Entries from January 2009 ↓

CPSIA: What happens when the hammer falls?

 Books and gavel

As a writer/publisher of books for children and teens, I’m deeply troubled by the new Consumer Product Safety Improvement Act (CPSIA) and its far-reaching and impractical implications for anyone who markets to children 12 and under. And I’m certainly not alone. 

A whole lot of blogging energy is being expended—with the number of posts growing exponentially—on the subject of the CPSIA, whose great hammer will slam down on the multi-billion dollar children’s industry in one month.

Furthermore, as the mainstream media has (finally) gotten wind of all this, some excellent articles have begun to crop up online as well. Below are some links to informative articles, blogs, and correspondence that clearly articulate the devastating potential of CPSIA on small businesses (and on our already flailing economy).

WorldNetDaily: Is Feb. 10 financial doomsday for thousands?

The Homeschooler’s Notebook: The Sale of Children’s Books to Be Banned (includes links and calls to action)

Book Burning and CPSIA

Talking Points from Rick Woldenberg, Chairman, of Learning Resources, who has been championing this cause for some time now

Wall Street Journal: Vendors Urge Relaxed Lead-Safety Rule

Association of American Publishers’ letter to CPSC (AAP is fighting for an exemption for books and other paper products)

TheSmartMama.com updates her blog almost daily with the most current CPSIA news

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Feel free to comment and leave links to other helpful, informative articles and blogs.

What will they think of next?

Hey, where can I get myself one of those nifty air-conditioned TVs?

Air-conditioned TV

. . . . .

Stop by every 1st and 3rd Wednesday for a peek into the world of spelling, punctuation, or grammar gone wrong!

CPSIA: Thoughts on the demise of the children’s cottage industry

Closed signFebruary 10, 2009, also known as National Bankruptcy Day. Have you heard of it? It’s the unfortunate result of the new CPSIA law requiring more stringent testing of children’s products for lead and phthalates.

Good Idea Gone Bad 

What started out as a well-meaning law to protect children under 13 has morphed into a potentially catastrophic economic disaster for America’s small businesses catering to kids: manufacturers; home-based businesses; crafters; small publishers; and proprietors of secondhand (thrift, antique, and book) stores.

This law is likely to shut the door on WAHMs, cottage industries, small publishers, and enterprising manufacturers nationwide because the method and cost of testing products for lead and phthalates is prohibitive for the small businessperson. This poorly crafted law not only impacts these businesses, but the millions of consumers who will have fewer choices at higher prices. In light of our current economic downturn, is this the year to:

  • Force thousands of small businesses to shut their doors?
  • Forbid struggling families from reselling used children’s clothing, toys, books, and furniture to help make ends meet? 
  • Bring to a screeching halt the services once provided by secondhand stores to put affordable products into the hands of those who choose to live frugally?
  • Put collectors and used-book stores out of business because they can’t buy or sell collectible antique toys or vintage children’s books anymore?

There are many concerns among children’s toy and clothing manufacturers about the effect that expensive mandatory testing will have on their businesses, and with good reason.

Farewell to Old Friends

We’re self-publishers with a market that includes children 12 and under, and we’re concerned about the impact of this CPSIA law on our business. The bulk of our product line is for older kids, but we do have to make some changes.

We’re not alone. I’m even more worried about my fellow small publishers, booksellers, and manufacturers. 

  • Consignment, antique, and thrift stores will lose a major component of their business–used children’s articles. And the babies-only thrift stores will be forced to close their doors entirely. Bye-bye to donating used clothing and toys to the church nursery and Mexican orphanages. No more lovingly handmade quilts and afghans for preemies, cancer patients, American troops, and senior citizens. 
  • A sweet friend makes a living traveling to homeschool conferences where she resells vintage books she finds at estate, garage, and library sales. Much of her inventory is old children’s books. She could lose her business because she will no longer be able to buy or sell used books.
  • One of my former WriteShop students (now a college sophomore) sews and sells period costumes as a cottage industry. Her children’s line is now kaput. 
  • My daughter occasionally makes and sells custom baby slings and carriers. Nope. No more.
  • A fellow vendor creates amazing science kits from a variety of components. The components themselves are not usually marketed to children, but once he has assembled his science kits, he sells them to schools and homeschooling parents for their children’s use. He too could lose his business because he will not be able to afford to test every component for every science kit he produces. 
  • Similarly, another publisher I know also creates history-based craft kits. For the same reasons as my science friend, she will be closing this line, her most profitable, at a time when her family is faced with over $100,000 in medical bills.
  • And what about collectibles? Collectors who buy and sell vintage toys will not be able to conduct business anymore. Collectible Barbies, comic books, retro toys and lunchboxes, Victorian dollhouses, you name it! If these items are no longer saleable, they will lose their value because no one can buy them anymore without prohibitively expensive testing. These items, once intended for kids, are now adult collectibles, yet the door will be shut on their businesses without a swift and sweeping change in the law.
  • Let’s not forget the garment industry. For every children’s garment in every style and every size, testing will need to be done on fabric, thread, zipper, buttons, and trim. The cost will be staggering, especially for the small manufacturer or WAHM or grandma who makes handmade blankets, bibs, and other sewn items.
  • And landfills. That’s another quandary. Since used items can’t be donated or sold, they’ll end up in landfills. A law whose original intent is to promote green thinking will actually have a horrible backlash as used articles make their way to the trash unnecessarily. How crazy is that?

