Lucky Things to Do On Leap Day

2012 is a leap year – that means that we have an extra day in February.

For those of us lucky enough to be born on a leap day it means an extra-special celebration that can only happen once every four years.

For the rest of us, here are some ideas for lucky things to do to take advantage of leap day.

Make It Count!

What would you do if you had one extra, unaccounted-for day? Well, even though we’ll still have to go to school and work, we can still celebrate a bonus day by doing one thing we never get a chance to do. So go bowling on a weeknight, get out all your art supplies and create a masterpiece, or cook everyone’s favorite food for dinner. Whatever you do, just make sure it’s not the same old routine.

Leap In Style

Get the family up early on the morning of leap day to go outside and give the day a proper welcome. Since it’s known as leap day, take a few minutes to see who can jump the highest in the family. Then go back inside and get ready for school. We don’t want to miss the bus again, do we?

Go Green

Frogs are champion leapers so take your inspiration from them today. Wear green all over (or just a pair of green socks) and keep Leap Day fresh in your heart.

Say I Love You

Folk traditions throughout northern Europe hold that women can propose to men on Leap Day. Although times have changed and women don’t need to wait for Leap Day to suggest an engagement, take their example and let someone know you love them today – extra points if it’s not someone who already suspects that you do.

Happy Leap Day!

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What is Ash Wednesday?

Photo courtesy TimesUnion.com

Ash Wednesday is celebrated by many Christian religions as the beginning of Lent, a time of prayer, fasting, and sacrifice in the 40 days leading up to Easter.

On Ash Wednesday, Christians attend church and receive a cross marked on their forehead in ashes as a sign of repentance.

Once you receive the ashes, you are not supposed to wipe them off. Instead, it is intended that you will leave them until they gradually wear off.

The ashes are typically made by burning the palm fronds that are given out on Palm Sunday during the previous Lent.

 

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Happy Birthday, George!

Since 1879, Americans have been celebrating George Washington’s birthday.

As the first president of the United States and the general of the Continental Army during the War for Independence, George Washington plays a very important role in American history.

But most people do not know that Presidents Day was originally intended – and some argue is still intended – to celebrate his achievements alone. They believe that Presidents Day celebrates George Washington and Abraham Lincoln. And some argue that it is a holiday to celebrate the achievements of all US presidents.

But the fact remains that – officially – the Presidents Day holiday is for George Washington alone. Here are some book suggestions to help you learn more about the man who helped create America.

The Story of George Washington – Patricia Pingry

George Washington – Cheryl Harness

A Picture Book of George Washington – David Adler

Who Was George Washington? – Roberta Edwards

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10 Things Kids Should Know About Iran

Photo courtesy ISNA

Iran has been in the news a great deal over the past several months and the Middle Eastern nation will likely continue to be in the headlines for a long time to come. Here are 10 things kids should know about Iran beyond the headlines.

1. Until 1935, Iran was known as Persia. Persia has had a vast cultural influence on the world in areas such as art, architecture, music, the weaving of rugs, science, and much more.

2. Iran borders the Gulf of Oman, the Persian Gulf, and the Caspian Sea. It shares land borders with Azerbaijan, Armenia, Turkey, Turkmenistan, Afghanistan, Pakistan, and Iraq.

3. Iran is the 18th-largest country on earth. It is slightly smaller than Alaska.

4. Persian is the official language but more than six other languages are also spoken.

5. 98% of the population practices Islam, with 89% following the Shia Islam and 9% following Sunni Islam.

6. One in four people in Iran are under the age of 14.

7. The vast majority of the population – 71% – live in urban areas.

8. Most children attend school for 13 years.

9. Most Iranians work in the services sector but industry and agriculture are also important.

10. Iranians use money called a rial.

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Cuddle Up With a Book on Valentine’s Day

The one enduring love of my life is books.

I never get mad at books for not making the bed. I’m never upset when books forget my birthday. And the only time I have to compete for books is when I want to read a new title at my local public library.

For all of these reasons – and regardless of how many sweethearts you have in your life – books are a great way to celebrate St. Valentine’s Day. Here are some book recommendations for you to share with kids because one of the best gifts you can give children at any time of the year is a lifetime love of reading.

The Kiss That Missed – David Melling

If You’ll Be My Valentine – Cynthia Rylant

Zombie in Love – Kelly DiPucchio

Guess How Much I Love You? – Sam McBratney

10 Valentine Friends – Janet Schulman

Love, Splat – Rob Scotton

A Giant Crush – Jennifer Choldenko

Happy reading!

