books, child, childhood, children, education

This just in: An education is for the good of the many, and the one

Goal: a high-quality education for every child everywhere

I recently read a quote that books (and thereby, learning and education) can’t solve everything. They don’t fill an empty belly, stop violence, or provide much-needed healthcare. And I beg to differ. I’ve felt hungry, afraid in an unstable environment, and sick without healthcare. Books helped me, and continue to help me, take the long view. They help me to believe in a better, brighter tomorrow, and they empower me to build that tomorrow with my own two hands, and my mind, and my heart. Books make me powerful.

In my saddest and darkest hours, my education literally saved me. It helped me to keep looking up, and to keep trying, when it seemed like all of my efforts were in vain. No, maintaining our grit and determination in the face of adversity isn’t easy, and yes, it’s tempting to take a shortcut and go off the tracks and give up. But if we will go just one more day, no matter how difficult or embarrassing or discouraging, the light at the end of the tunnel is there and it is ours as much as it is anyone else’s. It was there for me, and it’s there for every child who can find a way to keep going.

We have within our power, in one generation, to make that happen for every child, everywhere. It will be expensive, though not nearly as expensive as not doing it. Think of how we could change the world if we could educate every child.An education is for the good of the many, and the one. That’s not just an idea, that’s a revolution. That’s a movement.

child, children, choices, learning, story, technology

Inspired: Proof – stories and technology are better than cookies


My niece, Lorelei, had a choice for her after dinner treat: a cookie or playing on my iPad with an app that helps her write stories. She chose to write stories. “Stories are good for me and sugar is bad for me so I’m choosing stories.” A girl after my own heart (not that I have anything against cookies!) Some people may bemoan technology and kids’ obsession with it. I celebrate it. For my nieces, it opens up whole worlds for them and enables them, at a very young age, to tell their own stories. Kid, if you have a story you need to tell, you can use my iPad anytime you want.

art, books, child, childhood, children, creativity, literature, museum, New York City, story, writer, writing

Inspired: Madeline in New York – Ludwig Bemelmans Art Exhibit at New-York Historical Society

Exhibit at the New-York Historical Society

“For me Madeline is therapy in the dark hours.” ~ Ludwig Bemelmans

“In an old house in Paris that was covered with vines lived twelve little girls in two straight lines…” is one of the most famous introductions to one of the most famous characters in children’s literature: Madeline. Ludwig Bemelmans created Madeline after a terrible accident that left him hospitalized at the age of 39. His hospital roommate was a young girl who had her appendix removed. Her stories of her life inspired Bemelmans to create Madeline.

Eventually Bemelmans recovered from his injuries and published his first Madeline book at age 41 after 20+ years of working in hotels in New York. During those two decades, he consistently practiced his art and slowly built up his freelance portfolio. His example has been a great inspiration to me as a writer.

Madeline was Bemelmans’ second act after many years of difficult work in a completely different industry. He never lost his optimism and never gave up. And thank goodness. Not only is Madeline therapy for him, but it’s therapy for all of his readers and admirers, particularly little girls who strive to be strong, brave, and courageous. The New-York Historical Society has mounted a retrospective of Bemelmans’ life and art with Madeline in New York: The Art of Ludwig Bemelmans.

Bemelmans Bar is one of my favorite bars in New York – tucked away in the Carlyle Hotel on East 76th Street. The walls are covered with his original drawings. It’s a good place to dream, and drink. If you’re in New York, I highly recommend it.

books, child, children, writing

Inspired: Free your writing and write for children

From Pinterest
From Pinterest

I’m outlining the draft of my first novel that I’ll write in November during National Novel Writing Month. It’s for a young adult audience and at one point last week I worried that the story was getting too complicated for that age range. Then I saw this quote by Madeleine L’Engle, author of A Wrinkle in Time: “You have to write the book that wants to be written. And if that book will be too difficult for grown-ups, then you write it for children.” Children understand so much that adults have forgotten. Once I really understood this, the story opened back up to all these wonderful possibilities that my adult mind had closed off. Writing’s funny that way. It makes us wonder. It makes us young again.  

child, children, creative process, writer, writing

Inspired: Write for one person

From Pinterest
From Pinterest

Over the weekend, I started reading Kurt Vonnegut: The Last Interview. He believed all writers should write for an audience of one to give writing intimacy and immediacy.

It took me about half a second to realize who is in my audience of one: it’s me as a child. I write every word to help her be brave. To help her know that a better, freer, happier, more fulfilling life awaits her. That all things and all dreams are possible. And yes, it will be difficult and there will be many times when she will want to quit. She will lose a lot of sleep and she will be very afraid, but it will all be worth it. I write to entertain her, to help her escape, to give her the courage to keep going. And I know there are lots of people out there, the tall and the small, who still need that encouragement and support.

