9-Year-Old Designs Scarf-cum-Weather-Chart

Nine-year-old Rebecca Ryan from Seattle thought the summer of 2014 was pretty and warm, not rainy and cold like the reputation of her home town implies. She came up with a craft project to track the daily temperatures in the form of a knitted scarf. She assigned a color to a given temperature range and asked her mother to knit a stripe each day in the correct color.

Seattle weather scarf by Kate and Rebecca Ryan

Kate and Rebecca Ryan; via Komo News.

Seattle weather scarf by Kate and Rebecca Ryan

Kate and Rebecca Ryan; via Komo News.

Found via Komo News, reported by Scott Sistek.

What a great combination: an article of clothing, a craft project and a colorful record of the year’s temperatures! Kudos!

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Autism and Photography

To document the often bizarre and incomprehensible world of his son, photographer Timothy Archibald has been photographing his autistic son Elijah from age 5. It started with taking photos of the repetitive behaviors or rituals that Elijah exhibited. Then it turned into something more:

“When Archibald showed him a photo of one of his behaviors, Elijah suggested doing it in another way or another place. Both father and son were very interested in the process through which they could get a good photo. ‘We had this mutual sense of discovery,’ Archibald says.”

Elijah has in time become a more active participant, helping to brainstorm and set up the photoshoots. Mr. Archibald named the project Echolilia. These photograph sessions sound transformative for them, because through them

“…father and son create their own visual language, thanks to which they can communicate with each other even when there are no words they both can understand. In fact, Elijah receives positive attention for his rituals, can share something with his dad, and has even started to take his own photos.”

Autism Photos Timothy Archibald

Timothy Archibald.

Autism Photo2 Timothy Archibald

Timothy Archibald.

More Echolilia photos on Mr. Archibald’s website. Reporting via SNAP and Lomography.

Because communication matters. Because making a connection with other people matters.

Most Children’s Books Are Still about White Boys?

In her blog post published in Huffington Post, writer Soraya Chemaly cites a 2011 Florida State University (FSU) study that found 100 years of gender bias in children’s books. The FSU team analyzed nearly 6,000 books published from 1900 to 2000 – which makes it the most comprehensive study of 20th century children’s books ever undertaken in the U.S. – and found clear bias towards men and boys as lead characters. The post gives some core findings from the study:

“A girl’s imagination and literary life would be a stark and barren place if she didn’t learn early on to read books about boys, put herself in boys’ shoes and enjoy them. As with other aspects of socially sanctioned behavior, children’s ability to cross-gender empathize is a one-way street — girls have to do it and boys learn not to. People are married to enduring ideas about ‘otherness’ when it comes to masculinity and a big part of being a ‘real boy’ is disdaining stories, books, movies, and games … about girls.”

“Researcher Isabelle Cherney found that half of boys ages 5-13 picked ‘girl’ and ‘boy’ toys equally… unless they were being watched. They were especially concerned about what their fathers would think of them if they saw them. Over time, boys’ interests in toys and media become more rigidly masculinized, whereas girls’ stay relatively open-ended and flexible. Think of the implications of storytelling on that pattern and what it means for social skills development, adaptability, work-life issues and more.”

Ms. Chemaly argues that media that distorts reality in this way hurts everyone. She says:

“Boys aren’t responsible for the perpetuation of media injustices or their effects. The problem is not boys, but cultural habits that disproportionately favor them.”

“As children grow up, girls’ media marginalization becomes more acute and racialized. We seem incapable and unwilling to deeply consider the societal effects of dysfunctional, stereotype-plagued media. Without fail, when I talk or write about this and focus on girls, the first response I get is ‘What about the boy crisis?’ It’s remarkable. So, what about the boys who are over-represented in media as valued and worthy, albeit, too often, hyper-masculinized? I think that while benefits can accrue to them as a class, by imparting a sense of confidence and entitlement, the effects on individual boys can be awful.”

Ms. Chemaly’s final point is golden:

“We are a storytelling species, and symbolic representation and visibility are crucially important to the way we structure society. Exposing children to diversity in media encourages them to learn about people who are “different” and to understand why that difference isn’t the foundation of hierarchy, but community.”

Because a person’s genitals do not determine their behavior, their upbringing does. Because we’re not just girls and boys or women and men, we’re people.

World’s Best Father Photos

Photographer Dave Engledow has been taking humorous, irreverent, wonderful photos of and with his daughter throughout her (currently four years of) life. Working with his wife Jen, his aim is to depict fatherhood and capture life with a baby / toddler. The Engledows’ project has achieved far-flung fame: apart from newspapers, magazines and websites around the world, their work has appeared on the Today Show and Good Morning Germany, and a book titled Confessions of the World’s Best Father was published in May 2014.

The photo that started it all:

World's Best Father

Dave & Jen Engledow.

They also take irreverent photos like this one:

World's Best Father

Dave & Jen Engledow.

(I did mention irreverent, right?) Both photos from the Engledow Tumblr (here and here).

Mr. Engledow explains how it all started:

“In February 2011, my wife Jen and I created a photograph that would literally alter the course of our lives.  Our daughter Alice Bee was 66 days old at the time, and even though Jen and I had gotten over our initial amazement that 63 days earlier the nurses at the hospital had allowed two such obviously ill-prepared people to walk out with a newborn child, we were both still feeling an almost constant anxiety about our total cluelessness around raising (or is it rearing?  I always get those mixed-up) an infant.  Additionally, we were both exhausted, constantly afraid that we were screwing up (a fear, I’ve since learned never really goes away), and completely and totally in love with each other and with our wonderful, amazing, beautiful daughter who we both agreed was the most perfect thing either of us had ever seen.

“The sleeplessness combined with the cluelessness and constant fears of failure were causing me to do what I always do when confronted with things I don’t understand or don’t like—find a way to make fun of those things.  The constant joking about these feelings of inadequacy ultimately led to my decision to create an image that captured new fatherhood by showing exactly how out of it I felt as a new father.”

“Jen and I are grateful for all of the unexpected attention and subsequent exposure given to our images, but for us the most pleasurable aspect of all of this is the continual support and encouragement we receive from people all over the world.  I genuinely had no idea that so many people would connect with our family’s offbeat sense of humor, and for me, this has been by far the most rewarding aspect of having a much larger audience for our work.”

See more on his Facebook page or Tumblr.

Because why couldn’t art emulate the imagination of children. Because playfulness and curiosity are how the human race has gotten this far.