CoverThere’s always been plenty of people out there who project their parenting preferences onto others – self-appointed citizens who prey on earnest mothers and fathers simply trying to do their best. There are a lot of different parenting styles and approaches out there. And some people are adamant theirs is best. Right?

That’s why politicization of parenting can be so potent. It can cut across ideological lines, with all sorts of aggressive individuals crawling out of the woodwork and sometimes becoming allies – like America’s fundamentalist Christians and ardent feminists who rally together to promote breast feeding, with the chorus of their common cause being “breast is best’.

We might find it bizarre that such movements, which are traditionally and (and for the most part) ideologically opposed, would share a common political interest. However author, mother and political scientist Courtney Jung is all too familiar with the nature of political lobbying and what it produces.  In her book Lactivism she exposes the way in which various interest groups (businesses, lobby groups, health officials and politicians) have hijacked the sensitive issues of breastfeeding as a ploy to either push their own ideological message(s) or make money. Or, conveniently, both.

This is not a book which is anti-breast feeding. It is a book which discusses the fact that some women, for a variety of legitimate reasons, can’t/won’t breast feed. Yet, they are often shamed by the aforementioned interest groups who have hijacked the general discourse to create public health hysteria. “A good mother will ALWAYS breast feed” is a phrase which has been twisted to become a guilt-laden sentiment to drive public health policies and messages. Jung manages to dissect and unravel this as misleading, and in many cases, unscientific collection of notions.

Jung sheds light on the poor science surrounding this issue, and how science is misconstrued further by lobby groups to deliver their desired outcomes and misinform the public. Which leads to a form of persecution for anyone bottle feeding, for example. The poor, and often women of colour, are the most affected by the misinformation layered upon society by officials and the (lobby influenced) media. Many women in poorer societies and communities simply cant feed due to health issues (HIV for example). Despite this, this issue is framed as it being a “mother’s duty” to breast feed. Always. Sometimes to the detriment of children.

Jung’s exposure of this blatant “bottle shaming” is insightful. She lifts the lid on the coercive tactics used to promote one system of feeding to the physical and psychological detriment of mothers and kids, and how this ties into other health problems and initiatives. What is really great about this book is that it clears the fog away from political processes. As a political scientist (don’t be put off by the label), Jung examines the evolution of these discussions and how they determine public health policy formulation around the world, and particularly America.

Read more

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Te Kupu o Te Wiki – Ringaringa (hands)

Kia ora. To encourage the use of Te Reo Māori we are publishing weekly kupu (words) and phrases that can be used with children.

Kupu (word)


Horoia ō ringaringa.
Wash your hands.

Whāngahia te Reo

“Science is about doing” – an interview with Geni McCallum of Science Alive!

Kids getting excited about science is a wonderful thing. Thanks to Geni McCallum – Marketing Manager and Community Educator at Science Alive! for answering our questions ahead of next week’s Under 5 Science Fest. For older kids, there are Science Snippets in the library in ten of our libraries after school.

Under 5 fest

What are some of the events at Under 5 Fest you reckon will get the kids excited?

At our annual Under 5 Fest, kids get the chance to explore a wide range of hands-on science-based activities. You can pat farm animals; build in the construction zone; explore basic scientific principles; listen to stories; play with puppets, and much more. We have 15 brand new exhibits this year so there is bound to be something for everyone – it’s a week full of fun, chaos and adventure!

The construction zone is always one of our most popular areas, not only with the children but also with adults. What could be more fun than exploring engineering principles by building a giant house?! This year we’re featuring more blocks and activities and promising more opportunities for exploration and creativity.

Also new this year is the Nature Zone, especially for the budding biologists out there. Kids will be able to pretend they are a scientist in the field and examine and classify different objects, all the while learning about what makes New Zealand flora and fauna so unique.
More info can be found on our Facebook event or Science Alive

How can parents and caregivers help their kids get more into science?

The beauty of science is that it really is all around us, just waiting to be explored – there are ample opportunities in everyday situations to teach your kids about their world. Children (and adults!) often learn extremely well with hands-on activities. Often the teaching of science is simply about looking at the world from a scientific perspective, learning to think critically and asking lots of questions. People often forget that there is science within cooking, from raising dough (baking soda/powder chemistry reaction) to simmering a pasta sauce (evaporation), these are lessons just waiting to be taught!

As parents, we are asked questions constantly; it really is the brilliance (and sometimes the bane) of parenthood that you are their first and most important educator. Making a concerted effort to explain an answer, or delve into researching to find an answer with your kids creates a wonderful foundation for future learning. My daughter once asked me how bricks were made, I realised I hadn’t the foggiest idea and so I stopped what I was doing, we opened the laptop and looked it up online – it’s never too late to learn new things with your children.

And remember, it is not just about answering questions, but also asking them. How often do you stop and bounce a question back to your child? ‘What do you think?’ Getting your children to really think about what is happening and come up with their own explanations, however creative, is just as important as providing answers.


How does Science Snippets in the Library work? Are there some examples of kids who are having success from it?

