JetBlue "Soar with Reading" Event this Sunday at The Strand

Hey NYC: How does 100,000 FREE books into the hands of underprivileged kids here in the city sound? Have I got your attention? Great! Bring on the online #BookBattle.

Here's the back story -- Soar with Reading, a program designed to champion reading in children, was created by JetBlue Airways (through their JetBlue For Good program) & Random House Children's Books in 2011. To date, Soar with Reading has given out over 2,750,000 books to kids living in "book deserts," areas where children & their families have little or no access to purchase age-appropriate books, which we all know can stunt academic development. A truly incredible effort!

So, how do we get those books coming our way? Turns out one little vote (and a whole lot of spreading the word) is all it takes. You see, this online Book Battle is between NYC, Los Angeles, Boston and San Francisco. Whoever gets the most votes wins the contest, and we are currently in 2nd PLACE behind Boston. Boooo.... (sorry, Boston)!

To drum up excitement for this year's Soar with Reading competition, NYC residents & tourists alike are invited to Strand Bookstore this Sunday, August 6th, from 12-2pm. Authors R.J. Palacio (Wonder) and Chris Grabenstein (Escape from Mr. Lemoncello's Library) will be present for a meet & greet & book signing. Guests will enjoy complimentary scoops from JetBlue's local ice cream partner, Blue Marble, while also learning about the Soar with Reading program.

One last bit of good news: in an effort to measure Soar with Reading's impact, research was done in Detroit and Washington, D.C. after vending machine were installed in those cities. The results were more than positive:
  • Three out of four children with access to the vending machines scored higher on early literacy exams than before they had access to the machines.
  • Children who did not use the machine on average scored lower on the test.
  • Parents in neighborhoods with the machines had more knowledge about their children’s reading habits compared to parents in areas without the machines.
So come on out! Bring your little reader and support an amazing cause from JetBlue and Random House Children's Books. And don't forget to VOTE

Disclosure: I am being compensated to promote this event and the Soar with Reading program by JetBlue. All opinions herein are my own.

Camp Review: Play On! Studios

Last month, Millie completed a week of Creative Drama day camp with Play On! Studios (using space at Ballet Hispanico on the Upper West Side). She had a fantastic time, and as a result, has been talking nonstop about when she can go back. Maybe there's a little actress in the making?! Eeek. Before I get too nervous about that, I have to say I'm proud of her for going into a camp situation not knowing a soul and coming out of it with new friends and a positive experience.

In addition to practicing each day for a play that was performed Friday afternoon, "Rainbow Fish and the Sea Monster's Cave," she played all sorts of creative games like Night at the Museum (a favorite), Freeze Dance Tag and Kids are Talking throughout the week. The campers also painted pictures for the show on Friday and decorated play bills for the audience. I coincidentally picked up the program that Millie decorated, so we were sure to bring it home!

Here are a few pics from dress rehearsal:

In addition to day camps, Play On! Studios also offers after school & weekends classes for kids throughout the year in choirdrama & music, even audition prep! Check out their website for more information on class schedules & to sign up.

Disclosure: I was provided with a week of camp for review purposes. All opinions herein are my own.


A Shared Room Update with Room & Board

One of my goals this summer is to update the girls' room in a few areas, namely their space for drawing & art projects. We bought this P'kolino chalk table & chair set (see below) when Millie was 2, and it has definitely served them well. But when you have two children who are growing like weeds (with knees now touching the table top when they sit down!), well, it's no longer doing the trick.

Enter my search for a desk big enough for two kids, a task that turned out to be much harder than I anticipated. Obviously for our NYC apartment (or anyone living in a "cozy" arrangement), space is at a premium. So, buying two separate desks for a shared bedroom just wasn't an option. I began my search by looking at every home furnishings website I could think of as well as countless Pinterest kids' room boards. Nothing was long enough for two kids, and we're not handy enough to build one ourselves (actually just thinking about that is funny).

Then, finally, I checked out Room & Board. A friend of ours had bought a couch there a while back, but I never realized they had a kids' section. What a fantastic discovery! I love their modern, clean designs that are as functional as they were stylish. After checking out their desk offerings, I discovered their Moda Desk would be perfect for the girls length-wise (48 inches, to be exact) and with a Moda Desk Organizer on top, they'd each have their own space. And while the cost isn't cheap, it's also impeccably well-made (in upstate New York) by local craftsmen, and its classic style is one that will grow with them over the years. In fact, they'll probably be fighting over who gets to take it with them when they head off to college -- but we'll deal with that then!

A few pics of the girls and their new desk & chairs:

Harry Potter fans will appreciate what Millie is working on here

Finally a space to write and create and collaborate together without overwhelming their shared space -- thank you, Room & Board

Disclosure: Room & Board provided me with product in order to facilitate this review. All opinions herein are my own.


A Day at the Monterey Bay Aquarium

We spent our summer vacation this year out on the West Coast exploring San Francisco, then driving down to Los Angeles and Orange County (post to come). I have family in both places, so it was fantastic to not only catch up with all of them but be a tourist at the same time. We had an amazing visit, and truth be told, we've been California dreamin' ever since we got home.

