momready archives

Please Sir, I Want Some More

Posted by Elisa Taub
Please Sir, I Want Some More

by Oliver! + Holiday Volunteering

"Please sir, I want some more," pleads Oliver Twist, the famous orphan who just wants another bowl of gruel in the musicalOliver! Getting kids to clean their plates is something many a mom nags about, yet when Oliver asks for "more," he gets kicked out of the workhouse, runs off to London, and is adopted by Fagan's gang -- a bunch of street kids who survive by picking "a pocket or two."

Our kids loved meeting all the colorful characters brought to life from the pages of Charles Dickens' classic. They were fascinated with the Artful Dodger, the slippery-fingered urchin who takes Oliver under his tutelage, telling him to "Consider Himself" one of the family. They melted when Nancy, villian Bill Sikes' girlfriend, asks "Where is love?" We parents enjoyed "reviewing the situation," and discovering that the lyrics to our childhood favorites were still on the tips of our tongues. Watching Oliver! together opened our children's eyes to an issue that transcends 19th Century England: although our tummies might be full after our holiday meals, many children around America are homeless and hungry.

Inspired by Oliver!, we decided it was time for our family to look beyond our own holiday tables laden with "food, glorious food" and to volunteer to help those less fortunate. We have always taken our kids to Skid Row to help feed the homeless, but there are organizations in every city and town that exist to help the downtrodden, making it easy to find kid-appropriate volunteer opportunities during the holidays. Here's some examples of things our friends have done: stocked food pantries, helped assemble food baskets, wrapped gifts and collected books for Head Start programs. Being able to lend a hand helps kids connect to the reality that there is no shortage of Americans, who, like Oliver, really do need some more.


Want our advice about watching Oliver! with young kids?
Although this film is G rated, the following scenes may upset younger children: Oliver is offered for sale as a child laborer (this is, after all, Dickens' London); Nancy is clubbed to death at the film's end -- this is NOT SHOWN, but is violent; and pub scenes with much ale-drinking.

Want to foster conversation after the film?
Oliver! is a film adaptation of Charles Dickens' "Oliver Twist" that, like "A Christmas Carol," gives readers a detailed, realistic portrait of 19th Century London. Ask your kids how London might be considered a character in the movie: can they describe the city as they would a person after seeing the film?

Want a great idea for a holiday party for families ?
Have a Holiday Basket Party! Ask each family to bring a gift certificate for a turkey, and something small enough for the total number of baskets you will be assembling (like toiletries, canned food, new toys, paperback books). You supply the baskets, art materials for the kids to make cards, and let the kids put together the baskets for delivery. Check local charities to determine what contents are most needed!

Want to know how we approach volunteering with our kids?
We like to connect volunteer activities to specific holidays. Over Thanksgiving, we stock food pantry shelves. Over the Holidays, we shop for presents for kids below the poverty line. Over Passover, the Jewish holiday that celebrates freedom, we find a project that benefits Darfur, or Rwanda. Whether you help Habitat for Humanity, clean a local beach or lake, or stock food at a pantry, kids connect through hands-on participation!

Want to watch some other Dickens' adaptations with your kids that ours have enjoyed?
- David Copperfield (1999, UR, 190 minutes) A BBC adpatation of the classic title, starring Daniel Radcliffe and Maggie Smith.
- Great Expectations (1946, UR, 118 minutes) David Lean's masterful adaptation is a must-see.
- Nicholas Nickleby (2002, PG, 132 minutes) Teens love this shortened adaptation.
- A Christmas Carol (1994, NR, 94 minutes) Patrick Stewart stars in this adapation of the classic holiday tale. Many kids read this in fifth or sixth grade.

To rent these and other great films go to . Try Netflix for FREE

Want books about homelessness?
Picture Books and Early Elementary:
- Fly Away Home by Eve Bunting (Clarion Books, 1993) Andrew and his Dad live in an airport because they are homeless;
- The Lady in the Box by Ann McGovern (Turtle Books, 1999) When Lizzie and Ben discover a homeless woman living in their neighborhood, they must reconcile their desire to help her with their mother's warning not to talk to strangers;
- A Shelter in Our Car by Monica Gunning (Children's Book Press, 2004) Zettie and her mom are immigrants and live in a car until there is enough money for rent; was founded by two moms who are passionate about film and media literacy. They decided to combat the creep of screen time in their kids' lives by getting on the couch and watching great films together with their families. To sign up for your FREE weekly email, CLICK HERE.