Good News for RIF (Reading Is Fundamental)

Great news from RIF’s President Carol Rasco:

Thanks to you and the thousands of messages sent in support of Reading Is Fundamental to Senate members during the last two weeks, senators today voted “NO” on an amendment to ban domestic earmarks in the FY11, FY12, and FY13 budget cycle. This is great news! Although RIF is an authorized program and not an earmark, this moratorium would have eliminated RIF’s federal funding. We therefore certainly celebrate this new development—but the fight to secure RIF’s funding continues.

A new Congress comes to Washington in January and will include many freshmen senators and representatives. We will need to rely on you again to educate and inform these members about the importance of RIF and literacy in their states and districts in hope of securing RIF’s federal grant for future years. As a result of this last campaign, we have established a strong foundation on Capitol Hill, but we will need to continue building and making a case for RIF’s funding. The fight will only get tougher from here!

Please be alert to future messages about ways you can get involved in this very important budget cycle. As always, you can visit RIF’s Action Center for the latest information.

Thank you again and Happy Reading!

We thank Carol and all the folks at RIF for all of there important work!

Don’t forget our MOBILE APP

Remember you can access all of our Oppenheim Toy Portfolio Platinum Award Winning Toys for each age group on the go!  You can preview the list for each age group and then read our complete review. The’s Mobile App will be free all season long!  To download the App, you’ll need to enter this link directly into your smartphone:

(This is a mobile web app– so it will work on all smartphones. You can also view it in Safari from your computer, but it is not supported by Firefox).

Pick of the Day: General Greivous Spinning Electronic Lightsaber

My high school didn’t have a marching band and I was a debate geek anyway…but I still always marveled at those baton throwers when I would watch the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day parade.  All this combined with my love of Star Wars probably explains my fascination with this new spinning light saber.

Watch my mother’s demo while we were waiting for an interview at ABC RADIO. She’s pretty good!

Read our complete review of this product at

Toys that make me wonder…

Ever wonder how certain things get made whether it’s something to wear (in a hideous shade or impossible to wear shape) or a kitchen appliance you can’t imagine you’d ever use more than once-a la the Chickenborg Egg Cuber.

I often find myself asking this question in toyland.  It would be fun to sit in the design meetings (that perhaps were held during happy hour).  Now take that ridiculous design concept and imagine it’s been sold to the brand manager, the sales force, etc.   And then there are the retailers who also drink the kool aid and fill their  shelves with these products.  I then wonder if the design team that had a silly idea or I- can’t-believe- they’ll-go- for -it concept – has a good laugh.

Now one of these toys made our top Platinum Award list this year – I don’t necessarily mean they’re terrible products…I just wonder how they came to be. (Ok, for some, I do think they’re pretty dreadful.)

1. Cuponk – This wins as the ugliest designed toy we received. Much like playing quarters, the aim here is to get the eyeball into the container. 

Is it just me or does this just seem like great training for drinking games? And take a look at the images.  They’re not just ghoulish, they’re unpleasant and certainly not visuals that are important to the 8 and up set.

2. Fish with Removable Bone– I’m all for pretend play but this one just struck me as going a bit too far. I think our kids can pretend to fillet the fish. Of course this is a refreshing and healthier choice than the countless number of plastic hot dogs and french fries we receive every year.

3. Barbie Video Girl This product is on our Platinum List…but we still would have loved to have been in the meeting where they decided to place the camera in the middle of Barbie’s chest. I’m just saying.  In fact, I’ve spent way too long discussing where they could have placed it instead.

Barbie Video Girl

A possible solution that won the most votes–Barbie could have been holding a video camera rather than being the video camera.  I see it–but I also appreciate the design elegance of having it where it is (on her “necklace”).  If you want to talk pure silliness, the Barbie Glitterizer, where Barbie is put into a chamber and sprayed with glitter, wins hands down in my book.

4. Detainee Kit– If your child is saying “Mommy when I grow up I want to be a TSA employee”, then I guess this set makes sense!  Complete with a body scanner and handcuffs…you’re child is ready for post 9/11 cops and robbers. The set also comes with a lie detector and evidence kit. Now that I’ve pointed out the obvious “wow, really” factor of this kit- I should point out that some kids will really love this kind of role playing…and enjoy the realistic props. For others role playing with the security wand may make the real life airport security experience a little less scary. It just makes me sad.

5.WWE Accessories. On the other hand if your child aspires to be a WWE champion, why not strap on the championship belt now, right? Complete with sounds effects (to me it sounds like Charo!).

6.Flatsy– Here’s how this meeting probably went. “What if it looks like you drove over your child’s doll with the mini-van?” “Yeah!”  “Cool!”   Truth be told, I kind of like the absolute silliness of the design-although I can already hear well-meaning body image advocates raising issues about what kind of dangerous role model these dolls present to young girls.

