When children write thank-you notes to friends or relatives, have them describe in detail the item and how they will use it.

Children can also take the clipboard along on family outings. Ask them to describe the “prettiest” thing they see on the trip, or the most “unusual.” Then challenge them to list as many details as they can, including shapes, colors, textures, and impressions.

One way teachers measure improvement in young writers is to look at their use of details. The same is also true for improving reading comprehension: details matter.

Tuesday, February 2, 2016

Paying for college

Radio Commentary

Many parents would like their children to attend college, but are concerned about the costs.

While paying for college can be a challenge, it is important to know that there are many opportunities for financial assistance.

The factors that influence the cost of a basic college education are the type of school (such as public or private, in-state or out-of-state), the time it takes your child to finish (the longer he or she stays, the more it will cost), and location.
Location affects the cost of housing, food and transportation.
Federal and state governments both offer help, along with private sources and foundations such as the Scholarship Foundation of Santa Barbara.

Your child’s high school is the best single source of information about financial aid.

Here are tips that help reduce college costs:

  • Reduce the number of classes needed in college by taking Advanced Placement classes or courses at a community college.
  • Enroll in a community college and then transfer to a four-year school.
  • Participate in a partnership program that is formally linked to a college.
  • Take advantage of federal programs such as the HOPE Scholarship tax credit.

Remember the guiding principle: Where there is a will, there really is a way.

Monday, February 1, 2016

Bad influences

Radio Commentary

Limiting children’s exposure to objectionable or harmful material is a top priority for parents.

A good start is to resist putting TVs or computers in your children’s bedrooms.

Rather, it’s a good idea to place the television and computer in areas of the house where everyone has access to them.

Choose a place where you can talk with your pre-teens and they can talk with you about what they’re watching or doing online.

Never underestimate the power of your influence.

Even though children won’t often say thank you for your sound advice, or act grateful when you set limits, your efforts will be appreciated in the long run.

TV, Internet, and video content can overload young people with violent or confusing images and ideas. They may believe or worry that outside the confines of your family those values are the norm.

Especially in the era of reality TV, these thoughts can be very troublesome.

By keeping TVs and computers in a shared area of your home, you can enjoy them together and monitor what is being viewed. It can also spark important family discussions.

It truly makes a difference.