How A Loveable Turtle Can Help Your Child Learn

6 Ways You Can Use Books To Teach Your Children

How A Loveable Turtle Can Help Your Child Learn

How A Loveable Turtle Can Help Your Child Learn

I love teaching through literature. Books have an amazing way of engaging kids and starting conversations. Great, relatable characters help kids open their hearts, minds and engage in difficult conversations. It is often easier for kids to talk about what is happening in a book and relate it to themselves, rather than to hit a personal, potentially difficult issue straight on.

Enter my dear friend, Franklin the Turtle. Franklin is an adorable Canadian icon. He is a sweet, young turtle who leapt into Canadian literary fame 25 years ago with his story about his fear of small dark spaces. The poor little guy was frightened to sleep in his own shell! As Franklin conquered this fear and went on to triumph over many other problems that kids can relate to, he moved his way into the hearts and lives of an international audience.

The Franklin series, authored by Paulette Bourgeois, illustrated by Brenda Clark, and published by Kids Can Press, now has over 100 titles and has sold over 65 million copies. They have been translated into 30 languages, inspired two spin-off television series, countless merchandise products and even generated a community garden on Toronto Island. Franklin’s tales cover many of the problems, milestones and challenges that kids face themselves–starting school, becoming a big brother, getting along with friends, craving new toys, dealing with fears—the list goes on and on.

The Franklin publishers suggest that the books target an audience from age three to age six, but my not-yet-two-year-old already loves these stories and I’ve used them successfully with a third grade class, so don’t let the suggested ages limit you.

Franklin tales, like so many great children’s books, are great teaching tools. Here are my top tips for teaching with Franklin, at school and at home:

1. Use Stories To Inspire Meaningful Chats

I truly believe that some of the most meaningful teaching happens during good conversations with kids. Franklin stories are a great way to inspire these meaningful chats. After enjoying a book together, ask your child what happened in the story. Ask how Franklin felt during certain situations. If your child relates to Franklin’s problem in the story, they will probably give you some pretty interesting answers. Talk about what kids can do in similar situations. It is not about giving children the answer, it's about hearing their ideas and brainstorming solutions together. There are so many great Franklin titles to choose from that it is easy to find one that will apply to a situation you may want to target.

2. Use Hard Words To Grow Vocabulary

Enjoying books together helps to grow a child’s vocabulary. The author will most likely choose words and word arrangements that are different from your own. The more words a child hears, the better their vocabulary. If you come across a word you think your child doesn’t understand, talk about it. Provide synonyms or definitions in child-friendly language. The Franklin books are filled with elaborate, realistic artwork inspired by nature. Use the pictures as another jumping off point for vocabulary-rich discussion.

3. Use Comparisons Between Animals And People

Young children have an innate connection with the natural world and Franklin stories bring this world closer to them. The characters cover a wide range of animals, often in their natural settings. The characters strike a balance between their many human-like traits (attending schools, living in houses, having friends, etc.) and remaining true to their species—otters swimming gracefully in ponds, snails moving slowly through beautifully illustrated gardens. These stories provide an excellent opportunity to compare the characters to their real-life counterparts and look for similarities and differences.

4. Let Your Kids Connect With Characters They Know

When I bring a Franklin book into my kindergarten classroom, I am greeted with a chorus of recognition: “That’s Franklin!” “I’ve seen him on TV.” “My mom reads me those books.”  Students love familiarity and immediately feel connected to this well recognized character and are excited by connecting with what they know. And, when kids are excited, they are engaged and when they are engaged, they are learning.

5. Build Literacy Skills

If your child is old enough to recognize the letters, do a little letter hunt on a particular page. “Can you find three F’s for Franklin on this page?” Once his skills improve, have your child search for common words (the, he, and). As his skills improve even more, let your child help you read. When kids are practicing reading aloud, it is important to let them read stories they are familiar with. Reading text they have already heard many times before helps build reading success which builds confidence.

6. Have Fun And Go At Your Child’s Pace

Whatever age your child is and whatever stage of reading he is at, keep things fun. Don’t turn your reading time into a chore that must be accomplished before he can get free time. You want to inspire a love of books and reading among kids and there is no faster way to destroy that love than by forcing it. If your child doesn't want to engage in discussion, or resists identifying words on the page, no problem, just enjoy the story together. If he doesn't feel like reading or listening that day, let it go. Let your child follow his own interests. Just keep some wonderful books like the Franklin stories around and I have no doubt that soon enough, your kids will be begging you for “just one more” story.

So go on, support a Canadian superstar—grab a Franklin book and let this little turtle bring your child out of his or her shell!

Franklin is a trademark of Kids Can Press Ltd. © Paulette Bourgeois and Brenda Clark.


Will Fear of Sexual Assault Quash Your Daughter's Dreams?

Don't Let Panic Rule when a Choosing School

Will Fear of Sexual Assault Quash Your Daughter's Dreams?

MIT Report on Sexual Assault

I know a wonderful young lady who dreams of attending the Massachusetts Institute of Technology–the famous MIT. You know how many young kids go through the “I want to be an astronaut when I grow up” stage? Well, this amazing teenager just never grew out of it.  

