Ian’s Favorite Things

Hardly a day goes by that I am not mistaken for Oprah Winfrey. “Where’s Stedman?” paparazzi shout as I try to navigate the barrage of flash bulbs down Liberty Street. “I’m sorry-you have the wrong media personality” I say as I wave away their autograph books. I have learned to bear my burden with grace. After all, it is a completely understandable mistake:

We both rose to fame in the mid-80s: Oprah on her nationally syndicated, highest-rated talk show in history-and myself on i-103 radio broadcasts from a rickety trailer in Russell, PA.

We both have accidentally unique names: Oprah’s was a misspelling of Orpah on her birth certificate-mine was a mispronunciation of Ian (eye-in rather than ee-in) from a dubious baby name book.

We both hold sway over our respective media empires: Oprah with her television network, magazine, best-selling books and movie appearances-and myself with this column in the Times Observer and anti-drug public service announcements on 92 Gold.

Pretty mind-blowing coincidences, aren’t they? I imagine that Oprah often gets mistaken for me, too. I only hope that she deals with it with as much humility and composure. I preface with this because I may be risking even more confusion in today’s column, an outright theft loving homage to one of Ms. Winfrey’s features.

Ian’s Favorite Things

Book: Reclaiming Youth At-Risk: Our Hope for the Future by Larry Brendtro, Martin Brokenleg & Steve Van Bockern

This is the book I wish I could put in the hands of every parent, educator, youth worker, police officer, minister and social worker. It’s that good. The authors have decades of experience working with some of the most challenging youth in America. This book is about the four critical needs of every adolescent-belonging, mastery, independence, and generosity-and how communities can come together and foster an environment where those needs are met. Practical and simply written-read it, share it, live it.

Game: Rory’s Story Cubes

Imagine that-a game/toy that doesn’t need a battery or a user name! Nine little cubes with 54 simple images between them. You grab a few, roll ’em, and make up a story. There’s no right or wrong way to do it. It leads to a lot of creativity, laughter, and cooperative play in a group of children and teens. Small enough to fit in your pocket, it’s a great “no prep” game for on the go. (There are three unique sets out right now.)

Relationship builder: Note cards

Yes-plain, old, ordinary note cards. I like technology like text, email, and social networks as much as the next person. It’s immediate and everywhere. But there is something to be said about putting pen to paper in a note. A lot of youth rarely receive mail and seem to appreciate a card now and then. It’s something real and tangible in a world of virtual communication. Try it with the young people in your life.

So those are my favorite and noteworthy things at the moment. What are yours? How are they helping you connect with young people? I’d love to hear your ideas at ieastman@fswc.org.

Ian Eastman, M.A., promotes the health and well-being of families at Family Services of Warren County, a charitable agency that helps people with counseling, substance abuse services, and support groups. Get a free monthly dose of parenting inspiration by signing up for the Family Services Parenting E-Newsletter at www.fswc.org.