History of Chuck Berry for Kids

Imagine you are inside of a music hall.  The room is dark and a stage light is projecting down onto a red curtain.  As you sit looking at the stage, a drum beat starts up.  It’s loud and it’s fast and has a rhythm and blues beat.  Next you hear an electric guitar start in with some rocking chords.  Finally the curtain bursts open and a man in a blue suit whips around and grabs the microphone.  He starts singing the lyrics to one of the most famous rock n’ roll songs in history, “Deep down in Louisiana close to New Orleans, Way back up in the woods amongst the evergreens…”  The singer is Chuck Berry.

Chuck Berry was one of the most famous rock ‘n’ roll performers in music history. He is known for his upbeat songs including “Johnny B. Goode” and “Maybellene.”  Chuck’s music was so good that it had an influence, or impacted the behaviour, on many future musicians.  He was even given the nickname the “father of rock ‘n’ roll.”  But how did Chuck Berry become such a good musician and songwriter?

Chuck Berry was born in 1926 in St. Louis, Missouri.  His name when he was born was Charles Edward Anderson Berry.  But everyone started calling him “Chuck.”  Chuck’s parents, Martha and Henry Berry, were the grandchildren of enslaved people, which means that they used to be slaves.

Martha and Henry were some of the many African Americans who moved from the Southern United States to St. Louis to look for work during World War I. Martha was one of the few Black women of that time to go to college and earn a degree.  Henry was a carpenter, which means someone who buildings things out of wood.  Henry was also a deacon, or pastor, at a local Baptist Church.

When Chuck was born, St. Louis was a very segregated city.  Segregated means that Black and white people lived apart in different neighbourhoods from each other.  Chuck grew up in a neighbourhood in northern St. Louis that was mainly where middle-class Black people lived.  Middle-class means the group of people in society that aren’t rich but also aren’t poor.  The neighbourhood was so segregated that Chuck had never actually met a white person in real life until he was three years old. 

Chuck grew up in a big family with six children.  He was one of the youngest and he enjoyed being part of a lively crew of kids.  Chuck had a lot of interests and hobbies as a kid.  He liked helping with his dad’s carpentry work and learning how to take photographs with his uncle, who was a professional photographer.  Chuck also showed an early interest in music and was quite talented.  Talented means to have a special ability or gift.  Chuck began singing in his church choir when he was only six years old. 

When he was a teenager, Chuck applied and got into a very good private high school.   When he was in high school, Chuck continued to grow his music and performance skills.  He entered his school’s talent show and sang a song while his friend played guitar.  The performance was a huge hit with all of the students that were there listening.  The cheers and applause that they got inspired Chuck to continue with music.  He decided that he wanted to learn to play guitar himself and so he asked his parents if he could take lessons.  They said yes, and soon after that, Chuck started taking guitar lessons with a famous local jazz musician named Ira Harris.

In high school, Chuck was more interested in playing music than studying and learning.  He felt like his classes were boring and his teachers were too strict. When Chuck was only 17 years old, he and two of his friends dropped out of high school.  They decided that they were going to drive together across the country to visit California.

Unfortunately Chuck and his friends got into trouble. They robbed some stores for money and were arrested [Breck: he and his friends found a gun and robbed a couple stores before getting caught.  I didn’t think we needed to set out those details, but obviously edit as you see fit.] Chuck ended up in a prison for young men in Missouri where he spent 3 years.  He was released for good behaviour in October 1947 on his 21st birthday. 

Chuck’s parents picked him up and he headed back home to St. Louis to live with them.  Chuck got a job working at his dad’s construction business.  He helped his dad build things and he also worked part time as  a photographer and part time as a janitor, or someone who cleans up things, at a local car-making factory.

In 1948, when Chuck was 22 years old, he married Themetta Suggs, whose nickname was “Toddy”.  Chuck and Toddy were happy together and had four children.  Chuck also started playing guitar again.  In 1951, when Chuck was 25, his old school classmate Tommy Stevens asked him to join his band.  They played at local nightclubs in St. Louis that Black people visited.  Chuck said yes and he started playing in the band in the evenings. 

Chuck was very lively on stage and people liked the way he sang, danced and played music.  Every time he performed, Chuck brought a lot of energy to the stage and people just wanted to get up and dance. 

About a year later, Chuck met a local jazz pianist, Jonnie Jackson.  The two hit it off and Chuck left his first band to join Jonnie’s band, called the Sir John’s Trio.  The group played at a fancy Black nightclub in East St. Louis.  The music was so good that it started attracting, or drawing in, white customers. 

Chuck started writing some of his own songs around this time.  He knew that if he wanted to make it big, he was going to have to come up with his own material. Chuck also started taking road trips to Chicago fairly regularly.  Chicago was the main city that Black music was recorded in back then.  Chuck went up trying to meet with recording executives, or business people, in the hopes that one of them would want to make a contract to buy his music.  

In 1955, Chuck met a well-known blues musician named Muddy Waters.  Muddy heard some of Chuck’s music and thought he had a lot of talent.  He told Chuck that he should go meet with a company called Chess Records.  On Muddy’s recommendation, Chuck was able to meet with the businessmen at Chess Records.  He had quickly written and recorded a new song and played it for the Chess Records people.  The song was called “Maybellene” which is now a very famous rock and roll song.  The Chess executives loved the song and signed a contract with Chuck.  They helped the song get played on the radio stations and within a couple of months, “Maybellene” was one of the top songs in the country!

“Maybellene” was a mix of a bunch of different types of music, including a rhythm and blues drum beat and country guitar sounds as well as some blues chords and storytelling.  Because this was the first time that anyone had ever recorded this blend of sounds together, many people who study music history believe that “Maybellene” is the first true rock n’ roll song.

Chuck continued to write many famous rock n’ roll songs that you have heard before, including “Roll Over, Beethoven,” “Johnny B. Goode,” and “Sweet Little Sixteen”.  Chuck was one of the first Black artists to have white and Black fans because of his mix of sounds and the storytelling in his songs that talked about things that all teenagers felt.  Many of Chuck’s songs recorded throughout the 1950s became top songs in the country. 

Chuck continued to write and record music all the way to the 1970s.  Even his late albums are quite good, though he is always remembered for his early music in the 1950s which really changed the type of music that everyone in the country listened to. 

In 1985, Chuck was given a Grammy Lifetime Achievement Award and he was the first person to ever be inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame when it first opened in 1986.  One of the main ways that you can tell how important Chuck’s music was is that so many other famous musicians have said that they were influenced by his music.  Famous bands that have said they loved Chuck’s music and it influenced theirs include the Beatles, the Rolling Stones and the Beach Boys.

When Chuck was 90 years old, he announced that he was going to write and release a new album of music dedicated to his wife Toddy, whom he had been married to for 68 years.  Chuck died on March 18, 2017 at the age of 90.  

