May 30th, 2013

Learning All Summer Long

Kids who read beat summer slide


The 2012-2013 school is almost over, but the time for summer learning is just beginning!  Recent studies show that children who do not actively participate in educational activities over the summer will experience a learning loss, also known as the “Summer Slide.”  So while you plan for fun in the sun, remember to plan for summer learning, too.  Kids who read in the summer beat the summer slide and the library is here to help!  Fortunately, providing your child with opportunities to continue learning over the summer has never been easier; in fact, I’d say it’s as easy as 1,2,3!

1. Visit the local library and sign up for summer reading! It’s the perfect place to start when looking for ways to keep your child engaged in learning all summer long.

Brother Reading a BookResponding to your child’s interests over the summer is essential to keeping them motivated, and what better way to do that than by bringing them to the library for our entertaining and educational summer programs.

And, don’t forget the books. Want to learn how to make an origami frog? We have a book for that.  Want to explore the mysteries of Ancient Egypt?  We have a book for that.  Want to learn a new language?  We have a book for that.  Want to find a recipe for a delicious chocolate dessert?  We have a book for that, too.  No matter where your child’s interests lie, our librarians are delighted to locate books sure to stimulate your child’s desire to learn even more.  Self-directed learning is a very powerful way for kids to grow their skills while having fun.  Register your kids and teens (and yourself) for our summer reading programs to get rewards and enter for prizes!

2.  Seek out all that our local community has to offer.

Dad with little son walking outdoors at ocaenGo down on the farm to Walnut Springs Farm and make your way through a labyrinth of agriculturally based interactive learning stations; travel back in time with a trip to Mt. Harmon Plantation and learn about days gone by as you tour an 18th century manor house; visit Elk Neck State Park and hike out to the historic Turkey Point Lighthouse; or explore Plumpton Park Zoo to observe and learn about the many different animals who are living there. No matter which path you choose, learning is sure to follow.  And, remember, this is but a few of the many local offerings to be found in Cecil County.

3.  Take advantage of the learning that can take place without even leaving your home or neighborhood.

In the house…
•    Girl And Mother With CookiesTry a new recipe and give your child the opportunity to practice math skills by weighing and measuring ingredients.
•    Get creative and make up a new recipe.  Write it down and share it with others.
•    Go on a scavenger hunt to find patterns, letters, and numbers around the house.
•    Make a map of a room in the house.
•    Write a story, draw a picture, compose a poem.  Plan a special night where everyone in the family shares their creative side.
•    Our Pinterest Page is full of ideas for fun learning crafts and activities, as well as reading suggestions.

In the yard…
•    Sit quietly and use your senses to explore the world around you.  Make a list of things seen and heard, create a graph, draw a picture, or write a creative story.
•    Go on a scavenger hunt.
•    Use a guidebook to identify the plants, flowers, and insects found around the house.
•    Learn a new game and teach it to friends, family, and neighbors.

In the neighborhood…
•    Take a walk and count the number of blue cars, or windows on houses, or children playing outside.
•    Use sidewalk chalk or wet sponges to practice writing letters and numbers or to practice spelling new words.

These are just a few ideas that will keep your child engaged in learning activities this summer.  Click here for another post with even more ideas for fun things to do in Cecil County. What are your favorite ideas for keeping your child involved in learning all summer long?

May 20th, 2013

Larger-Than-Life Crime


I recently heard a news story so bizarre I could hardly believe it was true.  A series of crimes in France was linked to a suspect, but then the case took a very odd turn. Police discovered the man was living with his identical twin and because twin DNA is virtually identical, they were at a loss to figure out whodunit. Did one or both twins commit the crimes? If only one twin was the assaulter, did the other twin know?  Would scientists be able to find case-breaking minute differences in their DNA?  The story seemed more like a best-selling thriller than real life, adding to that well-known adage that truth really is stranger than fiction.

Add to this mix the odd case of Oscar Pistorius, the double-amputee Olympic athlete who shot and killed his supermodel girlfriend on Valentine’s Day.  At the same time, Pistorius’s brother Carl also was on trial for murder, this time in the form of vehicular homicide.  To top it all off, the lead investigator in Oscar’s case had to resign because he too was accused of attempted murder after firing into a taxi full of innocent passengers.  Like a well-written suspense with many twists and turns, I can hardly keep all these crimes straight.

Give it a few years, and I predict we’ll see a rash of books, movies and maybe even a few cheesy made-for-tv-movies about these cases.  But in the meantime, these larger-than-life crimes inspired me to wander the stacks in search of real life cases that could touch this level of outlandishness.  Turns out, there are many true accounts of cases so bizarre, you can hardly believe they are real:

The Devil in the White City by Erik Larson – The riveting history of America’s first serial killer, H.H. Holmes, who took advantage of the 1893 Chicago World Fair to cover up his crimes.

Sex on the Moon by Ben Mezrich A charming and brilliant young scientist pulls off the audacious theft of a 600-pound safe of moon rocks from a high-tech government facility, all to impress his girlfriend.

The Girls of Murder City by Douglas Perryman  – The true tale of scandal and sex-filled murder cases involving beautiful Jazz Age women. This story inspired the musical “Chicago.”

Man in the Rockefeller Suit by Mark Seal – Hard-to-believe but real account of a master identify thief who posed as a member of the wealthy Rockefeller family for over a decade, married a wealthy woman, and then kidnapped and disappeared with his own daughter.

Midnight in Peking by Paul French – In 1937, a British schoolgirl’s dissected body is found propped against an old building in Beijing. The building is notorious for being haunted and though the murder becomes a media sensation, the crime is never solved and the public’s attention is quickly drawn away by invasion of Japanese forces.

Anyone You Want Me to Be: A True Story of Sex and Death on the Internet by John Douglas – Shocking account of a seemingly harmless family man who used the anonymity of the Internet to seduce and murder vulnerable women.

Provenance by Laney Salisbury – Fast-paced thriller of an elaborate, international con in which villains exploited high-profile art institutions into legitimizing hundreds of forged artworks, many of which still hang in museums today.

The Bobbed Haired Bandit: A True Story of Crime and Celebrity in 1920s New York by Stephen Duncombe – With her modern haircut and fashionable wardrobe, Ceila Cooney seemed anything but a criminal mastermind. Nevertheless, she engineered a thrilling series of thefts, taunted police, and escaped the largest manhunt in New York City history, becoming a celebrity and icon of the rebellious Jazz Age spirit.

What are your favorite shows, books and movies about crime?

Photo credit: “Crime Scene Do Not Cross” by Curtis Gregory Perry

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