Tuesday, July 29, 2008

LA Earthquake: Emergency Communication Advice

This morning my younger daughter got a big surprise for her 25th birthday today – a 5.8 earthquake in Los Angeles. After we stood under a door frame (the old earthquake advice but possibly not the new earthquake advice), we both got on Twitter and tweeted the news.

One person who also tweeted update info was John Taylor, senior manager, public affairs at Sprint Nextel Corp. Below I’ve combined some of the individual tweets he sent after the earthquake with helpful advice about communicating with people in LA:

Can’t use your cell phone in LA post-quake? Don’t assume your cell carrier is at fault. Often landlines are out, which blocks wireless calls.

Just heard that Sprint and Nextel networks are okay in LA, but local telecom AT&T is getting swamped, which would block all wireless carriers.

In addition to Nextel Direct Connect, which bypasses AT&T and other landline networks, try text messaging to get through to loved ones in LA.

Also try Direct Talk. Like Direct Connect, but allows you to walkie-talkie independent of Nextel up to six miles. New Orleans PD used it during Katrina.

To ensure that public safety can use AT&T’s network, email or text people in LA instead. Let fire and police help those in need.

Great blog post by LA Fire Dept on what to do in quake aftermath. Stay off phones so public safety can use lines. http://tinyurl.com/6m46os

AP reports that California Office of Emergency Services has asked SoCal residents to stop land and cell phone use. http://tinyurl.com/6nufjt

Thanks, John, for all your helpful advice today.

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Sunday, July 27, 2008

TV Reviewer Dorothy Rabinowitz Goes Way Off the Mark about THE CLOSER and SAVING GRACE

I usually agree with Dorothy Rabinowitz’s television column in The Wall Street Journal. But her July 25th column was way off the mark.

In the column she rags on the portrayal of Kyra Sedgwick as LAPD Deputy Chief Brenda Johnson (TNT’s THE CLOSER) and Holly Hunter as Detective Grace Hanadarko (TNT’s SAVING GRACE).

Full disclosure – I’m a big fan of THE CLOSER and have only seen the pilot episode of SAVING GRACE. But I’m also a former journalist who, in the mid-1970s when teaching newswriting at Temple University Center City, had a huge collection of obnoxious portrayals of women in news and feature articles, including a front-page example from The Wall Street Journal.

Therefore, what I have to say to Dorothy Rabinowitz is this: You should appreciate that women today get to be the crime-busting protagonist in action television dramas. Gone for the most part are the days when the women characters were just attractive sidekicks to the men busting down the doors and solving the crimes.

Thus the fact that Holly Hunter’s character can be “an alcoholic, a savage bully” means that fictional women have finally achieved some kind of equality with the fictional men on television.

That alone is a reason to celebrate, regardless of what Dorothy Rabinowitz thinks of the scripts of the writing staff of both shows.

Friday, July 25, 2008

GERD (Acid Reflux) Found in Babies as Young as One Day Old

GERD (acid reflux) is something I know about – I’ve been taking Prevacid for the last few years to control this reaction. Then I read Melinda Beck’s July 22nd Health Journal in The Wall Street Journal titled “Baby crying? Doctors Say It May Be Acid-Reflux Disease.”

Here’s the first paragraph of this article:

Oliva Manganello was 1 month old when she started screaming, usually right after she nursed. Her family tried switching to formula, then different formulas, but nothing helped. Finally a pediatric gastroenterologist diagnosed gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD) and put Olivia on Pepcid. “In two days, she was a completely different baby,” says her mother, Trina Chiara of Avon, Conn.

When my mother read this article, her response was to wonder which of her grandchildren who cried all the time for the first few months might have had GERD.

My husband accuses me of practicing medicine without a license. But I believe it’s important, as a do-gooder Scrooge, to know about common but often undiagnosed medical conditions in order to help others.

For example, my older daughter called me from college when she worked part-time as an aide in a elementary school classroom to ask for information on allergies and asthma. My daughter could tell that a child in the class was suffering and that the mother was clueless – she needed resources to learn about her child’s medical issues. (If you need allergy and asthma resources, check out www.aanma.org.)

And that’s why I’m blogging about this topic today. (I actually woke up in the middle of the night and thought: “I haven’t shared that info yet.”)