What are some things that we can learn from Chuck Berry?  He was inspired at a young age to sing through his involvement at church.  And once he had the chance to perform, he loved it.  He followed his passion and realized that if he wanted to keep performing, he needed to learn to play guitar.  Chuck showed courage in learning a new instrument as well as patience and perseverance.  This means to carry on trying at something even if it is difficult. 

Chuck also showed resilience, or the courage to continue with something even when you experience difficulties.  His years performing were tiring at times and he likely faced racism due to being Black at a time when society was not as accepting.  But Chuck carried on with his dreams and worked hard to make them a reality.  

Chuck also showed love and loyalty, to his wife Toddy, whom he was married to for 68 years, and to his music which he loved. 

Is there something that you enjoy doing and would like to get better at?  Have you ever thought of learning to write some of your own songs?  Like most things in life, it can be done with learning and practice and dedication.  

When you have some time this week, listen to some Chuck Berry songs.  You will find that there are many that you have probably heard before that will have you tapping your feet to the beat.  One of Chuck’s main messages through his songs is that it’s good to have fun and to have passion for life.  

The Story of Irving Berlin for Kids

Welcome to Bedtime History

Have you ever thought about how music is made? Some of the classic hits that we all hear regularly were once ideas in someone’s head.  How do these turn into the songs we hear on the radio today?

Tonight we are going to learn about an immigrant named Irving Berlin who later became one of America’s greatest songwriters. America has always been called a “land of immigrants” because ever since the beginning of our nation, immigrants have come here to start new lives with their families.An immigrant is someone who moves from one country to another. 

Irving Berlin was born May 11, 1888 in Russia. Irving Berlin’s family were of the Jewish religion. It was not an easy thing to be Jewish in Russia when Irving was little because Jews were persecuted for their beliefs. Persecuted means to not be treated fair or nice. Some were beaten, made fun of, and even had their things taken from them and destroyed. One of Irving’s first memories is sitting on the side of the road watching his house burn down. It was a scary time, so when Irving was only 5 years old, his Mom and Dad decided to move away from persecution and move to America in 1893.

Back in those days, the only way to get across the ocean to the United States was to sail on big steamships. These journeys were very dangerous and could take several weeks. Many times they would run into big storms and the ship captains had to watch for icebergs along the way. People would get seasick on the boat and some of the passengers would even die. But Irving‘s parents knew that if they could make it to America they would have a chance for a better life; so they took the risk and took their young family across the ocean.

Irving’s family settled in the big city of New York. New York was a bustling city even back then, and had lots of people and crowded streets. Life was hard for Irving and his family. It was a new place they had never been before; they had to learn a new language because they

didn’t speak English. They were very poor and lived in a basement of a small apartment. Irving’s dad had a hard time finding a job to earn money and did anything he could to earn money to support his family. Everyone in the family had to work hard just to get enough money to buy food. When Irving was only 8 years old, he went to work as a newspaper boy. He had 3 sisters that had to work too. Can you imagine having to work a real job at 8 years old?

On the way home after his first day on the job, Irving decided to go to the shipyard and look at the big ships that were getting ready to set sail. A big swinging crane that loads up the ships with cargo accidently swung around and knocked him into the water. When the men that worked at the shipyard pulled Irving out of the water, he was still holding onto the 5 pennies he had earned that day. He had worked so hard for that money, that he did not want to let it go.

When Irving was 13 years old, his father died.  He was sad but he also worried about his family.  Irving felt like he needed to move out of the home and support himself so his mom wouldn’t have to worry about taking care of him and feeding him. So at 14 years old, Irving left home and slept in a homeless shelter with other newspaper boys.

Irving always loved to sing and was taught to sing at an early age by his father. His dad was a cantor. A cantor is someone who leads the singing and prayer at a synagogue, which is the name for a Jewish church. When Irving was selling newspapers on the streets he learned lots of different songs and sometimes he would sing on the streets and in the saloons, café’s and restaurants. Customers would throw him pennies because they liked his songs. 

Irving paid close attention to the people who threw money for him and figured out what kind of songs people liked best.  He was very smart and figured out which songs would give him the most money and he would sing more of those songs. Pretty soon, Irving was singing full time as a job. He worked hard and long, and he later said one of the reasons he did was so he could buy his mother a rocking chair. He knew she didn’t have the money to buy one for herself and he thought it would make her happy.

In his spare time and when the restaurants were closed, Irving would ask the owners if he could play their pianos. Irving taught himself to play the piano, and soon was singing, playing and putting on shows in the restaurants, music halls and city squares. He also learned from others how to make up new songs and write music.

Irving’s first big hit was “Alexander’s Ragtime Band”. Ragtime music was very popular back then. It was music that marched and bounced. People loved his song. Irving’s music was being made into records and people loved to buy them because his music was great to dance to.  After this hit song, people knew Irving’s name and he became famous.

In 1917, America entered a big war that was going on in Europe. This war was called “the Great War” and later became known as World War I. Irving Berlin was asked to do a special mission for the United States Army; to write songs for a group that would perform for soldiers. The Army and Country’s leaders knew that music helped to keep the soldiers happy and inspired.

One of the songs he wrote at this time was a song called “God Bless America”, but he didn’t add it to the show. Not until 20 years later, he released the song to the public for the first time; It was

during the Great Depression and right before World War II. A depression is a time when there are not very many jobs and lots of people are poor and hungry. “God Bless America” became very popular and it meant a lot to people who had been struggling for years. The people felt that even though they had lived through hard times, God still helped them and loved them. Today, the song is still beloved and sung at very special events like the 4th of July.

Irving Berlin loved America. To love your country is to be patriotic. He once said he owed all his success to his adopted country. He also said he wrote “God Bless America” as “an expression of my feeling toward the country to which I owe what I have and what I am.”

Irving Berlin wrote many many more very popular songs. He wrote songs for the radio, movies, musical plays, Broadway and other shows. People sang his songs everywhere. He was the most successful songwriter of his time and people still sing his songs, many not even knowing who wrote them. One of his other most famous songs is the very popular Christmas tune “White

Christmas”. There are lots of beautiful versions of this song, but the one we hear most today is the version sung by the famous singer Bing Crosby.

Irving Berlin knew that music can be very powerful. Music can tell stories and music can make us feel better. It can lift us up when we are sad. It reminds us of people we love and places we

want to visit. Music sparks imagination and creativity. Irving Berlin understood that music is very important and he wanted to fill the world with good and uplifting music. He won several awards for his music and many historians call Irving Berlin, “America’s Songwriter” because of how his music has changed and influenced America.

Irving Berlin died in New York City at the age of 101 years old. He had lived a long and happy life, and had blessed many lives with his music. Even though Irving became very famous and rich, he never forgot his childhood and living on the streets. He felt that having those hard experiences and not always getting what he wanted made him a better person; it made him grateful for what he had. He believed that America was the land of opportunity. From Irving Berlin we learn that with hard work and dedication you can better your life and make a difference.