At 17 years old, she has already achieved so much in the world of science, most notably in robotics. She has represented her country several times at the World Robotic Organization, including leading the team to an impressive victory two years ago.

Since the time I met this impressive girl five or six years ago, she has known her dream and has taken steps to achieve it. She’s always wanted to study aerospace engineering at MIT and then work for a top aeronautical company leading in space exploration, such as NASA. The girl sets her goals high and with top marks, impressive entrance test scores and a remarkable resume, she is likely to achieve those dreams-that is if media hype and fears of a chauvinistic world littered with sexual assault and other scary incidents doesn’t thwart her.

Recently, a study revealed that one in six female students at MIT report being a victim of sexual assault. And, like so many news items in our fast-paced, social media world, most people just took the time to read this headline and leapt to their own conclusions. Reading this scary statistic makes one think that still, after over 150 years of existence and countless leaps forward, MIT remains no place for a woman.

I say, don’t believe the hype!

If someone took the time to read the article, they would discover that MIT is actually the first among the high-profile US colleges to put an estimate on sexual assault among its students. They conducted this survey precisely to gain more insight into the problem in order to take the necessary steps to curb such unwanted behaviour. Furthermore, reports highlight the concerning statistics across universities - many of which have avoided conducting such surveys, fearing what the results will reveal about their campuses.

By encouraging students to anonymously report their experiences, MIT is giving its female students a voice that may often be silenced due to a slew of fears and pressures. As we all know, especially in the light of current issues in Canadian media, it is hard for woman to come forward. And, when we consider the statistics for Canadian Universities, the numbers are even more frightening. According to the Sexual Assault Centre of Hamilton, a staggering 4 out 5 undergrdutates in Canadian universities reported violence in a relationship and of that number, 30% reported sexual asault. By conducting these surveys, universities are taking the necessary steps to tackle a very unsettling issue that can have a far-reaching impact in the lives of those affected.

How is it affecting this amazing teenage roboticist? Well, some of those who love her most read the headline and began to question her decision to go to MIT. They pressured her to consider other universities that haven’t published such alarming statistics.  

But here’s the thing-tragically, sexual assault is prevalent in our society. It happens on every kind of university campus and in so many other venues as well. We need to educate our girls and our boys about protecting themselves and about healthy sexual relationships. We need to talk about the problem. We need to empower victims to speak up. We need to continue seeking ways to reduce the statistics and to make campuses safer places for all our students.

None of that will occur by sweeping the issue under the rug. We can’t solve a problem if we are not willing to recognize it.  

Do I think MIT probably has a pretty significant old-boys-club attitude? Sure. I suspect that there are people there that look down upon women and mistreat them but I suspect this occurs everywhere. I also think the university should be applauded for taking the first of the many steps necessary for alleviating the problem. Should my young friend change her university application based on this headline? Absolutely not!

With nearly half of the student body being comprised of females and significant representation of women on faculty, MIT has come a long way from its early days. And, female scientists are kick-ass!  

I say don’t fall victim to a hyped headline! Don’t let the abusers take yet another thing from woman today. And never let fear rob you of your dreams.

Let’s keep the conversation going



You may also be interested in Would You Let Your Teens Have Sex In The House? and The Most Important Lessons We Forget To Teach Our Children About Sex.


How Much Does Post-Secondary Education Really Cost?

How To Set Yourself Up To Fund Your Child's Dream

How Much Does Post-Secondary Education Really Cost?

University Graduate

Up until grade 12, the educational path for most children is pretty clear — to finish high school. Certainly, high school brings some choices — enriched, academic, applied, and locally developed courses are offered and students have some say in which subjects they will take — however, for most Canadian students, the goal is to finish high school. 

The high school drop-out rate has been on a steady decline in Canada since 1990. Most of our kids are getting through, enjoying proms and graduation ceremonies and making parents proud.

But what happens when the caps and gowns go back to the cleaners and the diplomas are safely stored away? What are kids doing after grade 12? Where are they going and what is it costing to get there?

According to a recent study by the Canadian Education and Research Institute for Counselling, 82% of our kids enter some form of post-secondary education within three years of graduating high school. This means you don’t have to fret if your student doesn’t head straight for more school after graduation. Although it may take them an extra year or two to get there, most kids realize the value of further education for increasing their employment opportunities.

Here are some of the most popular options that may occupy our students in the decade after high school and how much each of these options may cost:


Did you graduate from university? If so, then chances are, you are hoping your kids will too. These days, many high school students are aiming higher than we did in previous decades, dreaming of master's or Ph.D. degrees even before they finish secondary school.

Of course, the cost of university is ever on the rise.

This year, CBC news reported that the cost of university has tripled since 1990 and it’s showing no signs of slowing down. They suggest that the average cost for the 2016-2017 year will be nearly $7500, and that doesn’t include accommodation or other living expenses. Times that by a four-year degree, add in graduate studies, and you are looking at some serious coin. Makes me think I better get saving for my daughter to be part of the graduating class of 2033!