Apparently there’s a disagreement as to whether babies are being overdiagnosed or underdiagnosed with GERD. Regardless of this, if you suspect GERD in a baby you know who cries every day for hours and hours, gently suggest to the parent that this condition be evaluated by a doctor trained to recognize it in infants and young children.

For more information, go to www.reflux.org, the website of the Pediatric/Adolescent Gastroesophageal Reflux Association (PAGER).

If a medical solution is found for a baby’s incessant crying, the baby as well as the parents and entire family will probably be forever grateful to you for their regained calm and sleep.

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Wednesday, July 23, 2008

Bravo TV’s Project Runway Season 5 Contestants are Losers

Project Runway is a favorite television show of mine even though I don’t know anything about fashion and don’t even care about fashion. But the creativity that most contestants exhibit in each challenge is so amazing that I’m hooked on the show. (I mean, really, making an outfit out of items from a grocery store!)

Thus, after watching the first two episodes of this new season, I am really annoyed at the contestants – they are such losers. Seriously, if you got picked to be a contestant for a show’s fifth season, wouldn’t you watch every single episode of all of the four previous seasons to pick up clues to winning?

I mean, when Tim Gunn says he’s worried and advises you NOT to do something, would you really insist that you like what you’re doing and you’re going to keep doing it? For heavens sake, if you’ve watched the four previous seasons, you will have seen that, when Tim Gunn gives that warning and a contestant doesn’t follow the warning, that contestant is usually in deep muck or, more likely, OUT!

In the first episode last week, as soon as Jerry said that he was going to use a plastic tarp from the grocery store to make a rain jacket, I knew he had the best chance of going OUT (and he did). The judges are always talking about TRANSFORMING weird materials into something different. Hello, Jerry, why would you think making a raincoat out of a plastic tarp could be considered a transformation?

And in the second episode, contestant Leanne – who ended up one away from being OUT – had been told by Tim Gunn that she had too many doodads hanging off her cocktail dress. But, as she told the camera, she wanted to do it her way. And her way almost cost her the contest. (She’s lucky that someone else messed up even more than she did.)

Advice for Project Runway Season 6 contestants – who are yet to be picked and who will be the first contestants for the show’s new home at Lifetime Television – up the smart quotient on the show!

Before you audition for the show, run don’t walk to your nearest video store and study the past seasons. Basically the judges are the same – and it’s pretty clear what they like and don’t like. Take advantage of the trail of contestants before you – and learn that when Tim Gunn says he’s worried, you’d better make some changes as fast as your sewing machine can stitch together a seam.

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Monday, July 21, 2008

Polish Woman Irena Sendler Saved 2,500 Jewish Children During World War II

The story titled “Irena’s Children” by Gavriel Horan has been going around on the internet about 97-year-old Irena Sendler (she later died in Warsaw, Poland, on May 12, 2008, at the age of 98 from pneumonia).

From 1972 to 1978, as editor of Friday Forum – the monthly supplement of the Jewish Exponent, I published Holocaust survivors’ stories and stories of some of their rescuers.

Yet I had never heard of Irena Sendler and the incredible story of how she smuggled 2,500 Jewish children out of the Warsaw Ghetto and found places to care for these children. And although she was eventually captured by the Nazis and tortured (leaving life-long injuries), she never gave up the names of her co-conspirators or revealed the whereabouts of any of the children.

For me – the most amazing part of a story with many amazing parts is Irena’s background:

Contrary to most Polish people who were Catholic and were taught to hate Jews, Irena had a father who was one of the first Polish Socialists and had raised his daughter to respect and love all people. In addition, he was a doctor and many of his patients were poor Jews.

When I read Horan’s description of her father, the lines from the song “You’ve Got to Be Carefully Taught” from Rogers & Hammerstein’s musical SOUTH PACIFIC ran through my head:

You've got to be taught before it's too late,
Before you are six or seven or eight,
To hate all the people your relatives hate,
You've got to be carefully taught

Irena’s father had done the exact opposite, and here is what Horan wrote about him:

When a typhus epidemic broke out in 1917, he was the only doctor who stayed in the area. He contracted the disease. His dying words to seven-year-old Irena were: “If you see someone drowning, you must jump in and try to save them, even if you don’t know how to swim.”

