Tuesday, April 30, 2013

Introducing...Bibliotherapy Hangout!

I am pleased to announce that I have added a new feature to the blog, “Randie and Dr. Amy’s Bibliotherapy Hangout”! It can be accessed on the Bibliotherapy Hangout tab located near the top of the blog. Here you will find information, resources, book recommendations, and events related to bibliotherapy. 

Amy Popillion, Ph.D., CFLE, senior lecturer of Children’s Literature in Human Development and Family Studies at Iowa State University, and I have been working together for a number of years and I am ecstatic that she will be assisting me in keeping up this feature of the blog! Dr. Amy is also passionate about empowering families and her insight and expertise will be a great addition to Empowering Families with Randie. Please stick with us as we develop the feature and add to the page!

Here is a direct link to the Bibliotherapy Hangout. See you there!

Photo credit: http://www.public.iastate.edu/~ceah/2010-2011events

Thursday, April 25, 2013

Check out this local initiative!

The Campaign for Grade-Level Reading

This morning, I had the opportunity to attend a community meeting on literacy. The event was sponsored by the Ames Tribune and hosted by Ames Reads. Ames Reads is a collaborative initiative of many partners with a shared agenda in ensuring all children read and comprehend at or above grade level by 2020. Raising Readers of Story County is one partner of Ames Reads and I am fortunate enough to be a volunteer for the organization. The Ames Public Library is another key partner in this effort. The purpose of the event was to raise awareness of local literacy initiatives and promote The Campaign for Grade-Level Reading, which is a national effort.

 Ralph Smith, Senior Vice President of The Annie E. Casey Foundation and Managing Director for The Campaign for Grade-Level Reading was an inspiring speaker at the event. Many of the points Smith expressed are profound and have an effect on families. I want to highlight a few of his points:

·         To combat intergenerational poverty we need to assist children in accomplish three goals:
o   Graduate from high school
o   Acquire the skills to obtain and maintain employment
o   Delay pregnancy/parenting until at least age 25
·         Grade-level reading proficiency by third grade will help us with the above goals

·         What can members of the community do?
o   Focus on reading readiness
o   Invest in local literacy initiatives
o   Train teachers and tutors to offer QUALITY instruction
o   Embrace the Reach Out and Read model
o   Offer information to parents
o   Encourage reading of all languages

·         What can parents do?
o   READ! READ! READ! Read to your children
o   Work on school attendance—get children to school on time each day
o   Make summer an OPPORTUNITY—not a risk!
o   Take advantage of “teachable moments”
o   Reading should be an ENGAGING experience
o   Seek support from community

You may be asking yourself, why did Randie write about this?
What is the big deal about this campaign? Why should I care? 

All of these questions are valid and great. We know that neighborhoods and community influence the behaviors and choices of children[1]. Smith shared that 68% of the nation’s children (80% of which are children living in poverty) are not reading at grade-level by third grade. This is a critical landmark for future success. Minority children, especially African-American boys, all too often fall victim to these statistics, missing this landmark goal. Taking part in community-wide efforts to tackle reading readiness, school absence, and summer learning loss is an effective way to not only foster children’s academic success but also support families and break the cycle of poverty by preparing children for graduation and beyond.

For more information about the initiatives and organizations mentioned in this blog, please visit their websites listed below:

The Campaign for Grade-Level Reading, http://gradelevelreading.net/
Raising Readers of Story County, http://www.raising-readers.org/
The Annie E. Casey Foundation, http://www.aecf.org/
Ames Public Library, http://amespubliclibrary.org/

[1] South, S. J. & Crowder, K. (2010). Neighborhood poverty and nonmarital fertility: Spatial and temporal dimensions. Journal of Marriage and the Family, 72, 89–104.
*Photo credit:  http://www.aecf.org/AboutUs/LeadrshpMgmtTrustees/Smith.aspx

Defining Family

What is a family?

Traditional ideals about the nuclear family paint a picture of a breadwinning father and a domestic mother who cares for the quiet, well-behaved children. Extended family might include grandparents, aunts, uncles, cousins, and other kin connected by bonds of blood or marriage. I believe that blood and marriage is not enough nor a necessary requirement when it comes to defining family. For me, I think of family as the people that understand you, support you, which you can call at 3am for an emergency or to be silly with, love you, teach you, respect you, let you make mistakes, etc. I think it is great if a person's "traditional" family members can be this network or system of support for them but sometimes families are structured in non-traditional ways and loving someone because you want to can mean much more than loving them because there is an obligation to. You define your family. Each family is diverse. Yes, there are some common dynamics but each family interacts and functions in unique ways.

What does the research say?

