Why Reading Your Kids A Bedtime Story is the Key to Literacy

The childhood tradition of a bedtime story is in serious peril, as experts warn that parents are not making the time to read to their children at the end of the working day and stop reading to them at too young an age.  image from 1.bp.blogspot.com

A recent survey, by YouGov for the children’s publisher Scholastic, revealed last week that many parents stop reading to their children when they become independent readers, even if the child isn’t ready to lose their bedtime story.

The study found that 83% of children enjoyed being read aloud to, with 68% describing it as a special time with their parents. (“It felt so warm, so spirit-rising,” as one 11-year-old boy put it.)

One in five of the parents surveyed stopped reading aloud to their children before the age of nine, and almost a third of children aged six to 11 whose parents had stopped reading aloud to them wanted them to carry on.

Meet Adam Meltzer: Your "Neurotic Zombie" BFF

2015-09-18 00.41.47-1Jeff Norton Shares the 'Memoirs of An Neurotic Zombie'

I was first introduced to Jeff Norton’s writing a few years back when we connected over on Twitter. At that time, Jeff had just finished his popular MetaWars book series and I bought a copy for my nephew who absolutely loved the book (no small feat!)! Memoirs of a Neurotic Zombie

He read them almost as fast as Jeff could write them! And even though I’m not really much of a science fiction kinda guy, I also really enjoyed the MetaWars books too!

(Sidebar: I’m more of a campy science fiction kinda guy, think Lost in Space, Robot Apocalypse, The Jetsons or Guardians of the Galaxy. So imagine my delight when I heard that Jeff’s new book, StarPressed, is an homage to that particular niche of science fiction! But I digress...)

Last week Jeff tweeted about the release of the second book in his Memoirs of a Neurotic Zombie series and I knew I had to give it a try. I immediately downloaded the first Neurotic Zombie book on my Kindle.

And guess what? I loved it! Yes, even more than Plants vs. Zombies!

So What's This Book About?

Memoirs of a Neurotic Zombie  follows the story of Adam Melzer and his two (misfit) friends, Corina and Nesto. It’s an exciting, yet very humorous and witty, adventure that is sure to capture the attention of even the most tech-obsessed kid. And as a bonus, old people will love reading this coming of age (zombie) tale too!

Adam, the main character and neurotic zombie, is just your average middle school (kinda) weird kid who, after being stung by a robot zombee (bzzzz!), finds himself, well, uhm.....Hashtag, #Awkward.

I’ll let “Adam” explain it to you.


Why You’ll Love It

  • First and foremost, Neurotic Zombie is a really fun book to read. Your kids, especially boys who often find it difficult to find books they enjoy reading, will rapidly embrace the story and will readily swipe to the next page to see what happens to Adam, Corina and Nesto.
  • Jeff does a fantastic job creating characters that kids will want to know more about. Adam,  and his weird kid posse, are characters that are really likable. Young readers will quickly develop a bond with with these characters and feel invested in the outcome of the story.
  • As an author, Jeff has mastered the Pixar and DreamWorks skill of developing kids entertainment content that both kids and adults will love.

    His witty use of wordplay, smart humor and double entendres will make kids laugh. And adults will especially enjoy the delightful chapter end notes--which I promise, will make you literally, LOL.
  • The series is perfectly situated to be the next big thing: It’s no secret that streaming media outlets are on the hunt for kid friendly content and Neurotic Zombie is ripe to be a snapped up by studios at Netflix, Amazon, Apple, HBO or the Disney Channel. Heck, this would be a great movie on the big screen!

    So why not jump on the Adam Melter bandwagon now, so you can brag about it later on Twitter? #TeamZombee
  • Like me, you’ll find yourself really caring about these characters, and wondering “How Can I Help Adam?” You’ll also find yourself thinking about Adam when you forget to refill the rinse aid in the dishwasher! (Read the book--it’s an Adam thing!)

Get the Book on Amazon!

