Christmas time and winter holidays are the perfect season to curl up with a mug of hot chocolate and marshmallows and a magical book.
Cuddle up with your child and travel together to a magical land where sweet dreams, good friends and snowy adventures!
Little Tail and the Snow: “Imaginative way of bringing nature to life. Makes you think of all those little precious things around us we take for granted every day. Lovely depictions.”
Little Tail Meets Blue – How much do you enjoy snow? THAT much? Then you’re just like Little Tail, the adventurous dog who went far and away looking for it. What else will he find in that snowed up, frosty forest?
The Blue Forest: “Excellent! I teach children to speak and read English! They love these books! They are fun and informative as well!”
“You simply have to read about this Winter Wonderland!”
Will Little Tail, the friendly dog with a red tuft at the end of his tail, have another chance to frolic in the snow with his friend? He will have to wait to find out. Daylight casts new shadows over the forest trees and things look different than they were during night time.
Little Tail might be a small dog by size, but he’s a brave little dog. What else has he discovered up North? Friend or foe? He soon learns that it is better to listen when being spoken to – even if a tiny bird addresses you.
Little Tail has to make a choice and there is a risk that he will be chased out of his cozy burrow and in the heart of winter , if the old rhyme proves to be right. But if he doesn’t offer his help a stranger might perish!
“I really enjoyed this book about Little Tail the dog. He is such a great character, who is very kind.
This is a wonderful book to teach children about helping others and friendship.“
You can read all of these book and more in HAPPY FRIENDS, available in paperback, kindle and LARGE PRINT from Amazon:
“Enid Blyton style.
Happy Friends has everything you want in a children’s book! It will make your child laugh, smile, stoke their imagination and set them on the right track for sweet dreams!
As well as all this, the book shares valuable life lessons, traditional values, installs empathy, and positivity too!
It is a fun yet deep book which I believe every child should own!“
All of these books and more are part of the “HAPPY FRIENDS” collection: “Patricia Furstenberg’s collection of twelve stories, Happy Friends, is a classic collection of stories to charm and to teach young readers the value of life and the value of good friends. Each of the twelve stories stands on its own, but each story interacts with the next as the plot thickens. The individual stories become Little Tail’s journey of discovery as he leaves his home and friends, only to discover that Snow might be interesting, but so are his friends back home.
For as “The Book of Life” says, and is often quoted in Happy Friends, “The time spent in the company of friends will, more than once, become part of our most cherished memories, staying with us for the rest of our lives.” Happy Friends is a treasure to be enjoyed and shared over and over again”(Reader’s Favorite Book Review)”
This Father’s Day, choose to spend time with your dad rather than giving him an expensive gift. Shared experiences are much more effective in improving or maintaining positive relationships than material gifts, a study shows, because experiences are “more emotionally evocative”.
Shared experiences have the added value of strong reactions, be it excitement or awe, an adrenaline rush or the bliss of relaxation. So, create some memories to last you a lifetime.
24 Great Experiences and Cool Activities To Share With Your Dad
Cook a meal with your dad, or make him a meal or simply a cup of coffee or tea.
Invite him over and braai together.
Sit down and talk to your dad. Go and have a beer together.
Go and have a haircut with your dad.
Find a live performance to take your dad to and enjoy it together: a live band, a play at the theatre or a stand-up comedy event.
Take him to the park or out to the countryside and enjoy a walk together.
Watch a sports game on TV.
Take your dad to a live sports game.
Test drive a new car together.
Enjoy an ice-cream with your dad and this time you be the one to buy it.
Write your dad a thank you note or a letter instead of just sending him a text.
Do some gardening with your dad.
Take him on a picnic.
Go and fly a kite together.
Take your dad hiking.
Go and cycle with your dad, or play a game of tennis or any other game you both enjoy.
Play frisbee on the beachor at your local park.
Go camping with your dad for the weekend.
Play a game of putt-putt.
Take a ride with your dad in a steam train.
Take your dad sightseeing in the city.
Go with him to the zoo or a bird park.
Take your dad to a flea market or a Sunday food market and enjoy the experience together.
