Raise a Reader with ‘The Berkeley Baby Book Project’

What could the amazing City of Berkeley have in common with the vibrant music legend Dolly Parton? They both love giving books to young children. And so does BANANAS! Dolly Parton’s Imagination Library has teamed up with The Berkeley Baby Book Project to distribute free books to kids in Berkeley, ages 0-5. BANANAS is proud to help spread the word about this wonderful program.

Calling it the “gift of literacy,” Dolly Parton began the Imagination Library in 1995 in her home state of Tennessee. Since then, the program has expanded to other states and recently it distributed its 100 millionth book. The milestone was celebrated in the Library of Congress in Washington D.C. where Dolly Parton read books to a group of children.

The benefits of reading early to children are huge. It is never too early to build that close connection with your infant, toddler, or preschooler while stimulating their brains and love for learning. Dolly Parton’s Imagination Library helps make this possible with its 60 volume sets of books that include classics such as The Little Engine That Could, Last Stop on Market StreetHooray a Pinata, and many more.

To be a part of this program, a child needs to register for The Berkeley Baby Book Project. Each month, new books are mailed to the child’s home. Books are chosen based on each child’s age and will be sent until the child turns five or the family moves out of Berkeley. The books are a gift and there is no cost to families for being a part of the Imagination Library. Children get the opportunity to create an amazing personal library before they enter Kindergarten.

BANANAS is cultivating the importance of reading in a child’s early development by helping families register for the Berkeley Baby Book Project. Berkeley parents can register in-person or contact our referral line at 510-658-0381. Families are also welcome to pick up gently used children’s books from our Boutique. These books are accepted through generous donations from our community.

Share the wonderful world of books with your children and promote the importance of literacy. For more information on The Berkeley Baby Book Project, visit their website.

Tips for Parenting Children with Dangerous Food Allergies

Baby Eating Healthy Food

By Guest Blogger Dolores “Dolly” Santos of DollyMath.com

Being a parent is challenging enough. You are constantly dealing with schedules, babysitters, and mealtimes. When you add a dangerous food allergy into the equation, suddenly you find that even the tasks that should be simple, like dropping your child off at daycare, have become potentially dangerous. Here are some tips to help manage the care of someone with food allergies.

Ask for Help

It is important to make sure that you distribute information about allergens to anyone and everyone that is involved in the caretaking of your child. This includes: babysitters, grandparents, other relatives, day care employees, teachers, and other individuals that might at some point be responsible for giving your child even a small snack. Recruit your spouse or partner to also be as educated as possible so they can disperse important information when handing off your child to someone else for care. Do not try to take on all of the responsibility by yourself. Imagine if something unforeseen happened, and you needed someone else to step in unexpectedly. It is important to make sure that as many people close to you as possible have the information needed to keep your child healthy.

Plan Ahead for Playdates

You will want your son or daughter to have as normal a childhood as possible. This means playdates and birthday parties, which can also mean added stress. It is important to call ahead several days before the event and talk to the host to make sure there will be food options that your child can eat. You can alleviate some of the burden by offering to bring a dish or snack that is allergen-free, but can be shared with the rest of the children attending. As your child gets older, they will be able to take on some of the responsibility for monitoring their own diet. Go over lists of forbidden foods with them as well as items that could possibly contain allergens that might not be considered. Encourage them to always ask questions and decline graciously if they are offered anything that has the potential to cause a reaction.

Dining Out

When dining out, try to choose restaurants that offer simple, clean menus prepared from scratch. Do not be afraid to ask questions about the ingredients as well as the preparation techniques that might cause cross-contact. It is best to choose dining times that are not busy so servers have time to answer your questions and get clarifications from the chefs when necessary. Avoid buffets, as these tend to have environments where many different foods are close together and cross-contact is possible. If you have found a restaurant chain that offers safe menu items, make it your go-to while traveling, as these chains usually prepare things in the same way with the same ingredients.