After the earthquakes, our centre was no longer able to house the thousands of children we educate each year in our education programmes. It became clear that if we were to continue our ethos of teaching the community about science, we would have to turn to outreach programmes and venture out into the community on a regular basis. Our community team turned to teaching science topics within the libraries and thus, ‘Science Snippets in the Library’ was born.

My colleague and I travel to five different libraries each, covering ten Christchurch Libraries each week. We bring our own supplies and teach topics that cover Biology, Chemistry, Astronomy and Physics to kids from 5 to 10 years old. Each class runs from 3:30 – 4:30 pm and covers a lesson with plenty of discussion and question asking, and activities in which the kids can create something to take home with them. These free classes have proved to be very popular. We even have some volunteer helpers to aid with the bigger groups of kids, and we have many children who attend every week.

I believe that the success of our programmes is teaching that science is about doing, it’s not just in textbooks. We aim to foster the natural curiosity and excitement that children have at a young age. In the end, it doesn’t matter if they’ve learnt a fact they can relay off, it’s much more important to me that they associate science with fun, exploration and excitement. I brought a real monkey’s brain into class a week ago for our Brains topic; the amazement in the kids’ faces is what reminds me that this is what ‘Science Snippets in the Library’ is really all about.

Science Alive

What do you think about libraries?

I have personally always loved libraries. From a young age they were my safe haven away from the rough politics of the playground – no matter what, the library was always there and my favourite books were just waiting to be read yet again. I strongly believe that a child’s first independent thoughts and opinions are collated through reading and collecting that breadth of book knowledge. It’s one of the only times that they are alone to think, question and discover of their own accord. Libraries give children the opportunity to do that in a safe and positive place.

In modern times, libraries have become so much more to the children and adults who are able to use facilities, which they may not have access to at home. They house knowledge that you can explore, no matter how old you are or how much money you have. They’re an inclusive community resource that is so important to so many. The digital access they provide is fantastic, but the real gems are found in the shelves and shelves of books. Next time you visit your local library, take a second to realise how lucky we are to have such an incredible resource within our neighbourhoods.

Thanks Geni and the Science Alive! team for their stellar work in bringing science to Christchurch kids!

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See Geni’s list of top science books for kids.

Geni also recommends:
Splish! Splosh! Why Do We Wash?: Experiments in the Bathroom (4 yrs +).
A book full of illustrations, humour and kid-friendly experiments.
The Kingfisher Young Discoverers Encyclopaedia of Facts and Experiments (yrs 9 +)
A great resource book for science experiments, that are fun, safe and easy to create with everyday objects.
Are You a Snail? (4 yrs +) A simple picture book with attractive illustrations, to keep young kids engaged in the science of snails.

More science for kids

The closet curser

A Brief History of Swearing

I have become a Closet Curser of the sub-category Car Closet Curser. Roadworks, detours, and the colour orange (never my favourite) thanks to the thousands of Christchurch road cones, all these can set me off. But cursing in books is not much of an issue for me.

But it is for some customers, like the gentleman who complained that he didn’t want to read “any more goddammed crappy books with foul language”. So the big question is how to steer yourself  away from books that pulsate with profanity?

First a little research on cursing in English is called for. Holy Sh*t (A Brief History of Cursing) is an excellent place to start, or you could move straight on to the e-book Wicked Words (A Treasury of Curses, Insults, Put-downs, and Other Formerly Unprintable Terms From Anglo-Saxon Times to the Present). Now you know what you are talking about – always a plus, let’s move onto fiction books that are obscenity laden.

The PanopticonAn esteemed novel that is loaded with profanity but is also a great read is The Panopticon. Billed as: “top-tier stuff: profane, inventive, funny and gob-smackingly offensive”. A prison setting for juvenile recidivists, it nails the Scots dialogue, made up almost exclusively of swear words, in this instance. Keep the clean-living away from this little beauty.

Same goes for Trainspotting, also Scots , here’s a cleaned up quote:

Choose us. Choose life. Choose mortgage payments; choose washing machines; choose cars; choose sitting on a couch watching mind-numbing and spirit-crushing game shows, stuffing (rude word) junk food intae yir mooth. Choose rotting away, pishing and shiteing yersel in a home, a total (rude word) embarrassment tae the selfish, (rude word)-up brats ye’ve produced. Choose life.

How Late it was how lateAnd in How Late it was How Late (also Scots – just saying), Sammy is having a really sh*t time – and then he goes blind. All three of these novels nail the dialogue, and the dialogue they are reproducing with honesty, is profanity laden. Of course this will not be to everyone’s taste, but please don’t self-censor the book. Just stop after the first page and read no further.

It would be great to hear of other good reads where bad language feels like a character in its own right – share please do. And finally, if reading bad language in books raises your blood pressure – guess what, swearing ultimately lowers it – and gives you greater tolerance to pain.

Holi: Celebrating life, love, and colour

Holi is an annual celebration and Hindu religious festival that originates in India. It traditionally occurs at the end of Northern Hemisphere winter, at the full moon in March. It is a celebration of the triumph of good over evil, a day to forgive, look ahead and come together as a community.