Do you enjoy singing to music you hear on the radio?  Have you ever thought of writing your own songs?  These are things that Irving Berlin because he loved music and was inspired to learn how to make it himself.  He taught himself to sing and play piano and write songs.  If he taught himself to do that, you can too!  We are all capable of great things if we are dedicated to our goals and strive to reach them.

The Malala Yousafzai Story for Kids

Imagine you live in a country far away.  It is a poor country with war and where girls are not allowed to go to school.  But your parents are kind and smart.  They think that boys and girls should both go to school and they want you to go to school too.  But you are a girl and it is not allowed.  What would you do?  

This was the experience of a young girl named Malala Yousafzai.  Malala was a girl from Pakistan.  She was only 11 years old when she started to get noticed for standing up for girls rights.  Malala was brave and strong and she stood up for what she believed and as a result, she ended up changing her country and the world. 

Malala was born on July 12, 1997 in Mingora, Swat Valley, Pakistan. For the first few years of her life, Malala’s hometown was a popular place for people to visit on vacation.  People from around the country would visit the town for summer festivals. 

Unfortunately, the town and the country started to change when a new government took control of the country.  A government is a group of people that make decisions about how a country will work and the rules that the people in the country will follow.  In Pakistan at that time that Malala was a young girl, a very strict government called the Taliban tried to take control.

Malala lived at home with her father and mother when she was a girl.  Her father’s name was Ziauddin Yousafzai and he was a schoolmaster at a local school and someone who believed strongly in his ideas that all children should go to school. Malala’s mother’s name was Toorpekai Yousafzai and she cared for Malala and her siblings.

The Taliban told people from Pakistan that they should not let girls go to school anymore.  It was an old fashioned idea that they wanted to bring back to the country.  However, Malala’s father disagreed with this idea.  He thought that all kids should get to go to school so that they could learn important life skills and take care of themselves and get good jobs.

Malala’s father ran one of the last girls schools that continued to run even though the Taliban government told all the girls schools to shut down. Instead of listening to the government’s orders, Malala’s dad kept letting girls to attend his school, including Malala.  He encouraged her to speak out about what the government was doing. Malala learned from a very early age that this was very important to girls and to her country.

Malala listened to her father and on September 1, 2008, when she was 11 years old, she gave her first speech at a community hall in Peshawar.  The title of her speech was, “How Dare the Taliban Take Away my Basic Right to Education?”  It was a speech that was about her opinion that the Taliban government should not close down girls schools or forbid them from attending.

It was a scary time in Pakistan for people to speak out about the government.  The Taliban government was very strict and very powerful.  Strict means to tell people that they have to behave a certain way and exactly what they have to do so they won’t get in trouble.  They scared Malala and others who spoke out about them and disagreed with what they were doing.

Because Malala did not want to get in trouble, she started writing using a fake name to write articles: Gul Makai.  She wrote articles on the internet for a famous news company from Britain called the BBC.  Malala wrote about what it was like to live with such a strict government and the articles were published for people from all around the world to see.  She thought she was safe because her identity was secret.  However someone found out who she was and told other people that it was Malala who was writing the articles.

The Taliban government was angry at Malala for saying bad things about them and the things that they believed and their rules.  They decided that they wanted to kill Malala and her family so that she could not speak out about them anymore. 

Even though Malala was frightened for safety and her family’s safety, she didn’t think think that Taliban government would hurt her because she was a kid and so she carried on with her speeches. One day when she was 15 years old and riding the bus home from school, some Taliban people got on the bus and shot her.  She was hurt very badly but she did not die.

Malala needed to go to a special hospital, so she got flown out of her country of Pakistan on an airplane to England. Once she was in England, she was safe from the Taliban government but she was still very hurt.  She had to have a number of surgeries at a hospital in order to get better.  She healed very well and within one year, she was able to start going to school again.  This time she stayed in England and went to school there.

Later that year, after Malala was feeling better, she was invited to speak at the United Nations in New York City, in America.  It was the first time that she spoke in public again since she was attacked.  Malala’s speech was on her 16th birthday and her topic was on the rights of every child to go to school.  She said in her speech that all governments around the world should make policies that allow girls to go to school.  Policies means a rule or law that allows people to do something.

In the speeches she gave after her attack, Malala talked about the courage that she had developed after her injury.  She said that the Taliban government “thought that they would change our aims and stop our ambitions, but nothing changed in my life except this: weakness, fear and hopelessness died. Strength, power and courage were born.”

Malala received a lot of awards for her bravery.  When she was 15 she published a book about her life called, “I Am Malala: How One Girl Stood Up for Education and Changed the World”.  One of the most important awards that she received was the United Nations Human Rights Prize, which is an important award that is only given every five years.

Another important award Malala received was the Nobel Peace Prize. She was 17 when she received it, and she was the youngest person to ever get the award. When Malala won the Nobel Peace Prize, the Prime Minister of Pakistan, Nawaz Sharif said: Malala “is (the) pride of Pakistan, she has made her countrymen proud. Her achievement is unparalleled and unequaled. Girls and boys of the world should take lead from her struggle and commitment.” 

At the same time, former U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon said Malala was “a brave and gentle advocate of peace who, through the simple act of going to school, became a global teacher.”  At Malala’s 2013 speech at the United Nations, Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon said that July 12th, which is Malala’s birthday,  would now be called ‘Malala Day’.  This was in honor of the work that Malala to ensure education for all children.

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Today Malala continues to do work to try to help children around the world.  She has worked hard to raise money so that other girls can go to school.  She is now going to university to study philosophy, politics and economics.  These are subjects that teach people how the world works and how to make it a better place through rules and policies.  Malala plans to continue to work to make the world a better place for all children.  She also wants to keep making sure that girls all around the world can go to school.

Is there something that you think would make the world a better place?  Is there something that you notice is unfair to yourself, your family or to others?  Think about the things that would be good to change in the world around you to make the world a fair and positive place for all people.  Perhaps there are people you know that don’t have a lot of money?  Or people that are not treated well?  If there are things in the world that you think should be changed, you can change them!

Malala was taught from a young age that there is power in words and in speaking up for what you believe in.  If there are things you can see that would make the world better, you can help by speaking to others about what you believe and by standing up for those who need help.  It is important that we all think about the things we can do to make the world a better place.  And is important that we have courage to speak out about the things that are unfair or unkind. 

Courage means to be brave even when you are scared.  Malala was brave by standing up for girls’ rights to go to school, even when the Taliban government told her not to.  She continued to speak out about this even if it meant that she may get hurt, because she knew it was an important topic.  Going to school is one of the most important ways that people can learn to create a good life for themselves and others.  So it is equally important that both boys and girls go to school.

We can all learn from Malala about the importance of education and about the importance of conviction, or staying true to your beliefs.  Even when it is difficult, it is important to stick with what you believe in and work towards creating a positive world for yourself and others.  

Malala’s bravery had many positive impacts.  One of the most important things that happened because of her bravery was the attention that her story brought to the issue about girls going to school in Pakistan.  As a result, Pakistan created its very first Right to Education Bill, which said that all children have the right to go to school. 

