Want Smart Kids? Start the ABCs of Reading Early

By Qin Sun Stubis

During the first few months of their lives, infants are practically immobile and spend a lot of time lying on their backs in the crib. Their world is limited to their immediate surroundings, the crib, the nursery, the house, and you. And their tender bodies and minds depend completely on you for nourishment.

When born with hearing and sight, babies can listen and see long before they are able to sit, stand, crawl and babble. When they are not asleep, they listen and survey what’s around them. Imagine picking up your little precious bundle, cradling her in your loving arms and reading to her. Your voice provides both stimulation and comfort. You’ve also made books part of your child’s life from day one.

Babies’ first books are as essential and vital to their existence as their infant formula and puréed vegetables and fruits. They are the nutrition to these young minds and souls. So, when you attend a baby shower, shower the expecting parents with your favorite childhood books. And, before you attend a child’s birthday party, head to a bookstore and pick out some exciting, colorful reading.

As infants grow and evolve into toddlers, kindergarteners, and teenagers, their book collection should also grow with them, catering to their new needs and interests. Therefore, it is very important to review and update what is on their bookshelves, the way you do with racks of clothes in their closets.

Reading to your children is a wonderful way to spend meaningful family time. The more you read, the more they learn. Their curious minds go on expeditions with you, exploring every corner of the world right there in your own home. So, why not do it every day? Why not make reading together a family tradition?

We cannot wait and start to worry about our children’s reading and writing ability only when we see them struggling with school assignments, getting a bad grade in English, or performing poorly on the SAT. Reading every day for life promotes their language skills, scope of knowledge, and analytical ability. It also teaches them to be inquisitive and curious about much more of our world.

Books will always be our children’s best friends. Learning starts right at home. This March, let’s celebrate the Read Across America Day and Dr. Seuss’s 115th birthday by reading books to our children. Let’s make family reading part of our lives.


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A Ton of Love Delivered to Abandoned Animals

When you add up the number of animals impacted during this winter’s deep freeze and the concern about how the recent federal partial shutdown affected families, including pets, there’s a lot of need in the nation’s capital.

To bring a little warmth, love, and most especially, food to animals in need in the District, including those families with pets impacted by the recent government shutdown, American Humane, the country’s first national humane organization, and Chicken Soup for the Soul Pet Food today delivered a ton of much-needed food to the Humane Rescue Alliance in Washington, D.C. The donation will help support the organization’s Pet Pantry program, created to help support DC residents in caring for their pets by providing free, supplemental pet food to help reduce the financial burden associated with pet care.

This is the latest donation in an ambitious national campaign called “Fill-a-Bowl… Feed-a-Soul™”. Together, American Humane and Chicken Soup for the Soul are distributing more than one million meals annually of all-natural Chicken Soup for the Soul Pet Food to U.S. shelters and pet food distribution centers, which house, feed and care for millions of animals each year.

“We are very grateful to American Humane and Chicken Soup for the Soul for this generous donation,” said Kimberly Keller, chief development officer for the Humane Rescue Alliance, which valiantly handed out free pet food to federal workers and others in need during the shutdown, “This donated food will help sustain many animals, as well as prepare us for anything that might happen.”

“This campaign helps animals and affected families when they need help most,” said Robin Ganzert, Ph.D., president and CEO of American Humane. “Thank you to Chicken Soup for the Soul and the Humane Rescue Alliance for all their support in helping our best friends in their worst times.”

Chicken Soup for the Soul Pet Food CEO Chris Mitchell said, “We’re pleased that we can provide assistance to animals in need and we are glad to be working with American Humane on this vital campaign that can help save lives.”

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The Chinese Zodiac: My Birth Animal and Me

By Qin Sun Stubis
(originally published in The Santa Monica Star)

Five thousand years of Chinese culture and tradition stand tall and strong like the Great Wall, today welcoming with open arms all curious minds inside or outside the “Middle Kingdom,” and ready to prescribe meaning to all human lives from birth to death.

Even in the modern era in different parts of the world, people can learn to use the Chinese lens of yin and yang to see their world like the ancient Chinese did. They can understand the harmony that balances the five basic elements of water, wood, fire, earth, and metal.

With the arrival of another Chinese New Year, many people’s imaginations are captured by the twelve signs of the eastern Zodiac with its colorful parade of animals consisting of the mouse, ox, tiger, rabbit, dragon, snake, horse, sheep, monkey, rooster, dog, and pig.