Father’s Day History
The modern traditions of Father’s Day are easily traceable to the beginning of the 20th century in the United States. The Americans pinpoint the origin of Father’s Day to June 19 1910 in Washington, when Sonora Smart Dodd, while attending a church service in honour of Mother’s Day, decided to honour her father, a Civil War veteran who raised his six children alone after the premature death of his wife.
Of course, the idea could have been sparked by a church service that took place two years earlier, when a congregation from West Virginia honoured 361 men killed in a mine explosion. But it wasn’t until 1966, when the 36th president of the U.S., Lyndon B Johnson, signed an executive order that the third Sunday in June became the official day on which to celebrate Father’s Day. In 1972, President Richard Nixon recognised it officially as a U.S. national holiday.
Catholics have celebrated their fathers since the Middle Ages. Western Christianity has honoured fathers since the 10th century on March 19, the Day of St Joseph, husband of the Blessed Virgin Mary and legal father of Jesus Christ. It was the Spanish and the Portuguese who brought this celebration to Latin America.
Father’s Day Traditions Around the World
In Germany, Father’s Day is celebrated on Ascension Day (the Thursday 40 days after Easter) and it is also called Gentlemen’s Day, Herrentag. Men over the age of 18 go hiking in groups, pulling a small wagon filled with wine or beer and lots of food. The tradition is probably rooted in 18th-century Christian traditions, when men would be seated in a wooden cart and carried to the central plaza of the village where the father with the largest family would win a prize.
Greece celebrates all fathers on this special day, including those who are divorced. Professor Dr Nicolas Spitalas created the International Movement of Dads. His association, SYGAPA (Men’s and Father’s Dignity), is the biggest movement of this kind in the world with 35,000 members.
In Thailand,it is tradition to give fathers and grandfathers a canna flower as a gift. It is considered a symbol of manhood.
In Mexico, during Father’s Day, Dia del Padre, fathers often participate in a 21km race.
In Japan, fathers receive origami presents made by their children.
In France, Father’s Day, La Fête des Pères, was introduced by a lighter manufacturer in 1949. A national committee would decide which dads deserved the reward, a “Flaminaire” lighter, the most.
(Initially posted on the Huffigton Post SA, 17 June 2018)
Throughout the centuries, great teachers have been guided by their intuition as to what method of teaching works best. Modern brain imaging techniques have brought into plain view why certain methods work as the workings of the brain has never been as thoroughly demonstrated. Today we have a clear understanding of which methods work. The latest research in the science of Mind, Brain and Education (MBE) are available to help 21st Century teachers and learners achieve success. MBE is a young science started at Harvard University 25 years ago by uniting the fields of neuroscience, psychology, and education.
Here are the 6 principles MBE is based on:
#1: Each brain is unique and uniquely organized.
Our brains are as unique as our faces or our fingerprints. Although the basic structure and patters of learning remain the same, each brain is unique.
Each human being has unique DNA. Our blueprint is further influenced and shaped by our lifetime experiences, as the age old nature versus nurture argument goes. Even if identical twins share very similar genes (each human being has 24 000), the latest genetic studies prove that their phenotype or physical manifestation will differ as a result of life experiences and epigenetic factors (the way in which environmental factors alter behaviour and development.
Humans share general physical and neurodevelopmental stages (yet not in the same way or at the same rate) that establish the parameters for learning. Since each brain is unique and develops in its own way, students will learn and develop at their own pace. This is why a “one size fits all” method of teaching is ineffective.
#2: All brains are not equal because context and ability influence learning
He has a gift for words, she has a mathematician’s brain, some of us resent change while others welcome it – why is it so? We know that the different stages of brain development impact our comprehension and the development of our skills by influencing our brain’s physiology. Not only are our brains different, but our genetic predisposition, our “abilities” differ. There is no predefined frame for success as a learner.
The human brain is wired for studying and experimenting and is constantly changing. With the right support, motivation and an appropriate learning environment, a modest background (genetic or not) can be maximized beyond expectation; while individuals born with great potential or under the right circumstances may not reach their potential if they do not live up to it.