What would you like to do to change the world for the better?  What can you do to stand up for others and make the world a better place like Malala? 

The Shirley Temple Story for Kids

Have you ever wondered what it would be like to be a movie star?  Many people around the world dream of being famous and acting in blockbuster movies.  Lots of actors work hard to build their careers and spend years trying to get even small parts on movies. But imagine if you were just a young child and suddenly became a star before you even started kindergarten.

This is what happened to Shirley Temple.  Shirley Temple became the most famous child actress of her time during the Great Depression in America.  The Great Depression was a time when the country was very poor and most American families did not have enough money to live well.  Many people were sad about their money situation and they needed something to make them happy.  And Shirley Temple became just what they needed.

Shirley was born on April 23, 1928 in Santa Monica, California.  Her father was a banker and her mother was a housewife and she had two older brothers.  Although the country was quite poor at the time, Shirley’s family had enough money that they did not struggle.  

When she was young, Shirley’s family moved to Brentwood, Los Angeles and it was there that Shirley’s acting career started.  Her mother encouraged her to sing and and act and when she was three years old, she enrolled her in a dance school in Los Angeles.

Around this time, Shirley’s mother also began styling Shirley’s hair into corkscrew ringlets.  This cute hairstyle became her signature look and when she became famous, parents around the world started putting ringlets in their daughters’ hair so that they would look like Shirley Temple.

Getting her hair to look just right was not easy.  Every night before bed, Shirley’s mother had to roll her hair into 56 pin curls.  Shirley Temple did not like having her hair done, and she wished that she could just wear a short haircut like her hero, Amelia Earhart.

While Shirley was at the dance school, she was spotted by Charles Lamont, who was a casting director for Educational Pictures at the time. A casting director is someone who decides which actors and actresses will be put into movies.  When Mr. Lamont met Shirley, she was shy and hid behind a piano. But Mr. Lamont thought she was very cute and funny and he asked her parents if she could be in his movies.  She was just three years old.

Shirley Temple starred in many movies from the time she was three until she was six years old and became very famous.  She spent long days on set working very hard on the movies.  “Being on set” means spending time where the movie is being filmed and it usually involves spending long days filming and waiting for your turn to act.  When Shirley was not working on films, she attended the Westlake School for Girls.

Shirley starred in a number of feature films between 1932 and 1934, including Bright Eyes, Curly Top and Heidi and she became a worldwide star. In the movie Bright Eyes, Shirley sang a song called “On a Good Ship Lollipop”.  Everyone thought that she was so cute and so talented that she won a special Academy Award for the part.

Everyone around the world loved the curly haired girl.  Companies made dolls and dishes and clothing with her picture on them.  Everyone wanted to look like Shirley Temple and many girls dressed like her and curled their hair the same way. It became a very popular look.  

Someone even named a drink after her, called “The Shirley Temple”.  It was flavoured with cherry, lemon and lime and had a cherry in it.  It became a very popular drink and still is today.

Shirley became a sign of hope and optimism during the difficult years of the Great Depression.  Many people found Shirley’s attitude and energy in her movies made them very happy and optimistic. Optimistic means having a positive outlook on life and believing that the future will be positive and happy.

The President of the United States at the time was named Franklin D. Roosevelt. President Roosevelt called Shirley Temple “Little Miss Miracle” for making people happy during such a difficult time for the country.  He said in a speech to the country that, “As long as our country has Shirley Temple, we will be all right.” 

By the time Shirley was 12 years old, she had made 43 films. However, as Shirley Temple got older, her movies became less and less popular.  Everyone wanted Shirley to stay the cute child star she was at first, but she was growing up.  Shirley was sad about this, but instead of wallowing, she decided to shift her focus to other things in life.

In 1945, Shirley married an actor named John Agar Jr., when she was only 17 years old. They had a daughter together but they got divorced in 1949.  The next year, Shirley Temple got married again and this time her marriage lasted for the rest of their lives.  Her new husband was a businessman named Charles Alden Black and together they had two children: a son, Charles, and a daughter, Lori.

In 1948, Shirley appeared in her last big movie, a Western movie also starring with John Wayne. Her career as a popular film star had ended at an earlier age than most actors’ had begun and she retired from acting in films in 1950 at the age of 22.

While Shirley Temple may have been sad about her movie career ending, she decided to refocus her efforts on other activities, including activities that would help others.  She sat on the boards of companies and organizations including The Walt Disney Company, Del Monte Foods, and the National Wildlife Federation.

She also decided to get involved in politics and from 1969 to 1970. She was the U.S. ambassador to the United Nations. She later became the U.S. ambassador to Ghana and the U.S. ambassador to Czechoslovakia.  She found a way to give back to the world again through her political work instead of her movies.

In 1988, Shirley Temple published her autobiography, Child Star.  An autobiography is a book that someone writes to tell the story of their life. 

She received many awards and honors throughout her life, including the Kennedy Center Honors and a Screen Actors Guild Life Achievement Award. In 2005, she received a Lifetime Achievement Award from the Screen Actors Guild.

Shirley Temple died on February 10, 2014, at her home near San Francisco, California. She was 85 years old. Following her death, Shirley’s family said that: “We salute her for a life of remarkable achievements as an actor, as a diplomat, and most importantly as our beloved mother, grandmother, great-grandmother, and adored wife of 55 years.”

Shirley showed a great deal of charisma at a young age, which first got her noticed to be in the movies.  But it was ultimately her dedication to being a good actress and working hard that helped her build success.  Shirley also demonstrated resilience throughout her life.  Resilience means the ability to recover quickly from difficulties.  Shirley was able to shift her focus to new activities allowed her to continue to give back to the world in a positive way, even after her movie career ended. 

All of us can learn from Shirley about the power of being positive and spreading happiness and joy.  We can also learn about how to look forward to what we can do next in life when something stops working out for us.  By focusing on the positive things in life, we can continue to build happiness and meaning for ourselves and others. 

The J.K. Rowling Story for Kids

Do you remember the last time you were playing and you got so lost in your imagination that it felt like real life? That is always an amazing experience and often kids experience it a lot more than adults. I think adults could learn a few things from kids about what real imagination and play is like, don’t you? 

Inside your brain are very small things called neurons which help create your thoughts and memories and imagination. Did you know there are more neurons in your brain than stars in the galaxy? That is one of the many things that makes you an amazing being. Just think of the incredible things you can dream up and imagine and do with that awesome power alone.

One such child like you was a girl named Joanne Rowling, but her friends and family called her “Jo.” Jo lived in England with her mom and dad and younger sister named Dianne. Like you, Jo had a big imagination and loved playing in the woods and dreaming up magical stories. She wrote her first book at age six and called it “Rabbit.” After she wrote these stories she would read them to her little sister. Jo was also very close to her mother who often read to her at night.

