Children’s Bible Missing a Certain Key Point

Hi Readers: While we’re on the subject of whitewashing the classics for kids’ delicate sensibilities, here’s the one that takes the cake:

Dear Free-Range Kids: My kids have a children’s bible which says “and Jesus went away.” Kind of destroys one of the central tenets of Christianity.

Yikes! For God so loved the world that He gave His  only begotten son a long vacation? “Judas! What is this ticket to Bermuda for?” The possibilities are pretty endless. — L.

P.S. Hi folks! Can we practice a little “turning the other cheek” right here and be kind to each other in the comments?

I posted this as as example of how our society bends over backwards to “protect” kids from pretty much everything, as if they can’t handle a bump, a bruise, or a sad story that other generations seem to have been able to tolerate.  The whole Free-Range idea that our kids are more resilient than we’ve been lead to believe (in part by sanitized children’s books!). That’s what I was hoping we’d talk about — overprotection. Not religion.

The (Updated, Safer!) Cat in the Hat

Hi Readers — A recent note from the frontlines of overprotection:

Dear Free-Range Kids: I spent a few years as an assistant teacher working with kindergarteners and the amount of mollycoddling the school did was ridiculous. We couldn’t read “The Cat and the Hat” without interrupting the story to mention how no real mother would leave their kids alone at home. I thought it was really bizarre. Isn’t the six foot tall bi-pedal talking cat enough of a clue that it’s a made up story?

One of my favorite moments was when one of the teachers was reading a picture book biography of Dr. Martin Luthur King Jr. and skipped the page where it mentioned that he was killed. I was dying to say something and was so pleased that the one bi-racial little boy in the class yelled out “He got shot!” and the teacher had to address it.

Free-Range in Fiction!

Hi Readers! Here’s a guest post from the very funny Thelma Adams. You may know her as the film critic for Us Magazine and, before that, the New York Post. But TODAY St. Martins Press/Thomas Dunne Books is publishing her novel, Playdate! Here she ponders a Free-Range Childhood. — L.

Free-Range Children by Thelma Adams

I didn’t grow up Free-Range. We lived on a San Diego cul-de-sac surrounded by hilly miles of sidewalk going pretty much nowhere. Civilization – the Woolworth’s! — was a car ride away. Until the very first day one of my friends got a driver’s license, I stuck close to home.

In my novel, Playdate, the stay-at-home father is more nostalgic than me for his youth — an era that now walks with the dinosaurs:

Lance wondered what had happened to the free-range children of his childhood. During those New Jersey summers when he was growing up, the local kids had gathered on the double-wide lawn that sloped from his house to the neighbor’s: a soccer field, a baseball diamond, a slip ‘n slide dream….The games attracted kids from four to fourteen, although occasionally the teens would pair off and disappear to fondle each other in the woods beyond, away from their parents’ prying eyes, and still within hearing distance of the Ollie Ollie oxen frees, the parents’ final calls once the ten o’clock news of slaughter and baseball scores had run its course.

While this memory is pure fiction, my husband’s desire to raise our kids Free-Range was one of the many reasons that prompted us to leave a cozy corner of Brooklyn for a 15 acre park-load of property in upstate New York. He extolled the virtues of a childhood spent running around outside without worrying about kid-snatchers. Kids need that, he argued: the ability to run on grass, hop on a bike and explore, climb a tree, build a fort in the woods. OK, he convinced me.

What we never anticipated was that in Dutchess County, parents live in fear of something else! Deer ticks. Before the kids go outside into that beautiful pine forest that looks like the entrance to Narnia, they need to be sprayed from head to foot and covered in long pants and long sleeves, high socks and shoes. Upon their return, they must be checked for the teeny tiny Lyme disease carriers with more attention than a TSA agent gives to a twitchy, 20-something male with a last-minute, one-way ticket he paid for in cash. Trust me: it really puts a damper on the whole outdoor picnic.

At least if the kids were free-range chickens, they could peck those ticks and eat them for lunch. Oh, well, the best-laid plans. We have a really beautiful view, lots of lawn to mow, Bambi (+ blood-sucking parasites) frolicking outside — and kids as plugged in to TV, X-box and computer as any sidewalk-bound slug.

Free Childhood with Purchase

Hi Readers — Here’s a note that made me happy, and, as it is gifting time, I figured it might inspire a few more Free-range Kids books (just $10.17!) under a tree:

Dear Free-Range Kids: For or against? Definitely for! I just finished the book and wish I’d known about it sooner.  Then maybe I wouldn’t have second-guessed myself so much.  Such as when I let my seven year old walk home by himself from the school bus (even though my neighbors warn me repeatedly about the dangers of child snatchers who could be lurking around in our rural, small town neighborhood).  Or when I let my kids eat raw cookie dough and cake batter (even though my sister told me I was putting their lives at risk).  I also suspect there have been a few times when friends have decided not to let their kids play at my house because I don’t stay outside with them in the yard the whole time.