Each new Lunar New Year marks the arrival of a new Zodiac sign. On February 5, we will say goodbye to the Year of the Dog and welcome the Year of the Pig.

These Chinese Zodiac creatures are not just cute, cartoonish drawings. They arrive every year to bring us astrological predictions and guide us through the perils of life. A big celebration of the New Year ensures yearlong prosperity and helps conquer any obstacles along the way.

For the last two thousand years, all Chinese babies have entered the world accompanied by their very own birth animal. Although those born in the same year share the same Zodiac sign, the character of that birth animal is uniquely individualized based on a combination of factors such as the birth time, date, season, weather, and even location.

For the Chinese, their birth animal often becomes an integral part of their lives, starting at a tender age. Different interpretations of the character of that animal often affect how a child is seen from birth, which can then turn into fulfilling prophecies of who someone eventually becomes.

I, for example, was born a mouse on a midsummer’s night. My mother considered my birth symbol to be diligent and hard-working because a night mouse was a working mouse. So she named me Qin for diligence. I was brought up surrounded by people believing in my diligence.

What if I were born during the day in the autumn or winter? What kind of personality would the adults have forced upon me? Would I have become a very different person as a result? Sometimes I cannot help but wonder. Nevertheless, I’ve become a mouse, a working mouse, a diligent mouse, in this life time. I have become my Zodiac sign, and my Zodiac sign has become me.

What is your Zodiac sign? Does it match your personality? This Chinese New Year is a perfect time to get acquainted with your birth animal.

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Dramatic Cat Rescue Made Possible by Marta Heflin Foundation

Seventy-two beautiful cats and kittens are safe and sound from nature’s fury after being evacuated from a shelter in the path of monster Hurricane Florence in September, thanks to the generous support of the Marta Heflin Foundation. The foundation provided a lifesaving grant to support the national American Humane Rescue team’s dramatic rescue of the animals who were in the path of the deadly storm.

The American Humane Rescue team, which has been saving animals in disasters for more than 100 years, rushed to pick up dozens and dozens of vulnerable pets at shelters in South Carolina and drove them more than 800 miles to safe havens in New York and Connecticut where they found lifesaving refuge from the storm and, just as important, the chance to find forever homes.

As the storm neared, the rescue involved efforts by a host of dedicated professionals and volunteers, including American Humane President and CEO Robin Ganzert, Ph.D.

The American Humane Rescue program has been involved in virtually every major relief effort over the past 100 years, including World War I when it rescued wounded horses on the battlefields of Europe, the Great Ohio Flood of 1937, Pearl Harbor, Hurricane Katrina, the 9/11 terror attacks, the Japanese earthquake, tsunami and nuclear disaster, Superstorm Sandy, the killer tornadoes in Joplin and Oklahoma, the Louisiana and West Virginia floods, and most recently, the California wildfires and Hurricanes Harvey, Irma, Florence and Michael.

“From staggering mass cruelty cases to ever more frequent natural disasters, so many animals are in crisis,” said Dr. Ganzert. “We are grateful to the Marta Heflin Foundation for coming to the aid of so many animals and helping us help our best friends in their worst times.”

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Slowing Down Time

By Qin Sun Stubis

When I was a little girl, I felt my days were extraordinarily long and slow moving. Every time I waited for something to happen, it was like an eternity. “Be more patient,” adults often told me,

“You still have your whole life ahead of you.” But, silently I always asked myself: Will life always be this slow?

School days tended to drag on, and summer months would never end. I couldn’t wait to grow up and be empowered so I could finally do the things I wanted to do, instead of listening and obeying orders.

My worst fear was that I might be trapped in childhood forever and never grow up because time was passing too slowly.

When I finally escaped into adolescence, my life thankfully started to speed up. From then on, it took off like a fast train, accelerating without ever slowing down. It flew by the stations of high school, college, jobs and graduate school. It even sped across oceans and continents from China to the United States. I wanted time to slow down so I could think and contemplate. I wanted to savor so many precious moments that were flying by me all too quickly. But, I could not find the brake pedal on that train of life.

Can time expand and contract? In theory, no. If there is anything that is given fairly and equally to all human beings here on Earth, it is the essential nature of time. Be we poor or rich, loving or scornful, innocent or experienced, we are given the same exact 24 hours daily to study and work, struggle and thrive, and enjoy and endure. And, for as long as we live, our years will be made of 365 days.