If your kids are fans of Hotel Transylvania 2, they will LOVE Memoirs of a Neurotic Zombie. In fact, use their love of the movie as a gateway to get them interested in reading!

So, go grab a copy of the book, throw in some Pop Rocks (what else would a vegan vampire eat?!), Purell (Adam’s right---GERMS people!) and Febreze (sorry, Nesto!) and immerse your kids in the snarky, fun and slightly creepy world of Adam, Nesta and Corina---trust me, it’s chupra-rrific!

Connect with Author Jeff Norton

State of the Kids Digital Space, Apps & Media

YouthNation_LivestreamAlison Bryant and Paul Levine of children's digital research company PlayScience present their latest findings on kids and digital media at Casual Connect in San Francisco.

Not surprisingly, most children hear about new apps from their friends, especially as they get older, though younger children are more likely to learn about new apps from their parents.

Here's the executive summary of the PlayScience report:

PlayScience: Kids, Apps and Digital Media

Here's the video of the PlayScience presentation at the Casual Connect 2015 Conference in San Francisco.


Thanks to Scott Traylor of 360 Kid for the video!

iRights: Digitally Enabling Privacy for Children and Young People

image from irights.uk‪iRights‬ is an initiative that seeks to make the digital world a more transparent and empowering place for children.



iRights Animated Film from Beeban Kidron on Vimeo.

This is a pretty interesting children's privacy initiative outta the UK. Seems like this should be "a thing" in every country, and not just for kids.

STUDY: The Role of Social Media and Technology in Peer Bullying

image from www.apa.orgRecently published research in the journal Psychology of Violence,  from the University of New Hampshire Crimes Against Children Research Center (CCRC),  – “The Role of Technology in Peer Harassment: Does It Amplify Harm for Youth?” (pdf)  conducted a survey  of 791 young people aged 10-20 to find out the role of technology and social media in peer bullying.

The big take away from the study is that the negative impact of online bullying is "significantly lowerthan bullying behaviors that occur face-to-face.

  • "...That those seeking to prevent the most detrimental forms of peer harassment might focus less on cyberbullying per se and instead [consider] prevention programs that teach youth to handle negative feelings and to de-escalate tensions."
  • Compared with in-person incidents, technology-only incidents were less likely to involve multiple episodes and power imbalances.
  • They were seen by victims as easier to stop and had significantly less emotional impact.” So, no, the idea that tech amplifies harm, is not supported by the data."

While many researchers have been concerned that cyberbullying could actually be worse than facing a victim offline and in person, the study actually provided opposite results.

"Technology-only incidents were less likely than in-person only incidents to result in injury, involve a social power differential and to have happened a series of times," Kimberly J. Mitchell, lead author of the study, said in a news release.

"Mixed episodes, those that involved both in-person and technology elements, were more likely than technology-only episodes to involve perpetrators who knew embarrassing things about the victim, happen a series of times, last for one month or longer, involve physical injury and start out as joking before becoming more serious. It is these mixed episodes that appear to be the most distressing to youth."

This study represents a big shift in thinking about social media bullying and should make everyone involved in working with kids and teens shift more focus on to the bullying behaviors that take place in the classroom, home and playground.

The Role of Technology in Peer Harassment: Does It Amplify Harm for Youth?


Oculus Story Studio: Meet Henry

Henry.oculus.story.studioOne of the strongest applications of VR is its potential for emotional connection through character driven storytelling. Turns out the team at Oculus also see's the power of digital and virtual storytelling on a platform like Oculus.


Oculus Story Studio’s latest VR experience, ‘Henry’, a heartwarming comedy about a loveable hedgehog, coming later this year. ‘Henry’ is directed by Ramiro Lopez Dau, whose work includes animation on films such as Pixar’s Brave and Monsters University.


Meet Henry from Story Studio on Vimeo.