An interesting example is that of dyslexia and astronomy. Research shows that dyslexia is the result of an atypical cortical organization. However, the dyslexic brain’s visual field is wired differently, allowing for a wider spatial attention. Because dyslexic students favor the peripheral visual field, with the necessary support and training, they’ll have a greater advantage as astronomers (Schneps, “Dyslexia and Astronomy”, 2007).
#3: The brain is changed by experience
Our genetic codes, the circumstances of our birth and our social experiences make us who we are, each with our own set of strengths and weaknesses.
Since learning is “the acquisition of knowledge or skills through study, experience, or being taught” (Oxford Dictionary), it is impossible for the brain not to learn and change through daily experiences. Previous positive experiences will empower learning, while negative ones will hinder the learning process.
The human brain is not detached from the body during the learning process so the stimuli affecting the human body (taste, smell, touch, sight) will impact upon the brain. A repetitive stimulus will, in time, create a permanent change; more stimuli exciting a wider area of the brain will, in time, strengthen that area. The reverse is also true; the lack of stimulation will, eventually, cause an area to atrophy – How the Brain Works. All these changes are unseen, but the effects thereof are clearly visible.
#4: The brain is highly plastic
Your brain will be different than it was before you read this article in response to your thoughts; your brain constantly prunes and strengthens its neural pathways. This is neuroplasticity, derived from neuron (a nerve cell) and plastic (mouldable). The human brain is most malleable at a young age, yet throughout our lives the brain is capable of neurogenesis (creation of new neurons), reorganizing old pathways and creating new neural connections that improve its capabilities. We can learn at any age, as our brain constantly rewires itself and changes its physical structure (functional plasticity) or recuperates a lost skill, if the usual route is damaged or blocked (structural plasticity).
Neuroplasticity goes beyond, confronting the belief that certain brain areas are responsible for a specific function. Antonio Battro, neuroscientist and educationalist, documents the extraordinary life of a child living with only half a brain in “Half a Brain is Enough: The Story of Nico”. The brain works as a system; when parts of brain are missing other parts take over and learn new functions.
The brain’s plasticity is also associated with the growth mind-set concept: by being told that intelligence is not fixed, but changeable; a group of schoolchildren were able to raise their IQ’s.
Neuroplasticity means that anybody can learn or develop a skill at any stage throughout their life, if context (support, environment, motivation, prior knowledge and enough practice) and ability are present.
#5: The brain connects new information to old
We all thrive to make sense of the world around us, no matter our age. Mouthing is part of normal infant development; teenagers need to belong to a group and as grown-ups confronted with a new situation we felt that the world made no sense – until we found a familiar pattern to relate to. This is part of foundational knowledge, using what we already know from different disciplines to make sense of something knew.
The human brain is designed to find and generate patterns.
Our mind learns and makes sense of experiences by finding old patterns to relate to before creating new ones. Patterns can be a thinking principle, a category, or diagrams. It is much like following directions to an unknown location by looking for familiar landmarks. At the same time, very much like connecting the dots to create an image, the human brain will use the understanding of small details to comprehend the big picture (such as a project, a meaningful story or a history lesson).
By connecting the new information with the old information; new neural connections will appear, that will anchor the new concepts to the already existing ones.
This is why teaching in a vacuum fails. Students need to connect new information to old information in order to understand it. And the new information that relies on old information can not be absorbed if the old information is missing, or not completely understood.
#6: Attention + Memory = Learning
Our brains are not made to download the information presented to them, but to first analyse it visually, auditory and tacitly.
Our experiences are first lived, then learned.
Attention is needed during the learning process; first to make sense of what is being taught and then to connect new ideas to the existing knowledge by noticing similarities between the two. Yet the information presented to us will compete with the overall stimuli our body is exposed to. At the same time; learning is influenced by our emotional state, as emotions convey meaningfulness to the subject at hand.
When a new concept is being taught; we first commit it to the working memory. After revision, it is stored in the long term memory. Overloading the working memory will reduce the amount of information we can move to long term memory. Practice and meaning are crucial to committing the information to long term memory. Therefore, the way information is presented needs to reduce the cognitive load and facilitate learning.
