Now You See ‘Em, Now You Don’t

When you were a kid, children’s movies and television didn’t have many females or characters of color. That’s all changed for today’s kids, right? Not.

Now You See ‘Em, Now You Don’t: Gender & Racial Disparity in TV for Children is a new report released today (03/21/07) that documents this persistent problem. The report draws on the most comprehensive content analysis ever conducted on children’s television and movies.

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Cinderella Ballet

(c) Hilltown Families- Cinderella Ballet

The Pioneer Valley Ballet performed Cinderella at the Academy of Music in Northampton, MA, this past weekend. Families attended with young girls dressed in fancy gowns, tiaras and ribbon wands. A lovely performance for the entire family, on both Saturday and Sunday.

Visit the Pioneer Valley Ballet on-line for future productions at

Health Rules Delayed [Boston (AP)] – That’s what the headline on the front page of the Daily Hampshire Gazette reads today. According to the Gazette, “Requirements won’t kick in until early 2009.”

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The Power Nap

(c) Sienna Wildfield
The Power Nap
by Sienna Wildfield

The ride into town is a good 40 minutes long. It’s a time my 4yo daughter can get in a power nap, when she’s not domineering the radio dial through whines and wails (which she can dish out for the full 40 minute ride … and back!)

She likes neither talk radio, nor music without words. “They just talk, talk, talk and just keep talking, and they don’t even say anything!,” I’ve heard her complain on several occasions.

So the news and classical music are off limits when she’s in the car. For the sake of my own sanity I try to introduce her to an assortment of kid/mommy friendly music, ranging from Uncle Rock and the Beatles, to Nate King Cole and Squirrel Nut Zippers.

But as much as I love Uncle Rock, sometimes a mom needs a little Bach to soothe the nerves, or to hear the honest voice of Amy Goodman on Democracy Now. I decided to take her over to visit Marla BB at WXOJ-LP 103.3FM in Florence, MA. She’s the hostess of the Marla BB’s Blues & Etc. radio show every Thursday from 10am-noon. I wanted to give my daughter a behind the scenes look at how all this talk she so vehemently protests reaches our ears.

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Web Review: BrainPOP


The awards list for BrainPOP is impressive. Just judging from their awards you could easily conclude that BrainPOP is considered by many to be a top educational website for children.

What is BrainPOP?

BrainPOP is a non-commercial web site that consists of both quality and entertaining educational curriculum, presented through an effective use of animation and web technology. Their curriculum-based content spans seven main subjects including: Science, Math, English, Social Studies, Health, Technology and Arts & Music.

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Pioneer Valley Jewish Film Festival
March 10th – March 31st, 2007

Through collaborative community effort, the Pioneer Valley Jewish Film Festival will be offering a spectacular array of award-winning, entertaining films from around the world this month. Hilltown families and filmgoers of all ages can enjoy compelling drama, comedy, documentary, and shorts from the best film festivals.

The PVJFF runs for three weeks and includes discussions with filmmakers and other speakers, social receptions, art exhibits, and concerts. Film venues range from the Basketball Hall of Fame and the Showcase Cinema, to the Smith College Museum of Art and the Pleasant Street Theatre. Click here for a complete list of venues and film schedules.

Amy Dryansky from the festivals steering committee, has suggested two film programs that may be of interest to hilltown parents:

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Marketing the Sexualization of Young Girls


One of the most recent calls for action by the Campaign for a Commercial-Free Childhood has encouraged concerned parents to tell Scholastic to stop distributing Bratz books in schools through their Book Clubs and School Book Fairs.

A recent report of the APA Task Force on the Sexualization of Girls had drawn attention to the proliferation of sexualized images of girls and young women in advertising, merchandising, and media is harming girls’ self-image and healthy development. This report explores the cognitive and emotional consequences, consequences for mental and physical health, and impact on development of a healthy sexual self-image. (Click here to read the report)

Books of The Bratz – a line of highly sexualized dolls for girls as young as four are – being marketed in schools by Scholastic, Inc. Scholastic promotes Bratz through its book fairs and book clubs, selling titles such as Lil’ Bratz Dancin Divas; Lil’ Bratz Catwalk Cuties; and Lil’ Bratz Beauty Sleepover Bash to a captive audience of young students.

