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#GivingTuesday Is Past But We Still Need Your Help

Tuesday, December 2nd, 2014

Dear Friends of KIDS FIRST!Thank you so much for your continued support of KIDS FIRST! and our KIDS FIRST! Film Critics. This year, we started a new fund campaignon #GivingTuesday, asking for your support. Our goal is to raise $10,000 by the end of this year. Please consider making a contribution. No amount is too big or too small. Even $10, the price of a movie ticket, will make a difference. You can easily make a donation online at our fundraise.com page.

This year marks a record number of film reviews by our youth reporters and a record number of people reached by our coverage. Thanks to our media partners –  Huffington Post, Workingmother,com, GRANDmagazine.com, Voice America Kids Network, Kidzworld.com, Kidsville News, SoCal City Kids and 48 additional national, regional and local publications both print and online – our coverage reaches more than 7 million every month! That’s a lot.

Our hard-working youth reporters are appearing on the red carpet at premieres interviewing celebrities and talking about the films. They attend press screenings, press junkets and work alongside seasoned entertainment reporters where they hold their own!

We have posted more than 1100 videotaped film reviews and celebrity interviews on our KIDS FIRST! YouTube Channel which gets more than 13,000 views monthly!

#GivingTuesday is past but we still need your help!
As you consider your charitable year-end giving today, we hope that you will help support KIDS FIRST! We depend on donations from our supporters to raise 15% of our annual operating budget every year. A tax-deductible contribution from you will support our 2014-15 annual fund drive.

Your donation helps supports the following programs:

  • KIDS FIRST! Film Critics, training, coaching editing and management of our awesome team.
  • KIDS FIRST! Film Critics Boot Camp, scholarships for low income kids.
  • KIDS FIRST! Film Festival, curating a collection of independent, youth produced and studio films for our network of film festival venues.
  • Development of a new app for our KIDS FIRST! reviews.

Your support helps make these programs happen! KIDS FIRST! is unique in that it is the only non-profit media evaluation and assessment program that focuses on reviews by kids of media made for kids.

Help keep the lights on!

Every dollar makes a difference. Your 100% tax-deductible contribution ensures that KIDS FIRST! will thrive for many years to come. It’s easy to contribute, simply click through here to donate at fundraise.com. You may use any major credit card to donate online, or, if you prefer, you can mail us a check.

Thanks from everyone at KIDS FIRST!

Ranny Levy

Founder and President

ps. Don’t forget to check with your employer to see if they have a matching gift program to increase the value of your donation.

This the Season to Enjoy Music!

Friday, November 14th, 2014

As the holiday season approaches, we have something special to share with you – some of the fabulous music CDs that we’ve recently endorsed. This music will surely be enjoyed by your children but, like most wonderful music, adults will find it equally pleasing. In 2014, the knowledgeable music critic John Wood joined our ranks as a music judge and, of course, our KIDS FIRST! Critics added their two cents in addition. Take a look below. I’m sure you will find some fabulous choices to share with the youth in your universe this holiday season.

APPETITE FOR CONSTRUCTION  (AGES 2-5).  These songs provide an active participation point for whole-family engagement, celebrating imaginative play, building, dance, puppet making and more.  “We wanted to make something that wasn’t only about listening, but could actually be recreated and re-imagined at home,” explains Stein. “The Pop Ups are all about making things,” adds Rabinowitz.  “We want our fans to be able to engage in that experience for themselves and really take part in the record, and to experience The Pop Ups world.”  THE POP UPS.

  • Adult Juror Comments: Stop the presses! Late breaking news: The Pop Ups have done it again! Their latest album ‘Appetite For Construction’ is a fanciful, danceable explosion of ideas and get-down rhymes and rhythms. The group is in touch with its musical lineage and producer/arranger Jason Rabinowitz does a masterful job of paying/playing homage to a myriad of pop culture voicing and styles. The group has a special spark and presents a moving target of attention grabbing hip nouveau vaudeville. Oh, and by the way, I liked the album. This is a finely constructed and produced album from the first downbeat. Nothing unappealing unlike a banana.  Each song segues into the next seamlessly with a myriad of pop culture styles.  Their liner notes hit it on the head, “This album is dedicated to the simple joy of making things with family & friends!” The group knows how to integrate terrific music with creative voice work that they perform live with the puppet portion of their shows. They always present a moving target of attention-grabbing modern vaudeville. Top rate sound quality has layers of harmonies, excellent musicianship and masterful recording technique. Reviewed by John Wood.