Henry is a lonely, spikey hedgehog who is having some trouble finding friends, and I can't wait to tell his heartwarming story. Oculus Story Studio has recently announced that they will be premiering "Henry" in Hollywood on July 28th.

You can meet Henry by visiting oculus.com/storystudio/henry

Piper Jaffray: Instagram is the Top Social Network for Teens

Instagram-logo1RSAccording to the latest Piper Jaffray "Taking Stock with Teens" report, American youth are continuing to gravitate to Instagram and away from Facebook. 

Roughly three-quarters of respondents reported using the visual platform, up from 69% in the previous survey. By comparison, just 45% said they use Facebook, a significant drop from 72%.

Jaffray Piper also reports that friends and the Internet dominate teen influences and combine in social media environments. Instagram and Twitter are the two most used social media sites, implying teens are increasingly visual and sound bite communicators.

The Taking Stock With Teens survey is a semi-annual research project comprised of gathering input from approximately 7,200 teens with an average age of 16.0 years.

Teen spending patterns, fashion trends, and brand and media preferences were assessed through visits to a geographically diverse subset of high schools across 11 states and 14 schools, as well as an online survey that included 41 states. 

Piper Jaffray has also prepared an infographic that shows some of the key highlights from the Fall 2014 survey.

Taking Stock with Teens Fall 2014

Taylor Swift 1989 Secret Sessions [VIDEO]

This is GENIUS. This is how you do fan marketing---build rel1989ationships, treat fans like friends, empower influencers to spread the word, support your brand ambassadors and, oh--bake them cookies.

No literally, Taylor made cookies for her fans. (Hopefully she will post the recipe for those chocolate chip coconut cookies on her tumblr.)

Taylor Swift took to the internet to find fans across the US and UK and invited them to hear her new album "1989" first! These sessions were top secret and became known as the #1989SecretSessions.

Her whole approach to marketing her new album has put the fans first. From her album launch party on Yahoo!, to the Secret Sessions, embrace of tumblr and even her Olivia Benson-dietCoke-kitten video has been geared to engage and celebrate her fans and reward their loyalty. 

Taylor Swift, marketing genius.

Related Links

Meet the Millennial Makers [INFOGRAPHIC]


In a recent MTV study entitled “Generation Innovation,” we set off to look at the resiliency of a Millennial generation that is pushing back against a system in need of repair… whether the economy, the environment, the education system and more.

What we found was counter to the often-charged caricature of today’s youth as “entitled” and “coddled.” Instead, we found a vibrant and strong fixer/maker/builder culture where nearly 3 in 4 of Millennials believe “our generation is starting a movement to change old, outdated systems.”

Put more broadly, if the American Dream isn’t working as promised, Millennials will take it upon themselves to iterate the next “version” of America.The heady mix of forces driving this generation is only partly due to their sense of needing to fix something broken.

The other even more potent side of the coin is the primacy they place on their own power of creativity. When asked “what word best defines the DNA of your generation?” the number one response was “Creative” and number two “Self-expressive.” A full 70% of Millennials in the study agreed “Creativity will save us!”

One of the first places we checked in on our journey was Detroit. We were fascinated by the “canary in the coal mine” dynamics at work with a younger generation busy appropriating, fixing and remixing the American Dream – whether transforming abandoned factories into hack spaces, disused cycle tracks into playgrounds, distressed storefronts into galleries for emerging artists or untangling arcane local government departments.

Millennials have the motivation and DNA to run wild with innovation, but they also have access to the tools, technologies and platforms to make a real difference. In fact, 92% of Millennials feel “empowered” by technology (versus just 11% feeling overwhelmed by it).

What the generation is busy fixing and making is interesting to watch, for sure. But perhaps most fascinating is HOW Millennials are going about innovation and what we can all learn from it about what form the next version of the American Dream may take.

Read the entire report over on the MTV Insight Research blog:

White House: "15 Economic Facts about Millennials" [REPORT]

Millennial-tkoToday the White House released a report entitled “15 Economic Facts about Millennials” (pdf). This report takes an early look at this generation’s adult lives so far, including how they are faring in the labor market and how they are organizing their personal lives.