When Jo was in primary school she was pretty normal at most subjects, but was especially good at English and writing. Around this time, her mother became sick with a disease called multiple sclerosis. This made it hard for her to do things like walk and move her body. This wasn’t easy for Jo, because she loved her mom and was very close to her. Her mother had always encouraged her to keep writing and doing what she loved most.

After primary school Jo wanted to go to one of the best colleges in England called Oxford. She was sad when she found out they wouldn’t let her in, so she went to a different college called Exeter where she studied French and the Classics. She did well enough in college, but her favorite past time was to read books by great authors such as Charles Dickens and JRR Tolkien, who wrote The Lord of the Rings and The Hobbit. Jo wanted to write her own book someday, but was still waiting for her big idea to come.

After college, Jo got a job and one day she was on a very long train ride from Manchester to London. During the ride she suddenly imagined a little boy on the train going far away to a school for wizards. A picture of this boy began to form in her mind — he had brown hair, glasses and a scar on his forehead. After the train ride she hurried home as fast as he could and began writing her story. She named the boy Harry Potter and began to dream up his adventures at the school for wizards. Finally, Jo’s big idea had come and more than anything she wanted to share her big idea with others! She planned to write seven different books about Harry Potter and his magical world.

Around this time Jo’s mother passed away from multiple sclerosis. It was a very hard time for Jo and she took all of her sad feelings and used many of them in her story about Harry Potter, who also lost his parents and spent much time wanting to be with them again. Sometimes when people are sad, they write to help them work through their feelings.

While Jo was writing, she saw an ad in the newspaper for a job in Portugal teaching English. She thought it sounded interesting to go somewhere new, so she packed up her things and took a plane to this new country. While in Portugal she would work on her story during the day and teach English at night. She met a journalist while living there and they got married and had a baby who she named Jessica after one of her favorite authors. In Portugal Jo and her husband struggled with their marriage and eventually it got so bad that she moved to Scotland with her baby. In Scotland she didn’t have a job, because she spent all of her time taking care of her baby Jessica. 

During the day Jo would take Jessica on walks around the city until she fell asleep. Once Jessica was asleep, Jo would go to cafes and sit and write her story. Because real life was so hard for Jo, she found that writing about the magical life of Harry Potter made her happy for a time.

Eventually Jo’s first book was finished and she called it Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone. In the book after Harry leaves his horrible relatives, the Dursley’s, and takes a train to the Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry, he becomes friends with two other students, Ron Weasley and Hermione Granger. Together they learn about the mysteries of the school, deal with bullies, play a magical game called Quidditch, and come face to face with Lord Voldemort, the world’s most evil wizard who wants nothing more than to stop Harry and his friends.

Next Jo started looking for an agent, someone who would help her publish the book. A publisher is a company who prints and makes copies of the books and sends them to stores to be sold. No one knew who Jo was, so it was a while before anyone would even read her book. At least 12 publishers sent letters saying they weren’t interested in Harry Potter. Jo was frustrated but kept trying. 

Finally, the head of one publisher took Jo’s first chapter home and instead of reading it himself gave it to his 8 year old daughter, Alice. Alice read the first chapter and loved it. She said it was better than anything else she had read. She wanted the second chapter immediately! Her father and the publishing company Bloomsbury decided to publish Harry Potter and Jo would use the pen name JK Rowling! Jo was so excited! 

Before long, Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone became very popular in England. It began to win awards and eventually won book of the year there. Jo’s dreams were coming true. She began to work on the next book and soon an American publisher, Scholastic, bought the rights to her book for $100,000. This was the most that had ever been offered for a children’s book. Harry Potter was a major hit!

Parents and teachers across the world were excited to see young children reading such large books at a time when many were worried that kids were watching too much TV instead. 

Soon the Harry Potter books became movies and Jo wrote more books. At times it was hard for her to keep writing and coming up with new ideas and creating stories that worked. Sometimes she would take breaks to get her creativity back. Creativity and imagination can’t always be forced. But finally Joe finished the seventh and final book, Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows, the series was finished!

From all of the books and movies and other Harry Potter merchandise sold, Joanne Rowling became the richest woman in England — and a billionaire. But Jo remembered how hard it was when she was poor and a single mom trying to take care of her baby. She remembered how hard it was for her mom when she suffered from multiple sclerosis. So Jo spent much of her time thinking about how she could give back to others less fortunate than herself. She began giving much of her money away to charities, many of which helped single moms and children and those who had multiple sclerosis.

Because Joanne gave so much away she isn’t a billionaire anymore — but she doesn’t care. She knows that using her money to help others makes her more happy than having a lot of money. She knows you don’t need to be rich to be happy. True happiness comes from giving to others and seeing the smile on the face of someone who has enjoyed her books about Harry Potter.

Take some time to think about what you enjoy doing, the things that make you the happiest and cause you to use your imagination and get lost in what you are doing. Think of what you might do to get a little better at those skills. Maybe it means drawing or writing or practicing a sport or learning how to solve a math problem better. It might be playing the piano or another instrument. Remember, you have a mind as wide and as beautiful as the galaxy and can do incredible things when you put your heart and mind and time to it. 

Nancy Wake Story for Kids

Close your eyes and imagine you are a soldier flying in a plane high above the ocean. Outside you hear the plane’s propellers turning and strong winds rushing past the windows. It is the middle of the night and down below the ocean is dark and cold. Sitting around you are other soldiers, men and women with dark clothes and large backpacks. They look nervous and you feel nervous too. You check your gun and tighten a parachute which is also on your back. 

The year is 1944 and you are in the middle of World War 2. Nazi Germany has invaded France. France’s allies England and the United States and other countries are working to help France and many other countries be free again. If the battle can be won in France there might be a chance to beat the Nazis and make the world a safe place again. You look around at the other soldiers, but remember you and the others here are no ordinary soldiers. You are part of England’s Special Operations Executive, commandos which are a combination of a soldier and a spy. You have trained many months to be a commando and it’s finally your chance to help the people of France. 

“Everyone ready?” a voice calls from the back of the plane. You look out the window and see that you are above land now. This is France. You and the other soldiers stand up and walk toward the back of the plane. In the front you see one of the most famous commandos — a woman named Nancy Wake. The back doors to the plane open. You watch as Nancy walks to the back of the plane and jumps out into the cold night. Soon you jump out, too, and are are falling down, down toward the ground.  At the right moment you pull your parachute and are yanked up into the sky. You look across the French countryside and float downward until your boots hit the ground and you roll, then hurriedly wrap up your parachute. 

Nancy Wake and the other commandos are running low across a grassy field to the cover of trees. Someone whispers that a German patrol is nearby. You quietly hurry on until you are hidden deep in the woods. Everyone huddles together and pulls out their backpacks. You see that Nancy is safe and are glad to have such a brave woman leading your team. You know with her help you can accomplish your dangerous and very important mission. 