Learn About Resources

You can battle the feelings of isolation by seeking out other parents of children with food allergies. Seek out websites that have forums and message boards where families share information with one another. There are support groups and foundations that address specific food allergies where you can find more information about resources you may not have considered. There are even service dogs available that can be trained to detect allergens that your child may be exposed to. Rover has a great article about this that’s worth checking out.

Educate Others

When we are engrossed in the care of our children, it is sometimes easy to forget that conditions such as FPIES, and other specific allergies are not necessarily well-known. Social events with your children are great opportunities to help others learn about dietary dangers, and spreading awareness can help other parents that are experiencing the same struggles that you are.

For more ideas and information from Dolores “Dolly” Santos, visit DollyMath.com

BANANews: Week in Review and Fun Things to Do

Hooray for Friday! It’s certainly been a busy week here at BANANAS, so before we venture off into the weekend, we are revisiting everything we did and what we can look forward to in our community in the next couple of days. Be sure to read on for all the details.


We’re getting ready to celebrate the men who help raise our wonderful children—whether the guys are uncles, grandpas, brothers, or great friends—with creative ideas that we compiled on our Pinterest board: Father’s Day Is on the Way!  You’ll find simple gifts such as Homemade BBQ Sauce and Paper Cup Trophies that kids will love to put together as well as lots of other clever crafts to show love and appreciation. This week the Joint Legislative Budget Committee met to discuss how California will allocate its money and to negotiate how much funding will go to child care. We hope for a strong stand from Governor Brown as the committee continues deliberations. Fingers crossed that they see the importance of investing in kids!


If you’ve got a new baby and you’re headed back to work, we’re here to offer support on Choosing Infant Care. Sign up today for this free workshop on Thursday, June 11th, to learn about all the available options and gain guidance on finding the right child care fit for your family. On Thursday, June 18th, we’re holding a special Teen CPR & First Aid Training where kids ages 13 to 17 will learn life-saving techniques and receive a certificate of completion. RSVP today to reserve your spot! Child care providers, get ready for an amazing resource fair on Thursday, July 9th, at the next Directors’ Roundtable. We’ll be teaming up with leading community partners such as First 5 to offer an informative event about all the current trends in the child care field.


What is there to do this weekend? How about bringing the kids to the Bay Area Book Festival on Saturday, June 6th, and Sunday, June 7th? Don’t miss this chance to meet renowned children’s author Judy Blume! But before you get there (and after a healthy lunch), consider making a stop at CREAM in Rockridge for their grand opening and get a FREE ice cream sandwich. Also on Saturday is the Rockin’ Kids Singalong at La Pena Cultural Center, which is a free drop-in musical playgroup happening at 12 o’clock.

We’ll be bringing you a whole new roundup of free family fun next Friday, but until then, stay connected with us on Facebook, Twitter (for updates on the budget!), Instagram, Pinterest, and LinkedIn.

BANANews: Week in Review and Fun Things to Do

Welcome to Friday! If you’re looking for free events and resources, you’ve come to the right place!


After observing Memorial Day on Monday, we started Tuesday on a high note and published the Summer Edition of What’s Happening for Parents. This special issue of our newsletter includes information about our upcoming workshops and also invites readers to check out the bright and exciting world of BANANAS on Pinterest. We highlighted three of our favorite boards:  Activities for Baby, Parenting Like a Pro, and Playing Is Learning. For fun development ideas, handouts on parenting, and creative crafts that inspire learning, be sure to give them a look.


There are still a few spots left for our popular Positive Parenting series beginning on Monday, June 1st.  RSVP today to learn practical tips for raising compassionate, resilient children. If you’re a new parent and you’re heading back to work or could just use some support in finding the best child care fit, sign up for Choosing Infant Care on June 11th.


Saturday, May 30th, marks the second Love Our Neighborhood Day, a free festival on San Pablo Avenue between Oakland and Berkeley. Prepare for an afternoon of family fun! On Sunday, May 31st, check out the Oakland Book Festival, which will include participation from Too Small to Fail (an amazing resource for families with babies!), Children’s Fairyland, and the Museum of Children’s Arts. Then head over to the Bay Area Book Festival, a weekend event in Downtown Berkeley on Saturday and Sunday, June 6th and 7th, where children’s authors— including Judy Blume!—will be in attendance. Don’t miss these FREE literary events that will excite children’s desire to #TalkReadSingPlay!