Kyle Good, Vice President at Scholastic, has sent a prompt response to one concerned parent’s request to reconsider their distribution in schools:
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Check out from you local MA libraryWHAT’S A GIRL (AND PARENTS) TO DO?

Our young girls (and our larger population) are bombarded with media images of sexualized feminine esthetics. You see it everywhere: in line at the grocery store, billboards on the highway, songs on the radio, commercials on television, books, games, videos … what’s a girl to do?

As a parent, you are the most powerful tool our girls have to teach them how to interpret our media’s projection of images that portray girls as sexual objects. The remedy to this assault is to support and teach them how to value their own inner beauty and strengths.

It’s equally important for our young boys to be taught to respect and value the roles girls play in our society, as sisters, mothers, friends and teachers, rather than being brainwashed into the sexual objectification our media flashes before them.

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Passion & Fire

Last month Art Bridge in Shelburne, MA, held a Passion Party and invited people to come celebrate passion and creative community for Valentine’s Day. As part of their monthly Performance Potlucks, guests were encouraged to bring passion-themed food and beverages – “something luscious and delightful” – and to dress in something romantic and extravagant.

Along with delicious homemade foods, the evening festivities included a mythical puppet show, belly dancing, original music, performance by the Greenfield Center School Young Performers, poi spinning and fire dancing. The fire dancing was more like a circus arts troupe performing improvisational acrobatics with a fusion of dance along with poi spinning.

Art Bridge is having another Performance Potluck this Saturday evening. In this weeks Suggested Events you can find out more about this event and many other exciting activities for the family.

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Biotechnology Summer Camp for girls

Girls who want to explore the field of science will have a special opportunity to do just that this summer. Girls who are currently in 7th or 8th grade are eligible to attend a free Biotechnology Summer Camp (2007) , thanks to a Pioneer Valley Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics Network (PV STEMNET) grant.

High School Biotechnology Teacher Cyndi Jensen applied for the funding, and the award was announced two weeks ago. “This program is just for girls, taught by young women who have a passion for biotechnology,” explained Jensen.

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Western Mass elementary schools honor national Read Across America Day with Dr. Seuss

Gateway elementary schools held another successful “Seussabration”, to honor national Read Across America Day on March 7th. This is the 10th year that Gateway has participated in this event, which typically involves students, staff, parents and high school volunteers.

National Honor Society members from Gateway Regional High School visited classrooms and read to students at the Blandford, Chester, R. H.Conwell and Littleville Elementary schools.

In our area there are two great place to get a closer look at the work of Dr. Seuss. The National Dr. Seuss Memorial in Springfield, MA, and the R. Michelson Galleries in Northampton, MA. The R. Michelson Galleries exhibits many of Dr. Seuss’s original draws and limited editions. Both places offer an educational experience for children.

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(03/12/07) At last night’s member-owner meeting at the Haydenville Congregational Church, the River Valley Market Board announced they have closed on financing to build the River Valley Market cooperative, and will begin store construction this month!

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Hilltown Families > Winter Activities > Sledding

Hilltown Families enjoyed sledding at the Worthington Golf Club in Worthington, MA on Sunday following a pancake breakfast at Red Bucket Sugar Shack.

After dropping the kids off at school or their homeschool progam, drop on over to Elmer’s and enjoy an informal breakfast, tea or just coffee in the company of other hilltown parents. A good opportunity to meet other parents with grade school children and to discuss the issues around their education and development.

Elmer’s has wireless access to the internet.  If you want to join mom’s working on-line then bring your lap tops too.

Elmer’s Store is located at 396 Main Street in Ashfield, MA. A warm and inviting place to get together for breakfast and/or conversation.

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Kids Will Gobble Up These Books!


The Healthy Body CookbookThe The Healthy Body Cookbook: Over 50 Fun Activities and Delicious Recipes for Kids provides more than 50 fun activities and delicious recipes that kids can try in four easy-to-digest sections.