In Christchurch those wanting to take part in the Holi festival can attend the celebration at The Commons on 5 March. This is a chance for people to gather together, eat good food, dance and enjoy each others company.

One of the most striking Holi traditions involves throwing and smearing coloured powders on each other. This stems from the story of Krishna, who had blue skin, and the fair-skinned Radha. In the story, Krishna, on the advice of his mother, colours Radha’s face. In Hindu tradition Radha is Krishna’s supreme beloved. Colours also symbolise people becoming equals, whether they are old or young, friends or enemies, rich or poor.

The traditional game of matki phod will also be played, in which small teams compete to make human pyramids in order to reach a container of yoghurt. This is also based on stories of Krishna’s youthful exploits.

Holi festival 2016

Christchurch Holi Festival 2016

Where and when: The Commons, 70 Kilmore St, 11am – 3pm

Price: $10, free for children under 10 years (coloured powders are included in the ticket price. More will be available to purchase if you go wild with them and run out)

Tip: Wear old clothes (and shoes) that you don’t mind getting stained by colours.

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Fun day Sundays at Te Hāpua: Halswell Centre

If you’re looking for some free family fun at the weekend then Te Hāpua: Halswell Centre is the place to be.

Halswell Fun Day

This Sunday 6 March, our unique Halswell facility (library, swimming pool, and CCC service desk) will host a range of fun activities. More FM will be on site from 10am to 1pm with free facepainting and lollies. The library will also have:

  • Family Games 10 am to 12noon
  • Makerspace 1pm to 3pm
  • Guess the number of jelly beans in the jar?
  • Colouring competition – winners to be announced Monday 7 March

If someone you know doesn’t have a library membership yet then this is their opportunity. We’ll be giving away a free pool pass to the first 50 people who become a library member on the day.

Te Hāpua: Halswell Centre opening
New library cards, Te Hāpua: Halswell Centre opening, Flickr CCLTeHāpua-2015-11-28-_1080645

All about women – Sunday 6 March 2016

Last March, I went to the University of Canterbury for a panel on How to be a feminist and a session live from the Sydney Opera House. It was brilliant! Just before International Women’s Day, the Sydney Opera House brings you All about women. There was going to be a live simulcast shown at University of Canterbury, but unfortunately this has been cancelled. Hopefully the session will be recorded, as last year’s was.

All about women

What needs to change? panel discussion

First up at 2.30pm: What needs to change? featuring Masha Gessen, Crystal Lameman, Mallory Ortberg, Ann Sherry and Anne-Marie Slaughter.

If you could change the world overnight, what would you do first? What needs to change? We ask our panel to tell us what crucial levers they would pull if they had the power to change things overnight.

More information

Orange is the new black with Piper Kerman

Piper Kerman’s memoir Orange is the New Black: My Year in a Women’s Prison was the source material for the super popular Netflix series. So popular that it has its own abbreviation: OITNB. Piper will talk about the lessons she learned ‘doing time’ and:

how the generosity and acceptance of the women she met inside inspired her to become an advocate for the rights of female prisoners.

More information

All about women – reading list

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Our page on International Women’s Day has more feminist resources and reading for you to explore.

Five years: 22 February 2016 in pictures

Arohanui, Christchurch. Here are some photos of our city this morning as we remember the earthquake, five years ago today. Our love goes out to those who lost those dear to them, and to those still suffering. Our thanks to those who are here to help us regroup and rebuild.

Rose, ChristChurch Cathedral
Rose, ChristChurch Cathedral. 22 February 2016. Flickr 2016-02-22-IMG_2731
Lichfield Street
Lichfield Street. Flickr: 2016-02-22-IMG_2670
Passing Time by Anton Parsons, CPIT, Madras Street
Passing Time by Anton Parsons, CPIT, Madras Street. Flickr: 2016-02-22-IMG_2796

Looking back

Te Kupu o Te Wiki – Hū (shoes)

Kia ora. To encourage the use of Te Reo Māori we are publishing weekly kupu (words) and phrases that can be used with children.

Kupu (word)


Wetekina ō hū.
Take off your shoes.

Whāngahia te Reo

What is life if not the shadow of a fleeting dream?

Umberto Eco, 1932- 2016

Inventing the EnemyConfessions of A Young NovelistTurning Back the ClockNumero ZeroConfessions of A Young NovelistFoucault's PendulumThe Prague CemeteryThe Name of the RoseThe Book of Legendary LandsThe Mysterious Flame of Queen LoanaOn LiteratureBaudolinoArt and Beauty in the Middle AgesKant and the PlatypusThe Island of the Day BeforeHow to Travel With A Salmon & Other EssaysFive Moral PiecesThis Is Not the End of the BookOn UglinessOn Beauty

“Thus I rediscovered what writers have always known (and have told us again and again): books always speak of other books, and every story tells a story that has already been told.”

― Umberto Eco, Postscript to the Name of the Rose