Is Your Kid Ready for a Smartphone?


Download “The Smart Talk Quick Guide” today! Click to download.

National PTA—in collaboration with LifeLock—has announced The Smart Talk, a new interactive online tool that lets parent-child duos set ground rules together about smart digital habits.

With The Smart Talk, you can create a customized, personalized technology agreement with the kid(s) in your life. It all starts with creating your ground rules. Give it a try and then help us promote it by sharing #thesmarttalk on social media and within your PTA networks.

Spread the Word
Are you a local PTA leader? Spread the word at a PTA meeting or as a topic of discussion for your back-to-school meeting agenda. Consider using our sample digital graphics and social media messaging to post on your local PTA’s social media, and download the printable flier and The Smart Talk Quick Guide to encourage your units about getting parents and kids involved.

For more info, please visit and “Like” #TheSmartTalk on Facebook!

Catherine Llamido is the digital communications specialist at National PTA.

A Great Learning Experience

Reflections Student Art by Vy Nguyen (Grade 5)

Reflections Student Art by Vy Nguyen (Grade 5)

Creating art is a valuable learning process. Artistic exploration and expression enhance and develop intellectual, social and physical skills.

When children express themselves through words, pictures, music, photography and other art forms, they grow intellectually. The National PTA Reflections program helps parents encourage and recognize the continuous self-discovery process of their children.

With art, children learn to analyze their thoughts, feelings and ideas; look at objects, people and experiences in a fresh and exciting way; and develop curiosity for the ideas and works of others.

There are four skills students demonstrate and enhance through their artwork in the Reflections program:

  1. Critical Thinking—Students draw upon many skills and explore the creative process while reflecting on the annual Reflections’ theme. Oftentimes, students solve problems to real-world global issues or identify opportunities and strategies that really work.
  2. Communication—Students hone their writing and communication skills by articulating their thoughts and ideas in an artist statement that is shared with their peers and the greater school community. Reflections will give students a voice (using art) to inform, persuade, motivate and inspire others.
  3. Collaboration—Families and classrooms have fun discussing the annual theme and exploring new art-making techniques. A student choreographer or film director will cultivate leadership skills while working with their peers, and a Reflections Art Night will offer time and space for the whole family. Student leadership and ownership are key for a successful Reflections submission.
  4. Creativity—Students find themselves at the epicenter of their imagination. Reflections artwork is a product of mastering the creative process. Students must brainstorm multiple ideas and even combinations of them by elaborating, refining, analyzing and evaluating. The process allows students to think outside the box and create a tangible, useful work of art that inspires others to be engaged in their own learning.

It’s programs like PTA Reflections that allow students to cultivate and curate creative skills that give them an academic advantage.

Students who participate in arts programs like Reflections show the greatest relative improvement in academic achievement, especially for those in underserved communities. Arts education has the ability to level the playing field because it provides a safe learning environment where students take risks, explore ideas and express their individuality. Students also learn to support their peers in a positive way by breaking down communication barriersprobably because the arts are a universal language (

Reflections is designed to enhance arts education. It provides opportunities for students to express themselves and to receive positive recognition for their artistic efforts. Family members, school personnel and the community all play a critical role in fostering a positive learning environment for children. Supporting a Reflections program in your community is one way adults can help maintain that environment.

I encourage you to support student learning through the arts so that today’s Reflections artists can find their voice and continue to explore their world in creative ways.

Learn more and get started at

Ethan Clark is the Manager of Education and Arts Initiatives at National PTA.

How a Political Operative Turned Into an Advocate for Childhood Literacy

JN Ball For Blog Post

Jake Ball and his family

Children’s Bookstore is a financial sponsor of National PTA, and has been invited to submit a blog post as part of their engagement with PTA. National PTA does not endorse any commercial entity, product, or service, and no endorsement is implied by this content.

Children’s Bookstore has been a proud sponsor of National PTA for two years—we love our partnership.

Being a bit of a newcomer to the PTA universe, many have asked why Children’s Bookstore supports the PTA. The answer to that question is the subject of this blog.