7.Learn & Groove Musical Wand.   Really? No comment.

“Almost lead-free”

Thought this press release from the Center for Environmental Health was interesting…You’ll see that they tested a batch of current toys for lead.  As you know we require companies to verify that they meet the end point of the federal regulations that are phasing in.   We do not test the toys independently.  What we found  from our  foray into testing for lead that the testing itself presents many murky questions.  Depending on the method of testing – the results can vary greatly.

Good and Bad News for Holiday Shoppers: Top Toys Are Safe, But Some Lead-Tainted Products Remain

Children’s products and adult jewelry found with lead

Oakland, CA-Testing by the Center for Environmental Health (CEH) has found that toys listed as among those expected to be the most popular for this year’s holiday shopping season are free from lead hazards. But the Center’s recent testing has found lead problems in several children’s products, including a Sanrio “Hello Kitty” doll dress-up set, a child’s NFL lunchbox from TJ Maxx, and a backpack from Big Lots. An adult necklace from Styles for Less that was marked “lead-free” was found with a clasp that was 25% lead, more than four times the legal limit for adult jewelry in California. Other jewelry with lead content in violation of California law was found at Bloomingdales, Nordstroms, Sears, and Walmart.

The California Attorney General’s office has notified Sanrio, Big Lots and TJ Maxx that the children’s products violate the federal Consumer Product Safety Improvement Act. The Attorney General has also informed Styles for Less and the other retailers about the adult jewelry violations. Sears told the Attorney General yesterday that they have pulled the item from their stores.

Additionally, CEH tested a reusable children’s panda shopping bag purchased online from and found more than double the legal limit for lead. The item no longer appears on the company’s website.

“It’s good to see that the top selling toys are not a lead threat, but there are still a few lead problems on store shelves,” said Caroline Cox, Research Director at CEH. “Our hope is to erase all of the hidden lead hazards in stores, but for now it’s an almost lead-free holiday season.”

CEH is a member of the Get the Lead Out coalition, which last week held a toy testing event in Union Square. The nonprofit is also holding free toy testing events through Christmas in Oakland, Marin, Berkeley, and San Mateo. CEH also contributes to the <> database, which lists the toxic hazards in thousands of toys and other products.

CEH is testing children’s products for compliance to the federal and California laws as part of a state compliance testing program, and is funded for this work by a grant from the California Attorney General that is administered by the nonprofit Public Health Trust. The nonprofit also tests jewelry for compliance with a legal agreement and with California law using a grant from the Proposition 65 Jewelry Testing Fund. The fund was established through litigation brought by the California Attorney General, CEH, and others.


Top Toys – Found Lead-Safe in Testing by CEH

Kung Zhu Battle Arena

Zhu Zhu Pets (Bamboo)

Disney Fairies Collection

Stinky the Garbage Truck

Imaginext Bigfoot the Monster

FurReal Friends Furry Frenzies (Scoot & Scurry City)

Sing-A-Ma-Jigs (pink and purple)


Lalaloopsy Peanut Big Top

NERF N-Striek Stampede ECS Blaster

Loops Memory Music Game

Pillow Pet (Purple Unicorn)

Reading Is Fundamental Needs Your Help

Please read this important note from Carol Rasco, the President of RIF:

On Monday, November 29 the U. S. Senate will vote on an amendment which, if passed, could spell the end of 12 or more national education organizations including Reading Is Fundamental that I am honored to head. I would appreciate your help in sending a message to your state’s current Senators asking them to VOTE NO on this amendment.

During this busy holiday period we have tried to make this as easy on you as possible. Please visit to compose and send your message quickly—you can also use this site to forward the message to your friends and family.

We join Carol and ask everyone to please send the message that our country will not prosper if we turn our back on literacy.

Pick of the Day: Crayola Story Studio

A classic just got better. If you buy a box of Crayola Crayons (48 crayons or more)…you’ll find a code for their new on-line Story Studio.  So for about $3.99, you can go on-line, upload pics of your kids (or anyone in your family) and make coloring book pages featuring that person.  A great project to do with your kids to give as gifts!

New free mobile app for's New Free Mobile App

We’re pretty psyched about our new mobile app.   You can preview all of our Platinum Toy Award winners (for all ages).  We’ll be adding more features as the holidays get closer!  Our app is free all season long.

Here’s what you need to do:

Enter this link directly into your smartphone:

(This is a mobile web app– so it will work on all smartphones. You can also view it in Safari from your computer, but it is not supported by Firefox).

Screenshot of OTP iPhone Web App

Touch the iPhone image to launch our free mobile web app.

Happy Shopping!!