Have a wonderful weekend and we’ll see you on Monday! Don’t forget to stay in touch with us on Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, Instagram, and LinkedIn!

BANANA Bites: Talking to Kids About Molestation

April is National Child Abuse Prevention Month, so it calls attention to this extremely important subject. In this week’s edition of BANANA Bites we bring this tough conversation to the table and discuss ways to help keep children safe.

 Dear BANANA Bites, 

We would like to talk to our children about child abuse, and especially the dangers of molestation, without causing them extra fear. What are some ways we can help them protect themselves?

Parents Addressing Child Abuse Prevention

“Dear PACAP,

This is a subject that all parents worry about and yet it’s a topic that can be very difficult to address. We always want to protect our little ones from danger without destroying their basic trust of people or upsetting their view that this is a good world. We may shy away from the topic because we don’t think it’s possible to discuss the negative aspects of sexuality, such as adult exploitation of children, without giving disapproving messages about healthy physical affection or sex in general. However, children are exposed to media events and news stories about murders, burglaries, kidnappings, rapes, and molestations and we need to help interpret these events for children and put them into perspective.

Some facts to keep in mind are: Child molestation can occur in any neighborhood. The offender can be of any age, race, or economic level. In most cases, the offender is not a stranger, but a relative or acquaintance of the family. The victim can be either a male or female. Molestations very seldom take place in a child care program. They occur much more frequently in a home or neighborhood setting.

Six steps you can follow to help children protect themselves: 

1. Teach children their full names, addresses, and phone numbers. Also teach them your workplace number and the number for 9-1-1.

2. Talk to children about their bodies, including vagina, penis, and breasts. Teach them that these parts are private.

3. Tell your child(ren) that if anyone tries to touch or look at his/her private parts, shows them pictures of privates parts, or tries to photograph their private parts, then the child needs to tell you, a teacher, guardian, or caregiver as soon as they can.

4. Teach children that they should tell you if an adult asks them to keep secrets and emphasize that these kind of secrets are never allowed.

5. Let children know that people who want to do ‘secret touching’ might try tricks to get children to do what they want, such as offering candy or gifts or threatening them with punishment. Tell children that this is wrong and that people who do this will get in trouble for their behavior.

6. Give children specific ideas of what behaviors to watch out for and give them permission to say NO and to leave a situation that makes them feel uncomfortable.

For some examples of how to have these conversations, additional tips for keeping kids safe, and resources for children and adults, please read our handout How to Talk to Your Child About Molestation.”

Please share this information and visit the resources listed in the handout, including the Megans Law website and the Center for Child Protection.

BANANA Bites: What is a Transitional Kindergarten?

Good morning! If you have a child who is approaching their fifth birthday, you may have heard about transitional kindergartens. And like many other parents, such as today’s BANANA Bites mom, you may still have some questions. Today we’re offering all the details.

Dear BANANA Bites, 

I keep hearing other parents talk about transitional kindergartens and I want to know more about them. Can you explain what exactly a TK is?” 

-Curious Mom

Dear CM,

We get this question a lot and we’re happy to provide some clarity. Originally, transitional kindergartens were created for children whose fifth birthdays fell after the cutoff dates for public kindergarten  (September 2 to December 2). Since these kids were too young to enroll in traditional kindergartens, the California Department of Education created transitional kindergartens to support their development before they entered traditional schooling. The CDE defines TK as “the first year of a two-year kindergarten program that uses a modified kindergarten curriculum that is age and developmentally appropriate.” Here in the Bay Area, the Oakland Unified School District defines TK in more detail. Their website explains, “Taught by a credentialed teacher with early childhood expertise, TK uses a unique, specialized curriculum that is based on the Common Core Kindergarten standards but is designed explicitly to support the social, emotional, physical, and academic needs of young five-year-olds. The TK environment includes many opportunities for social-emotional development, fine- and gross-motor activities, and oral language development for all kinds of learners, including those with special needs. OUSD’s TK program prioritizes purposeful, structured play, small-group instruction, and intentional teaching using hands-on, experiential activities. TK truly provides our youngest kindergarteners with the gift of time, enabling all students to begin traditional kindergarten ready to thrive.”