Horan’s story of Irena Sendler is so compelling that I urge you to read it for yourself at http://richards-creations.net/Pages/8/_Irena-s_Children.html. And there’s also a website with information at www.irenasendler.org.

May we all be inspired by this phenomenal woman, who Horan reports as saying: “I only did what was normal. I could have done more. This regret will follow me to my death.

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Sunday, July 20, 2008


Amazon “Top 500 Reviewer” Dr. Cathy Goodwin said in part in her review of MRS. LIEUTENANT: A SHARON GOLD NOVEL:

As I read, I was reminded of Rona Jaffe's classic, The Best of Everything, made into a movie that captured the 50s era career woman.

What Jaffe did for the college graduate in publishing, Miller does for the
Vietnam era junior officer's wife.

I have to admit that I had never heard of the book (which was first published when I was 10) or the 1959 movie based on the book. Of course I clicked on Amazon and bought the book.

The novel starts in 1952, the year I was four, my brother two, and my parents got their first car and their first television. The book’s depiction of all career women as just waiting till they could hook some man and give up their job depressed me. I’m not saying this wasn’t true then, just that it depressed me.

Years ago in Philadelphia at the Norman Rockwell Museum I saw the cover of a Saturday Evening Post illustrated by his artwork. The date of the issue was some time after 1945. And the title of one of the issue’s featured articles announced on the cover went something like this: Now that the men have returned can the girls keep their jobs?

Those words “can the girls keep their jobs” have always haunted me. I had read somewhere that, in the second half of the 1940s, there was a concerted propaganda campaign to get women who’d worked during WWII to return to their places at home.

And this propaganda campaign meant that those of us who were early feminists had to spend the 1970s fighting for our place in the workforce. I won’t repeat here the things I was told as a Mrs. Lieutenant as to why I couldn’t have a job. Or what was said to me in job interviews when I returned to civilian life.

I do know that, when I taught newswriting courses at Temple University Center City in the mid-1970s, I had to first overcome the prejudices of both male and female students towards women. Only then could I get these students to report about women in the same neutral tones that they reported about men.

(I’ll never forget when a front-page Wall Street Journal article, talking about a woman, said “the blond” did such and such. In those days I had quite a collection of newspaper clippings featuring derogatory portrayals of women.)

So while I very much appreciate the good review that Goodwin gave to MRS. LIEUTENANT, I do hope that my portrayal of the wives of four junior army officers in 1970 was not as one-sided as Rona Jaffe’s portrayal of young “career” women in the early 1950s.

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Tuesday, July 15, 2008

Smoke Free Movies Org Needs Better Message to Attract and Convince Movie People

Smoke free movies in principle is an excellent idea. I truly believe that teens are very much impacted by what they see their favorite stars do in movies. (That’s why years ago I personally led a campaign to encourage the portrayal of safer sex practices in movies – a campaign that got major press but minor action.)

Yet I was totally annoyed by the full-page back page advertisement in the July 15 Daily Variety depicting a gas mask with the headline “Necessary, yes. Sufficient, no.”

The first sentence of the ad text reads: “Does a polluter become ‘green’ by handing out free gas masks?” And then goes on for seven more paragraphs about … well, my eyes glazed over when trying to read the ad text.

At the bottom of the ad was the logo for Smoke Free Movies and the website URL www.SmokeFreeMovies.ucsf.edu.

Now I’m all for eliminating smoking in movies – I believe good screenwriters can think of a better stage direction than “takes a drag on her cigarette to indicate she’s nervous.” But for heaven’s sake – who is going to read this horrible ad with the very tiny print of additional information at the bottom of the page?

If the Smoke Free Movies organization wants to get the attention of busy entertainment industry professionals, the organization needs to do better with its no smoking pitch. As it is, I was tempted to light a match to the ad – and I don’t even smoke!

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Vitamin D: Needed for a Shield Against Diseases as Well as for Strong Bones

“It’s D-Lightful: Vitamin D Gets Its Moment in the Sun” announced the July 15th Wall Street Journal Health Journal by Melinda Beck. And the article went on to explain that, while Vitamin D is known for being crucial for strong bones, there’s new research suggesting it also protects against a wide variety of diseases.