Kid Juror Comments: The kids absolutely loved this CD, especially the upbeat music that made them dance. They liked the vocalist, the instruments and the fun music. The kids that reviewed the CD were ages 2-7. The slower songs were not as enthusiastically enjoyed as much as the faster paced ones but. overall they really enjoyed this. One 2-year-old came running in from another room dancing along to it. Their favorite song is “Getting the Job Done” and they repeatedly said, “give it a 5” (rating). Audio. 40 min.; $12; Age: 2-5.

AS THE CROW FLIES  (AGES 2-5).  Family recording artist Dan Crow offers a brand new collection of original songs that celebrate his fun with travels around the world.  ALLS HOUSE FAMILY ENTERTAINMENT.

Adult Juror Comments: Dan Crow’s “As the Crow Flies” boasts the talents of a seasoned, much-traveled performer who knows his audience. The album is packed with outright fun and danceable hits that will have its audience on their feet and moving right along. Some of the highlights, supported by a band of all-stars, are the surf-inspired “Stevie’s Got a Maui Owie,” the multitude of fun available on the “Playground” and the timeless log of a little dog in “Greyfriar’s Bobby” complete with authentic Scottish instrumentation. A fun, inspired album the whole family will enjoy. There are lots of opportunities for participation, out and out fun, and movement. The children’s chorus is particularly appealing. The artist recalls growing up in his first house, the love of eating mac n’ cheese, the fun of traveling, anti-bullying and something we can all remember – waiting for the Tooth Fairy. The recording quality is terrific and the guest musicians and youth singers are all top notch. We love this one! `

Kid Juror Comments: This CD has a lot of fun and catchy songs. The lyrics don’t always make sense and are sometimes just silly but they will make kids want to laugh out loud and dance around the room. The instrumental part is a very strong part of the CD. It is what will make you want to get up and dance around. Even when the words are a bit too silly the instrumental section holds your attention. Although, young kids may not learn a lot from listening to the CD, they will enjoy the music and sometimes that is just as important as learning something new. I did learn something from the song “Bully Girl and Bully Boy.” The music styles are pretty similar throughout the CD. There is some rhyming and the songs touch on topics such as the tooth fairy and the playground, things kids can relate to.  I recommend this for kids ages 4 to 8. Audio. 40 min.; $12.99; Age: 5-8.

COOL KIND KID  (AGES 3-8).  Winner of more than 15 national awards, including Parents’ Choice and Teachers’ Choice. 17 original songs, each teaching a different social skill. The fun way for kids 2 to 9 to learn social skills to reject bullying. Kids are engaged as they learn “the kind kid is a COOL kid, not the bully.”  COOL KIND KID

Adult Juror Comments: This CD is a 17 set of character-affirming songs that present children with options to make positive choices in their daily existence of life, school and home with special attention paid t peer pressure. The songs are well produced and performed with a mix of adult and child performers. An array of musical styles from rock to pop to folk infuse the messages of manners, respect and making a stand with an accessible immediacy. The collection is a valuable teaching tool for parents and educators to integrate into their bag of tricks. The structure is sound. Every song has a behavior that ideally should be modeled – manners, standing up for what is right, following rules, kindness and similar. The content is age appropriate and, of course, emphasizes that it is “cool to be kind.”

Kid Juror Comments: This is a very cool music CD which includes 17 songs that demonstrate how to be polite and Well mannered, with a catchy beat! I honestly thought it may be a little cheesy but the CD pleasantly surprised me. The irst song of the album, “Cool Kind Kid,” is simply perfect for teaching younger kids about proper behavior.

All songs in the album not only send positive message but lead kids with an example. Music ranges from rock and roll to slow and soothing, to upbeat and modern. Each song is completely different from the last and concentrates on one
specific item. For example, one of my favorites, “When the Telephone Rings” talks about how to pick up and answer telephone correctly.

There are 17 songs in total. Each of the songs is about two to three minutes long. All somewhat tell a story and even though you may not realize, all teach you a lesson as well. Most of the songs are catchy. However, there are a couple that feel a bit forced and probably would have benefited from a better singer. But those are an exception and I do like the fact that the majority of the songs are sung by kids. Since I’m 12, the songs were a bit childish for me but I could see a class of preschoolers enjoying it and singing along. I also found it very smart to make this for such little kids, so when they grow up, they have good manners and a clear understanding between right and wrong.