  • Discovering the Kitchen introduces young readers to the tools of the trade; cooking skills (cutting, measuring, mixing, and more); and safety rules for using the stove, the microwave, and knives.
  • Your Amazing Body introduces recipes for developing healthy hearts, muscles, bones, teeth, hair, and more. The authors provide a hands-on science activity to introduce each section, along with three or four recipes. Each recipe has detailed instructions that kids can follow, and each is coded according to difficulty. (One chef’s hat indicates an “easy” recipe and three hats indicate a recipe for a “pro.”)
  • Staying Healthy provides recipes related to the food guide pyramid, maintaining a healthy weight, and fighting disease with foods.
  • Appendices explore the nutrient contents of the recipes provided, reading food labels, and food poisoning. A glossary pulls it all together.

D’Amico and Drummond open each section of their book with activities that would make great additions to any elementary or middle school curriculum. An activity that directs kids to create their own stethoscopes introduces the Have a Healthy Heart section. Kids map their teeth in an activity that opens Look Mom, No Cavities!

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Red Bucket Sugar Shack (Worthington, MA)

The sap is flowing and the sugar shacks are all fired up. Get your maple experience while the sap lasts. There will be a Hilltown Families Social at Red Bucket Sugar Shack in Worthington, MA, on Sunday. And at Arcadia Mass Audubon in Easthampton there is a maple education class scheduled for this Saturday.

Hilltown mother’s will be rockin’ the hills all week long. Katryna & Nerissa Nields of Conway will be performing on Friday, Sarah Stockwell of Cummington on Saturday and Marla BB of West Chesterfield on Tuesday. Read on to find out places and time…

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Should Sixth Grade Be in Elementary or Middle School?

A recent study found that sixth graders in middle schools fare worse than their peers in elementary schools. It also found that the negative effects of grouping sixth graders with older students are lasting and persist at least through ninth grade

Sixth graders placed in middle schools have more discipline problems and lower test scores than their peers who attend elementary schools, according to a study by researchers at Duke University and the University of California, Berkeley.

In addition, the negative effects of grouping sixth graders with older students are lasting and persist at least through ninth grade.

“These findings cast serious doubt on the wisdom of the historic nationwide shift to the grades 6-8 middle school format,” said Philip Cook, Duke professor of public policy and economics and an author of the paper.

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Tell Scholastic: Stop Selling Bratz in Schools

BratzThe Bratz – a line of highly sexualized dolls for girls as young as four are – being marketed in schools by Scholastic, Inc. Scholastic promotes Bratz through its book fairs and book clubs, selling titles such as Lil’ Bratz Dancin Divas; Lil’ Bratz Catwalk Cuties; and Lil’ Bratz Beauty Sleepover Bash to a captive audience of young students.

The Bratz – whose wardrobes include miniskirts, fishnet stockings, and bikinis – were recently singled out the by American Psychological Association (APA) for contributing to the sexualization of young girls. Click here to read the APA’s report.

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Visitation days for parents who wish to observe any class at the Anne T. Dunphy School and Helen E. James School in Williamsburg, MA, will be held

  • March 6th
  • March 7th
  • March 8th
  • March 13th
  • March 14th

This is a nice opportunity for parents to see what school looks like in the older grades.


March 30th is kindergarten registration day.
On this day, next year’s kindergarten students get to visit the kindergarten classroom with a small group of peers while families get a chance to talk to our staff about the kindergarten program.

For more information call 268-8421.

All Together Singing in the Kitchen

With their children at their sides Nerissa and Katryna Nields of Conway, MA, performed a family show to a packed house at the Jones Library in Amherst as part of the library’s 30th annual Children’s Music Series.

Better known as “The Nields” this local sister duo recently released a kid’s music CD of traditional and original folk music titled, All Together Singing in the Kitchen. It has a wonderful collection of music with traditional songs, like “Alkendrum,” “Hop Up Ladies,” and Tom Paxton’s “Going to the Zoo;” along with a few rocking original tunes like Nerissa’s “Anna Kick a Hole in the Sky.”

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Massachusetts health care plan moving forward

BOSTON (AP) — The average uninsured Massachusetts resident could obtain health care coverage for as little as $175 a month under the state’s insurance law, less than half of earlier estimates, officials said Saturday.

The plans are a critical piece of the state’s landmark insurance initiative, which requires all state residents to have health coverage by July 1, 2007, or face tax penalties. Some insurers had suggested earlier that the premium would be $380 a month.