Did this news upset me at my age? (Over age 51 the amount of D needed increases.) Not in the least – because only yesterday my new doctor had blood drawn to check my Vitamin D level. The week before, at my first visit to him, he had explained that he’d been finding too low levels of D in his patients.

And since January, when I had my annual gynecological exam, I’ve been taking a Vitamin D supplement daily because my gynecologist told me to do so. (I didn’t ask him why – I just did what he said.)

According to the Journal article, the strongest source of natural Vitamin D is ultraviolet B rays from the sun. These rays convert a form of cholesterol into vitamin D in the skin.

Turns out all of us who have given up sitting in the sun to avoid skin cancer have deprived our bodies of an important vitamin. The Journal article quotes John J. Cannell, founder of the nonprofit Vitamin D Council in Atascadero, California, as saying that Vitamin D “turns into a steroid hormone that’s involved in the maintenance of over 200 human genes.” (See www.vitamindcouncil.org for more info.)

The American Academy of Pediatricians is already recommending that breast-fed infants get 400 international units of supplemental D daily. And the National Osteoporosis Foundation says adults over age 50 should get at least 800 to 1,000 international units to prevent fractures.

The next time you see your doctor, regardless of your age, ask about being tested for a Vitamin D deficiency. It turns out it’s important to be “exposed” to the sun after all – just in a safe (artificial) way.

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Sunday, July 13, 2008

Showmethereel.com Offers a “Green” and Faster-Than-FedEx Approach for Creative Talent to Show Their Work to Entertainment Industry Professionals

In my continuing quest to learn everything I can about internet marketing I’ve recently come across a couple of experts who have said: If you find a problem and then you can come up with a solution, be the first to take the solution to market.

I especially appreciated coming across this concept last week because my older daughter and her business partner just launched an internet site to solve a problem they had identified:

Showmethereel.com was launched to solve the problem that entertainment industry creative talent have with the hassle and expense of mailing a reel – of a writer’s best filmed lines or a costume designer’s best wardroom creations or a musical composer’s best compositions.

At www.showmethereel.com creative talent can upload their reels, resumes, credits and blog posts so that industry professionals around the world can instantaneously view the creative talent’s work. No more mailing costs or keeping one’s fingers crossed that the reel actually gets to its destination.

An added benefit – eliminating the reels that are sent out only to be dumped in the trash after viewing. Showmethereel.com is good for the environment while making life easier for creative talent as well as industry professionals who want to view someone’s reel RIGHT NOW.

This is a do-gooder business enterprise I could get behind even if it weren’t a family project.

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Wednesday, July 9, 2008

Whooping Cough Rise in U.S. and Other Infectious Disease Risks Lead to Call for Adult Immunizations

In January of 2005 my older daughter returned with a whooping cough from visiting my sister in Australia. It soon became apparent that she had whooping cough (we listened to a recording of whooping cough on the internet) and had given it to her boyfriend. But we couldn’t get doctors in Los Angeles to agree that these two 20-somethings had whooping cough.

Soon afterwards two things happened. 1) My sister and her younger son were diagnosed with whooping cough, the source of my daughter’s whooping cough. 2) And there was an article in the Los Angeles Times that whooping cough had returned to the U.S. and teens needed to get a booster shot, although doctors were not calling for this booster shot.

Today, three-and-a-half years later, there’s an article in the July 9th The Informed Patient column by Laura Landro titled “Get Your Shots: Adults Need Vaccines, Too.” The subtitle is “Public-Health Experts Push for National Inoculation Plan; A Rise in Whooping Cough.” (boldface mine)

Hello, the Miller family could have made this announcement three-and-a-half years ago. And it’s not very reassuring to know how long it takes the U.S. medical community to catch up with the reality.

The news today? According to the Journal article, “infectious-disease experts and public health officials are calling for a national program to make immunization as routine a part of health care for adults as it has long been for children.” (Search for “adult immunization schedule” at www.cdc.gov to learn more.)

And at the risk of revealing my age, my husband and I are apparently part of the only 1.9% of adults who have gotten the shingles vaccine, which is recommended for people over 60 who had chicken pox as a child. Medical insurance doesn’t pay – and the shot is pricey ($200 or more depending on where you get it) – but given how painful shingles can be, my husband and I bit the bullet and shelled out for one shot each.

