Monday, November 24, 2008

Reprinted from The Denver Post

Shelter teaches homeless kids values

Romi Pekarek, Special to The Denver Post
Tuesday, September 02, 2003

After some initial squirming in his seat, 5-year-old Tyrell stopped fidgeting and got down to business.

The focus of his toils was a single pansy potted in a red plastic cup - a gift for one of the residents at a nearby nursing home. But the message he included on the cup carried a more profound meaning.

"It's great to be happy."

For Tyrell, happiness has been hard to come by lately. Tyrell and his family are homeless. So are the other half-dozen giggling children immersed in this extraordinary art project.

On Sunday nights at the Sacred Heart House of Denver, homeless children make crafts and listen to stories that teach grown-up values. Past themes have included honesty, hope and justice.

Ginny Bishop, author of the parenting handbook "Tween Time," founded the "Almost Home Bookshelf Night" seven years ago as a way to teach her own children the value of helping others.

"There's always somebody more needy than yourself," she said. "Everybody can reach out."

She teamed up with the Sacred Heart House, a downtown Denver shelter that provides temporary housing, food, clothing and transportation for homeless women and their children. Led by Bishop, local families stop by each week to lend a hand.

Volunteer Stephanie Parazak, 14, a local high school student, started the night with a story and ended up elbow-deep in soil, helping to plant flowers.

"It was kind of fun," she said.

Bishop's 12-year-old daughter, Camille, bounced a smiling 1-year-old boy on her lap and held his hand while he scribbled on a cup.

The infant's mother, Amy Baker, watched quietly from a chair nearby.

"This isn't a bad place," she said. "There are some problems, but we work through them pretty good."

The residents at the shelter are no strangers to complex problems, said Susie Shanley, Sacred Heart program assistant.

Many of the women have been victims of domestic abuse. Some are facing the aftermath of substance-abuse problems and chronic physical or mental illness. And some are just trying to get back on their feet after various financial crises.

"We stress structure and stability," Shanley said. "And, hopefully, by the time these moms leave, they will have calmer, healthier lives for their children."

With limited space and resources, the shelter can house only six families at a time, Shanley said. Their stays are limited to 30 days.

At most, the children can benefit from only four sessions of the literacy program, but those hours are precious, Shanley said.

"Hopefully, it plants a seed," she said. "Maybe these kids start to understand the value of education, and maybe it sticks."

The shelter has about a 50 percent success rate, with about half of the families successfully moving into permanent or transitional housing after their stays. Many former families come back for visits to share their successes, Bishop said.

Others are never heard from again, a fact that weighs heavily on the volunteers.

"There's some kids you just really connect with," Bishop said. "You can't help but get attached."

It's a rewarding job, but it's not for everyone, volunteers said. There are the occasional heart-wrenching moments that are difficult to forget.

During a lesson on hope and wishes, one child wished for a new home. Another wished for 100 gold bricks to give his mom. One child asked Bishop why she couldn't be his mother. "Sometimes it breaks your heart," she said.

"Kids are kids," she said. "It doesn't matter what their circumstances are or what the color of their skin is. They all like to do the same thing."

If you're an educator, please join us for Educators' Night at the Barnes & Noble, 14347 West Colfax, Lakewood, on Monday, September 8th from 3:00 pm - 6:00 pm.

Educators receive discounts on all their purchases.

Tween Time will also be at the Educators' Night at Barnes & Noble, 2915 Pearl Street, Boulder on Thursday, September 18th from 3:00 - 6:00 pm. Bring your colleagues for discounts and back-to-school fun!

Reprinted from COLORADO PARENT

Make Some Time For Your Tween
By Jill Jolton

They aren't little kids and they aren't teenagers. They are "tweens" or kids between the ages of 8 and 12 who still need special interactions with their parents, sometimes more than they are willing to admit. But finding the right kind of interaction can be difficult. Kids this age are eager for new adventures and to make their own decisions. Parents of tweens need to strengthen the bonds with their children and let them know that they are available for them. To help parents and tweens find the right kinds of activities and adventures that will stimulate positive relationships and healthy growth, local mom Ginny Bishop has written Tween Time (Happy Life Press, 2003), a book full of ideas for ways parents and tweens can play, laugh, volunteer and just be together.