Nancy Wake was born in Wellington, New Zealand. A couple years later her family moved to Australia. There she went to school until the age of 16 when she left home and found a job as a nurse. Working as a nurse, she was able to save some money and with the help of an aunt, was bought a plane ticket to New York City. There she learned how to become a journalist. A journalist is someone who writes stories for the newspaper. To Nancy being a journalist was an adventure. She loved to travel and learn about new people and places. One of the places she visited was Austria. While she was in Austria a powerful leader named Adolf Hitler had become very powerful. Hitler’s country of Germany was nearby Austria. In Austria Hitler’s followers, the Nazis, were hurting people they did not like, such as the Jews. When Nancy saw how horribly the Nazis treated these people, she realized Hitler was very dangerous.

Nancy moved to Paris, France one of her favorite places in the world. She loved the city and the people and eventually married a Frenchman named Henri Edmond Fiocca. While Nancy was living in France, Hitler’s army invaded the country. Hitler wanted to control France, but Nancy did everything to try and stop him. She joined a group called The Resistance. She helped soldiers escape France and sent secret messages to help The Resistance. Nancy was very careful, so for a long time the Nazis didn’t know she was a spy. She was very sneaky and for this reason the Nazis called her “The White Mouse.” Her job was very dangerous, but Nancy knew that fighting against the invaders was the right thing to do, so she did it anyway. The Nazis wanted to catch Nancy so badly that they offered 5 million French dollars to anyone who would turn her in. 

Soon it was too dangerous for Nancy to stay in France, so she snuck out of the country, hiding in the back of a coal truck, just before the Nazis caught her. From France she went to Spain and then to England, which was a country safe from the Nazis. Nancy could have lived a safe life in England far from her enemies, but she knew she needed to keep fighting to keep the world free. In England Nancy joined England’s spy group called the Special Operations Executive. There Nancy trained to be a soldier and a spy, also known as a commando. She learned to shoot a gun, use a radio, and be sneaky, which she was already pretty good at. But Nancy worked very hard and tried to be very cheerful. When other soldiers were sad she made funny jokes and cheered them up. The other soldiers like to be around Nancy. 

Once Nancy and the other soldiers were trained, a plane flew them across the ocean to France where they jumped out and parachuted down to the ground. Many Nazis were in France so they were careful and spent much of the time in hiding. There Nancy and the other soldiers helped The Resistance. They gave them guns and other supplies, blew up bridges, recruited more people to the Resistance. Once they even attacked a Nazi base. Nancy and the other commandos weren’t afraid to complete dangerous missions to help free the people of France.

To keep in touch with England the commandos used radio and special codes. One night the codes were destroyed by the enemy and the next closest radio station was very far away. Many would have given up, but Nancy decided she could ride a bike to the other radio. So she jumped on her bike and rode almost 200 miles. She had to pass many Nazis along the way, so it was a very dangerous journey, but Nancy was brave and believed in her cause. After delivering the message to be sent, Nancy got back on her bike and rode all the way back to her team.

While Nancy and the other commandos were helping The Resistance, the Allied Armies fought Hitler’s army on the battlefield until chasing them out of France. Nancy was excited to see France free again and proud to have been one of many to make it happen. 

After the war Nancy received many medals for her bravery. Later she wrote a book about her life and adventures during the war and called it “The White Mouse.” Nancy moved into a hotel in France where the owners and others helped take care of her, because of all she had done to help their country. Nancy Wake’s bravery inspired many women and men for years to come. 

Like Nancy, you can do things even when you’re not sure how they’ll turn out. Sometimes we only want to do the things we know about — this is called staying inside our comfort zone. But it’s also good for us to get outside of our comfort zone and try new things like Nancy did. We can stand up for what we believe even when it might be scary. If you see someone picking on someone else, you can tell them this is wrong and stand up for them. You might wonder if you can be as brave as Nancy, but remember she was once a child just like you. 

The George Lucas and the Making of Star Wars for Kids

A long time ago, in a galaxy far far away…

Well, not really that long ago, and on our same planet, actually, a boy named George Lucas was born in California. George was like many other boys in his day. He liked comic books and rock music and TV shows which were a very new thing in his time. His favorite TV shows were adventure stories with daring heroes who did extraordinary things. These heroes had names such as Buck Rogers and Flash Gordon. In order to buy his favorite things, George did chores around the house to earn a weekly allowance. One of his chores was mowing the lawn. The only problem was the family lawn mower was old, so it could be a very difficult chore. But George had the idea to save up his weekly money and buy a new lawnmower, so the job would be easier! This is called an investment, saving money toward something that will help you later.

In high school George loved cars. When he was 16 his dad bought him a car, but made sure it was a slow car, because he knew George liked to drive too fast. But George wouldn’t let that stop him from driving fast. He hung around car mechanics and garages and learned how to tinker with car engines, until he figured out how to make his little car drive faster. 

One of George’s favorite things to do was to drive around town in his car with his friends. He also liked to race other boys in his car. He enjoyed this so much that someday he wanted to be a race car driver. But one day when George was driving home he was driving very fast and very dangerous. Suddenly his car flipped over and rolled three times. George’s seat belt broke and he was thrown out of the car, just before his car smashed into a tree. An ambulance rushed George to the hospital. He was so hurt they didn’t know if he would survive. But miraculously he lived and after a couple months in the hospital, George got better. George decided being a race car driver wasn’t the best idea, so began looking for a new passion.

At school George started doing photography, which means taking pictures. He also decided to take classes to learn about filmmaking. A filmmaker is someone who makes movies. George made short movies and people really liked them. He had an eye for making movies look good and coming up with interesting ideas. His first big movie was about teenagers racing cars. It was called American Graffiti and to George’s surprise it won many awards and made him a lot of money. 

With all of the money from this movie he started to work on his next movie. He remembered all of the TV shows he loved growing up about adventures and space, and thought it would be fun to make a movie like that. His friends told him he should do a more serious movie, but with all of the sad things going on in the world like the Vietnam War, George wanted to do a more positive and fun movie. 

So George started to think up names of his heroes and the places they lived. He imagined distant planets and adventures for his heroes. He dreamed up space battles where ships flew through space and shot lasers at each other. He invented strange aliens and other creatures and made notes about their names and personalities. He would call his movie The Star Wars. 

After George wrote down all of the ideas, he needed to find a movie company who would pay for the movie. Many of the big companies thought it wasn’t a good idea. They thought The Star Wars was silly and no one would watch it. But George kept trying until he found a movie company called 20th Century Fox that liked his idea and would give him the money to make The Star Wars. 

Next George Lucas and his friends went to work improving his story. It took them many months of trying new characters and stories. Sometimes George got very bored with the work. Many times he had to go to different friends or his helpful wife to get new ideas. After a lot of work and patience he finally had a finished story for Star Wars. It would be about a young farm boy named Luke Skywalker who would meet an old Jedi named Obi Wan Kenobi. Together they would find a smuggler named Han Solo, who would help them return the missing droid R2D2 to its owner Princess Leia and rescue her from the evil Darth Vader.

