Soar With Reading

The idea of going from Los Angeles to Washington, D.C. to New York with my 5 and 7-year-old boys last month worried me. Would they freak out on the plane if there was too much turbulence (and by they, I mean me)? Was it really as easy a drive from Maryland to D.C. as my husband said? Would they be okay with the trip on the train from D.C. to New York?

After all of that worrying, everything went really well. I somewhat held it together on the plane and my kids loved all of the running around from place to place. One thing that helped the travel run smoothly was their backpacks. They were filled with books, snacks, and a few toys.

There was no time to fuss or complain because they had so much to occupy themselves. JetBlue and PBS also see the value in keeping kids occupied. They are having a summer program where children who fly on JetBlue get an activity kit that includes a book. My kids received one (after our trip) and they loved it (theirs came with a Magic Treehouse book and they love Magic Treehouse).

JetBlue is also holding a contest to allow people to nominate their favorite library to win $10,000 of books from Random House. You can find the contest at the joint venture of JetBlue and PBSKids called Soar With Reading. Parents can create a summer reading list and track how many minutes the kids are reading.

We’re halfway through the summer now and our next trip will be a camping one. Until then, we’ll be creating our reading list and hitting the library.

Wilson & Ditch Digging America

When I was a kid I spent a lot of time with my older brothers. They were 7 ½ and 10 years older than I was. My parents worked so the younger one was charged with babysitting/raising me while the other one would use me as a prop to get girls.

When I was about 7 the older one would come home on Saturday nights and wake me up to watch Saturday Night Live. During the week we would watch Sesame Street in the morning and once a week, the Muppet Show. Those shows formed my sense of humor. They were funny, ironic, sarcastic, and smart.

Now 30-years later, the Jim Henson company has combined these elements to make an online kids show for PBS Kids. Wilson and Ditch Digging America is about two gophers who drive around in an eco van and discover the United States. They have these bizarre accents that sound like Steve Martin and Dan Ackroyd’s Wild and Crazy Guys.

The webisodes are a bit strange, but often hilarious. I keep waiting for the gophers to say “Come on foxes!” Instead, while visiting the country music hall of fame in Nashville, Wilson says to a picture, “Hey Dolly Parton, It’s me Wilson.”

Why is that funny? I don’t know, but it is.

The show is only online and comes in 3 minutes webisodes. There are games, podcasts, and a new state every month. The gophers visit historic places and spew facts about each location with an infectious sense of wonder. My almost 6-year-old watched the Nashville episode intently, but didn’t have much to say. A couple of hours later he asked to watch it again. The 4-year-old (who is a little young for the content) thought the Philadelphia episode was hilarious and he kept repeating Wilson and Ditch’s banter.

I really like that they are on a road trip. We drive everywhere and I think the kids are catching on that other people take airplanes. I’m hoping that by watching Wilson and Ditch the kids will think driving is more of an adventure. I hope, but I might be reaching there.

I learned about the webisodes during a tour of Jim Henson’s Studio on Tuesday, which was a dream come true for me. Brian Henson, Jim Henson’s son, showed us how they combine puppetry and animation to make the show. He also told us about growing up in the Henson household. He said they were more like circus folk than Hollywood types. Just like I always imagined.