Tag Archives: learning

The keys to early learning: good nutrition and good books

| ara@queenscourier.com

Growing evidence from nutritionists and literacy experts suggests access to good nutrition and good books are the building blocks to early learning. According to the U.S. Department of Agriculture, lack of enough nutritious food impairs a child’s ability to concentrate and perform well in school. Children who have not developed some basic literacy skills by the time they enter school are three to four times more likely to drop out in later years, says the U.S. Department of Education.

Proper nutrition is vital to the growth and development of children, just as access to good books is key to literacy development.

To encourage reading and learning about healthy eating, share these recommended books from Reading Is Fundamental (RIF) with your children:

* How Do Dinosaurs Eat Their Food by Jane Yolen and Mark Teague. “How does a dinosaur eat all his food? Does he burp, does he belch, or make noises quite rude? Does he pick at his cereal, throw down his cup, hoping to make someone else pick it up?” Just like kids, dinosaurs have a difficult time learning to behave at the table. However, with a little help from mom and dad, these young dinosaurs eat all before them.

* Green Eggs and Hamby Dr. Seuss. Sam-I-Am tries to convince a nameless skeptic that green eggs and ham are a delicacy to be savored “in a house, with a mouse, in a box, with a fox, with a goat, on a boat,” to no avail. Reading this timeless classic will help your child with phonics, rhyming and language development while learning it really can be fun to try new foods.

* Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs by Judi Barrett. In this whimsical tale there is no need for food stores because all the food falls from the sky. This children’s favorite is great for a read-aloud and discussion about where food comes from and how it gets from field to table.

* I Will Never Not Ever Eat A Tomato by Lauren Child. When Charlie is asked to give his little sister, Lola, her dinner, he proves he’s more than up to the task. This book explores the fun and imaginative ways Charlie finds to get Lola to eat. It’s a great book for role playing and word games and may even get your picky young eater to try something new.

* The Gigantic Turnip by Alexi Tolstoy. This delightful story based on an old Russian folk tale features a fable about planting and harvesting with a wonderful moral.

* The Lunch Box Surprise by Grace Maccarone. When Sam discovers his mom forgot to pack him anything for lunch, his classmates share with him. This multicultural book features simple text perfect for beginning readers.

During the yearlong Be A Reader campaign, Carl Buddig & Company is partnering with RIF to encourage parents and their children to read together. Studies show in low-income neighborhoods, there is only one book for every 300 children. You can help a deserving child by providing access to free books. Join the movement and help get books to children who need them the most.

For more information about the Be A Reader campaign visit www.Buddig.com. For more ideas on activities, tips and resources to help your child discover the joy of reading, visit www.RIF.org.


Five ways to help kids boost their brain power

| ara@queenscourier.com

(ARA) – Everyone is born with about 100 billion brain cells. We form new connections between these cells throughout life, but the rate is particularly high when we’re young. Since those connections facilitate thinking and learning, parents who want to help give their children an intellectual edge should consider the brain-healthy choices they make each day.

“Making the effort to nurture your child’s brain with both proper nutrients and varied experiences, especially when they are young and developing at such a fast rate, is crucial,” says speech pathologist Lauren Zimet, founder of Early Insights, LLC, and an expert on childhood brain development. “The connections in brain circuitry can be enhanced through the environments and activities a child is exposed to, and participates in, as well as the nutrients a child consumes.”

Zimet offers five tips to help parents enhance healthy brain development in their children, positioning them for success in school today, and well into their future:

1. Select a rainbow

It’s no secret that the benefits of fresh fruits and vegetables are numerous, but thanks to the results of ongoing research, you can confidently add brain health to that list. Encourage your children to eat a colorful array of produce (organic when possible) each day so they get the antioxidants, vitamins and minerals needed to nourish and protect their growing brains. If your child is resistant to eating produce, encourage them to come shopping with you and select something new to try. Kids are more likely to eat what they have selected themselves.

2. Relax the right way

While it’s true that exercise boosts brain power, it’s also important to teach children how to relax. Balancing activity with relaxation is important so that kids don’t get too stressed, which can impact the brain’s development and lead to learning and behavior problems. Teaching children early on the benefit of setting goals, working towards those goals, and giving their brain and body time to relax are important life skills. When it’s time to relax, skip the TV and teach your child that taking a walk in nature, reading a book or drawing are great ways to unwind. Deep breathing is also an excellent practice to teach children of all ages.

3. Eat omega-3 brain food

Omega-3 essential fatty acids are critical to a child’s brain development. They are called “essential” because we need them for optimal health. The problem is that our bodies cannot manufacture them and we can only get them from the food we eat or supplements we take. While fish, nuts and seaweed are good omega-3 sources, kids typically don’t gobble down these foods. That leaves many parents worried that their kids aren’t getting enough, and with omega-3 deficits linked to ADHD, dyslexia and other behavioral and psychological disorders, many are turning to supplements for their children. Experts agree that the safest, most reliable source of the most important essential fatty acids (EPA and DHA) is a high quality fish oil supplement. Fortunately, there are purified, molecularly distilled fish oil supplements that are manufactured with kids in mind. Parents should be sure to choose one of these chewable, tasty options to ensure success in getting their children to take the supplements.

4. Happy brains are hydrated brains

Staying hydrated is important for growing brains and bodies. Water can improve energy, increase mental and physical performance, remove toxins and waste from the body, and keep skin healthy and glowing. Based on the trillions of cells in the body that need water to function, most nutritionists agree that children need more, not less H20. To estimate how many ounces of water your child should drink daily, divide his or her weight in half and aim for that number of ounces per day.