My background is not in books or education advocacy, it is in politics.  I began my career on Capitol Hill and worked in many roles within the Senate and House of Representatives.

One of my jobs was a regional director for a senator in my home state of Idaho. It was there that I had my first experience with the power of books.

The office had a partnership with an organization that provides free books to low-income families. In 2006, I was sent to distribute books at a Dia De Los Ninos event in a little town with a large Hispanic population.

I was highly skeptical that we’d get rid of the books. I was wrong.

Every one of those books was gone before the event was half-over. I was amazed to see children running past free cotton candy to get a new book. The experience changed me forever. I instantly became an advocate for childhood literacy and books.

I quickly joined local literacy groups. They all had great ideas, but very little funding.

To help out, I bought the domain name with the goal to build an online community and store that supports local and national literacy efforts.

Over time, we found that the most successful pathway to raise funds that promote literacy is online book fairs. We’ve held online book fairs from Rhode Island to Saipan with hundreds of organizations of all kinds. If a PTA follows our prescribed program, they earn $1,000 to $2,000 with one person doing about four hours of work over a five week period.

My goal is not to be another discount bookseller on the internet. I am building Children’s Bookstore to be a powerful advocate for literacy and reading.

I want Children’s Bookstore to become an enduring partner with the PTA. Why? Because I know what you know: PTA parents are the greatest force on earth for improving the education of our children.

I am asking that you give online book fairs a try. Our book fairs work for any size PTA organization—state, district, council and individual units.

The online book fair allows a PTA or school to promote reading and raise funds without the labor-intensive routine of a conventional book fair. You can give your local librarian and volunteers a much needed break with an online book fair.

Now that you know a little more about our company, I hope you will consider an online book fair for your PTA organization, no matter the size.

Jake Ball is the founder of Children’s Bookstore.

Community Eligibility: A Win for Everyone

Hunger is a particular menace to students living in high-poverty neighborhoods, and consequently places these youth at an academic disadvantage. Students experiencing hunger have lower math scores and are more likely to repeat a grade.1

Fortunately, the Community Eligibility Provision, an option available nationwide to high-poverty schools, empowers school districts to ensure children do not go hungry during the school day by providing breakfast and lunch to all students at no charge. Now is the time for school districts to sign up for this powerful new provision. Interested school districts can apply throughout the 2015-2016 school year by contacting their state child nutrition agency.

Community eligibility has a history of success. In the 2014-2015 school year, more than 14,000 schools participated in community eligibility—offering free, healthy school breakfasts and lunches to more than 6 million students. In a recovering economy, this provision:

  • Provides much needed relief for budget-constrained families
  • Alleviates administrative burden for schools by eliminating the need to process and verify school meal applications
  • Increases participation in the school meals programs

This allows school staff to redirect time and resources into improving nutrition quality and boosting customer service. The increased participation also produces cost savings because schools are able to take advantage of economies of scale.

By offering meals at no charge to all students, community eligibility makes it easier for schools to leverage innovative school breakfast service models, such as breakfast in the classroom, grab and go and second chance breakfast. These service models integrate breakfast as a part of the school day, which enables more children to start the day ready to learn. Community eligibility is a win-win-win for students, families and schools.

Interested? Here are resources to guide you through the first steps:

  • Use the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities’ Community Eligibility Database to see what schools are eligible in your district
  • Convene the appropriate stakeholders—food service director, principal, school business official—to discuss community eligibility
  • Gather input from the community by elevating the visibility of the Community Eligibility Provision at an upcoming school board meeting
  • Review the Food Research and Action Center’s Community Eligibility Resource page and our advocate’s guide for model materials and more information about the provision

As summer comes to a close, school administrators are preparing for the new school year and teachers are double checking lesson plans to ensure that students are ready to excel in the classroom this fall. However, preparing students for academic success does not stop here.

Teachers, principals and superintendents know when the benefits of innovative teaching techniques, comprehensive lesson plans and cutting edge technology are not fully maximized—or even wasted—students come to class hungry. Let’s invest our energy into ensuring that the nutritional needs of our most vulnerable students are met by leveraging the benefits of the provision.