Once the story was approved, George and his team found people to play the parts of their main characters, called actors. He also had a team of artists to turn his ideas into drawings so they could begin to make real costumes and ships and other props for the movie. When filming the spaceships nothing had been done like this before, so they had to be very creative and invent new ways to film the space battles to make them look real. 

George and his crew had to travel to deserts and other places across the world to film all of the places for their movie. Unexpected challenges with filming, with the crew and with 20th Century Fox didn’t leave George enough to make the movie, so he had to be creative and find ways to do things for less. By the time the movie was done, George wasn’t sure if anyone would like it.  

Finally, Star Wars was in theaters and audiences got to watch it for the first time. At the beginning when the music and the first space ship appeared on the screen everyone cheered. At the end of the movie the audience clapped and cheered and didn’t stop. They loved it! They were so amazed at what they saw. Nothing like Star Wars had ever been done before! People went back and saw it over and over. Many stood in line for hours just to see it again. George knew he had made a great movie, but had no idea how much people would love it. It became a box office hit, broke many records, and was the most popular movie for many years all over the world. 

All of George’s and his teams hard work and creativity finally paid off. They went on to make two more Star Wars movies, The Empire Strikes Back and Return of the Jedi. Both movies were also very popular. 

A few years later George dreamed up a new hero, an archeologist who went on adventures. He named after his own dog, Indiana, and Indiana Jones was born. George made this movie with his friend Steven Spielberg and it was also a huge success.

More recently, Disney bought the rights to Star Wars from George Lucas for four billion dollars. George said he would give half of the money to people in need. Much of it will go to helping schools. 

George Lucas wasn’t afraid to try new things and use his imagination and creativity to come up with new ideas. Often our creative ideas can lead to new and exciting things. If you ever have an idea be sure to write it down, make your own story, or draw a picture of it. George’s ideas sparked the imagination of millions, and got many young people interested in space and making their own movies. 

Watching movies is a helpful way to relax our brains and open them up to new ideas. Spend some time thinking about what you might do to be creative, because you never know what your own ideas will lead to!

History of Benjamin Franklin for Kids

Have you heard of a Founding Father before? A Founding Father is someone who helped start the United States of America. Benjamin Franklin was a Founding Father. Some have also called him the First American, because he had so many of the traits that would become known as American, such as hard work and independence. Independence is when you do something for yourself. 

Ben Franklin was born in Boston Massachusetts to a very large family. He had 17 brothers and sisters! His family didn’t have very much money so he only went to school for 2 years. But he did spend a lot of time reading on his own. He also learned to write and enjoyed doing it.

When he was young he worked for his older brother who was a printer. A printer would print newspapers and books for other people. Printing was important, because it was the best way to share an idea at that time. Printers would use little metal letters and build entire pages of words and sentences, then use black ink to make copies of the metal letters. Because Ben was working for his older brother he was called an “apprentice.” An apprentice is someone who is learning to become a master at a certain skill like printing. 

While Ben was working as a printer he also liked to write for the newspaper. He would use a fake name Silence Dogood to write in the newspaper. He pretended to be an old lady and wrote funny jokes. Many people in the town thought this was very funny and didn’t know it was Ben writing the jokes. 

After a few years Ben left his brother’s shop and started working for a new printer. His job was to set the metal letters in the big printing machine. He was also a clerk, a shopkeeper and a bookkeeper. He liked to stay busy and to learn all he could while he was working.

Around this time, when he was 20 years old, Ben formed a group including other Americans who also liked to read. Books cost a lot of money to buy, and there were no libraries, so Ben and his friends started their own library. They shared the books they read and met together to talk about what they read. Later in his life Ben would help start some of the first libraries in America because he knew reading and learning were so important.

After working for other printers for many years, Ben started his own printing shop. He wrote about his own ideas and used parts of the paper to talk about good morals. Morals are the things that are good to do in life — like being honest, being kind, not stealing and working hard. Ben made lists of what he wanted to do better each day then at the end of the day checked the boxes on what he did good at and made note of what he needed to do better. He believed improving each day was very important.

Ben was very interested in science and invention. He studied electricity. At the time no one had electricity, which means they had no lights or electronics like we do today. Ben saw lightning during a storm and guessed that it must be electricity. Sometimes when lightning hit tall buildings it started fires. Ben had the idea to put a metal pole on the top of buildings, so when the lightning struck the pole it would go into the ground instead of start fires. This invention was called a lightning rod. Many people think that Ben used a kite to discover lightning was electricity, but he really just wrote about the idea and someone else tried it.

Ben also invented a certain type of eye glasses called bifocals, which allowed someone to see differently depending on the part of the glasses they were looking through.

Ben also liked to play chess. He also created the first Fire Department and helped start some of the first universities in the United States.

Because of his newspapers and his inventions and other achievements Ben Franklin became very well known in America and across the ocean in Europe. When many Americans disagreed with England about taxes, Ben was on the side of the Americans who wanted change. He wrote about his ideas and even helped Thomas Jefferson write the Declaration of Independence. The Declaration of Independence was a paper they wrote to tell England they wanted to be their own country and to be free.

A war began between America and England, so Ben took a ship across the ocean to ask for France’s help. The French people loved Ben Franklin. He liked to wear a fur hat and talk about science and his inventions. They thought he was interesting and fun to talk to. France ended up helping America fight and later win the war against England. 

In his new country, Ben helped put together the first Constitution. The Constitution was a list of laws to help the country stay together and work well. To the end of his life Ben did all he could to help make America a strong country. 

Earlier we talked about some of the morals, good things we should do, that Ben wrote about in his paper. Ben wasn’t a perfect person, like all of us, but he wanted to do good things. 

He wrote about temperance. Temperance is not doing too much of something such as eating. We need good food for our bodies, but too much of it isn’t always a good thing. We can usually tell by how our stomachs feel when we are eating.

He also taught about silence. Sometimes it’s good to speak up, but other times it’s better to listen and think about what we should say. If we don’t think before we speak, we often say things we don’t really mean.

Order means to think about what we are doing and have a plan. We shouldn’t spend all our time doing the same thing, but giving the right amount of time to each good thing.

Frugality means to be careful with the money that you have. It’s easy to want to spend all of your money, but it’s better to spend money on what you need and to save some. It’s ok to spend some of your money on fun things, but not all of it.

Industry means to stay busy doing useful things. Each day we can make a plan of what we want to do and then get to work. Having fun is good in its own time, but we should also spend time learning, helping others, and getting chores and other things done.

Justice means treating others well and doing our best to make things fair.

Cleanliness means we should take care of our bodies by keeping them cleaning, bathing each day, and brushing our teeth.

Like Ben, we can do our best to live by these teachings each day. You could even keep track of your goals like Ben did in his journals and checklists. You can also read and learn and come up with new ideas that will help other people like Ben’s lightning rod. You can also be courageous and stand up for good things like Ben did during the Revolution. 

The Keri Strug Story for Kids

Have you ever heard of the Olympic Games? The Olympics is a huge sporting event that happens once every two years, where countries from all over the world come together in one place to compete. It starts off with a big parade and is an exciting time for everyone in the world. A young girl named Kerri Strugg was one of the Olympians who competed in the games.

