5 Minutes with Taye Diggs

September 5, 2013 at 8:54 am , by

We love Taye Diggs for his acting whether it’s on TV (Private Practice), the big screen (How Stella Got Her Groove Back) or the Broadway stage (Rent, anyone?), but we especially love him for his commitment to children’s education. The issue especially resonates with Diggs since he’s the proud dad of his four-year-old son, Walker, with wife and actress Idina Menzel. We chatted with the actor (and children’s book author!) about being a parent, his new movies and the hilarious six-second Vine videos he posts on Twitter.

Why is education important to you?

Once I found out that around two-thirds of kids in poverty didn’t have books at home, I partnered with Kellogg’s and Scholastic to help change that. I was a very avid reader and I have no idea where I’d be today were it not for books. And now I’m a children’s author; in 2011 I wrote a children’s book called Chocolate Me. So this is something that’s close to my heart. (Click here to learn more about how you can help give hundreds of thousands of books to kids.)

Where did you get the inspiration to write Chocolate Me?

I wrote it to help kids who are dealing with the same situation that I dealt with as a child. My mother did an amazing job, but it would’ve been even easier for her if she could’ve just whipped out a book about that specific moment when kids were making fun of me because of my skin color and how I should love myself and find my self-esteem from within. I’m working on a second book called Mixed Up Mike that will address my son’s point of view, being the product of an interracial marriage.

What’s been the most challenging part of parenthood?

Realizing how much more vulnerable I am. I have no control over how much love I feel or how much fear I have when he leaves the house everyday. But I relish the moments when he hugs us and tells us how much he loves us. The other day he even said he wished he could go back in time so that we could be friends in school.

That’s so adorable. And you’re a working dad—you’ve got a couple of films coming up.

Yes, I worked with Paula Patton on a movie called Baggage Claim and the role was a bit of a departure for me. My character is this overly ambitious, self-involved politician who’s obsessed with his little dog. So that left room for lots of comedy and improvising. I’m also starring in Best Man Holiday, which is a sequel to The Best Man. It’s the same character, but he’s older and has more experience under his belt and you get to see how the relationships have changed.

You also recently posted a Vine video on Twitter (@TayeDiggs) of you and Idina singing together while out in New York for a date night. It looked like you both were having a blast.

We hadn’t had a night like that in Manhattan in a while so we just took advantage. It was so much fun. I love those Vine videos. I could do eight a day.

Special Guest Blog: Teachers Rock!

September 21, 2012 at 3:29 pm , by

In one week, on September 28th, Won’t Back Down starring Viola Davis and Maggie Gyllenhaal hits theaters nationwide. We hosted a special screening of the film, which is about two moms who are fighting for their children to get a better education at their school, and one lucky blogger at the screening won a trip to Los Angeles to cover the Teachers Rock concert in support of the film. Here, blogger Diane Sullivan shares her experience.

The month of September has always held a special place in my heart. As a former classroom teacher of twenty years it is a month that signifies a fresh start, a new chance. It’s always been a time where I find myself setting new goals and looking back at the year that has passed by. This year has had its ups and downs but one of the highlights started when I was invited by The Moms to the NYC screening of Won’t Back Down and talk back session with producer Mark Johnson and actresses Viola Davis, Maggie Gyllenhaal and Rosie Perez. Office Depot was also on hand with a very powerful Wall of Empowerment where everyone was invited to write a message on a post-it to add to the wall. I knew mine right away. It’s something I’ve said to many students year after year: “Be yourself! There is only ONE you!” At that point I didn’t realize where the night would take me. Read more

Is Recess a Waste of Time?

October 21, 2011 at 3:15 pm , by

I have what is known in the parenting business as an “active boy.” Let me break it down for you in layman’s terms. It’s Sunday morning. You’re sick as a dog. Your 5-year-old son is delightful and well-behaved, showing much concern for your well-being, even asking if a kiss would help. Fast-forward to after he’s been sitting quietly for four hours, watching videos and playing with trucks while you sneeze miserably into your pillow, and your well-behaved young man is starting to turn into… Satan. He can’t behave, can’t focus; his mood goes to H-E-double-hockey-sticks. So you scrape yourself out of bed and take him out so he can run around. Problem solved; Satan vanquished.

So naturally, when I was looking at schools, recess was top of mind. Last I checked, teachers don’t generally enjoy teaching Satan the sort of kid that my son becomes when he’s been sitting quietly for half a day. Scott is usually well-behaved and loves to learn. But he’s got to move every few hours. All kids do, the experts say, and studies show it not only improves their behavior (duh!) but actually helps them learn. As a mom of an active boy, I know that if my son doesn’t get enough exercise, it will set him up for academic failure, plain and simple. I wasn’t surprised to read a recent report from the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation that 4 out of 5 principals feel that recess has a positive impact on academic achievement.