On the day we left San Francisco, we headed south along Route 1 to Monterey Bay and its world-famous aquarium. What an incredible visit! So many beautiful animals, interactive exhibits & feedings/demonstrations throughout the day, with a super friendly staff & volunteers to boot. See for yourself:

I must point out that this diver feeding the fish (& sharks!) is a volunteer & (wait for it) 70 years old! Incredible.

Touching a sting ray. No fear!

This aquarium is absolutely worth a visit if you find yourself on a similar-type trip along the coast of California. So many learning opportunities, and while obviously some things are geared towards children, I think Husband and I can safely say we had just as good a time as they did! If I had one complaint it's really that there is just so much to see and do, and if you want to catch certain feedings or shows throughout the day, you must plan accordingly and arrive at least 15 minutes early. Chances are a few people might have the same idea as you!

Side note; check out their Family Activities page before you arrive to help gain momentum for your visit - lots of fun ideas. 

Two thumbs up from the whole family on the Monterey Bay Aquarium!

Disclosure: I received 2 press tickets to use towards our visit. All opinions herein are my own.


Kidmoto: New Family Car Service for NYC Airports

NYC families, I feel sure you'll be able to relate to this one.

We all know airline travel can be stressful with children, but one such frustration occurs long before you arrive at your gate: the should-be-simple act of GETTING to the airport! 

Many car services do not provide infant or booster car seats, which leaves you installing one on your own (studies show a hefty percentage of us are doing it incorrectly), uninstalling when you arrive, then lugging car seat through airport and on to your destination. The same goes for families who may be traveling to NYC for vacation, except worse as they likely won't need a car seat for day to day getting around the city. They might be deterred from visiting altogether because the idea of installing and uninstalling car seats in cabs is as daunting as not using one at all (a common yet crazy practice here in the city).

Long story short, the fact that there aren't more options for families with young children traveling to/from the airport has always baffled me. So needless to say I was thrilled to learn about Kidmoto, a new service providing just that: reliable, safe transportation for your travel to/from NYC airports. Drivers are specifically trained and your vehicle arrives pre-installed and harnessed and ready to go.
With the Kidmoto app (also available on Google Play), book your travel easily by requesting exactly what kind of car seat you need, type of car, etc. Up to 4 car seats are available in a single car for those traveling with large families.

Our experience was great, and let me just mention a few extras, as Nelson Nigel, our driver and the CEO of Kidmoto, has really thought of everything. Vivian got car sick on the way to the airport (a really great way to start vacation!), which I was completely unprepared for. Nelson had bags for just this occasion in the back seat, and I was able to grab one just in time. He even had Water Wipes to aid in cleaning her up! Then, on the other end of our trip, he was ready with an umbrella to get us to our door in the pouring down rain. This is all on top of a very safe and secure ride to/from the airport.

So happy to know about Kidmoto & share with all of you! If you're interested in trying out the service for yourself, use BABYMEETSCITY and receive $20 off each ride (this code is good for a year). Safe travels this summer!

Disclosure: I was provided with Kidmoto credit in exchange for this review. All opinions herein are my own.


Big Apple Books: The Hula Hoopin' Queen

My newest Big Apple Book takes place in Harlem on West 139th & Broadway, home of The Hula Hoopin' Queen by Thelma Lynne Godin. Love this story!

Kameeka, a spunky gal who is desperate to win a neighborhood hula hoopin' contest, forgets that she needs to help her mother prepare for a birthday party for their beloved neighbor, Miz Adeline. While she helps mama with chores, she gets distracted and ends up being sent to the grocery store for a missing cake ingredient. Long story short, Kameeka ends up learning an important lesson about responsibility, while also discovering a secret that Miz Adeline has been hiding.

Love the characters and illustrations in this book. The perfect gift for a little hula hooper in your life!


New Campaign in NY Announces Children have #SeenEnoughTobacco

I am so glad that I see fewer and fewer people smoking. I hardly know anyone who smokes anymore, and that's amazing news considering I've had family members who sadly died from lung cancer. But to say that the tobacco industry is going away is a vast understatement. In fact, the way they target children in their marketing efforts is just horrendous, and as such, I'm proud to share the work of Tobacco Free NYS. Their current campaign (#SeenEnoughTobacco) is centered around children's over-exposure to tobacco promotions.

Did you know that in New York State, tobacco companies spend more than a half a million dollars every day to place promotions in stores where kids can see them? Stores located close to schools contain nearly three times the amount of cigarette promotions. There is a direct correlation here: the more children see these ads, the more they will want to try cigarettes. The average age of a new smoker is 13 YEARS OLD.

And if that wasn't enough for you, the U.S. Surgeon General calls smoking a "pediatric epidemic," directly stating that “Advertising and promotional activities by tobacco companies have been shown to cause the onset and continuation of smoking among adolescents and young adults.”

It's time to stand up against these marketing efforts towards children. You can pledge your support of Tobacco Free NYS' #SeenEnoughTobacco campaign HERE.


Thanks for doing your part!

Disclosure: I received compensation to assist in promoting this campaign by Seen Enough Tobacco. All opinions are my own.
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