FRKWay back in 2008, Lenore Skenazy let her then 9-year-old son ride the subway alone, and her story prompted a fair level of public outrage. Her name became associated with the label “America’s Worst Mom,” but Lenore didn’t tuck her tail and fade away. Instead, she stuck with her gut and continued to pursue the idea that children are more capable than many imagine. The parental decision that her son was prepared and experienced enough to make a solo subway ride paved the way for a movement in modern parenting. The blog Free-Range Kids was born shortly after, and Skenazy’s 2009 book, Free-Range Kids: How to Raise Safe, Self-Reliant Children (Without Going Nuts with Worry) presented the main thesis of her viewpoint– kids need to be kids, but the constant pursuit of 100% safety and its resulting parental anxiety are standing in the way of childhood.

Today, Lenore Skenazy continues to push the worldwide conversation about parenting with common sense and fighting the idea that children are in constant danger. Starting tonight, she’ll be reaching U.S. audiences via a new medium- the television screen. World’s Worst Mom premieres Thursday, January 22, at 9:00 and 9:30 pm Eastern (8:00 and 8:30 Central) on the Discovery Life Channel. Following the format of other parenting advice shows, Skenazy’s new reality show sees her working with families to loosen the reins, as it were. Parents overcome with anxiety about letting their children have even some very basic freedoms meet with her as she provides the children with opportunities for new experiences.WorldsWorstMom

From the screener episode that I viewed, it appears as if these families may be at the extreme end of the spectrum. The ten-year-old in one episode is still spoon-fed by his mother at times, and he is not allowed to ride a bicycle out of safety concerns. He is a typically developing child, not being allowed to typically develop. I’ve got my DVR set to record the series, so I’m looking forward to seeing how the other families present in terms of overprotective practices.

Both Jennifer and I read Free-Range Kids back when it published, and the review we posted was formatted in a somewhat nontraditional manner for our site; we each responded to general questions about our reactions to the book and how what we read meshed with what we viewed as our individual parenting styles. Jennifer has reposted that review, along with a current giveaway for the book. As my oldest child was not yet nine years old at the time of that discussion, it’s a little like time travel to go back and read it now that he’ll be turning 15 this year, and my younger children are closer to his age back then! My parenting decisions have been greatly influenced by Lenore Skenazy’s writing, and I’m comfortable with the freedoms and responsibilities my children are entrusted with. I hope that with her new television show, other parents will find themselves reexamining their children’s experiences in the world. Every child deserves a childhood.

Want to hear more from Lenore Skenazy on parenting today in the face of overprotective expectations? Don’t miss my Q&A with her over on 5 Minutes for Mom.

Be sure to enter to win a copy of Free-Range Kids for your own bookshelf, too!


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Emmanuel’s Dream: The True Story of Emmanuel Ofosu Yeboah

When nonfiction reads like a story, children can get lost in the story. In the case of Emmanuel’s Dream: The True Story of Emmanuel Ofosu Yeboah by Laurie Ann Thompson and illustrated by Sean Qualls, I found I even needed to remind myself that this lyrically told, incredible story was in fact a true one. Children and adults alike, prepare to be amazed. Emmanuel Ofosu Yeboah was born with a significant physical deformity in his right leg. In his community in Ghana, there was little, if any, respect for people with disabilities. Though his father left, his mother had faith in his ability to overcome his disability and live a “normal” life. He learned to adapt- crawling and hopping to get around, shining shoes for money, and
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When Otis Courted Mama

Cardell is a young coyote quite content with his life. His “perfectly good” mama and daddy may not live together, but he’s happy with the time he gets to spend alone with his mother or with his father, stepmother, and younger stepbrother. As the title and cover illustration indicate, things get a little tricky for him when his mother has a new suitor. Kathi Appelt’s When Otis Courted Mama presents a child’s perspective on blended families and watching a parent date again. Cardell appreciates the special qualities of both of his parents, and as the text states, he’s “mostly used to” his living arrangements, split between his parents in different parts of the desert. His time with his mama isn’t shared with anyone, though, and the few coyotes
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The Novel Cure

With most medical guides, you can look up an illness and find information about diagnosis and treatment, maybe even for self-care at home. Ella Berthoud and Susan Elderkin have taken a different route, one they’re dubbing bibliotherapy, or “the prescribing of fiction for life’s ailments.” In The Novel Cure: From Abandonment to Zestlessness: 751 Books to Cure What Ails You, the authors round up fitting titles for your therapeutic reading. The idea behind this collection is that literature can be used to provide relief or comfort, and the ailments that they include are vast and varied. These ailments often fall more in line with life-related problems than medical illnesses, so “Bullied, being” and “Organized, not being enough” will be listed alongside “Panic attack” and “Sleepwalking.” For each problem that
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Men, Women & Children {Books on Screen}