But I have held my ground and am occasionally rewarded with evidence that my children (ages seven and four) are doing just fine with the freedom they have.  The other day I watched out the window as my son ran home from the school bus.  He ran as if he were being chased by a swarm of hornets and darted off the road into the tall grass in our neighbor’s yard.  When I asked him what was wrong he said, “Oh nothing.  I was just pretending that I was Indiana Jones trying to escape a huge boulder that was about the squish me.”  Music to my ears!

I love this movement.  I only pray it takes off while my children are still young.  Maybe then they’ll have some friends to run home from the bus stop with. — Kate

Let's hear it for freedom and fun!

Give the Gift of Childhood!

Hi Readers! If you’re wondering what would make a great gift for your kids, or some other kids you love, how about giving them back time outside, and playdates that they make on their own, and the thrill of doing something — anything! — on their own? My book, Free-Range Kids, can help. (And it’s only $10.17! CLICK HERE!)  If you’re wondering what it’s like, here’s the table of contents:

THE FOURTEEN FREE RANGE COMMANDMENTS

1 KNOW WHEN TO WORRY

Playdates and Axe Murderers: How To Tell The Difference

2 TURN OFF THE NEWS

Go Easy On The ‘Law & Order,’ Too

3 AVOID EXPERTS

Who Knew You Were Doing Everything Wrong? …Them

4 BOYCOTT BABY KNEE PADS

And The Rest of the Kiddie Safety-Industrial Complex

5 DON’T THINK LIKE A LAWYER

Some Risks are Worth It

6 IGNORE BLAMERS

They Don’t Know Your Kid Like You Do

7 EAT CHOCOLATE

Give Halloween Back To The Trick-or-Treaters

8 STUDY HISTORY

Your 10-Year-Old Would Have Been Forging Horse Shoes (Or At Least Delivering The Paper)

9 BE WORLDLY

Why Other Countries Are Laughing at Zee Scaredy-Cat Americans

10 GET BRAVER

Quit Trying to Control Everything. It Doesn’t Work Anyway.

11 RELAX

Not Every Little Thing You Do Has That Much Impact On Your Child’s Development

12 FAIL!

It’s The New Succeed

13 LOCK THEM OUT

Make Them Play – Or else

14 LISTEN TO YOUR KIDS

They’re Sick of Being Babies (Except The Actual Babies, Of Course)

SAFE OR NOT? THE A-Z GUIDE TO EVERYTHING YOU MIGHT BE WORRIED ABOUT

From Baby Formula to Walking to School

STRANGERS WITH CANDY

Even the Folks Who Put The Faces On Milk Cartons Aren’t Too Worried

CONCLUSION

The Other Problem that Has No Name

How to Fix It and Give Our Kids Their Childhood Back

— And here are a couple of review from readers —

” I read the whole thing and feel so much better! The pressure of always trying to do the exact right thing for my kids was exhausting. In truth, I have two normal, high-energy boys who need to be able to explore the world. Thank you!”

“Your book had me laughing so hard that my husband had to come and see if I was okay! (I think my gasping sounded like sobbing.)”

“Just what the doctor ordered. I’m a single mother of two girls, 7 and 10, in a middle-class suburb that is very safe. I needed the advice in your book and had a lot of belly laughs reading it.”

Ok, folks — end of commercial. Thanks for listening! — L

Picture Books Too Babyish (i.e., FUN??) For Kindergarteners

Another day, another New York Times story that you wish wasn’t true. And yet, it seems pretty solid: The sale of picture books for kids in going down, and the reasons range from the fact that they’re high priced (which makes some sense) to the idea that kids should be reading chapter books sooner rather than later (which makes no sense at all).

The article, by Julie Bosman, quotes authors, book stores and publishers, all of whom concur: the picture book is fading. While kids still read Seuss, they’re off to Steinbeck sooner rather than later, in part because their parents don’t want them piddling around with pictures. The parents want them doing “real” reading.

Except that…picture books ARE real reading. I was talking with Gever Tulley the other day — yes, the founder of The Tinkering School — and he said that kids who read non-fiction comic books tend to remember the facts and stories better because of the leap their minds make between the panels. Having to create the connection from one picture to the next engages the brain and cements the lesson better than just plain ol’ reading. So take THAT,  pushy parents who want their kids diving into Stendahl instead of Stinky Cheese Man.