Sadly, as much as the world has changed since I was a kid, this fact hasn’t: we spend too many days afraid. Reading helped me press on despite fear. Now as an adult, writing helps me do that. So I write – for me, for her, and for all the people like us who need to know that we can create our own bright future one day at a time.

child, game, play

Inspired: Make Work Play

From Pinterest
From Pinterest

“Life is more fun if you play games.” -Roald Dahl

We often defeat ourselves with our attitude. Something troubles us and we see it as a burden. If you’ve got a problem, make it a game. Bend, mold, twist, and turn it in your favor. And have fun. The best part of life is figuring it out.

child, childhood, children, creativity, dreams

Inspired: Keep your childish things

From Pinterest
From Pinterest

“The reluctance to put away childish things may be a requirement of genius.” ~ Rebecca Pepper Sinkler

Keep your board games, puzzles, fairytales, and toys. Hang onto your intense curiosity, magical sense of wonder, and big dreams, especially those that you created when you felt that anything and everything was possible. The surest ways to success and happiness lie along those roads. Guard them like the precious gifts that they are.

child, childhood, children, creativity, inspiration

Inspired: Bikers Against Child Abuse International (B.A.C.A.)


When you hear a brigade of motorcycles roaring down the highway, they might just be on their way to save a life. Bikers Against Child Abuse International (B.A.C.A.) is a global network of bikers who are devoted to stopping child abuse cold in its tracks.

I saw an interview with a few members last week and contrary to their gruff exteriors, they were very emotional. This mission is personal. Many of them were victims of abuse and / or knew children who were victims. They have banded together to bring an end to it. Help and inspiration can come from the most unlikely places. Now more than ever it is important for all of us to stand up for children who can’t stand up for themselves. B.A.C.A. is leading the charge.

“We exist as a body of Bikers to empower children to not feel afraid of the world in which they live. We desire to send a clear message to all involved with the abused child that this child is part of our organization, and that we are prepared to lend our physical and emotional support to them by affiliation, and our physical presence. We stand at the ready to shield these children from further abuse. We do not condone the use of violence or physical force in any manner, however, if circumstances arise such that we are the only obstacle preventing a child from further abuse, we stand ready to be that obstacle.” 

B.A.C.A.’s impact:

child, children, happiness, Second Step, work

Beautiful: Keep the Spirit of a Child

From Pinterest

Have you ever watched a kid at “work”? He or she is so absorbed that nothing else matters. There’s no checking the clock to see how much time has passed. There’s no distraction or boredom or frustration. Just pure focus. They are so fascinated by what they’re doing that they don’t want to do anything else.

I’m convinced that this is the secret to happiness, to be so in love with the work at hand that just the act of doing it is its own reward. In that work we will find our greatest talents, a peace that can’t be disturbed, a joy that can barely be described. That’s what we’re aiming for – to love our work so much that it becomes play, that there is no separation between our head and our heart. Then the feeling of fulfillment becomes not something we pursue. It’s just something that we are.

child, children, choices, education, teaching, technology

Beautiful: Teaching Kids to Code Will Create a More Peaceful, Healthier, Happier World


At the Joan Ganz Cooney Center at the Sesame Workshop, I work on the National STEM Video Game Challenge, a youth game making competition for students in grades 5 – 12 that runs through April 24th. Everyone I talk to about the Challenge is interested in why I chose to leave my corporate job to work on projects like the STEM Challenge. There is a very simple, concise explanation – to help kids build a better world.

With our world becoming increasingly complex, technology is playing a larger and larger role. Soon, knowing how to code will be as much of a requirement for employment as knowing how to use basic computer programs like Excel and Microsoft Word. In short, engineering will become a part of every professional field. People who build products and services using technology, or who at the very least understand at a deep level how technology works, will have the greatest influence over the global economy. A stable economy creates a stable world.

The best way to engage children with technology in a healthy, meaningful way is through games that are fun to play and teach them important skills like reading, writing, language, design, science, and math. With these skills in their back pockets, they will not only have a better understanding of the world around them but will be able to shape the world in which they wish to live. They will be empowered to build strong, healthy communities and they will be able to connect with, learn from, and share their experiences with people across the globe.

Learning to code is the key. Sit down with the children in your life, whether you are a parent or other family member, teacher, mentor, or afterschool program volunteer. Show them how technology can help to change their world for the better. The STEM Challenge will give you a place to begin. Let us help you and your kids get started today.