As we have only one planet to live on and always rotate around the same sun and moon, we all share the same mechanism of time. Whether our lives are regulated by a digital watch or an analog clock, a lunar or solar calendar, our time progresses in synchrony.

If, indeed, time never changes, then why does my day hasten in speed as I grow from being a child to an adult? Why? As I contemplate, it occurs to me that, in a sense, time does change, and it does expand and contract as we move forward. Imagine someone who strolls along his entire life path versus another who runs it in marathon fashion.

Maybe I’m the one who has packed too much into my schedule, causing my days, months and years to fly by. Maybe, all along, I have had that brake pedal but never used it to slow down the rhythm of my life. Maybe life is not all about how fast you can move, but how much you can take in and enjoy.

You can always reach me at qstubis@gmail.com.

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Holiday Love Delivered to Animals in Need

The holidays will be a little brighter for hundreds of abandoned animals without forever homes who are waiting in a local refuge for a second chance at life. American Humane, the country’s first national humane organization, and Chicken Soup for the Soul Pet Food delivered a ton of love in the form of much-needed nutritious food to abandoned animals being temporarily housed by rescue group Animal Aid USA at Camp Animal Aid in Blackshear, Georgia.

This is the latest donation in an ambitious national campaign called “Fill-a-Bowl… Feed-a-Soul™” to help care for shelter pets waiting for their forever homes. Together, American Humane and Chicken Soup for the Soul are distributing more than one million meals annually of all-natural Chicken Soup for the Soul Pet Food to U.S. shelters and pet food distribution centers, which house, feed and care for millions of animals each year.

“We are tremendously grateful to American Humane and Chicken Soup for the Soul for this generous donation,” said Karen Talbot, the founder of Animal Aid USA, which has rescued nearly 30,000 abandoned animals and continues to rescue more than 300 a month. “This donated food will help sustain and brighten the holidays for many animals who do not yet have a forever home.”

“This campaign helps animals when they need help most,” said Robin Ganzert, PhD, president and CEO of American Humane. “For what they are doing to help these pets during the holidays and so many more who need and deserve our help and love all year round, a big thank-you to our friends at Chicken Soup for the Soul!”

Chicken Soup for the Soul Pet Food CEO Chris Mitchell said, “We’re pleased that we can provide assistance to animals in need and we are glad to be working with American Humane on this vital campaign that will save so many lives.”

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My One Must-Have for the Holidays

By Qin Sun Stubis

It’s December again. The end of yet another year is drawing near. Like determined, migrating flocks heading for their winter destinations, we drive and fly across cities, states, and even continents, bound for the places we can be with our loved ones to celebrate another holiday season.

It’s the time of the year when families and friends gather together to reconnect, share a meal, and enjoy some meaningful conversation. And of course, our holiday celebrations would not be complete without gift-giving. By the time this holiday season will be over, it is estimated that the average shopper will have spent seven hundred dollars for these precious packages.

How to spend my money meaningfully during the holiday season is a question I ask every year. Growing up poor in China, I was taught never to waste our precious financial resources. By habit, I try hard to come up with a shopping list with some amazing gift ideas before I embark on my mission. Ideally, I want all my presents to be extra meaningful, special, and sensible.

Reality, however, sets in the moment I enter a store or go online. My shopping list is often no match for the glorious, glamorous holiday displays, each glittering and gleaming to get my attention, and making me feel dubious about whether my carefully contrived list is faulty at best.

Temptation is hard to resist when I feel loving and generous. After all, I’m an American now and, this is the holiday season. And, being an impossible sentimentalist, I could easily forgo my list and follow my emotions. I want to find that most meaningful present for each and every one of my family members and friends.

Often as I wander around a store or click on different items online, staring at everything coming my way, I feel overwhelmed and aimless. Anything and everything out there could be that very special present I need….and whom am I buying for now?

At these critical moments, I try to remember one important thing: My list! It is my holiday shopping compass. I realize why I’ve spent time working on that important piece of paper. It can guide me and be a map to help me reach my joyous giving goals without getting lost in the dazzling maze of today’s holiday season.

You can always reach me at qstubis@gmail.com.

(originally published in The Santa Monica Star)

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