As our brains are unique; each student will better assimilate the information through a different channel. Using a variety of methods while teaching (reading, videos, debates, discussion, projects, slides, etc.) will benefit a larger number of students, as the input information enters through different neural pathways ensuring a greater possibility of maximizing student learning, often through the overlapping of information.
(Written by Patricia Furstenberg for ITSI_SA – April 2018)
How Mobile Libraries Can Boost Education In South Africa
Some of my most cherished memories involve books. Being read to, excited to hear my father mimicking different characters in the story; later on, thrilled to read on my own. Books, the touch and feel of them. Cradling the book you thoroughly enjoy and that sunken feeling when it’s over.
Most of this world’s amazing people were thirsty readers, drawing inspiration and strength from books. Oscar Wilde, Nelson Mandela, Agatha Christie. What would they have become if it wasn’t for the books they were fortunate to read? Where would you be now without the books that made you?
“Be a lifelong student, read as many books as possible.” Nelson Mandela
For us, books are within easy access; a library down the road or at school, online book retailers or the mall’s bookshop and second hand bookshops. We’re lucky, although we probably take it for granted, to have been brought up in a culture of reading. Because reading is linked to academic achievement, emotional intelligence and self-esteem.
South African learners still have limited access to libraries
And the two main reasons are: lack of infrastructure and the bad management of funds.
My previous article: “Does school attendance guarantee literacy?” concluded that access to reading material from an early age, together with school attendance and government funds for learners are key factors in attaining a high literacy level in a country.
There aren’t enough libraries
Learners in primary schools with a library fulfilling minimum standards (which can be as little as a box of books in one classroom, as decided by the South African Department of Basic Education):
Provinces ranked according to schools supplied with a library, with one being the highest extent and nine the lowest extent:
The 2009 UNICEF report stated that 53 percent of SA learners were in non-fee schools, completely dependent on funds from the government. The funds are allocated per learner, depending on the poverty of the area around the school and are amended annually.
Schools that have acquired the full set of funds, by province:
Where do we stand, worldwide? The World’s Most Literate Nations (WMLN) ranks countries on their populace’s literate behaviours and their supporting resources. They use five categories as indicators of the literate health of nations: libraries, newspapers, education inputs and outputs, computer availability. “This multidimensional approach to literacy speaks to the social, economic, and governmental powers of nations around the globe.” On Libraries ranking South Africa scored 51.5, with position one as best and 61 last.
To paraphrase Francis Bacon, if children can’t have access to books, then let the books come to the children.
1. Mobile libraries and librarians
This is exactly what SAPESI (South African Primary Education Support Initiative) does. With the support of the SAPESI Japan offices they source and export mobile libraries (MBs) to SA. These facilities are contained in medium-sized busses and will travel around provinces providing poor communities with free access to books and a librarian. Each bus carries 2,500 books in all 11 official languages, catering for children between the ages of six and 11.
Japan, a country with an area three times smaller than South Africa, has 530 MBs. In 2016 South Africa had approximately 50 MBs visiting 885 schools across the country. SAPESI aims to have 100 MBs that will serve 2,500 schools by 2025: at least one in operation in each of the 96 education districts across South Africa. SAPESI hopes that the learners’ families will be encouraged by these efforts and support the children’s reading efforts as “reading is the basis of all learning.”
Since 2008 SAPESI is also supported by Sony companies from Australia, Canada, Hong Kong, Malaysia, New Zealand, Singapore, South Africa, United Kingdom and the United States. The total number of English children’s books donated so far is 170,000. Sony Corporation in Tokyo contributed funds to SAPESI in order to purchase a further 13,200 children’s books in languages indigenous to South Africa.
In addition to supplying books Sony also supports the “VAIO Bakkie”, an IT training project using Sony’s VAIO laptop computer, whereby pupils enjoy learning practical computer skills, even at schools without computer facilities.
2. Improvise and reuse refurbished containers
The South African Mobile Library Association (SAMLA) together with EDSA (Education for Democracy in South Africa) have joined forces to bring the knowledge and love of reading, story-telling and drama to townships and squatter camps of the Western Cape. A children’s library has been set up in three refurbished containers in a central location in Gugulethu Township.