Thirty years. For some, thirty years is nothing, it is but one drop in a torrential downpour of rain but one drop can make a world of difference. In the past thirty years, many changes have occurred that impact families. Many of these factors will not surprise you but the extent of their influence on families might. The rate of divorce is climbing to 40% and 50%[1], 18% of all American families are female-led single parent families[2], and cohabitation is “dramatically” higher for all demographic groups[3]. Views on marriage are shifting[4]. America, itself transformed from a farming nation into an industrialized society[5]. Women in the workforce[6], the insurgence of contraception[7], the quadrupling of teenage pregnancy[8], and elevated partner violence (causing nearly two million injuries and 1,300 deaths each year)[9] are factors as well. Diversity in terms of sexual orientation[10], ethnicity[11], and socioeconomic status[12], and a variety of other factors have all played their part in changing the structures, dynamics, and functions of today’s family.

But, what does today’s family look like? A Portrait Gallery[13] adapted from an American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) 2003 publication reports the following:

About half of all families with children under age 18 include two biological parents and their children. Twenty percent of these two-parent families are blended families. A little over a quarter of all families with children under age 18 are single-parent families. Over two and a half million children live in cross-generational families. It is estimated that 120,000 children are adopted each year, while 6.3 children in 1,000 live in foster care. One and half million unmarried couples have at least one child under the age 15. 1.3 million children under age 18 live with grandparents and 2 million children have parents who are gay, lesbian, or bisexual.

What does this mean for families?

There is not one answer to this question. I would argue that there is no or right or wrong answer but I do know that family scholars, policymakers, and other professionals from many different fields of study are scrambling to find an answer. How would I answer? The changes taking place in families leads me to believe that families are in need of knowledge and support now more than ever before. Families are redefining themselves and I do not think we as a society, culture, or agency can tell families how they should be forming and living. Instead, I believe that families have to determine who and what they are and make decisions that work best for them and their needs. This is no easy feat. I know, because even with my understanding of family dynamics, I am still defining my own family and figuring out what works for us. So, instead of regurgitating “best practices” and pushing ideas on families, I seek to support families and empower them as they continue to grow, change, and redefine themselves. Why do I feel this way? It’s simple. Families mean much more to me than statistics in research. I am not fearful of change, nor frightened by diversity; in fact, I embrace it.

What does that mean for you?

Jackpot! You are in the right place! You will be able to look here for information on families and access resources that you feel will be beneficial for you or others you know.

[1] Cherlin, A. (2010). Demographic trends in the United States: A review of research in the 2000s. Journal of Marriage and the Family: Decade in Review, 72, 403–419.
[2] Marin, M. T., Emery, R. E., & Peris, T. A. (2004). Chapter 16: Single–parent families: Risk, resilience, and change. (Pp. 282–301). In Coleman, M. & Ganong, L. H. Eds. Handbook of Contemporary Family: Considering the Past, Contemplating the Future. Thousand Oaks, CA: Sage Publications.
[3] Seltzer, J. A. (2004). Chapter 4: Cohabitation and family change. (Pp. 57–78). In Coleman, M. & Ganong, L. H. Eds. Handbook of Contemporary Family: Considering the Past, Contemplating the Future. Thousand Oaks, CA: Sage Publications.
[4] Sabatelli, R. M & Ripoll, K. (2005). Chapter 5: Variations in marriage over time: An ecological/exchange perspective. (Pp. 79–94). In Coleman, M. & Ganong, L. H. Eds. Handbook of Contemporary Family: Considering the Past, Contemplating the Future. Thousand Oaks, CA: Sage Publications.
[5] Amato, P. R. (2004). Tension between institutional and individual views of marriage. Journal of Marriage and the Family, 62, 959–965.
[6] See footnotes  1, 5, and 7
[7] Nock, S.L. (2005). Marriage as a public issue. The Future of Children, 15, 13–32.
[8] See footnote 2
[9] Centers for Disease Control, 2007 as cited in Finchman, F. D. & Beach, S. R. (2010). Marriage in the new millennium: A decade in review. Journal of Marriage and the Family: Decade in Review, 72, 630 –649.
[10] Biblarz, T. J., & Stacey, J. (2010). How Does the Gender of Parents Matter?. Journal of Marriage & Family, 72(1), 3-22.
[11] McAdoo, H. P., Martinez, E. A., & Hughes, H. (2005). Chapter 5: Ecological changes in ethnic families of color. (Pp. 191–212). In Bengston, B. L., Acock, A. C., Allen, K. R., Dilworth–Anderson, P., & Klein, D. M. Eds. Sourcebook of Family Theory & Research. Thousand Oaks, CA: Sage Publications.
[12] Rank, M. R. (2004). The disturbing paradox of poverty in American families: What we have learned over the past four decades. (Pp. 469-490). In Coleman, M. & Ganong, L. H. Eds. Handbook of Contemporary Family: Considering the Past, Contemplating the Future. Thousand Oaks, CA: Sage Publications.
[13] http://www.healthychildren.org/English/family-life/family-dynamics/types-of-families/pages/Different-Types-of-Familes-A-Portrait-Gallery.aspx?nfstatus=401&nftoken=00000000-0000-0000-0000-000000000000&nfstatusdescription=ERROR%3a+No+local+token