Other vaccines that are not being effectively utilized: Apparently “only about 10% of women aged 18 to 26 have received the new vaccine for human papillomavirus, linked to cervical cancer.” And “fewer than 30% of the adults at highest risk” for the flu get the flu shot each year.

I’ll admit there was something in the article I didn’t know – the CDC (Centers for Disease Control and Prevention) is recommending that people traveling to European countries, including Austria, Germany and Switzerland, check with their doctor to see if they need a measles vaccine!

And the article also warns that many shots need to be taken weeks ahead of time. So you can’t dash in to get a shot only hours before you board a plane. (See the Travelers’ Health link at www.cdc.gov for travel immunization information, which changes as new infections occur.)

Oh, what about my daughter and her boyfriend? They were fortunate that the medical specialist (whose receptionist my daughter had bullied to get an appointment that day) decided to treat them as if they had whooping cough even though he was sure they didn’t have it.

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Monday, July 7, 2008

Information Overload: A Full-Page Ad in The Wall Street Journal Makes Me See Red

Today my younger daughter wanted me to read an article on information overload. I told her I didn’t have time to read about it – I was living information overload.

And as an example of information overload, I want to carp about a full-page ad on the back page of the first section of the July 5th Wall Street Journal. It took me some time to decipher the ad, so I’ll lay it out for you the way I read it:

Pictured on an email screen was an email message to Wives (and Husband) of G8 Leaders with the subject line: A Matter of Life and Death. Here’s the entire email ad (boldface was in the ad as was the misplaced comma separating the subject and the verb in the first sentence of the second paragraph):

“Dear G8 First Ladies (and First Man),

“Every minute of every day a woman dies in childbirth. That’s half a million women dying each year – and over 80% of these deaths are avoidable. But there’s the good news – the person with whom you live can help stop this happening. Really.

“The 30 of us, write to the 8 of you, women to women (and, with respect, also to you Herr Sauer), on behalf of all women … please do what you can to put this issue at the top of the political agenda. We now have the knowledge to crack it – we just need the political will.

“At this year’s G8, your 7 husbands (and 1 wife) have an opportunity to make history. There is a real chance. Please do what you can – on behalf of us all.

“With urgent best wishes,”

And there followed 30 identified head shots of such women as Gwyneth Paltrow, Yoko Ono, and Dame Judi Dench. Then at the very bottom of the ad were these words: Please join these inspirational women and many more as part of the campaign to reduce maternal mortality. www.whiteribbonalliance.org

Now I’m all for improving safety in childbirth. But honestly – does Dame Judi Dench (whose acting I adore) truly think that the above ad – seemingly written by someone who does not speak the Queen’s English – will motivate anyone, especially the heads of states with major economic and security issues, to do anything at the G8 about safer childbirth?

When I read the full-page ad, all I could think of was: The money spent on this ad could probably save at least one woman’s life. And what’s the proposed solution? All the ad says is: “We now have the knowledge to crack it – we just need the political will.”

If the 30 powerful women whose head shots “sign” the ad put their heads and resources together, they could probably come up with solutions that could make childbirth safer even in third world countries. (For example, what about having some of these inspirational women record basic health messages with subtitles in whatever language is needed?)

Instead we’re to believe that these 30 powerful women are truly waiting for seven women and one man to talk to their heads-of-state spouses about trying to prevent childbirth deaths. Now that’s information overload.

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New Movie WANTED: Angelina Jolie Does Not This Movie Make

Angelina Jolie is a terrific actor – and I particularly like when she plays a character whose skills are usually reserved for men in movies. Yet even she, a master assassin in the new movie WANTED, cannot save the film.

My husband and I saw it with our older daughter and her boyfriend even though my younger daughter warned us against seeing this film. The younger daughter was fully vindicated when her father reported back: “This is the worst film I’ve seen since WATERWORLD. And maybe WATERWORLD was better than WANTED.”

At least WATERWORLD had a plot. In WANTED I kept waiting for the set up to be over and to get to the main story. It turned out that the set up was the entire film. If we hadn’t paid a lot of money for the film, my husband and I would have left after 10 minutes. To sit through two hours of blood-spattered brains and flipped/crushed cars is really too painful a waste of time.