If you would like to know more about TKs, including immunization requirements, curriculum standards, and details about how transitional kindergarten differs from preschool and traditional kindergarten, please check out these FAQs from the Oakland Unified School District and the California Department of Education.


If you have a question about parenting, child care, or early childhood education, we’d love to hear it! Send an email to elyce@bananasinc.org.

BANANews: This Week at BANANAS

Before we head out for a lovely weekend, we’re looking back on the past week and checking out what is in store for the next one. On Tuesday, we released the March edition of our Newsletter, which includes FREE community events, resources for parents and providers, and tips on teaching little ones about Women’s History Month. If you missed this excellent publication, be sure to check it out!

In our BANANA Bites column, we covered 5 Top Tips for staying connected with relatives who live far away. From sharing family recipes to planting a tree in a grandparent’s honor, we offered ideas that kids will enjoy and loved ones will appreciate. If YOU have a question for the Bunch, send an email to elyce@bananasinc.org and you could be featured in our next issue!

On Twitter, we reminded parents the value of reading to babies to help encourage brain development (gotta #TalkReadSingPlay!) and guided readers to important safety tips for Poison Prevention Week.

Next week we are excited to be offering an amazing parenting workshop on What Great Parents Do (Wednesday) and an informative provider training on the Business Administration Scale (Saturday). And don’t miss the next BANANA Bites column when we will be bringing clarity to the hot topic of transitional kindergartens. If you’re not entirely sure what they are or whether they’re the right fit for your little one, tune in next week for all the details.

See you online at Pinterest, Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, and LinkedIn!

BANANA Bites: Staying Connected with Grandparents

Welcome to another edition of BANANA Bites! Today we’re focusing on ways to stay connected to grandparents and other family members who may live too far away for frequent visits. Luckily, there are some simple things you can do to ensure that your little one is in touch with everyone in the family no matter where they live!

Dear BANANA Bites,

We recently moved to Oakland from the East Coast and our three-year-old daughter really misses seeing her grandma and grandpa. Do you have any tips for ways to help her stay connected to them even with all these miles in between?

-Mom Feeling Disconnected

Dear MFD,

We definitely understand how tough it is to be away from loved ones. In order to help kids maintain relationships with family members who are located on different parts of the map, we came up with some simple, fun ideas to stay connected. Here are our top five favorites:

1. Create an original story with your child and then send it to family members asking them to write the next chapter. This is a creative way to exchange ideas, encourage imagination, and inspire continued correspondence.

2. Have your child make a collage of what grandparents or other loved ones mean to them using magazines, cards, stickers, and other materials.

3. Plant a tree or flowering shrub in honor of a grandparent and take photos to show how tall it has grown. If possible, send along a cutting from your tree or shrub so grandparents can grow a “twin” where they live.

4. Ask grandparents to record themselves reading your child’s favorite story and play it while you turn the pages. Any opportunity to encourage kids to #TalkReadSingPlay is a great one!

5. Keep family traditions alive by asking grandparents for a treasured recipe. Make this special dish with your little one’s help while talking about your memories of eating it as a child.

For more ideas on how to stay close and connected, check out our handout on Bridging the Miles and the Years.


If you have a question on parenting, early education, or child care, send an email to elyce@bananasinc.org.

BANANA Bites: Help! My Child Has Lice!

We’re back with a new edition of our parenting and early learning column, where we answer YOUR questions! Today’s topic: the dreaded discovery of head lice. Answers below!

