How A Gifted Son Has Inspired the Importance of Literacy In My Work

March 20th, 2017

This month we’re delighted to have Kenneth Braswell, Sr., Executive Director of Fathers Incorporated and Director of the National Responsible Fatherhood Clearinghouse, as our guest blogger. We invited him to talk about his new community engagement program, Real Dads Read.

About a year and a half ago I found myself in Baltimore, Maryland during the Freddie Gray indictments. On that day while I was attending community meetings, my son and wife were watching the events unfold on CNN. My son, being a curious six-year-old African American boy, wanted to know why his father was as he described, “with all those police.”

When I came home I had to explain to him what he saw. As a result of that conversation I wrote a book about it entitled; “Daddy, There’s A Noise Outside.” Fast forward, the book is teaching grade school aged children around the country the nuances of community unrest and protest. It is having an impact on children as a result of my son’s curiosity. As I look at my work today, I wonder where the direction of my work would be if he wasn’t interested in the world around him.

Why is this important? Well, since that time I have written two other books on subject matters that parents find trouble discussing with their young children. At the same time, my eight-year-old son continues to bring home straight A’s and was recently tested to assess if he is academically gifted. A few nights ago I was looking over his latest progress report, in addition to his reading and math scores, he is excelling in all of his subjects.

His thirst for learning and academics has ignited my drive to want to see other dads engage in the educational lives of their children.

We are now implementing a new community engagement program, Real Dads Read. Real Dads Read (RDR) is aimed at elementary and middle school aged children (K-8) and their fathers/male caregivers with the goals of 1) encouraging children to develop a love of reading, 2) improving children’s literacy skills and educational outcomes, and 3) strengthening bonds between fathers/caregivers and their children.

Real Dads Read (RDR) is a two-generation approach to engaging and improving outcomes for both men and the children for which they are responsible. The National Center for Families Learning (NCFL) recently released research showing that two-generation programs like RDR can improve student achievement, increase parent engagement, improve adult reading behaviors and literacy, and prepare parents to help their children with school.[1]

Reading is a fundamental skill. A child’s ability to read proficiently by third grade is the most significant predictor of his or her school success, high school completion, and future economic stability. However, approximately 80 percent of low-income children will not achieve this crucial milestone.[2] Reading to children is a clear and beneficial way for fathers to spend quality time with their children. Fathers who participate in reading programs with their children are more involved in their children’s education, feel like better parents, and report a better relationship with their child than before they participated in the program.[3] Fathers, however, are often an overlooked resource when it comes to their children’s education.

We have to do better with father engagement in human service programs. Research is just as clear about both the negative and positive aspects of fatherhood. For instance we know that when fathers are absent in the lives of their children they are more apt to engage in behaviors that involve drugs and other substances.[4] This means we also know that when fathers are engaged in a healthy way our children are less apt to engage in harmful behaviors.

Fathers Incorporated is confident that education is one area of work in which we can have a significant impact on the life outcomes of our children.

[2] Allison Hyra and Stacey Bouchet (2013). Strengthening Literacy and Father-Child Relationships through Reading.

[3] Green. S.  (2003).  Involving fathers in family literacy: Outcomes and insights from the Fathers Reading Every Day program.  Family Literacy Forum & Literacy Harvest, 2(2): 34-40.

[4] Mandara, J., & Murray, C. B. (2006). Father’s absence and African American adolescent drug use. Journal of Divorce & Remarriage, 46, 1-12.

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While the Blarneystone May Work for Some Things, Don’t Leave Whether Your Kids will Experiment with Alcohol and Other Drugs Up to Chance. Talk it Out.

March 10th, 2017

This month we’re delighted to have Kim Morris, National Director of Programs, of Mothers Against Drunk Driving (MADD), as our guest blogger. We invited her to talk about having the conversation with your kids about underage drinking, just in time for St. Patrick’s Day.

Did you know that research shows that teens (even high schoolers) say they base their decisions around what they will do in regards to alcohol on what their parents say?