Community College

College is a valid option for many students and is the best path if your child seeks for a career in a field that requires more practical training. College studies are more goal-oriented than undergraduate studies at university and offer more technical training. In fact, many university degrees need to be supplemented by the practical training available in college to ensure marketability. Some community colleges even offer Bachelor degrees in applied areas of studies, although diplomas and certificates are more common.

Generally, college is less expensive than university, but there is a huge variance among courses and some training programs even exceed university pricing. Perhaps due to that vast spectrum of costs, proposed fees and average expenses for college are harder to find.  In 2011, Statistics Canada said that the average two-year college diploma is around $21,000. Don’t forget to factor in the evils of inflation, which will quickly grow that number before your child finishes high school.


Even more goal-oriented than a college diploma is an apprenticeship, and these are a wonderful option for anyone considering a trade as a career. An apprentice is someone who learns a skilled trade on the job, under the direction of more experienced workers. Apprentices also complete classroom instruction as a part of their training. In Ontario, employers who are members of the Ontario College of Trades can offer apprenticeships. Apprentices themselves also must become members of that governing body. 

Some apprenticeships are offered concurrently with a college diploma and therefore the fees would be similar to those of college — although potentially higher, due to the added direct training. 

Most apprenticeships allow for some paid wages throughout, although apprentices may face considerable costs associated with block-release training (when training happens in a solid block of time, sometimes up to six weeks), especially if that training requires travel. There are also costs related to the specialized tools and equipment that are needed.

Training in the Arts

Maybe your child will have the dream, the talent, and the grit to chase a career in the arts. Many successful careers in the arts are launched from training in well-respected private institutions such as New York’s famed Julliard (current tuition, $39 000/year, plus $15 000 for a room in residence) or Ontario’s Royal Conservatory of Music (currently $4000/year).  Thinking the Ontario School or Art and Design (OCAD)? A regular 5-credit year currently costs nearly $6500.

Directly into the Workforce

What if your kid decides not to attend post-secondary school? Some will go directly into a job after graduating high school. Some specific directly-into-the-workforce opportunities, such as becoming a police officer, require further academic and technical training once you have been accepted into the candidacy program.  

Although there obviously won’t be any tuition or tools fees associated with going directly into the workforce, it is very common for these high school graduates to opt for post secondary education a few years into their working life.


How To Set Your Child Up For A Bright Educational Future

I look into my daughter’s bright, flashing eyes and I wonder where her dreams will take her. I want her to be able to pursue whatever path brings her happiness and I don’t want financial constraints to hold her back.

Our kids are a varied and talented bunch and the great big world is waiting for them to step into it. One thing is for sure, opening the doors to their future will cost a significant amount of money and the proposed numbers seem to be climbing daily.

Thankfully, there are options like a giraffe & friends Registered Education Savings Plan (RESP) to help worried parents like myself prepare. An RESP gains interest and, more excitingly, the government will also add their support. Through the Canadian Education Savings Grant, the Canadian government will add an extra 20% to your contributions. There are also provincial grants available based on your income.

Here are two amazing facts that I recently learned about RESPs:

  1. RESPs can be used to support almost any post-secondary institution! That includes private institutions associated with apprenticeships, vocationally-focussed colleges and those astronomically expensive universities. Bible schools, beauty schools and the National School of Ballet all made the list.
  2. RESPs can go towards any expenses — food, housing, equipment and so forth — as long as the student is registered in one of the many designated schools.

My Advice

All this talk of future education costs has made me more than a little nervous and I realize that its high time I get my financial act in gear when it comes to my daughter’s future — not to mention the futures of any siblings that may one day come her way.

My plan is to find someone trustworthy to talk to about the RESPs, and to do it fast. I know that I’ll be looking for the following things in a savings plan:

  1. That my personal savings are guaranteed
  2. That the RESP is easy to maintain and doesn’t add any stress to my already hectic (although truly wonderful) life
  3. That the RESP company can handle all the government grants and necessary applications, so that I know we are getting all the support that we are meant to
  4. That there is some kind of insurance offered, in case there is a major change in our health and financial situation that makes it impossible to contribute

Guess what? giraffe & friends RESPs fit all those needs! Phew!

Don’t feel overwhelmed at the cost of funding your child’s dreams.

Just take a breath and check out It’s a reassuring first step in planning your child’s journey, and it is easy to understand and simple to buy without the hassle of banks or financial advisors.

Of course, wherever the parenting road is destined to take you, don’t forget to enjoy the journey.

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Time flies by in the blink of an eye. One day you’re worrying about sending your little one to preschool, the next you’re sending them off to college. That’s why it’s important to invest in an RESP now.

Start saving today with a giraffe & friends' no-fee, worry-free and 100% guaranteed RESP. giraffe & friends helps you sleep easy with guaranteed growth, easy-to understand language, and the powerful boost of government grants.

Visit the ‘How To Plan For Your Kid's Future’ page and learn the best ways for parents to save money, when you should start saving, and more.