With six kids of her own, Bishop realized that the tween time of a child's life is a critical time for parents to be present and understanding of their children's needs. "If you show your kids at this age that you as a parent can respond to their growing independence, the foundation for a relationship built on trust and respect will follow into the tumultuous teen years ahead," says Bishop. Believing that tweens can make a difference in their community, Bishop has planned to donate a portion of the proceeds from the book to the Sacred Heart House of Denver Literacy Program.

Bishop's own tween, 10-year-old Camille Solarte, contributed to Tween Time in a big way. Not only do Camille and her siblings test many of the activity suggestions with mom and dad, Camille also is the illustrator of her mom's book. The fifth grader draws all the time, loves doing things one-on-one with her mom and dreams of being an only child in her next life.

Ginny and Camille frequently host Tween Fests at local bookshops and libraries. In addition to sharing their experiences as author and illustrator, the duo facilitates activities such as making hip and wacky grateful journals and other fun projects. To find out where the next Tween Fest will be held or to order a copy of Tween Time, visit or call 303-729-2332.

Workshop focuses on family time with preteens

By Amanda Okker, For the Camera

April 22, 2003 

Hike by the light of the moon. Be the king or queen of your castle. Find the best of everything. Box your stress away. Be grateful.

Of the 52 ideas Ginny Bishop and her "tween" age daughter Camille Solarte, 11, compiled into "Tween Time," a parent-kid activities book they wrote and illustrated together, the two are just eight shy of completing them all.

Since the book was printed in October, Bishop and Camille, who live in Littleton, have been busy spreading the word about "Tween Time" and the importance of being attentive to the needs of tweens, or children ages 8 to 12.

"It's the in-between group that wants to be independent, and they think they're savvy, and they are, but they need a parent. Kids will never say no if you make the offer to do the things they enjoy," Bishop says.

On Friday the two will host a Tween Fest in Boulder at Barnes & Noble on Pearl Street. During the workshop, families can create and decorate grateful journals, or notebooks that will be filled with all the things they are thankful for.

Children staying at the Echo House in Boulder, a shelter for children in transition, also will participate. The children will receive "Dream Baskets" as a gift from the creators of Tween Time and students at Sojourner Middle School. Barnes & Noble will donate one book to each basket.

The Sojourner students have been working in art class to sew pillows to include with the baskets.

Aprylisa Snyder, Sojourner's art teacher, says the pillows have pockets to hold a coloring book students created in class and a set of crayons.

"The pillow is a good idea because it symbolizes home and (for the kids) 'a place that's mine,'" Snyder says.

Bishop and Camille have held six workshops to bring parents and tweens together to build their relationships and do something for the community. Community service is built into many of the ideas in "Tween Time."

"Get Your Rake and Go" suggests helping a neighbor clean up the yard. "Do Ya Care?" asks parents to help a group of tweens rehearse a play or musical for touring local day care centers and nursing homes. "Calling All Artists" helps neighborhood friends get together and display creative work like art in a gallery.

Bishop says the ideas they share in the book and at Tween Fest help to change kids' minds about having to spend money to have fun, which allows families in all situations to enjoy the activities.

"You don't need any money. All you need is a pen and paper," Bishop says.

Camille, who illustrated the book, says she enjoys helping her mother with the workshops. She gets to introduce herself, and kids at the workshops seem happy to meet her.

"I've always wanted to be an artist, and kids can meet me and ask me about being an artist," Camille says.

"Tween Time" brought its writer and illustrator closer together and gave them something special to work on together, Bishop says.

"It's not about money but your time, and sometimes that's more expensive."

Boulder's Tween Fest will be held from 7:30 to 9 p.m. Friday at the Barnes & Noble at 2915 Pearl St. The workshop is free. For more information, contact Ginny Bishop at (303) 729-2332 or

Tweens Rule

By Steven Graham

Sentinel and Transcript Newspapers

Camille Solarte is one 11-year-old who likely will never complain about being bored.