Saying no to alcohol underage is the right choice for so many reasons…let me give you a few to get you started.

  • Underage drinking kills 4,700 people every year.
  • Teens who drink or drug are 5 times more likely to drop out of school or think good grades are not important.
  • Teens who drink are at greater risk (5xs more!) of becoming addicted.
  • Car Crashes: teens who start drinking are much more likely to be in an alcohol related crash today or sometime in their lives…7xs more likely.

Parents help write the story, it is not luck. Take time today and often to talk to your kids about alcohol. Help them think about a plan…what will they do if they find themselves in a difficult situation…can they call you? A neighbor? An aunt/uncle? Do your kids know that you are NOT ok with them deciding to take a ride from anyone who has been drinking? There is one way to find out, start the conversation. Need help or more information, check out MADD’s awesome resources, Power of Parents at

Don’t depend on the luck of the Irish, get the tools you need for success now!

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5 Fun Ways to Celebrate Valentine’s Day as a Family

February 9th, 2017

This month we’re delighted to have Family Day Mom Blogger, Jen Frost, discuss some ways she celebrates Valentine’s Day with her family. Jen is a quilter and crafter who shares her faith through fabric. She’s a pattern writer, quilt designer, and book author. When she’s not in front of her sewing machine, she can be found at the beach with her husband and son, toes happily buried in the sand. She writes and quilts each week at Faith and Fabric.

It’s almost Valentine’s Day! February 14th is a day known for celebrating romance between couples, but it’s also a wonderful day to celebrate and share that love with your entire family.

Did you know that showing unconditional love for your children is good not only emotionally but physically as well? A 2013 study by UCLA showed that a loving relationship with a parent can help protect children from health problems linked to toxic stress such as high cholesterol, cardiovascular disease, metabolic syndrome, and other health risks. It also helps their brain development – school age children who grow up in a loving, nurturing, and stable environment have better brain development than their peers.

Here are a few fun (and even educational!) ways to celebrate Valentine’s Day as a family…and share a little love along the way:

1. Start the day off right with a healthy breakfast of heart-shaped whole grain pancakes and fresh strawberries. The protein and fiber in the pancakes will keep their tummies feeling full longer, and the red strawberries bring a bit of the Valentine’s Day feel as well as a ton of antioxidants. No time to make pancakes in the morning? Cut a piece of toast into a shape of a heart and cover with red jam.

2. Write them a love note and stick it in their lunch box. They’ll love getting a surprise note from their parents in an unexpected place!

3. Help them write a note to someone special in a really special – and sweet – way! Those candy hearts, so popular every year, not only taste great, but can be used to create candy love notes. Write one to your kids, and help them (depending on their age) write one for their mom or dad. It’s a lot of fun to read the notes with silly phrases from the candy hearts!

4. Pull out your wedding pictures (or photos of their grandparents’ wedding…or both!) and share. Children love hearing stories about how their parents met and seeing photos of their parents on their big day!

5. Give them a hug and tell them how much you love them. Actions can be just as strong as words, and nothing is as strong as a loving hug and hearing mom or dad telling you how much you’re loved!

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4 Festive Ways to Build Your Child’s Resilience Through Family History this Holiday Season

December 8th, 2016

Knowing their family’s history can be a source of strength for your kids. Research has found that kids who know more about their parents’ and their ancestors’ lives are more resilient. Sharing the family’s history, including traditions, also encourages bonding.

The holiday season is the perfect opportunity to explore your family history with your kids and to create new memories for future generations. Here are some suggestions:

1. Storytelling - Because holidays bring families together, this is a great time to ask everyone to share stories from their childhood. While positive and funny memories are always the best, don’t shy away from talking about the tough times. When children learn about how their ancestors bounced back from difficulty, it helps them feel more confident about facing their own challenges.

2. Photo albums - Gather your children and pull out those family photo albums. As you go through it, share stories and memories about the people in the pictures. Now is a great time to print and add some new pictures from the past year.