Mieka Sanderson is the child nutrition policy analyst at the Food Research and Action Center.

Empowering Youth to Improve the Health of Our Nation

FUTP60 2015 Event 2This summer, I participated in the Fuel Up to Play 60 (FUTP60) Student Ambassador Summit in Chicago. Fuel Up to Play 60 is an in-school nutrition and physical activity program launched by National Dairy Council and NFL, in collaboration with the USDA, to help encourage today’s youth to lead healthier lives.

I attended the third day of the summit with 150 FUTP60 student ambassadors. The day began with a build-your-own-breakfast with the students and listening to them share their experiences from the earlier days of the summit. The students were excited, energized and eager to share their experiences with leadership.

Following breakfast, the students rotated through three different sessions:

  1. Inspirational storytelling workshop using Adobe Voice
  2. Create-their-own smoothie team competition
  3. Create-their-own “viral videos” about fueling up for back-to-school with a professional camera crew from MTV

After the sessions, I joined a student team for a FUTP60 challenge from the 2015-2016 Playbook. The teams had a great time constructing visual displays to demonstrate ways they could make changes in their school around the playbook challenge. Creativity and leadership development were key to the great visual displays each of the teams constructed.

The afternoon was centered on students sharing their “youth talks” and explaining why health and wellness really matters. Each of the talks filled all of us in attendance (students, advisors, guests and mentors) with hope, inspiration and laughter! These talks are the key to the success of FUTP60—it all comes together when students use their own voice to share with their peers the importance of health, wellness and physical activity!

I ended my time with this inspiring group of students by participating in a forum with three other adults during which we each shared our perspective of why health and wellness matters to everyone. Each of the panelists built off of the experiences of the day by echoing the importance of students reaching other students as the key to increased health and wellness of our society.

The FUTP60 student ambassador program puts students at the center of our future success in changing the tide of health and wellness for all children, families and adults—there’s no better way to change the world than with these inspired and motivated students!

Laura Bay is president of National PTA.

Have The Smart Talk

This blog post was also featured in LifeLock’s Unlocked blog. Read the full post.


Technology plays a starring role in protecting your identity. As a company, we, of course, think it’s important—and I love the stuff. But when it comes to my kids…well, everything seems to get murky. How much screen time is too much? When is technology opening doors for my son, and when is it becoming a crutch? And of course: what’s safe and what’s not?

There’s a reason LifeLock works hard to educate our members about how to proactively protect themselves, and why we train law enforcement agencies nationwide to keep them up to date on the methods used by identity thieves. Education is the best complement to technology when it comes to protecting yourself.

The-Smart-Talk-SquareI had been thinking about this a lot when I sat down with my oldest son to walk through The Smart Talk—a new tool we developed in partnership with the National PTA that helps parents and children easily agree on ground rules for safely using technology. My son is approaching his teenage years—an age where technology and online safety become much more important, and managing the risks involved is something best handled together. Both my son and I have things to learn, and we’re both responsible for his safety.

What I liked about The Smart Talk is that it was a negotiation—not a list of do’s and don’ts. Instead of dictating the rules, I got to lead the conversation and offer input while the tool let my son do the actual driving. With a few clicks, we got to decide together what was right for our family. Complicated things like how to set secure passwords came with guidance. And items I wouldn’t have thought of at all—like which specific social networks might be inappropriate for my son—were included in the tool. I loved that it facilitated a conversation with my son, and he loved it because it was interactive and created using technology.

With our son starting school this week, the conversations we had about bullying, being respectful when sharing photos, and keeping personal information secure were timely. And the best part? It only took 15 minutes—my son was never bored, and I didn’t feel like I was delivering a lecture.

When we were done, the tool produced a contract for us both to sign, giving the whole family ownership of our online ground rules, and reminding us to revisit them every so often.

I spend my work days thinking about helping our 4 million members and protecting their security, so it’s nice to be able to worry a little less about what my kids are doing online. I said that education is the best complement to technology, and I’m proud to work for a company that believes this too. Head over to to try it with your family.

Michael Hargis is the senior vice president of member services and business operations at LifeLock.