Between classes at St. Anne's Episcopal School, soccer practice and a career as a book illustrator, she has little time for hanging out with her mom. But her mother, Ginny Bishop, has plenty of ideas when Solarte finds the time. She recently published "Tween Time," a collection of 52 ideas for parents and other adults to spend time with "tweens," youngsters roughly 8 to 12 years old who fall in between the typical definitions of children and teens.

In her book, Bishop describes a "tween" kid as "the one who isn't begging you to take him to the playground anymore but isn't driving himself to soccer just yet."

Bishop describes each idea in her conversational and inspiring style, and each suggestion is accompanied by a photo of a tween or a whimsical drawing by Solarte. The ideas range from painting a mural to planting an herb garden, but they are all meant to provide inexpensive ways for families to spend time together. "It's really about me being with this kid," she said. "It's really about this quality time." She said many of the activities can be planned and completed in an hour or two, and most are fairly cheap.

"I think that every parent is feeling the crunch of money and time," Bishop said "They aren't just saying I don't have the money, they are saying I don't have the time."

Another theme of the book is charity and community service. Among the ideas are gardening for elderly and needy neighbors, collecting change to donate to a good cause and making dinner at a homeless shelter. She said she has long been active in community service projects, both in Jefferson County and her native Chicago. "People really remember the needy during the holiday season, but there are a lot of other times people need a hand," she said. "We try to make dinner for the homeless two to three times per week."

Bishop also said the diverse range of projects help kids find what they love to do. "I really think every kid has a passion, and it's not video games," Bishop said. "All those kids have thoughts. They want to do stuff. You have to find that talent. You have to get excited and say, 'this is cool with you.'"

She said parents and guardians should help kids find their passions when they are young. She targets the book at 8 to 12 year olds because she said parents cannot afford to wait until kids are 13 to try to connect with them. However, she said many of the projects work with kids younger than 12. "You need to start early, start as young as you like," she said.

She has personally tested most of the projects with her own six kids, who range in age from twin babies to 11-year-old Camille. She said they helped her eliminate a few other potential ideas that didn't go over very well. "I definitely had an editorial board," she said.

She said while most parents wouldn't identify their kids as "tweens," the term has long been used in marketing and advertising, where it is estimated 8- to 12-year-olds spend $10 billion a year. Bishop said she wanted these little people to connect with people closer to them than Ronald McDonald or Tomb Raider.

The roots for the book were planted in Family Fun magazine, where she was published in their "Great Ideas" column with her suggestion to start a literacy program at a homeless shelter. From there, she started collecting ideas and solicited the help of contributor Kim Griffeth, another South Jeffco resident with "tweens" who offered ideas.

Bishop originally worked with a professional ad agency that illustrated and designed the book. However, she agreed with an outside consultant that the look was not right. She asked around her home and neighborhood for artists. Solarte won the job, and Bishop said she held the 10-year-old to strict deadlines. She has become the star of a traveling promotional show. "When we go to book signings, tweens really want to see her. She's the big hit, not me," Bishop said.

Then-Chatfield High School senior Holley Huggins shot what became the cover photo. "Those kids are really laughing on this cover and it's because the 5-year-old had just pulled his pants down," Bishop said.

She also solicited plenty of monetary help. She collected nearly $50,000 in cash and in-kind services to help her self-publish the book. Bishop

already is thinking about another book. "I have an entire file, there's definitely ideas for a second book," she said. She can't decide if she will

write "Tween Time 2" or move up with her oldest daughter and write "Teen Time."

She admits finding activities to interest teens is more difficult. "I think it's a harder fit but the parents are saying 'I just want to find a way to connect,'" she said.

Recently printed in the Villager Newspaper, Colorado:

Littleton Author Helps Parents Connect With Their ‘Tweens’ Through Unique Activities

By Shelley Lane

What is it that children want most from their parents? Is it the latest and greatest Gameboy … their favorite video … or a bigger allowance?

Littleton author and mother of six, Ginny Bishop, would say ‘no’ to all of the above.

