The importance of storytelling in music

The importance of storytelling in music

Skills-based or theme-based? Which method is more effective when sharing music in the early years? Should it matter? Why? Since 2006, I have done both – and even been criticised. For both. However, my students (of all ages!) responded best to...
Why strong female role models are important

Why strong female role models are important

Upon deciding to write a superhero story, I was in no doubt that I wanted to write about a female. The inspiration for the story and the name of the superhero come from a project in junior school where my classmates and I wrote about ‘Ultra-Man’. We never discussed the possibility of a female superhero and that was not our shortcoming alone, but a shortcoming shared with all of society and Hollywood too. In the twenty years that have passed, women’s roles within superhero movies have taken a few steps forward. Wonder Woman was a huge part of that. However, in spite of Gal Gadot’s excellently received movie; women are still overlooked, misused and underpaid in Hollywood films, especially superhero movies.

Wonder Woman is in the DC Universe, which also features Harley Quinn, Katana, Enchantress and Catwoman. All of these characters are less important than their male counterparts though – and in the cases of Harley Quinn and Catwoman – exist purely to provide conflict and/or romance with the men.

DC’s competitor Marvel fares a little better, but none of their females have their own movies. They are limited to guest starring in the guys’ films – such as Black Widow in Captain America. In fact, until the introduction of Scarlett Witch, Black Widow was the sole female member of The Avengers. One day, she may get her own movie, but it will be after most of her male co-stars have their own trilogies completed. There are two other female heroes and a female villain in the newest Avengers movie, but it’s still a very masculine-heavy two and a half hours.

TV series are doing better, with Marvel’s Agent Carter and DC’s Supergirl bringing in viewers and receiving positive feedback in recent times.

My hope is that with my new book, ‘Ultra-Girl’ featuring both a female hero and a female villain, it will inspire a new generation of children. Boys and girls alike. My school visits encourage kids to really think about equality; teaching students that it is neither boys nor girls who are stronger – but that it depends on the individual. I use the example of myself versus Wonder Woman, a fight I would certainly lose!

In a world where authors such as Joanne Rowling are forced to publish using their initials rather than their first name for fear that their books won’t sell; feminism is still regarded as a somewhat dirty word. People seem to be embarrassed by it, fearing it because of a huge misunderstanding of what exactly it stands for. Feminism means equality, it’s clearly that simple. There is still a lot of work to do going forward, and we all owe it to society and ourselves to do everything we can.

There are two trailers for new animated movies circulating currently, one is for Disney’s Wreck-It Ralph 2 and the other, also a sequel, is for The Lego Movie 2. Both of these trailers feature a reference to feminism (or lack of it). Disney’s trailer questions the main female character of being a real princess and the discussion ends with the question “Does everyone assume that all your problems were solved by a big strong man showing up?” Vanellope agrees that this was the case and is accepted as a Disney Princess on this basis. The Lego Movie sequel hints at the female lead, Wildstyle, having a lesser part in the movie than Emmet, the male lead, even though she did most of the ‘heavy lifting’. These are passed off as jokes in the trailer, and people will laugh – but hopefully the very real point being made will hit home with audiences, script writers and studio executives alike. It’s time for females to be given lead roles in movies starring men, instead of female entourage movies only, such as Ghostbusters and Ocean’s Eight.

Ultra-Girl will be ready by the end of the year and I will be continuing the female lead with stories published in Parenta’s own magazines as well as in my re-telling of the classic Peter Pan story told from Tinker Bell’s perspective. Ultra-Girl herself will appear in future books as the leader of a group of superhero children, enlisted by the government to fight crime around the country.

About the author

Richard has been writing for as long as he can remember. English was a subject he enjoyed in school as it just made sense to him. He loved to read and requested his own bedroom so that he could have a bookcase! His favourite childhood authors included Enid Blyton, R. L. Stine, M. D. Spenser, and Charles Dickens.