3. Decorations - Decorating together can give kids a sense of belonging and a deeper connection to the holiday. Whether it’s cleaning up, hanging lights, stringing popcorn, or making ornaments, help kids find a way to be part of the process. If you have decorations or ornaments that are special to your family share the story behind those items with your kids. Add your child’s name, age, and the year on the back of special ornaments and decorations you create together. This makes them a part of your family’s history! It will be fun to unpack them every year and remember the fun time you had making them.

4. Traditions - Nothing makes a family feel more like a family then having its own traditions. You can create new traditions or enact old ones. Share with kids the history behind old traditions and what you love about creating new ones with them. Don’t be afraid of being silly, sometimes the silliest traditions are the most beloved. After all, it’s the traditions, not the gifts, that your kids will remember when they grow up.

How often do you and your kids talk about your childhood or what it was like for you growing up? Are there any additional fun activities not mentioned here that you do around the holidays to help connect your kids with their family’s history? Let us know in the comments below!

From our family to yours, Happy Holidays!

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What are Some Effective Approaches for Starting the Conversation About Drugs and Alcohol With Your Kids?

November 15th, 2016

This month we’re delighted to have Tufts University School of Medicine’s Margie Skeer, ScD, MPH, MSW join us as our guest blogger to discuss tips for how to talk about drugs and alcohol with your kids.

Most parents know that talking with their kids about alcohol and drugs is important.  But it may feel incredibly awkward and uncomfortable.  If you’re having some difficulties approaching this topic with your child, you’re not alone.

Why is this such a challenge for parents?

First, alcohol is legal and parents may drink around their children (which is okay if they do so responsibly), so they may feel uncomfortable with a “do as I say, not as I do” approach. Second, many parents have used alcohol or other drugs when they were teens and are not sure what to say if their child asks them about their own past use. Finally, parents may not feel equipped to have conversations because they may not know enough about alcohol or certain drugs to answer any questions that may arise. Does this sound familiar to you?

Luckily, there are ways to get past these obstacles. Here are some approaches that you may find useful in starting a conversation about alcohol and drugs with your child.

  • First, it is very important to use credible resources (many are online) to educate yourself about alcohol and drugs and what they can do to adolescent brains and bodies, and to your child’s life. For example, check out the National Institute on Drug Abuse’s Drug Facts, which is designed for teens: You can also take a look at CASA Family Day’s tips for talking to your kids about drugs: Tools like these will make you feel more informed and ready to start this important conversation.
  • When it’s time to actually start the discussion, do it in a way that feels natural. For example, if a celebrity gets caught using drugs or gets pulled over for drinking while driving, which unfortunately happens frequently, you can use this as an opportunity for a conversation about substance use. If there is an incident in your town or in your child’s school where a student is using substances, this presents another opening and chance to talk. Any way it gets started, this conversation should happen often and it could even be as simple as saying to your child: “I wanted to know if you had any questions about alcohol or drugs” or asking, “Do you know anybody or if you’ve heard of anybody in your school who’s drinking alcohol or using marijuana?” which can be a really nice entryway into the conversation.
  • Another strategy is to tell your child that you want them to be able to tell you anything and to be able to have open conversations, even if it is something that may be embarrassing or might be hard to talk about. Let your child know that you’ll answer any questions they have to the best of your ability. You want to make sure that your child gets the right information from you, rather than hearing it from somebody at school, a friend, or a friend’s older sibling.
  • There are also excellent resources online that have sample starter conversations if you prefer to have a script to get the conversation started. For example, this site from the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) provides information and even an app to help start the conversation: “Talk. They Hear You”:

Try to establish a healthy and trusting relationship with your child by communicating and connecting with them on a daily basis about issues big and small. But do make sure to discuss the topic of alcohol and drugs frequently. Although they may not say it, your child most likely wants to talk to you and share their thoughts and concerns. Try some of the strategies above with your child at dinner tonight.

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Empathy – a Prescription for Success as CADCA’s National Medicine Abuse Awareness Month Continues

October 25th, 2016

Last year, we were honored to have General Arthur T. Dean, CADCA’s Chairman and CEO, as our guest blogger. He has agreed to join us once again to provide insight about the role of empathy as coalitions address the prescription and over-the-counter drug abuse challenges in their communities.