Dear BANANA Bites,

I recently discovered that my child’s day care has had an outbreak of lice and it looks like our son, who is 5, now has nits in his hair. I want to make sure we do everything possible to get rid of these pests. What is the best course of action?

– Really Bugged Dad

Dear RBD,

Great question! It can be truly upsetting to discover the signs of lice in our loved ones, but rest assured there are ways to wipe the bugs out.

Step One: There are two types of lice treatments currently on the market: nonprescription (RID, Triple X, Nix and A 200 Pyrinate) and prescription. Discuss their advantages and disadvantages with your pharmacist or physician. Most treatments will require a repeat application seven to ten days after the first application. Read and follow the directions carefully, especially when treating infants, pregnant or nursing women, or people with extensive scratches on their heads or necks. Use of mayonnaise, vaseline or kerosene is not recommended.

Step Two: After using the shampoo, cream, or lotion, the dead nits must be removed from the hair – a truly tedious job that will extend over several days. One effective method is using a metal nit comb available at pharmacies.

Step Three: After treating the people, you should treat the environment. Launder clothing, head gear and bed linens in hot water and dry in a dryer. Non-washable items can be placed in airtight plastic bags and stored for two weeks, which should kill any eggs. Consider how the infestation might be spread – a toy corner with dress-up hats and veils or a favorite storytime rug that everyone likes to lie on. See that these items are either vacuumed well or thrown in a hot dryer for 20 minutes. A treated child may return to school or child care within 24 hours if the nits have been removed. You will need to routinely reinspect the child’s head to make sure s/he has not been reinfested. A good schedule for inspecting your child’s head is to do it on Fridays after school or child care so you can treat the child on the weekend or do it on Monday morning before school or child care so you can keep your child home that day if lice are present.

– BANANA Bites

For more information on this pesky problem, check out our BANANAS handout: Head Lice and visit www.HeadLice.org. If YOU have a question about parenting, running a child care, or early education, please send it to elyce@bananasinc.org.

BANANA Bites: How Do I Get My Kids to Clean Their Rooms?

Welcome to our inaugural edition of BANANA Bites! Each week we’ll feature a client question and an answer from a member of the BANANAS Bunch. This week we’ve got a question from a parent dealing with her child’s messy room. Whether you’re a child care provider or a parent yourself, you have no doubt dealt with this issue. Luckily, we’ve got some great strategies to help young ones keep things tidy.

Dear BANANA Bites,

My four-year-old daughter loves to create elaborate adventures for her stuffed animals, which often (or more like always) results in an enormous mess from one end of her bedroom to the other. Clothes, blankets, toys, books—you name it, it’s strewn all over the floor. I love that she plays with such enthusiasm and I want to encourage her creativity, but getting her to clean up afterward is nearly impossible. Even offering prizes (gold fish or peanut butter crackers) doesn’t do the trick. Do you have any tips for a mom who just wants the clean-up routine to be a breeze and not a battle?

– Mom with a Mess

Dear MWaM,

You are not alone! This is a common struggle for anyone who cares for young children. Here are five ideas that you can try.

  1. Always give a five-minute “warning” that a clean-up time is coming. Setting a timer works well with some children.
  2. Break down cleaning a room by tasks: “First pick up the toys on your bed, then the ones on the floor, then put the books back on the shelf…”
  3. Set the time for clean-up just before some favorite activity (i.e., a TV show or trip to the playground).
  4. Set a deadline. Allow your child’s room to be messy, but make clear that is needs to be cleaned by a certain time. Some older kids enjoy the freedom they get from being able to “choose” when to do the clean-up.
  5. Don’t expect a child’s clean-up job to be perfect and don’t forget to give lots of praise for a job reasonably well done.

– BANANA Bites

For more information on this subject, check out our BANANAS handout: The Uphill Struggle – Getting Young Children to Clean Up Their Rooms.

Parents and Child Care Providers, if you have other tips that work well for you, please leave a comment! If you have a child care question, we’d love to hear from you. You could be the next featured question on BANANA Bites. Please email elyce@bananasinc.org. And remember, don’t go bananas, just ask the Bunch!