Pretty much any book that engages a child is a book worth reading. It gets kids into the groove. It must be turning on their brains, or they’d put it down. And if the kids are reading picture books even into their double digit years, well, ’tis better to read than to not read. My 12-year-old reads Peanuts like the bible — it is his joy in life, his comfort, his compass. To yank that away and say, “Time for ‘Crime & Punishment, kid,” would BE a crime and a punishment.

Picture books: good. Chapter books: good. Reading: good. Simple as that. — Lenore

The Pervert Lady in the Library

Hi Readers — This story makes me sad and sick but it doesn’t surprise me. The same thing is happening at playgrounds: No adults are allowed without a kid — as if every adult who LIKES or even LOVES kids must also want to MOLEST them. Good ol’ “worst first” thinking. Anyway, here’s the latest:

Dear Free-Range Kids: Thought you might be interested in what happened to me today. My husband and I had some appointments and arranged to meet afterwards at the recently renovated Cambridge Public Library. I had brought my laptop and my husband some paperwork, and we planned to do a little work while we were there. I suggested we visit the children’s room: a huge, sunny, room with a ceiling papered to look like a leafy canopy, pillars decorated as tree trunks, and a rug sculpted to look like a stream bed of river stones.

It was 9:00 am and the department was empty except for the librarians. We were the only patrons. We found a corner and settled in until one of the staff came over and informed us that the children’s room was reserved for people “accompanying children.” She was a little apologetic, and explained that it would get busy and loud shortly and there were plenty of other, quieter places for us to work in the library. (True.)

So we settled down in another part of the library and did some work, and when it came time to leave I went in search of the information desk to find the audiobooks for kids. I got directions and asked the woman behind the desk about why we had been shooed from the children’s department. It was explained to me that “they can’t have people hanging out there, looking at little children.” I somehow felt dirty for even having questioned the policy.

This isn’t really about my rights being infringed or really even inconvenienced: I can use the rest of the gorgeous library and am free to use the children’s room, so long as my son chaperones me. But I think this is a chilling development, and I hate what it says about how fearful we have become as a society.

I’m a parent of a 10 year old, a published children’s book author, and I grew up in and around libraries…working as a library page at my hometown library in Falls Church, VA, and at various libraries in college. I love to browse and hang out in the children’s rooms, to watch how kids and their parents interact with books, and to work surrounded by “the canon” of authors who have gone before me. I’m baffled and sad that a library would decide that a huge segment of their patrons are assumed to be dangerous to their youngest patrons. The reasoning seems to be that if you don’t have a child in tow, you can have no legitimate, innocent reason for being in a children’s section of a library. If we’re trending toward a society in which the only people with access to minor children are their parents, teachers, and caregivers, everyone loses, potentially the kids most of all. — Ann Downer

A RAVE Review (of a Book I Filched from My Teenager)

Hi Readers — Why was I up till 12:45 last night? I HAD to finish, “Little Brother.” It’s the young adult book by boingboing’s Cory Doctorow that’s all about what would happen after a terrorist attack if the government started suspecting EVERYONE of terrorism, and most of the people were fine with this.

Naturally, the hero is a geeky/brave 17-year-old and his posse of smart friends, and the action is non-stop.  Naturally, i’ts  being made into a movie. UNnaturally, I loved it.  Normally, I’m more of a historical fiction kind of gal — think, “Girl with a Pearl Earring” —  so this was a book I had to filch from my 14-year-old (who is mortified I read one of his favorite things).

In the most exciting way, the book makes you question all the security measures we take for granted: Are they really making us safer? Are they maybe making us LESS safe? Better still, it explains so many of the issues I’m always grappling with. Like — you know how I find the Sex Offender Registry disturbing because so many of the people on it don’t pose a threat to children? And you know how I’m also upset at the idea of background checks for anyone who even walks into a school, a practice that’s becoming more  and more common? I want our kids to be safe, too. So why should these things bother me? What’s the downside, besides the occasional bureaucratic mix up?

Well here’s how Doctorow’s hero, Marcus, explains the problem of casting too wide a net when searching for evil:

If you ever decide to do something as stupid as build an automatic terrorism detector, here’s a math lesson you need to learn first. It’s called “the paradox of the false positive,” and it’s a doozy.

Say you have a new disease, called Super-AIDS. Only one in a million people gets Super-AIDS. You develop a test for Super-AIDS that’s 99 percent accurate. I mean, 99 percent of the time, it gives the correct result — true if the subject is infected, and false if the subject is healthy. You give the test to a million people.

One in a million people have Super-AIDS. One in a hundred people that you test will generate a “false positive” — the test will say he has Super-AIDS even though he doesn’t. That’s what “99 percent accurate” means: one percent wrong.

What’s one percent of one million?