As I was coming into work today, I was listening to a report on National Public Radio – E is for Empathy: Sesame Workshop Takes a Crack at Kindness. The Sesame Workshop, which introduced Big Bird, Oscar the Grouch and other Sesame Street characters who we know and love, recently conducted a survey among 2,000 parents and 500 teachers. The survey asked, “What’s more important for our children, having good grades or building kindness and empathy?” It turns out that the large majority of parents and teachers are most concerned about building kindness in our children. They said that we need to teach them, “what it looks like, how to cultivate it and why there isn’t enough of it in this world.”

Indeed, when we talk about prescription and other forms of drug abuse prevention, kindness and empathy are critical to the success of our efforts. And for the past 24 years, CADCA (Community Anti-Drug Coalitions of America) has been in the business of supporting the development of strong coalitions, which must be empathetic to their communities’ specific drug abuse-related problems in order for them to create and implement strategies that will resonate with their citizens.

October is National Medicine Abuse Awareness Month (NMAAM), a time when we place an emphasis on the misuse and abuse of prescription and over-the-counter medicines. Here’s what the latest data from the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration’s (SAMHSA) National Survey on Drug Use and Health, tells us about this problem:

  • In 2015, an estimated 6.4 million Americans aged 12 or older were current misusers of psychotherapeutic drugs.
  • An estimated 492,000 adolescents aged 12 to 17 misused psychotherapeutic drugs in the past month.
  • An estimated 1.8 million young adults aged 18 to 25 were current misusers of psychotherapeutic drugs.
  • There were 4.1 million adults aged 26 or older who were current misusers of psychotherapeutic drugs.

While this information gives us a high-level view, those who work on the ground know the realities of prescription and OTC medicine abuse all too well. We know the teen athletes whose lives were cut short after they attended a party where pills of all shapes and sizes were available for the taking; or that tweens and teens showing so much promise overdosed on OTC cough medicine because they heard that, in spite of its side effects, taking a lot of cough medicine could, “make you feel really good.” After all, people of all ages think, “If these medicines are either prescribed by a medical professional or can be purchased easily at a pharmacy, how could they hurt you?” Such a question is particularly problematic with tweens, teens and young adults who are at the stage of life when they feel that problems happen to other people, not to them, and that they are invincible because they are young.

That is when I think back to the report I heard this morning on the radio. We need to empathize with the young people in our lives. In order for prevention messages to reach them, we need to go where they are. We need to ensure that they are well-informed about the potential repercussions of medicine misuse and abuse, not to scare them, but to give them the tools they need to stay safe and healthy.

You can become part of the movement to help our youth grow into healthy and informed adults by getting involved in CADCA’s National Medicine Abuse Awareness Month. Check out our online toolkit and get involved. You can:

  • Participate in the Dose of Prevention Challenge: Each year, CADCA awards community coalitions for their outstanding efforts in combating prescription and OTC medicine abuse. Contact your local community coalition if you have not done so already.  Be part of their activities as they host educational events – town hall meetings, community breakfasts, and seminars – where they place the spotlight on the issues and talk about solutions.

At the end of the day, what’s important is that our next generation enters adulthood ready for the challenges which await them. Preventing prescription, OTC and other forms of drug misuse and abuse provides pathways to success for tweens, teens and young people of today. Our efforts today teach the adults of tomorrow about the importance of paying it forward. And as Murray the Muppet concluded in this morning’s radio story when he excitedly figured out the meaning of empathy, doing so provides opportunities for all of us to do the “Happy Dance” that changes communities. A simple message – yes – but one that requires a commitment from parents, schools, businesses, healthcare providers, government agencies, faith organizations and other community sectors. Be concerned. Get engaged, and take action. Become part of the solution. Revisit the meaning of empathy and make your community stronger for this generation and beyond.