5. Be a positive support system early on

Learning is a complex process, but children will be more open to trying new things when they know their parents believe in them. Acknowledging effort, instead of the outcome, strengthens a child’s belief in himself or herself. Teaching goal setting, prioritizing activities and working off of check lists exercises the prefrontal cortex (PFC) in the brain. Experimentation through trial and error is the way the brain learns best.

“Giving your child’s brain what it needs to grow strong can help him or her at school and in all social situations,” adds Zimet. “Utilizing these tips is a great way to help position your child for success in the coming school year, and beyond.”


Long Island City remembers learning champion Fausta Ippolito

| smosco@queenscourier.com


Fausta Ippolito lived her life in a constant state of motion. The LIC resident was active in her determination to keep children reading and to give her community a library to call its own. She was purpose driven and well on her way to seeing the fruits of her labor blossom into a state-of-the-art library on the LIC side of the East River.

Then without warning, Fausta was taken from her family and her community – her mission unfinished.

“Her purpose in life was to give,” her husband, Angelo, said of Fausta who passed away at 46 unexpectedly of cancer. The couple had two children, Gaetano, 11, and Daria, 8. “She was 100 percent selfless. People recognized this.”

Fausta’s friends, family, colleagues crowded Manducatis Rustica for “a joyful evening of food, drink, song and heartfelt memories” hosted by Gianna Cerbone, her friend and owner of the Italian restaurant on Vernon Boulevard.

The event was more than just a memoriam, it was meant to kick off the Forever Fausta Learning and Literacy Endowment campaign. Angelo – a chiropractor, nutritionist and activist in the are – explained that Fausta’s love of learning, education and libraries inspired him to do something to benefit the Queens Library, specifically at Hunters Point.

Councilmember Jimmy Van Bramer attended the September 19 event and recalled his first encounter with the mother of two young children.

“I got a call from her about three or four years ago,” he said. “She said, ‘We want a library for our community,’ and she wanted to help. I told her to build support and let everyone know and start a petition drive.”

A few months later, the councilmember attended an event at P.S. 78 and saw a petition on a table with Fausta’s name along the bottom, alongside thousands of signatures.
“It was really amazing,” he said. “She was so committed. She did everything she could to make the library a reality.”

A total of $25 million has been earmarked for the construction of the library, including $3 million allocated by Van Bramer’s office, according to Tom Galante, chief executive officer of Queens Library.

Throughout the evening, individuals were able to make contributions to the foundation and buy raffle tickets for some 45 items, ranging from jewelry and bottles of premium vodka to art works and gift certificates for dance lessons and tea at the Plaza Hotel.

We hope to grow it every year,” said Galante. “It will last forever. It will be a tremendous resource, a wonderful legacy for her.”

According to Van Bramer, “The library will be a lasting tribute to her and one her children will be able to experience the rest of their lives.”
The goal is for the library to be completed by the end of 2013.

The endowment will support library books, materials, resources, and programs at the library. Anyone wishing to contribute to the endowment should go to queenslibraryfoundation.org or call


P.S. 130 is committed to learning

| mchan@queenscourier.com


Spirits are still sky-high for kids at P.S. 130, even a month after the school was given the federal government’s prestigious Blue Ribbon award.

The Bayside early childhood school was honored for being a high performing school on September 15. According to David Thomas, spokesperson for the United States Department of Education, the school received the award for consistently performing at high levels on New York State assessments in both reading and mathematics. The school’s most recent assessment test scores place it amongst the highest in the nation.

But the work’s not over yet.

“It’s an awesome responsibility, but you never stop learning and you never stop growing,” said Principal Michelle Contratti. “There’s always room for improvement. We need to continue to believe that and not become complacent in our success. We need to honor it and continue to think of ways to improve.”

According to Contratti and Assistant Principal Laurie Careddu, the award could not have been achieved without the joint efforts of teachers, parents and students. The combination — and constant conversation between them — creates the perfect recipe for success.

“I have an incredibly talented group of teachers. They consider themselves lifelong learners and they constantly push themselves to stay on top of the latest and most progressive techniques for teaching,” Contratti said. “We also have an incredibly supportive parent population who come to the meetings, learn about what children can do, take part and interest in their learning at home and assist them. And we also have students who really care and want to do their best.”

School officials said they’re proud to have created an environment where the students are not afraid to voice their thoughts.

“A lot of times, they’ll be very honest with their opinions. They’re very comfortable. They’re free to explore and question and I think that’s part of what makes us a national Blue Ribbon school,” Careddu said.

It may also have something to do with their dedication to the arts, she said.

The school has partnered with Lincoln Center Institute for almost 15 years in its ongoing efforts to keep musical, dance, dramatic and visual arts alive in schools — especially during a time of challenging budget cuts.

“Especially in an early childhood school, we see its importance and we have incredible belief in what it does for students,” Contratti said. “We see children whose second language is English — or children who are very shy — really come alive and celebrate themselves in a very confident way through the arts. It’s a means of expression, especially at this age, that’s the most important for children.”

During the 12-lesson unit of study, a teaching artist from the institute works with the students and teachers in order to produce a professional performance at the end of both fall and spring.

“The kids love it and that’s something that really draws in the parents,” Contratti said.

When the school’s senior third-graders graduate, the ultimate goal, according to Contratti and Carredu, is for them to leave feeling comfortable and confident with themselves and their abilities.

Carredu said they’ve been successful so far.

“Even when we run into other administrators at meetings, they always say, ‘We enjoy having your children come to us. We always know a child from P.S. 130.’”