Kerri was born in Tucson, Arizona and started taking gymnastic classes when she was only 3 years old. She went to gymnastic practice very often and worked very hard at improving her skills. It wasn’t always easy, but she loved gymnastics and wanted to be very good at it. She loved swinging on the bars and doing cartwheels and flips on the mats. And by the time she was 8, Kerri was competing against other gymnasts. Soon after this she started practicing very seriously with a special coach so she could go on to the great Olympics games. Her family even decided to move so she could practice with the best coach. It probably wasn’t easy moving schools, having to make new friends, but she was determined to reach her goal.

When Kerri was only 14 she went to her first Olympics in Barcelona Spain. She was the youngest girl on the team and got to fly far across the ocean with the rest of her team. At the Olympics they worked very hard and did their best and ended up winning a Bronze Medal — which is a very great award, but it is 3rd place. More than anything she wanted to win a Gold Medal. But for many years the Gold Medal in gymnastics was won by the Russian and Romanian teams, who were very good.

In between Olympics, Kerri continued to practice every day. She continued to learn more and build stronger muscles and improve until she could be the best gymnast she could be. There were times she fell and got hurt and it was hard to get back up, but she had a goal in mind and kept going. One time she was swinging around a bar and hit another bar and it hurt her so badly she had to go to the hospital. It took a long time for her to train her body so she could compete again, but nothing stopped Kerri. 

Around this time her coach from the first Olympics, Bela Karolyi, started to work with her again. She continued to do well in other competitions, preparing for the Olympics. But finally the Summer Olympic Games came again. This time it was in Atlanta Georgia, and Kerri joined her team of other gymnasts who became known as the Magnificent Seven. When Kerri got to the Olympics, she saw the Russian gymnasts and remembered how good they were. They always seemed to win and Kerri and her friends wanted the Gold Medal so badly. 

When the games began, the Russian gymnasts were doing very well. They had also trained very hard and also wanted the Gold Medal. For many days the Russians were receiving higher scores and Kerri and her team wondered if they could win. On the last day it was Kerri’s turn and she ran as fast as she could across the mat, did a cartwheel, then a back-handspring and flipped several times and landed on the mat, but her feet didn’t land right and she heard a “snap!” Then she fell and her ankle hurt very badly. She wanted to cry, but held it in and limped off the mat. 

By this time the score was very close and she would have to do a flip one more time if she wanted her team to win the Gold Medal. But her foot hurt and she didn’t know if she could do it.

“You can do it!” her coach, Bela said to her. “You can do it.” Everyone was cheering her on. They believed she could do it again, even though she was in so much pain.

When it was her turn, Kerri took a deep breath, tried to forget the pain in her foot, and started at the beginning of the mat. She wanted to win so much. She knew she could do it. She heard the crowds cheering. She started running even though her foot hurt. She did another cartwheel and back hand spring and many flips. When she came down on the mat she landed with both feet! It was amazing! The crowd cheered wildly! She had done it! With her hurt ankle she had done the flip and landed on both feet! The judges gave her a very good score.

But this was all she could give and after raising her arms to the crowd and the judges, she fell down. Her coaches ran to her side, because they could see she was hurt. She was taken to the hospital so they could bandage her leg.

On the final day of the Olympics Kerri was carried out to the crowd by her coach, Bela, with her bandaged leg, and there she and her team listened to the Star Spangled Banner, America’s song as they received Gold Medals. After all of their practice and hard work their dreams had come true! 

This was Kerri’s last Olympic Games, but as she got older she went on to do other good things that weren’t in the news, but still important. She became an ice skater and also finished college. Kerri then went on to teach elementary school in California and later got married and became a mom to two kids. 

Like Kerri, when we have goals we can work toward them. Every day we may need to do something to make them happen. We can dream and dream, but in order for those dreams to become true we have to do something about them, even if they are small. What you do doesn’t always have to be in the news or make you famous, but if it’s improving yourself or helping others around you, that is what is most important.

History of the Transcontinental Railroad for Kids

Do you know what a train is? You may have seen one when your car was stopped and you had to wait to watch it pass. Or maybe you’ve even taken a ride on a train. Trains are extremely important because they move goods and people from one place to another and can do it very quickly. Railroads are one of the most important parts of American History, because the country is very big and they helped connect the East and the West.

Many years ago it took a very long time to travel from the East to the West. Most people had to take a boat all the way around the continent, a journey which took months to complete. Travellers could also take a wagon across the dangerous wilderness and tall mountains to get from one side of the country to another. Either way, it was a very difficult journey and kept the country separated in many ways. 

But in the 1800s gold was discovered in the West and many Americans moved there to try and strike it rich. But one major problem was how long it took to get to the gold. One man, Asa Whitney, believed a railroad could be built right through the the middle of the country. Many doubted this could be done, but Asa made a plan and went to the government with his idea, but at first no progress was made.

Later, an American named Theodore Judah decided to find a way to build a railroad across the country. He was a surveyor. A surveyor is someone who looks at the land with special tools and finds ways to build roads and buildings on it. Theodore had many good ideas about how the railroad could be built. He had to learn much about math and other sciences in order to design maps that could be used to make a path for the railroad. 

Eventually two big companies, the Union Pacific Railroad and the Central Pacific Railroad caught the vision of the railroad and decided to make it happen. They would call it the Transcontinental Railroad. Soon afterward one company started in California and the other started in Nebraska with a plan to meet in the middle. 

Building the railroad across the United Stated was a dangerous task and extremely difficult at times. They had to build tall bridges across wide rivers. To go through mountains they had to dig deep holes, then place gun powder in them and blow them up to create even deeper holes that went all the way through the mountain. Many smart engineers worked on creating a path for the 2000 miles of track that were being laid. Railroad tracks were laid by pounding spikes into railroad ties. All of this work was done by hand, by pounding each spike in with a hammer. This was very difficult work and many workers didn’t survive the hard labor. Americans of all different races and colors helped build the railroad. One group that did much of the work were Chinese immigrants. An immigrant is someone who comes from another country. Chinese immigrants worked long and hard for very little pay to help complete the monumental task. 

In 1869 after eight years of work the two companies met in the middle at Promontory Point, Utah. They threw a big party to celebrate the completion of the railroad. A gold spike had been prepared as the last spike in the railroad. President of the Central Pacific Railroad, Governor Stanford gave a speech then lifted a hammer to pound the last spike into the ground. But he swung and missed! The crowd burst out laughing. “He missed it!” They said. He swung again and hit the gold spike in. Everyone cheered! 

News of the finished railroad was sent by telegram to both parts of the country. When it reached New York and California they fired off cannons to show their excitement. It was truly an exciting time for the United States of America! A trip across the country that had taken many months now only took 10 days! The new Transcontinental Railroad was truly an engineer miracle of hard work and smart minds all working together to accomplish a common task.