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Preventing Bullying on Unity Day and Beyond

October 18th, 2016

This month we’re delighted to have Prevent Child Abuse America as our guest blogger. In honor of National Bullying Prevention Month we’ve invited them to discuss Unity Day, a day for all Americans to show their support for all of the children who are bullied every year.

Wednesday, October 19 is Unity Day, a day for all Americans to unite around the ideals of kindness, acceptance and inclusion to stand up for bullying prevention. Sponsored by the PACER Center, Unity Day is a chance to visibly show your support for the estimated 13 million children who are bullied every year.

It’s easy to participate! The number one way to show your support on Unity Day is by wearing orange. Whether it’s as simple as a bracelet or as all-out as an entire outfit, wearing orange on Unity Day is a visual symbol that you support efforts to end bullying. There are also badges you can use on your social media profiles to show your support. But while wearing orange is a great way to show support, there are other actions that you can take – on Unity Day and beyond! – to help prevent bullying in your neighborhood or school.

Tips to Help Prevent Bullying and Peer Abuse for Parents and Students

The number one way for a parent to prevent and stop bullying is communication. Only by knowing what is actually going on in your child’s life can you make a difference. If you’re a parent or caregiver, make sure you’re asking your child the right questions. Instead of a question like “how was your day,” consider asking questions that encourage a longer conversation. Questions like “What was the best thing that happened today?” and “On a scale of 1 to 10, how would you rate your day? Why?” can help give parents and caregivers more insight into what is actually going on with the children you care for.

If your child does disclose that they are bullied, make sure they understand that it is not their fault and that they did the right thing by telling you. Learn the facts and be sure to speak with school administration so they can monitor the situation and prevent future incidents.

If you are a student who wants to be an ally or a parent of a student, the best way to help prevent or stop bullying is by showing kindness and inclusion to fellow students and by choosing to be an “upstander” instead of a bystander in bullying situations. A great way to do this is with the new app SitWithUs.

Designed by 16-year-old Natalie Hampton, the idea behind the app is simple: if you don’t have someone to sit with at lunch, SitWithUs will help that lonely student find a place to eat, and instead of sitting alone, it gives them the chance to find and connect with new friends.

This app is a perfect example of the ideals behind Unity Day, and helps prevent bullying in one of the most common areas for bullying to occur – the lunchroom. While currently only available for iPhone, we thought the app was such a great idea that, alongside our bullying prevention partner Chartwells K12, we are funding the development of the app for Android, giving more parents and students access and increasing opportunities to exhibit the kindness and inclusion that helps prevent bullying situations.

For more ideas on what you can do to prevent bullying, check out our website or visit the PACER Center for more information on Unity Day. We hope you’ll join us on Wednesday and stand up for bullying prevention!

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3 Strategies for Good Communication with Your Kids with Margie Skeer, ScD, MPH, MSW

September 30th, 2016

Recently, we had the privilege of hosting a presentation on family dinners and parent engagement by Tufts University School of Medicine’s Margie Skeer, ScD, MPH, MSW. Dr. Skeer talked about her exciting research on the benefits of family dinners and revealed her thoughts on effective communication between parents and children.

Here are three strategies she shared for improving communication with your kids:

1. Ask your kids open ended questions. Encourage them to elaborate by asking follow-up questions if they give one-word answers.

2. Pick a topic that your kids are expected to talk about at every dinner, such as, “What was the best thing that happened to you today? The worst thing?” The topic can and should evolve as your family’s needs and activities change.

3. Express interest in their interests. Educate yourself about the things that are important to your kids (like Snapchat or Pokémon) so you can discuss them and ask questions.

We encourage you to try some of these strategies at your family dinner tonight. Are there any other strategies that you use to get your kids talking during a family activity or meal? If so, please share them with us in the comments below! If you’d like to listen to Dr. Skeer’s entire presentation please click here.


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Celebrate CASA Family Day – Be Involved. Stay Involved.® on September 26!

September 14th, 2016

CASA Family Day is quickly approaching, and we can’t wait to share all the news with you about how to join this year’s celebration online or in person.

