A Tale of Some Children's Books

My mom loves telling the story of when I first learned to read. It’s a simple one, but she loves it nonetheless. When I was a child, she would read to me every night before going to sleep. One night when I was about four or five she was too tired and, jokingly, she asked me to read to her instead. Much to her surprise, I actually did. She always tells the story with such joy and pride, explaining that she didn’t expect me to know how to read already.

I’m guessing my love of reading started with those bedtime stories and for years I’ve kept the books I read as a child. I never wanted to give them away, initially for purely sentimental reasons but after awhile, I figured it would be best to give them somewhere where they could truly be appreciated….to someone who would take the time to read to children like my mom and dad always did for me. 

And so my sister-in-law and I prepared a box full of my books and other educational toys that we could donate to an organization promoting education and literacy for the children of the Philippines. We had been talking about doing something like this for awhile but only now with my trip back home were we actually able to put our plans into action.

Museo Pambata (which translates to the Museum for Children) is one such organization that does exactly what we were looking for.  As the name indicates, it is a museum…but it is unlike all others in that it’s completely interactive and hands-on, promoting an alternative way of learning for children, especially for those who have no access to formal education. What interested me the most though was their literacy program. In addition to their in house library that’s open to all children, the museum also has a mobile library that travels around the impoverished areas of metro Manila reading to the children of those villages. That’s where I really wanted my books to go.

Just before leaving the Philippines, I made the trip over to Museo Pambata where I was greeted by Kikay and Pamela, two street children who were there volunteering at the library to read to other children visiting the museum. And in an instant, I knew my much beloved books had found a home…

Watch the video below for a tour of Manila’s Museo Pambata.

For more information about the museum, visit

The News...eum?

It's been awhile since my trip to D.C. (a month already, whaaat?!?!) but I can’t go without blogging about my visit to the Newseum. And yes, you read that name correctly and why yes, I am a nerd. Now it’s exactly what it sounds like…it’s a museum completely dedicated to the news, its history, the remarkable individuals who write and broadcast it, and all the forms of media it encompasses:  print, television, radio, and now, the Internet.

At the risk of being labeled as the biggest geek in the world, I would just like to say that I have never been to a museum so interactive, relevant, and emotionally-charged as this one. Let me start with interactive. For me, the Newseum epitomized everything that Web 2.0 is all about but in a real, concrete, and physical way. All the videos that they showed, for instance, were quick and hip, but incredibly informative with a real potential to be a viral hit. Most importantly, however, it fully accomplished its goal of educating its viewers of what ever topic was being covered (ie: the history of the news, the Fifth Amendment Rights, photojournalism...)

Take a video of yourself as a TV reporter!

But it wasn’t just the catchy videos! The Newseum also had interactive games that could entertain anyone of any age. Again, all while educating their visitors. One of these games gave you the chance to look at what goes through a typical photojournalists’ day: taking photos at the scene of a news breaking event, editing them and choosing which goes through to publication, and submitting them for approval. You could even take a video of yourself as a TV reporter, teleprompter and green screen and all! But my favorite was the “Share your comments” kiosks that could be found all around the different exhibitions. Using a touch screen computer, visitors could instantly post their thoughts of the specific exhibition and/or read other peoples’ comments. Real time feedback! Sound familiar?

And speaking of real-time, Newseum, true to the industry that it's dedicated to, was incredibly relevant. It fully embraced the move to digital media with videos and exhibitions completely dedicated to the rise of citizen journalism and blogging...something many traditional media houses struggle with today. But even more astonishing was that they had computers that displayed the day's front page of what seemed to be every single newspaper around the world. I can't even imagine the amount of work it takes to have to update all that information on a daily basis!

Finally, as I said in the beginning of my post, this was an incredibly emotionally charged museum. Yes, it was fun, hip, and interactive, but that didn't take away from the depth that is the work of journalists. At the Journalists Memorial, the names and photos of every single journalist that has died since 1837 was displayed, serving as a powerful and stark reminder of the dangers that journalists face every single day to get their story out to the masses. 88 died reporting the news in 2009 alone. We don't always remember or even recognize just how valuable their work is: exposing corruption, reporting in conflict zones, being in the thick of natural disasters...they put their lives on the line everyday to ensure that the world knows what's going on. They are our every day heroes.

Journalists Memorial

Now you all know I'm a writer and the written word is something I can truly relate to. But there's something to be said about the power of a photograph. The Pulitzer Prize Photograph exhibition was really like nothing else. The raising of Old Glory on Iwo Jima, Nick Út's famous photo of the children in Southern Vietnam running after a napalm attack, the shooting of Harry Lee Oswald...with hundreds of photographs displayed, the exhibition captured the moments of history that changed the world. And um, I know this sounds cheesy but I actually cried. Standing in front of Kevin Carter's all too famous photo of the small Sudanese child in a crouched position with the vulture lurking behind, I couldn't stop myself. Not only is the photo itself so powerfully tragic but so too is the story behind it and the photographer's story. So heartbreaking. So harrowing.

The Pulitzer Prize for Photography Exhibition

So if you're ever in D.C., please visit the Newseum. It's well worth the trip and the knowledge you'll walk away with is so much richer than what you'll get out of your typical museum. I promise!