I’m the psychology editor at LHJ and similar studies about adults and exercise are always coming across my desk. Basically, daily exercise helps stabilize your mood, it relieves stress and makes your brain work better—in addition to all the other health benefits. The evidence is so compelling that businesses are trying to find ways to basically bribe their employees into exercising, so as to have a healthier, more productive work force. I know I work better if I get some exercise around lunchtime. Yet many schools, with parents’ blessings, are cutting out recess entirely, feeling that it’s a waste of time that should be spent on academics. Meanwhile the kids get antsy, more are labeled “ADHD,” and they all stop learning as efficiently. Never mind our childhood obesity epidemic!

Because of what I’d read about schools ditching exercise in favor of more academics, I was afraid I’d run into school administrators who were anti-recess. Not at my son’s school! PS9 is a cash-strapped New York City public school with a high-poverty student body, in a time where meeting higher academic standards is do-or-die—schools that don’t perform are being shut down. But in her address to prospective parents, one of the major points made by the dynamic principal, Sandra D’Avilar, was about exercise. “Kids have got to move,” she said. Amen! She probably also realizes that if recess has any effect on test scores, it’s a positive one.

What I didn’t realize is that having a pro-exercise principal is only half the battle. Read more

Become a Part of the Education Nation!

September 23, 2011 at 12:05 pm , by

Among the many hot button issues in our country, there’s one we should all be able to agree on: the importance of a great education. This weekend, NBC is starting a conversation on this topic in a major way with its Education Nation Summit, which kicks off Sunday at noon (EST) with the second-annual Teacher Town Hall on MSNBC. The live broadcast will be a discussion for and about teachers, and the challenges they face today. We talked to NBC news anchor Brian Williams, who will moderate the discussion, about this special initiative.

Ladies’ Home Journal: Tell us about NBC’s Education Nation project.

Brian Williams: When we do pieces on education on my broadcast nightly news, we always label them part of our Education Nation campaign. It’s just an enormous commitment by the network to say, “Look, we’re allowed to have issues that are important to us. We just don’t take a stand, but we’d like to be the conduit.” One thing we do that has become quite popular is the Teacher Town Hall. We literally have a tent on the skating rink at 30 Rockefeller Plaza and it’s just like being in the teacher’s lounge. Growing up as a kid, didn’t you always wonder what went on in there? So we let them blow off steam. It’s not a political debate, it’s not a NASCAR race—but it’s as exciting as gatherings go. It just happens to be about education.

What are some education issues you think people need to be more aware of?

Well, I just think people need to dive into the reform effort. Parents need to dial in, folks whose kids are grown and out of school who have time to volunteer and help out, they need to dial in, rich folks who have money to give. That’s the lesson I’ve learned, that when you stop going to PTA meetings and when your kids grow up and out, your obligation to education doesn’t end. In many ways it’s just beginning. You still have a lot to give.

Do you remember a teacher that really affected you as a kid? Read more

Do Good: Look How Much Your Dollars Can Do

April 5, 2010 at 9:51 am , by

Sometimes the problems in other countries (and even the problems here in America) can seem so big and complicated that it’s hard to feel like you can make an impact. But it’s amazing what a few dollars can do in places where the need is greatest. The International Rescue Committee’s From Harm to Home program helps ordinary people like you and me contribute to people in need in very concrete ways. You’ve probably heard of Heifer International (where $50 buys a share of a cow). This is similar, only your money buys emergency relief, education, and healthcare for people across the globe. For instance, $34 can provide four kids with nourishment for a month. $52 can enable an Afghan girl to attend school for a year. $215 can provide five families with emergency survival kits.

When faced with numbers like that ($52 for a year of school!?), it’s hard not to get excited about the real good you can do—on any budget. It would also make a great Mother’s Day gift for the do good-minded lady in your life.

Do Good: Help Teachers and Kids With DonorsChoose

November 9, 2009 at 6:39 pm , by

teachersHave you checked out our giving page at yet? It’s a great charity that helps classrooms in need across the country by giving teachers the supplies they need to spark creativity and help students learn. Pick a classroom in your town, your state, or anywhere in the U.S. You’ll even get thank-yous and photos from the teachers and students. Helping our kids get a better education is one cause that almost everyone can agree on, and DonorsChoose is a cool, easy way to microfinance classrooms and have a direct and immediate impact.

But wait, there’s more! If you’re a teacher or you know one, we want to spotlight your project on DonorsChoose and help you get donations. Click here to join our Do Good group or leave a comment on this post to nominate a project for us to spotlight on our giving page. We’ve already highlighted (and donated to) lots of cool classroom projects, like Mrs. F’s math measuring activity or Mrs. G’s literacy project. Yours could be next!