If you are a parent, you can celebrate Family Day by posting your #myfamilyselfie photos on social media. It’s simple and easy to participate. Just gather your family for a meal or special activity, snap a picture of everyone spending time together, and share the image on social media using #myfamilyselfie on Family Day, Sept. 26. Learn more here.

You can also celebrate Family Day with other families in your community. Our sponsors and partners/ambassadors and community groups all over the country have special events and activities planned to help families have fun and connect, whether it be over food, games, or conversation. Here’s a taste of what’s going on this year:

  • 20 State First Spouses are serving as Honorary Chairs of Family Day. First Lady of Illinois Diana Rauner will be hosting a dinner for military families. First Lady of South Dakota Linda Daugaard will be reading to kids at the Dahl Arts Center in Rapid City.
  • 12 Major League Baseball teams are helping to celebrate Family Day at their home games, including the: Atlanta Braves, Boston Red Sox, Chicago White Sox, Kansas City Royals, Milwaukee Brewers, Oakland Athletics, Philadelphia Phillies, Pittsburgh Pirates, San Francisco Giants, St. Louis Cardinals, Seattle Mariners, and Washington Nationals.

Here is how some of our other sponsors and partners are celebrating Family Day:

  • The Coca-Cola Company is back as Family Day’s Presenting Sponsor! Coca-Cola is partnering with Waffle House to offer coupons for a free kid’s meal.
  • Family Day Partners/Ambassadors who will be sharing Family Day information with their community include: Community Anti-Drug Coalitions of America (CADCA), Fathers Incorporated, Mothers Against Drunk Driving (MADD), National Center for Fathering, National Military Family Association, Partnership for Drug-Free Kids, Prevent Child Abuse America, Students Against Destructive Decisions (SADD), The Family Dinner Project, the Kids Time, and The Moyer Foundation.
  • The Governors’ residences in Nevada and New Jersey will be lit in red and blue on September 26th in honor of Family Day.
  • Mom Bloggers Amy Roskelley of Super Healthy Kids and Jen Frost of Faith and Fabric are once again partnering with Family Day to help spread awareness about the importance of parental engagement.

What are your Family Day plans? Let us know in the comments below! From our family to yours, we hope you have a fun and happy Family Day this year!

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5 Tips to Help Get Kids Ready for the New School Year

August 30th, 2016

After almost three months of summer break, kids may find it difficult to go back to their academic routine. To help get your child in the right frame of mind, start talking now about how they can be ready to begin this new chapter in their life. Also, check out our 5 tips below to help you and your child prepare for the new school year.

  1. Start adjusting your child’s eating and sleeping schedule. Ease your child back into a school year routine gradually. During the last two weeks of summer, re-introduce a scheduled bedtime to ensure they get enough sleep. If meal times or other regular routines have changed over the summer vacation, reset those as well. For example, if you know when your child’s lunch period is have them start eating lunch at that time again.
  2.  Organize your child’s workspace and school supplies. Work with your child to create a space in your home where they can keep their school materials organized and readily available. Establish when and where homework will be done daily.
  3. Create a family calendar. Keep you and your child on track by creating a calendar to put on your fridge or in their room. Take some time to sit down together and write in all of their after school activities, various holidays, tests dates, etc.
  4. Shop for school supplies and clothes early. Go through your child’s wardrobe and get rid of clothes they have outgrown over the summer. Reducing clutter will make getting ready in the morning a lot easier for your child. If possible, try to buy school supplies early. If you’re not sure what the teachers require try to buy the basic necessities that kids will need like pencils, computer paper, etc.
  5. Plan healthy and nutritious meals. Try to plan and gather ingredients you need for meals during the school week on the weekends. Get your kids involved with the preparation when possible. They can help you shop, cook, or even set the table.

Just breathe. You’re not alone. Many parents and guardians across the country are going through this process right now. The good news is that a little bit of preparation can make those first weeks of school easier for both you and your child. Good luck and have a great school year! Is there anything else you do with your child to prepare for the school year that we haven’t mentioned? Let us know in the comments below!

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