3. Wooden mobile bookshelves
Mobile Library Solutions, “Masixhasane”, is another mobile library initiative doing their bit at eradicating illiteracy in SA schools. They build mobile libraries that fit through a door and are ready to use: wooden mobile bookshelves stocked up with books sponsored by worldwide organisations.
Percentage of learners with library access as presented in the 2014 report for basic education:
Mobile libraries, early results
In 2014 research done by the University of Free State on schools in the rural areas proved that primary children from schools serviced by mobile libraries showed a significant improvement in their English reading and speaking capabilities.
The children were able to converse comfortably with us in English and also read from their library books with ease and comprehension. By contrast, children from some schools that have not had access to the mobile libraries had very little understanding or use of English.” says Dr. Lynette Jacobs, Head of the School of Education Studies.
Sony Group employees send books to children in South Africa.
There are many other organisations supporting the mobile library initiative with the same vital purpose: to instil a love of reading thus improving literacy and overall academic performance of the children of South Africa.
Written for and published on Huffington Post SA on 4 May 2017
Left Or Right Brain? How Discovering Your Child’s Learning Style Can Help You Help Them
Your child is a left-brain; he’s got a logical mind, he understands numbers and sequence, that’s why he’s so good with mathematics and sciences. My daughter is no good at mathematics, but she’s a right-brain, she’s creative and imaginative.
Is it correct to label our children based on common beliefs? Left-brain and right-brain, there is so much more to it than aptitudes towards the science or the arts.
Karl Lashley was the first neuropsychologist to map the human brain, especially those areas of the brain responsible for specific functions and to research the way people study and learn new facts. Based on his initial findings, further studies have established that the left hemisphere is in charge of language (vocabulary), memorizing and recalling, following instructions. The right hemisphere is in charge with visualization, imagining, comparison, as well as comprehension and interpretation.
The right-side, left-side dominance becomes evident from an early age. The older we become, the more evident it is, except that grown-ups also learn to compensate and, if they are lucky, they will choose a career path that aligns with their dominant hemisphere.
On a school level, the situation is different. There is no choice, thinker or dreamer, they are all crammed in the same classroom, following the same curriculum. And the curriculum seems to favour the left-brain students.
Left-brain academic subjects focus on logical thinking, analysis, and accuracy.
Right-brained subjects focus on aesthetics, emotions, and creativity.
Until the day that the education department will embrace and support this natural, dual way of thinking it lies in our hands as parents to support our children.
Often right-brain students will appear as under-achievers as the educational curriculum might not be challenging enough for the way their brain is wired to think.
Mathematics and science require the learning and use of formulas, of a specific sequence of facts. Languages and Social Sciences require students to memorize vocabulary and grammar rules as well as lists of facts and numerous dates. Furthermore, mathematics or maths literacy are listed among the compulsory subjects required for all degrees offered by the Faculty of Law, Faculty of Natural and Agricultural Sciences, Faculty of Humanities or Faculty of Theology.
Wonderful news for left-brain pupils, but what about the right-brain ones? The dreamers and the thinkers that see the big picture, yet tend to struggle remembering small details? The David Karp (founder of Tumbler), Evan Williams (Blogger creator and former Twitter CEO) or Simon Cowell (Britain’s Got Talent)?
These right-brain dominant students, although just as gifted and as clever as their left-brain fellows, are often seen as under-achievers because they struggle to remember a formula or a historical date. Few right-brain pupils might just be able to expand their natural brain functioning, thus over-compensating the restraints of their brain design — by applying themselves to the extreme.
It is important to understand that a pupil’s cerebral inclination will play a role not only in the type of information he or she is more likely to absorb but also in the way he or she will best absorb that information.
Although left-brain students can absorb the details and the numbers, they might struggle to step back and “get” the big picture. These students may need to know from the beginning what is the end goal, what is expected of them before the study process even begins.
Right-brain pupils benefit from the use of images and colours when studying. Using simple drawings when learning is highly beneficial as it involves their dominant right-brain, the creative hemisphere in the process, thus supporting their left-brain.
Until the day that the education department will embrace and support this natural, dual way of thinking it lies in our hands as parents to understand our children’s hemispheric dominance and distinctive brain wiring and to support them, as all children are gifted and unique, whole individuals.