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March is Women’s History Month

March is National Women’s History Month. If you’re looking to supplement your child’s education or develop a lesson plan for your classroom, there are plenty of on-line resources, lessons and activities that parents and teachers can use to get their children involved in the study of women’s contributions to the world.

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Elmer’s Mardi Gras Party in Ashfield
Photo Credit: Victoria Worth

“I LOVE this site! I’m so glad I found it. Thank you for the links to Jesse James’s article and for the one to Hilltown’s Homeschool group. Next month my husband and I will be moving to Northampton with our 6 year old son, whom I homeschool … I’m excited about being a part of this community!” – Kyra Anderson

We welcome your comments!

Readers are warmly welcomed and encouraged to contribute their ideas, photos from local events, suggested resources, articles, Q&A’s, etc., to Hilltown Families. Either post your comments on our Community Bulletin board or email them to

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MotherWoman LogoMotherWoman, Inc. is a local non-profit organization based out of Amhert, MA, that provides psycho-educational support programs that create communities where mothers develop the confidence, self-esteem, knowledge, and practical skills they need to care for themselves and their children with awareness, strength, compassion and non-violence.

After receiving a grant for $13,330 MotherWoman is now able to offer free comprehensive Postpartum Depression Prevention and Support Programs, serving mothers in the hilltowns and Pioneer Valley.
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beflyer.jpgPastries, coffee and friends! What more could parents want on a Thursday morning (other than an hour more of sleep, folded laundry, a clean house, a completed to-do-list, a vacation to the island … but never mind all that!)?

On your way down from the hills into the valley, Hilltown Families invites you to drop in to Bread Euphoria in Haydenville for an a.m. social with other hilltown parents. Treat yourself to a cup of fair trade coffee or tea, an organic pastry, (they even have gluten free muffins!) chat a bit, and be on your way with your day… only a little merrier!

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Listen Listen and Listen Some More
by Joe Kelly for Dads & Daughters

Girls tend to be a riddle to fathers. Like any mystery, the relationship with our daughter can be frightening, exciting, entertaining, baffling, enlightening or leave us completely in the dark; sometimes all at once. If we want to unravel this mystery, we have to pay attention and listen, even in the most ordinary moments.

Why? Because a girl’s voice may be the most valuable and most threatened resource she has. Her voice is the conduit for her heart, brains, and spirit … Dads must help nurture these qualities…

To read more of this article visit

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Jewish Book Week

prose1.jpgIt’s Jewish Book Week, and in London a literary festival is held to promote Jewish books and writing. The festival might be in the UK, but we here in Western Mass can enjoy them on-line.

Jewish Book Week
Website for this UK literary festival (late February/early March) promoting Jewish books and writing. In addition to details about current and past events, the site contains reviews of fiction, nonfiction, and children’s books with Jewish themes. From the Jewish Book Council, a group “promot[ing] the reading of books on all aspects of Jewish thought and culture.” [(c) 2007 LII]

On their website they will be including lesson plans for different age groups which will be available for parents/teachers to download and use with their children/classes. Also on their site they have a section of new children’s books they frequently update.

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(c) AJ Kandy - CCL

“In the heated debates about testing, it’s easy to forget that tests are supposed to be tools for learning,” says Linda Stearn, managing editor of

Highlights from’s recent newsletter give tips on how both children and parents can prepare for tests administered in their schools. They make an honest attempt to demystify the different tests by giving a primer to explain their purpose and how to interpret the results. It’s a good read for any parent concerned about testing in our public schools. Read More

After a week off from school I’m sure many parents children are itching to get back into their daily routine. This past week was a lot of fun for those little snow-bunnies. Sledding, skiing, ice skating – the whole lot of winter wonderland activities could have been enjoyed … that’s if you stayed in New England. Those poor children who were forced to head south to the lands of sand and sun missed out on all that icy, cold fun. Poor kids …

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The Gateway Regional School Committee has announced that it will again hold meetings in all seven district towns during this school year, so that town officials and area residents will have greater access to those meetings. But discussion on the issue focused on the lack of attendance at those meetings, and the committee will consider whether or not to continue this practice for next year.

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