When I was a child in the 1950s, my friends and I had two educations. We had school (which was not the big deal it is today), and we also had what I call a hunter-gatherer education. We played in mixed-age neighbourhood groups almost every day after school, often until dark.
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Kids and families love Ezra Jack Keats’s The Snowy Day so much that they’ve checked it out of the New York Public Library system more than any other book in the NYPL’s 125 years of existence—485,583 times since it was published in 1962.
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Snow days are uniquely beloved by kids in wintry climates. After a night of hoping, children earn a blissful surprise: a morning spent sleeping in and a day of playing outside.
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In the language of the Irish, scholars say, there are a dozen words for “peat.” In the language of the Arabs, we’ve been told, there are many words for “sand.” I, for my part, grew up speaking a language in which there are perhaps a hundred terms for snow, and I am not a native of Igloolik.
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Snow days felt magical when I was a child—and not just because of the wonder of waking up to a world transformed or the gift of a day without school. They felt magical because I believed that I had helped to conjure them.
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One time in college, I had to stay up all night to write a paper. It happened to be the same night that a blizzard covered New York City in more than two feet of snow, at the time the largest snowfall in the city since record-keeping began in the late 1800s.
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The first time I saw Yellowstone National Park, that otherworldly American place, I was in the mood to celebrate.
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