This generation is marked by transformations at nearly every important milestone: from changes in parenting practices and schooling choices, to the condition of the U.S. economy they entered, to their own choices about home and family. 

Millennials “15 Economic Facts about Millennials”Report

Related: All--Yes, all!--the charts from the White House Report on Millennials!

Why Snapchat Is The Future of Social Media [VIDEO]

Snapchat-logoIn his new video, fimmaker Casey Neistat makes the case for Snapchat being the future of social media, but in a fundamentally different way.

It's not like Facebook or MySpace, his argument goes, though it may be their natural evolutionary successor.

Snapchat is different, Neistat (and the gaggle of Snapchat teens he interviews) says, because it actually mirrors the way we interact in the real world.

"Snapchat is great because it's virile and vital. Because it's right now. Because there's no pressure to be produced or fake, because everything disappears in a few seconds anyway."  -David Pierce, The Verge

Snapchat is a way to let people live your life with you, a surprisingly close approximation of just running into someone for a few seconds at the store or on the subway platform. Neistat points particularly to Snapchat Stories, the public-facing part of Snapchat, as the feature that made Snapchat really move into the mainstream.



To illustrate the power of Snapchat, Neistat invites Jerome Jarre, the King of Snapchat with 1.2 million follwers, to send a Snap his fans asking them to meet him in Union Square----16 minutes later Jarre racked up 142,000 views on his Snap and several hundred screaming fans actually showed up in person.

Read more on The Verge

Snapchat Social Safety Guide for Parents and Educators [PRIVACY]

Snapchat-flashy-featuresFew things strike fear in parents and educators as much as Snapchat. It wasn't too long ago that social technologies like MySpace, Facebook, SMS and camerphones had the power to elicit such a negative response.

But slowly, as parents and educators began to learn more about these new tools and social technologies, they not only embraced them, but many educators began integrating them into their teaching practice.

The Snapchat team has put together a wonderful guide to help parents and educators learn more about the app and help demystify some of the rumors. It's a good starting point to learn more about the app, which is becoming more and more mainstream every day.

The guide also talks about the SnapKidz--the totally private and secure version of Snapchat designed for kids under the age of 13. Snapkidz is a fun way for tweens to privately share photos of camp, that trip to Disneyland or family vaycay with their friends, cousins and even grandma! 

For educators, this guide is a great opportunity to have a discussion with your colleagues in a professional development setting to learn more about Snapchat and how students in your school are using this tool. Who knows, you might even find yourself using the "Our Story" feature to document that field trip!

Happy Snapchatting!

Snapchat Social Safety Guide for Parents & Educators

STUDY: 59% of 8-14 Year Olds with Smartphone Use Chat Apps

WhatsappNew research from UK-based digital marketing platform SuperAwesome, which currently houses the largest kids research panel in the region, maps out a compelling crop of comparative digital kids data from 2009 to 2014. 

The survey contains lots of really interesting stats on kids gaming, social networking and mobile habits, but one of the most interesting statistics comes from the data regarding chat apps. Back in 2009, MSN dominated, but now kids have shifted their loyalty to WhatsApp and Facebook Messenger.

So while kids may not be using Facebook, they are using Facebook products (FB Messenger, Instagram, WhatsApp) as primary social networking and communication tools. It looks like the great unbundling of Facebook strategy may pay off and keep younger users in the Facebook mobile ecosystem. And mobile ad network. (Shock! Awe!)

The other big take away is the shift from passive consumption of media to an active embrace of maker culture. Kids are creating movies and publishing them on YouTube, creating worlds in MineCraft and embracing LEGO more than ever.

While this data is primarily focused on kids in the UK, I would garner that data from U.S. kids would closely align with the SuperAwesome findings. 

Kids Trends: 2009 vs 2014