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Groundhog Day Book Club

Arguably one of America’s strangest holidays, Groundhog Day has arrived and with it comes a whole new set of books to read and enjoy.

In Groundhog Weather School by Joan Holub and Kristin Sorra, groundhogs tire of the old-fashioned way of predicting the weather and instead turn to science to help unlock the answer to the eternal question: will there be six more weeks of winter?

In Geoffrey Groundhog Predicts the Weather by Bruce Koscielniak, Geoffrey finds that his fame as a weather prognosticator has  gone to his head and he can no longer do what he likes best – predict the weather.

In Gretchen Groundhog, It’s Your Day! by Abby Levine, Gretchen must overcome her shyness in order to follow in the footsteps of her great-uncle Gus and accurately predict the weather.

Regardless of what the groundhog says, with these books by your side you’ll spend a happy and sunny day!

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Black History Month By the Books

Although we at KidCulture think that any month – and every month – is a good time to learn about other people and cultures, we’re happy to celebrate Black History Month with a list of some books you can share with kids to give them a better appreciation for the history, culture, and talents of the diverse group of people we honor this month.

Sit-In: How Four Friends Stood Up By Sitting Down by Andrea Davis Pinkney

Freedom Song: The Story of Henry “Box” Brown by Sally Walker

What Color is My World? The Lost History of African-American Inventors by Kareem Abdul Jabbar

We Are the Ship: The Story of the Negro Baseball League by Kadir Nelson

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Welcome, Year of the Dragon!

Photo courtesy of China News

While most of us are still working on the New Year’s resolutions we made just weeks ago, it’s already time to say Happy New Year again as we celebrate Chinese New Year.

The Chinese calendar follows no fixed date and the new year is determined by the moon. This year, Chinese New Year begins on Jan. 22 with Lunar New Year’s Eve.

The new year, number 4710 on the Chinese calendar – officially begins Jan. 23 and marks the beginning of the Year of the Dragon.

According to legend, Buddha asked all the animals to say goodbye to him when it was his time to leave the earth.

But only 12 animals showed up for the farewell so to honor them Buddha assigned an animal to each of the years in a 12-year cycle.

The legend states that the rat was the first to arrive and so got the first year in the cycle.

The cat failed to show up at all and that is why there is no year of the cat.

Some people believe that you share personality traits with the animal assigned to the year you were born. If you are born in the year of the dragon, you are thought to be brave, enterprising, and quick-tempered.

For educational activities on Chinese New Year and Chinese culture, check out Apples4theteacher.com.

For a KidCulture reading list about Chinese New Year, click here.

Learn more about how families celebrate Chinese New Year around the world with this KidCulture article, Global Family Fun: Celebrate Chinese New Year.

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We Remember Dr. King

Had he lived, Dr. King would have been 83 years old this year.

And he probably would have been gearing up for an amazing 2013 when the nation will mark 50 years since the historic March on Washington and 150 years since the Emancipation Proclamation ended legalized slavery in the United States.

On a personal note, I was eight years old when Congress established the Dr. Martin Luther King holiday in January.

And this year, my son, at eight years old, is visiting the newly completed Dr. King memorial on the National Mall in Washington, DC.

As difficult as it is to talk to children about the harsh realities of our history and about the challenges to equality in our current cultural and economic climate, the Dr. King memorial is a great opportunity to bring these issues to life.

It’s a chance to talk about how precious freedom is, what it means, and why we must be constantly on guard to protect it.

It’s a chance to instill in our children the importance of following their conscience and not the dictates of what society tells us is true or acceptable.

And it’s a chance to remind them of their own inherent self-worth and responsibility to live lives of courage and compassion.

The monument includes quotations from Dr. King’s speeches, including his 1964 speech in Norway upon receiving the Nobel Prize for Peace. You can read the speech in its entirety here. 

Dr. King was only 35 when he received the Nobel – the youngest person ever to receive the award – and he donated the entire amount (about $56,000) to the Civil Rights Movement.

To read Dr. King’s biography on the Nobel website, click here.

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Merry Christmas Quotes

Merry Christmas! If you’re celebrating, have a wonderful holiday full of the true spirit of the season.

The only blind person at Christmastime is he who has not Christmas in his heart. ~Helen Keller

Christmas is a time when you get homesick even when you’re home. ~Carol Nelson

Christmas is the season for kindling the fire of hospitality in the hall, the genial flame of charity in the heart. ~Washington Irving

Instead of being a time of unusual behavior, Christmas is perhaps the only time in the year when people can obey their natural impulses and express their true sentiments without feeling self-conscious and, perhaps, foolish. Christmas, in short, is about the only chance a man has to be himself. ~Francis C. Farley

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