I have six grandchildren whose lives and health I cherish. I’m not suggesting we lower the lead standards or compromise the safety of children’s products. This law is going to create many more problems than it solves. I just don’t believe that anyone saw the far-reaching effects of the law when it was signed. But in the process, a law was created with the grave likelihood of closing down many entrepreneurs and small manufacturers in this country.

Our government has thrown out the baby with the bathwater.

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The Smart Mama – Environmental attorney, mom, and entrepreneur helps us slog through the law

CPSIA Central – Website with tons of information


Picture books as pre-writing activities

Did you know that you can help prepare your child to write by reading a picture book together? A good picture book exposes children of all ages to quality literature, enhancing learning and teaching them a great deal about writing.

  • How words hook the reader at the beginning of the story.
  • How words form sentences and paragraphs and, finally, an organized story with a beginning, middle, and end.
  • How precise word choices show actions, descriptions, and feelings.

A Springboard to Writing

Before beginning to work on a new writing project or lesson, read a related picture book aloud to your child. Be sure you read during this time, not your child. She can practice reading skills another time.

Talk about the book with your child. Here are some ideas.

  • What words or sentences grabbed you at the beginning and made you want to hear or read more?
  • What happened at the beginning of the book? The middle?
  • How did the story end?
  • What are some of your favorite words?
  • How did the story make you feel?

Choosing Picture Books

We know you will want to take care in choosing just the right picture book for each lesson. There are so many wonderful read-alouds with delightful story lines and engaging illustrations. Start with your own bookshelf!

You can also scour used book stores, yard sales, online stores like Amazon, and the library in your search for the “perfect” book. For guidance, ask your local children’s librarian, read book reviews online, or seek out the recommendation of friends. Keep in mind that others’ recommendations may not always match your family’s criteria for acceptable reading. So the final decision, of course, is yours.

Though your child may love superheroes, Disney princesses, or other cartoon characters, you’ll want to avoid these mass market-type picture books for pre-writing times. Instead, look for high-quality, timeless books that play with language and use unique artwork. You know which ones I mean—the books you don’t mind reading again and again because you love them too!

A few lists of top picks:

If your child is older, and especially if she’s already reading, you may believe she is beyond picture books, but that’s not true! You’ll be pleasantly surprised to learn that many picture books are actually geared toward older children.

Begin your search here:

Printable word games

Free printable word games such as word puzzles and Mad Libs® are a painless way to provide your family with fun language-building activities.

LOOKING FOR a painless way to provide your family with some fun language-building activities? In just a few minutes, you can be sitting around the kitchen table enjoying a variety of printable word games that challenge you and your kids to use vocabulary in different ways.

  • Word twists and find-a-word puzzles help young readers develop speed and skill by quickly spotting letters and letter clusters.
  • Available at all proficiency levels, crossword puzzles offer clues and definitions to help students identify words.
  • Games like Mad Libs® help everyone better understand and use parts of speech.
  • And just about every word game helps improve spelling skills.

You can find hundreds of free, printable word games online. Most websites allow you to reproduce them for classroom or home use. Some websites even let you sign up to receive daily word puzzles by e-mail.

Getting Started

Here are a few handy places to get started. Have fun!

  • Puzzles features challenging word searches, hidden messages, and easier puzzles specifically for kids. Solve each puzzle with pen or pencil and paper.
  • The Kidz Page offers learning games such as mixed-up words, fill-in puzzles, and word searches (some with holiday themes).
  • Mad Glibs lets you create Mad Libs-type stories right on the computer. But for printable versions to use at home or on the road, each puzzle offers a “Printer Friendly” link that takes you to a free download.
  • Word Search Puzzles: Here you’ll find puzzles by theme as well as by level of difficulty, from easy to hard.
  • A bit more challenging, Printable Daily Crossword Puzzles offers seven new puzzles every day.

So sharpen those pencils, print out a few puzzles, and start the year off with some fun new writing games!

Photo: Wendy, courtesy of Creative Commons
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