My favorite song is “When the Telephone Rings.” The song is about being polite during a call, and I like it the most because the voice is very impressive and the lyrics are catchy. It all wraps up nicely as the song explores three different situations with a good sense of humor. These songs are for little kids, so I think the best age rating is 2 to 6. I don’t believe older kids would enjoy it or benefit from the message as much. Younger kids would not understand the purpose of it. I also give it 4.5 out of 5 stars. Reviewed By Gerry Orz, age 12, KIDS FIRST! Film Critic

LOVE BUG BY RAFFI  (AGES 2-5).  This 16 song collection embodies all of the qualities that have already established Raffi as a beloved and trusted icon for young listeners. These are songs about love (“Love Bug,” “Seeing the Heart”), nature (“In the Real World,” “Blue White Planet”), play (“Free to Play,” “To the Park”), chores (“Mama Loves It”), teamwork (“On Hockey Days”), imagination (“Magic Wand”) and the need to slow down and catch one’s breath amidst the accelerated pace of modern life (“Cool Down Reggae”).  ROUNDER RECORDS/CONCORD MUSIC GROUP

Adult Juror Comments: Let’s start with the obvious, ‘Love Bug’ is a terrific album filled with lovely and entrancing songs. I could say, ridiculously, where have you been for twelve years? And the answer might be, doing lots of fun and satisfying stuff. It’s like we never missed you, Raffi. The soothing voice and positive artistic sensibilities are sharper than ever. The love for the individual child and family, care for our world and the simple joys of playing ice hockey, and enjoying the park are just a sampling of this splendidly produced and performed 16-song set. And a nod to the updated lyrics to ‘This Land is Your Land.’ Beautiful guitar work. engaging production and that voice that makes a stadium performance sound like a personal concert in your living room. Pick this up, you won’t put it down.

I really like the choice of mainly acoustic instruments (guitars, banjo, fiddle, drums, bass piano and dulcimer). This music breathes. Raffi is one of the foundations of children’s music – a national treasure that generations have grown up with. There are terrific songs, exceptionally performed and spot-on for the target audience. The structure and continuity are near-perfect.

The title says it all: Love Bug! Raffi is all about love, respect, our planet and the power children have to change their surroundings for the better. Like Fred Rogers, he is true to himself, respectful of his audience and always in a gentle, loving way. He is a seeker of good intentions for the World we live in. Raffi’s voice is an instrument that soothes and draws the audience to scoot just a little bit closer. The kid choruses are lovely. The production fabulous. The musicians add so much energy and propulsion. I hope that children will see a bigger picture of their involvement and heir apparent to a smaller, brighter and more loving world.

Kid Juror Comments: The kids really enjoyed this CD. This is the first time I’ve heard a Raffi CD and, although the lyrics are very intelligent and often mature, the kids still were completely drawn in to the songs. They sang along almost immediately and they wanted to hear more. After the original review, I started playing it in the car when they were out of control and they would immediately calm down and start singing along. They especially love the first two songs. Based on the kids’ reactions, I recommend this CD to anyone. They particularly loved the Dogwood Song and Love Bug was their second favorite. Audio. 40 min.; $15; Age: 2-7.

Scholarships Available for Film Critics Boot Camps in Silver Spring and Martha’s Vineyard

Wednesday, July 9th, 2014

KFCA.2014_1.jpgIf your child loves films, loves to talk about them and loves to be on camera, we have a camp for you! This “opportunity of a lifetime” experience offers learning and fun all in one. One of our sponsors just made available two partial scholarships for our camp in Silver Spring, MD next week (July 14-18) and another has made two FULL SCHOLARSHIPS available in Martha’s Vineyard for our camp August 11-15. If you can take advantage of these opportunities, don’t delay, do it today!
The camp is open to boys and girls, ages 10 to 15. This unique boot camp helps build self confidence and explores the behind-the-scenes aspects of the film industry while kids critique the latest films, learn to write reviews, practice interview techniques, improve on-camera skills, visit with industry professionals and are coached by seasoned professionals. All campers will have the opportunity to join the KIDS FIRST! Film Critic team of reporters afterwards.

The KIDS FIRST! Film Critic’s program, now in its fourth year, has received acclaim from publishers and educators alike. The reviews, both written and videotaped, by the team of youth reporters reach an audience of more than 7 million monthly through affiliations with broadcast, print and online publishers including Huffington Post, YouTube, Voice America Kids Network, Kidsville News, Working Woman, Kidzworld.com, HDnet Movies KidScene, LA Parent, Westchester Parent and many more.

Leading the KIDS FIRST! teaching team is Ranny Levy, founder and president of KIDS FIRST! / Coalition for Quality Children’s Media, a former television producer, educator and long-time children’s media advocate. With a life-long interest in film and children’s use of film, Carol Darcy, with an EdD in Education Leadership and Curriculum Development (Boston University) has taught kindergarten, undergraduate and graduate students. She designed a professional development course called Being a Pro-Active Media Literacy Advocate. Carol joins the KIDS FIRST! Film Critic Boot Camp staff this summer on Martha’s Vineyard.