The first thing I noticed when I saw the trailer for the movie Men, Women & Children earlier in the fall was the casting of Ansel Elgort in one of the main roles. My teenage son noticed the same thing, and as we had only recently re-watched The Fault in Our Stars on DVD, we were both intrigued. The trailer made me think that the film might be another movie to view with my son, especially as it focused, at least in part, on relationships among teenagers. What I didn’t realize at that point was that the film was an adaptation of Chad Kultgen’s 2011 book of the same name- Men, Women & Children. While I didn’t get to see the film when it had a limited
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For Goodness Sex: Changing the Way We Talk to Teens About Sexuality, Values, and Health

You know that image of the blundering, uncomfortable parent trying to have “the talk” with his or her teenager? There are countless reinforcements of that stereotype in our society, especially in pop culture, but I’ve always believed it didn’t have to be that way. From a young age, I opted to use correct terminology when talking with my kids about their body parts. I would joke that we don’t tell our babies that they smell with their “sniffers,” but instead call it a nose, so why would I feel the need to come up with a cutesy name for my son’s penis or my daughter’s vulva? I’ve tried to retain that openness and candor with my kids as they’ve grown, and with my oldest now
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Encouraging Reading with Magazine Baskets {On Reading}

My oldest child has been a book lover from early on. As an infant, he would look up as I showed him board book after board book held above us as we lay on the living room floor. Even with his active nature, as a preschooler, he would sit on my lap for picture book read alouds. Now that he’s a teen, he’s still a big reader, but if left to his own devices, I’m fairly certain that he’d read nothing but Marvel comics. If I pick up novels from the teen section at the library, he’ll read them. If I stack newly released YA books on his desk, he’ll grab them eventually. But what I’ve come to really appreciate is the power of a
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5 Reasons to Give Books This Holiday Season {Friday’s Five}

‘Tis the season again to exchange gifts with loved ones, and if you’re anything like me, you’re in the middle of making lists of items purchased and ideas for gifts not yet secured. As you make those lists, and check them way more than two times, I’m here to not-so-subtly suggest that you be sure to include the wonderful gifts of books, of course! Maybe you’re shopping for excited young children, too-cool-for-school teens, a special significant other, or that wacky aunt who will be the highlight of your family’s holiday meal. It doesn’t matter who is on your list, I’m confident that you can’t go wrong with a book, and here are five reasons, completely made up by me. 1. Entertaining AND educational is a win-win. Just
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Smithsonian Discover and Young Explorers Series #Giveaway

If you’re still on the hunt for educational holiday gift ideas for the elementary school aged children in your life, the Smithsonian Discover and Young Explorers series give glimpses into themes of their world famous museums in book and puzzle form. Smithsonian Discover: Flight and Smithsonian Discover: Space are fabulous gifts for enthusiastic learners from about age 8 and up. Mixing historical information about the history of flight and scientific explanations for how various flight machines work, along with models for paper airplanes and even a large poster celebrating the concept of flight, Flight is a wonderful hands-on resource perfect for the emphasis on STEM (science, technology, engineering, and math) education. Space follows the same format with the inclusion of fact cards and a poster, as well, with the focus on aspects
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Yes Please by Amy Poehler

Amy Poehler. For many, many people, myself included, Amy Poehler is a comedy genius. Some know her best from Saturday Night Live, and the image of her as an exasperated Hillary Clinton next to Tina Fey’s Sarah Palin will never be forgotten. Others came to adore her as Leslie Knope on Parks and Recreation. The true-blue fans from way back will cite her brilliance as a founding member of the Upright Citizens Brigade, a comedy troupe who had their own show on Comedy Central in the late 1990s. Regardless of your familiarity level with any of her work, picking up her (not-exactly-a) memoir is a fabulous idea. If Yes Please isn’t exactly a memoir, then what is it? Yes, the majority of the book is comprised of personal stories, but there’s a
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Last Train to Babylon

The opening of Charlee Fam’s debut novel Last Train to Babylon is somewhat hazy. It’s the kind of prologue that drops hints and bits and pieces of the story yet to come in a way that doesn’t make complete sense on the first read through, but when you later realize the seriousness of the scene, you get a hit-in-the-gut delayed reaction. As the novel progresses, the intensity increases while still maintaining a level of dark humor to balance out the seriousness of the story. Upon finding out that her high school best friend has died of a likely suicide, Aubrey Glass finds herself focused on her annoyance at her mother’s overly sentimental phone conversation. Dismissing her school guidance counselor mother’s barely veiled attempts at evoking some sort
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Revisit Huck Finn and Tom Sawyer with Penguin Classics

When was the last time you read Mark Twain’s classics Adventures of Huckleberry Finn or The Adventures of Tom Sawyer? I’m fairly certain I read Huck Finn’s story way back in high school, but I don’t think it really struck a chord with me until a few years later. I attended Elmira College, a small school in western New York located in the town in which Mark Twain (Samuel Clemens) resided for many summers with his wife’s family who hailed from Elmira. Every day, I would walk past an octagonal study relocated to campus from the land on which the family lived, and it was thrilling to know that Clemens wrote some of his best work inside that little building, including these two novels. Each of the new Penguin Classics editions feature an introduction
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