Characters, stories and even words he has taken in through all of those books have stayed with Richard for two decades. He firmly believes that books are integral in a person’s upbringing and that those experiences will stay with them throughout their lives.

He can recall parts of those books in their entirety, from the tone of voice described by the author to certain scenes from The Famous Five or Secret Seven. Richard loves fiction and the idea of escaping and therefore creating an escape for a reader is the very reason he writes.

Richard has written four books, three in the Fluffy the Magic Penguin series and a stand-alone book called ‘The Secret Passageway’.

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/richarddodd.author/

Email: Richard.dodd@upburypress.co.uk

Website: www.upburypress.co.uk


From parenthood to childcare provision

From parenthood to childcare provision

Boys & Girls Nursery has been running for 10 years and provides childcare across four sites – Croxley Green, Rickmansworth, Stanmore and Watford.  Rated ‘good’ by Ofsted, the nursery group cares for children from 0 to 5 years old. The curriculum provided at the four settings includes weekly French lessons as well as music and movement sessions.

Natasha Kirby, the founder of Boys & Girls Nursery group, explains more about how the setting has grown from humble beginnings.

When was Boys & Girls Nursery established and how has it grown?

After working in childcare from the age of 16, I established the first Boys & Girls Nursery in Watford in 2007. I opened my own nursery because I realised that a better service for childcare should be available.

Croxley Green - Dinosaur Play

Croxley Green – Dinosaur Play

As a parent to 3 little girls, I know we all want the very best for our children and when we can’t be with them, we need to be absolutely certain they’re receiving care and attention from a team of highly qualified, caring professionals who are passionate about what they do.

We now have four thriving nurseries in Croxley Green, Rickmansworth, Stanmore and Watford. Together, with our dedicated team of 150 staff, we’ve been able to create a uniquely nurturing and informal environment and have established a reputation as a leading childcare provider in the areas we operate. We pride ourselves on being #expertsinchildcare.

What is the nursery’s ethos and what values does it promote?

Our mission is to nurture and develop every individual child at their own pace so that when they move on to the next step in their education, they do so with confidence in themselves and their abilities with the knowledge that learning is fun.

At Boys & Girls Nursery we have a long list of things we care about and at the top of the list are our boys and girls. We understand that no two children are the same and that they all have their own likes, dislikes and personalities. By caring for and meeting the needs of every individual to the best of our ability, we know every child can flourish, learn and have fun whilst enjoying a sense of belonging and community.

What aspect of the nursery are you most proud of?

Croxley Green - Water Wall

Croxley Green – Water Wall

Our family-run nursery group has been born out of hard work and a desire to make sure that only the best care is available for your children and I am extremely proud of the team that provide this at our nurseries.

What do parents say they love most about your setting?

We receive feedback every day from our parents. The most common compliment is our fantastic team! This includes our room-based teams who provide a wide variety of songs, stories and fun activities, our fabulous chefs who serve delicious home-made meals every day, our office team who welcome everyone with a smile and our maintenance men who keep the nurseries in tip-top condition.

In what ways do you strengthen your partnership with parents?

At Boys & Girls Nursery we work with parents to support children’s learning.  We have an open door policy and there is always someone at reception to greet parents, children and visitors.  We have a fortnightly newsletter that informs parents of any upcoming events, internal and industry news.  A parent feedback questionnaire is sent annually to current parents and we base the results as our aims and objectives for the upcoming year.

Twice a year we hold parent evenings, this gives parents the opportunity to talk to their child’s key person about their child’s learning and development. This is in addition to detailed daily handovers when their child attends a session.

We have recently introduced a ‘Marble Jar’ at the nursery reception. This new concept allows us to reach out to parents by simply asking a question that requires a ‘Yes’ or ‘No’ answer. An example of a recent question was ‘Do you understand the role of a Key Person?’. We would then take the opportunity in our fortnightly newsletter to explain the role of a Key Person and put improvements in place if required.

Find out more about Boys & Girls Nursery here

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