In her self-published book, “Tween Time: Over 52 Ways to Celebrate Life With Kids Ages 8-12,” Bishop’s message is clear: kids want and need quality time with their parents more than anything else. And she says that parents are searching for ways to connect with their kids before they reach those challenging teenage years—between ages 8 and 12—“when kids are no longer begging for a trip to the playground but not driving themselves to soccer practice yet either.”

In fact, a recent Rocky Mountain News poll conducted by teachers in two Denver area schools asked children, “If you could write a New Years resolution for your parents to keep in 2003, what would it be?” Not one child asked for a bigger allowance or toys, according to Rocky Mountain News reporter Janet Simmons.

“But many asked for their parents to slow down, relax, have more fun, take better care of themselves and work less so they could spend more time with their family,” wrote Simmons in her Dec. 30 article, “New Year’s Wish List.”

Bishop’s book provides parents with creative and fun activities they can do with their “tweens” that nurture their relationships and strengthen the bonds of communication between parent and child.

“I can’t stand Playstation and TV,” Bishop said. “You’re just not connecting with your kids. It’s not real life…it’s sedentary stuff.”

So instead of letting kids spend hours watching TV and videos or playing computer games, Bishop suggests that parents take their children on a photo shoot in town, go on a spontaneous trip on the city bus, transform a bathroom into a spa for the night, hold a fort-building day or go on a full moon hike. And many other activities described in the book don’t take a lot of time or money.

“These are open-ended magical journeys that tend to take on lives of their own,” said Bishop, who is married and whose six children range in age from 3 to 12.

Greenwood Village resident Bari Brown received a copy of the book last summer from Bishop, and she has done some of the activities with her two sons, who attend Kent Denver School.

“You don’t need a lot of money to do the things that Ginny suggests,” Brown said. “These are wonderfully creative one-on-one ways to connect with your kids without spending a lot of money.

“This book is absolutely invaluable. People need this book to remind them of the simple ways they can connect with their kids,” Brown added.

Bishop herself started a “Mother-Son Adventure Club” several years ago, in which mothers take their sons on various activities together. They might go camping at night under the stars, participate in a community service project, or snowboard in the mountains. She has started a “Mother-Daughter Book Club” as well.

Encouraging children to give back to their community and exposing them to people beyond their own suburban neighborhoods is important to Bishop as well. Suggestions for community service outings include sharing favorite books with children in a homeless shelter, singing for residents in an assisted living home, and cooking food to take to a shelter.

For each book that is sold, Bishop is donating a portion of the proceeds to the literacy program that she started at The Sacred Heart House of Denver, a homeless shelter.

“Growing up in a suburban neighborhood, I’m concerned about my kids not having enough diversity,” Bishop said. “I feel passionately about finding things that kids can do to make a difference in their community.”

Bishop said she had dreamed of being an author since childhood. Two years ago, as her family was experiencing the effects of the economic downturn, Bishop became determined to self-publish her book. Her friend Kim Griffeth, a single mother of three who also lives in Littleton, helped Bishop brainstorm ideas.

“Kim and I were actually doing all these fun and simple ideas with our tweens, so we thought, ‘why can’t we just write them down and share them with other adults who have special tweens in their lives?’”Bishop said.

The only stumbling block was money. But Bishop and Griffeth were determined to publish “Tween Time.”

“We sent out a fund-raising card [to friends and family] that said, ‘Be the first hundred to give a hundred,’” said Bishop. “We raised $15,000.”

In addition, Bishop received over $33,000 in pro bono professional services such as advertising, legal services, web design and accounting.

On Jan. 25, Bishop and her 11-year-old daughter, Camille, who illustrated the book, will be at the Tattered Cover Bookstore for a book-signing event. Tweens and their parents will create “Twinkle Twinkle Little Star” Wish Boxes (an idea from her book) to focus on the ways that tweens can make a difference in their families and communities. Participants will enjoy wrapping their wish boxes in different and exciting ways.

“Here’s an opportunity for parents and their tweens to spend an afternoon celebrating their relationship,” Bishop said.

“Tween Time” is available at all Barnes and Noble and Borders Book Stores in the Denver area, as well as the Tattered Cover and Bookies. The book also can be ordered through, and by calling 1-800-431-1579.

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