1,000,000/100 = 10,000

One in a million people has Super-AIDS. If you test a million random people, you’ll probably only find one case of real Super-AIDS. But your test won’t identify *one* person as having Super-AIDS. It will identify *10,000* people as having it.

Your 99 percent accurate test will perform with 99.99 percent *inaccuracy*.

That’s the paradox of the false positive. When you try to find something really rare, your test’s accuracy has to match the rarity of the thing you’re looking for. If you’re trying to point at a single pixel on your screen, a sharp pencil is a good pointer: the pencil-tip is a lot smaller (more accurate) than the pixels. But a pencil-tip is no good at pointing at a single *atom* in your screen. For that, you need a pointer — a test — that’s one atom wide or less at the tip.

This is the paradox of the false positive, and here’s how it applies to terrorism:

Terrorists are really rare. In a city of twenty million like New York, there might be one or two terrorists. Maybe ten of them at the outside. 10/20,000,000 = 0.00005 percent. One twenty-thousandth of a percent.

That’s pretty rare all right. Now, say you’ve got some software that can sift through all the bank-records, or toll-pass records, or public transit records, or phone-call records in the city and catch terrorists 99 percent of the time.

In a pool of twenty million people, a 99 percent accurate test will identify two hundred thousand people as being terrorists. But only ten of them are terrorists. To catch ten bad guys, you have to haul in and investigate two hundred thousand innocent people.

That’s such an easy-to-understand explanation of what can happen when we start suspecting too many people of any kind of evil. And rest assured, one of the innocents pulled into the vortex of “Suspected Bad Guy” is our funny, hacking (and horny) “Little Brother” hero, Marcus. Will he get out? Will he change the course of history? Will he get the cute girl with glasses?

There’s only one way to find out! (At least until they make the movie.) — Lenore

P.S. I am not blocking anyone’s comments. My WordPress filter may be doing it. I can’t even find the “missing” comments in my “Awaiting Moderation” cue. So I’m mystified and sorry. Anyway, here’s a link to a free download of the book: http://craphound.com/littlebrother/download/

Victory! Boy Allowed to Ride His Bike to School!

Hey Readers — Sometimes it doesn’t take a Supreme Court ruling to get a scared, silly rule reversed. Sometimes it just takes a little spine. Here’s the story of the mom who wanted to let her son ride his bike to school and at first (and second) the school said no. But then — victory!

And while I’m here, giving some links, here’s a funny one about the dangers of baking bread.

And, heck, it is exactly ONE WEEK from Mother’s Day. Know a mom would would appreciate a book that is LOL funny AND helps folks relax AND raise “safe, self-reliant” Free-Range Kids? As one reader (not a friend or relative!) wrote,  “Your book had me laughing so hard that my husband had to come and see if i was okay! (I think my gasping sounded like sobbing.)” Here’s the Amazon link! Happy Sunday! — Lenore

Free-Range Kids in Paperback Today!

Hi Readers — This is the blog that started the book that came out in hardcover a year ago and debuts in paperback today! With a new intro and even a new subtitle! Now it’s, “Free-Range Kids: How to Raise Safe, Self-Reliant Children (Without Going Nuts with Worry).”

CRITICS RAVE!

“Skenazy will find plenty of supporters for her contention that, in a world where the rights of chickens to roam freely are championed, it’s time to liberate the kids.” The Wall Street Journal

“A bubbly but potent corrective for the irrational fears that drive so many parents crazy.”

—Robert Needlman, M.D., coauthor, Dr. Spock’s Baby and Child Care, 8th Edition

“Lenore Skenazy is a national hero.” Mary Roach, author, Bonk and Stiff

READERS RAVE, TOO!

“I read the whole thing and feel so much better! The pressure of always trying to do the EXACT right thing for my kids was exhausting. In truth, I have two normal, high energy boys that need to be able to explore the world. Thank you!”

“Your book had me laughing so hard that my husband had to come and see if I was okay! (I think my gasping sounded like sobbing.)”

“Just what the doctor ordered. I’m a single mother of two girls, 7 and 10, in a middle class suburb that is very safe. I needed the advice in your book and had a lot of belly laughs reading it.”

“I didn’t even realize the path I was going down until I stumbled across your book. Letting go feels great and I can really see a difference in my son. He plays outside all the time with his group and he loves being able to run to all of his friends’ houses, alone, to see if they can play. It’s a proud moment for both of us.”

“I was finding myself getting paranoid. I am so happy I read your book! It has really helped me relax.”

“Now if I can just get my wife to read it.”

And to think it is available right here, for $10.17 (plus shipping)! It’s also in bookstores, of course. Might I remind everyone that Mother’s Day is fast approaching? ‘Nuf said! And thank you for providing so many ideas and so much fodder for the book! — Lenore