The week-long boot camps meet Monday through Friday from 9 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. in Silver Spring and 9 a.m to 2:00 p.m. at Martha’s Vineyard. Locations include:

  • July 14 – 18:  Silver Spring, MD, Discovery Communications (DCE World Headquarters)
  • Aug 11 – Aug 15: Martha’s Vineyard, Martha’s Vineyard Film Center

For more information and to register, go to http://www.kidsfirst.org. Please act soon, because space is limited. Tuition: $459. The partial scholarships in Silver Springs brings the camp down to $225 per child! There are two full scholarships available for kids at the Martha’s Vineyard Camp. For more information visit http://www.kidsfirst.org/become-a-juror/2014.BootCamp.html

KIDS FIRST! Film Critic Boot Camp is a program of the 23-year-old, national, nonprofit organization,  Coalition for Quality Children’s Media  whose mission is to teach children critical viewing skills and to increase the visibility and availability of quality children’s media. For more information visit http://www.kidsfirst.org.

“Your efforts to make media a more valuable part of students’ lives is critically important,” John Wilson, Executive Director, National Education Association.

Enter, Vote and Support KIDS FIRST!

Tuesday, December 11th, 2012

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SUPPORT KIDS FIRST! We know that Holiday Time is the #1 time for making tax-deductible donations to your favorite nonprofits. Please keep us in mind in your annual giving and consider making a contribution to KIDS FIRST!

TIME TO ENTER AND VOTE! KIDS FIRST! needs your help to choose the next group of Film Critics. 2013 will be the third year we welcome new faces to represent KIDS FIRST! to review tons of new feature films, DVDs and old classics. Our youth critics also attend Red Carpet Events and host our very own radio show, KIDS FIRST! Coming Attractions on Voice America Kids. We are so excited to welcome these new faces – but don’t worry, you will still see many of our 2011 and 2012 critics next year!

There is still time to enter. If you haven’t entered yet, there’s still plenty of time to do it. Auditions are being accepted from any child ages 7-14. To enter, you will need to watch one of our search titles: Big Top Scooby-Doo!, E.T. : The Extra-Terrestrial, 30th Anniversary, Diary of a Wimpy Kid: Dog Days, Princess Bride, 25th Anniversary or Santa Paws 2: The Santa Pups  (if you have a group that would like to have an event and enter, please contact us so we can help.)

Next, complete the entry form and submit your written review. After that, you will upload your review and get out the vote. For full rules, instructions and links to the entry form and upload information, visit the 2013 KIDS FIRST! Film Critic landing page. There are also great tips and short online webinars to help to increase your chances of winning a Film Critic spot for next year.

Now it is time to vote! Whether you or one of your friends has auditioned, or if you just want to have a say about who will be the next KIDS FIRST! Film Critics, you will need to help get out the vote. Visit the 2013 Film Critic Search website and click on the tab “Browse & Vote Here.”  Scroll through the pages and watch the reviews. If you like a video, choose the star rating you think is appropriate and click on it (you will have to hover your mouse over the stars beneath the video to choose your rating.)

Vote for all your favorites, tell all your friends, post it to your social media sites and do it often. Voting closes on December 31, 2012 at midnight. Winners will be announced shortly after.

Please support of our Film Critics Program. Every little bit helps! Even if you can only contribute $5, we need your support. Your donation to KIDS FIRST! is always tax deductible, so help us to help kids. At KIDS FIRST! we believe that Smart Kids Make Smart Consumers. Please visit our fundraising page, or contact us directly, if you can help.

KIDS FIRST! Kids Shine at the ‘Winnie the Pooh’ Premiere

Tuesday, July 12th, 2011

Premiere_1.jpgWith flash bulbs popping and microphones extended to talent whose voices were, perhaps, more recognizable than their faces, the lucky kids at KIDS FIRST! Boot Camp plied their media skills at the pre-camp special event: Walt Disney Studios’ red carpet celebration for the new Winnie the Pooh movie opening this Friday (which gets an all-star rating from KIDS FIRST!).

Reviewing the film a thte screening that followed the red carpet appearances were seasoned KIDS FIRST! film critics Anthony Aranda (age 8), Makai Colvin (age 9) and Raven Devanney (age 13). Be sure to check out their reviews.

With the live set of Christopher Robin’s room in the background, Boot Camp-ers mingled with co-director Stephen Anderson and many of the actors whose voices give life to the beloved characters – Tom Kenny (Rabbit), Craig Ferguson (Owl), Jim Cummings (dual role of Winnie the Pooh and Tigger) — and some of the often unsung talent of the wonderful animation, like Andreas Deja, supervising animator of Tigger. Then, taking with them all the behind-the-scenes insights from these conversations, Boot Camp-ers headed to Disney’s theater — and all the excitement culminated with the premiere of the movie itself.

Disney’s Animation Studio

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