Oh, yes, and even though the British actor James McAvoy (ATONEMENT) politely held the door open for me at the William Morris Agency as we were both leaving, I have to say that his acting talent is totally wasted in WANTED. In addition, Morgan Freedman has played this same role so many times I doubt he had to memorize his lines. He probably just had to recall his lines from previous films.

Now you’ve been warned. See this film at the risk of your own wallet – and your own sanity.

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Wednesday, July 2, 2008

Peter Shankman’s Helpareporter.com Offers Publicity Opportunities

Peter Shankman started a group on Facebook that outgrew the number of people allowed by Facebook. He moved his group to www.helpareporter.com – and it’s a terrific do-gooder site. He collects requests from reporters looking for sources and then pushes out the requests in two or three emails a day (Monday – Friday) to people who have subscribed to his list.

Each day I read his emails before almost everyone else’s because there are often good publicity leads for me as well as other people I know. And I try to immediately reply to any appropriate opportunities because the early bird does often catch the worm. I also forward opportunities to people I know who seem to fit the reporter request.

Anyone can be on Shankman’s list. Go ahead and sign up if you’re interested. The range of reporter requests is quite wide, such as a reporter looking for a food marketing expert and another looking for a digestion expert. Oh, yes, do abide by his one rule:

By joining this list, just promise me and yourself that you'll ask yourself before you send a response: Is this response really on target? Is this response really going to help the journalist, or is this just a BS way for me to get my client in front of the reporter? If you have to think for more than three seconds, chances are, you shouldn't send the response.

And in terms of being a do-gooder, Shankman gets extra points. Here’s his philosophy:

First off, yes, it's free. It takes me a few minutes each day to do this, and the good Karma is immeasurable. So I'm not charging. If you really feel like sending me a donation or something, why not just send a few bucks to an animal hospital or animal rescue society somewhere. Some good places are Best Friends Animal Sanctuary or The National Search Dog Foundation. That’ll keep the good Karma flowing.

He clearly has a passion for what he’s doing – and his passion benefits lots of people.

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Tuesday, July 1, 2008

Donorschoose.org – Unique Wedding Guest Gift

I’ve just returned from the Philadelphia wedding of my nephew. It was a lovely, lovely wedding, and I cried as the bride and groom stood under the chupah. Yet I also cried much later in the evening – while a fantastic band played – when I opened the wedding guest gift:

Each guest received a gift certificate for $18 (in Hebrew 18 represents chai – life) to www.donorschoose.org – a nonprofit website where “public school teachers submit proposals for materials or experiences their students need to learn.” And then donations bring these dreams to life.

At the wedding I talked to my nephew about the gift certificates. He said he and his bride-to-be had been thinking of giving each guest a $10 gift when they realized what they could do with a different kind of wedding guest gift.

This morning I went to www.donorschoose.org/gift to redeem my gift certificate. There were so many good projects from which to choose. Yet, as a book author, I was drawn to the following project (underlining mine):

Pushing Our Way into Literacy: Book Carts For the Classroom

Last week was Teen Read Week. The media specialist and I created a book cart around the theme Get Active and visited 28 classrooms during the week. With each class, we did a book pass of books we thought would be high interest reads for the students and then allowed them to check out books. During the week, there was a 280% increase in the number of books checked out. We received an overwhelmingly positive response from the staff as well, who reported that for the first time their students were reading.

We would now like to purchase a number of carts to create themed book mobiles for teachers to check out. We know that reading comprehension is the most critical component of student education, and placing high interest reads into the hands of our kids is the key to developing that comprehension.

I need two book carts to enable me to provide high interest young adult reading materials to the students in my school. The cost of this proposal is $833, which includes shipping for any materials requested and fulfillment.

When I submitted my gift certificate to this project, I was asked to comment for the website on why this particular project. Here’s my reply:

I gave to this project because I'm the author of a book MRS. LIEUTENANT: A SHARON GOLD NOVEL and I believe reading books is vital in the acquiring of reading skills.

PZ the Do-Gooder Scrooge recommends that – when giving out gifts for various occasions – consider following the example of my nephew and his bride: Give gift certificates to www.donorschoose.org.

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