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"Let’s face it—our kids are exposed to lots of media that is pure junk. Media frequently paints a world filled with such intense negativity— people out to impress, people out for themselves, people out to hurt others...the list goes on and on. So how to expose kids to media that has positive messages but is not overly sappy? To find media that is real and meaningful? In my completely unbiased view, I think documentaries make for great media. Okay, I am biased because I am one of many people who make documentaries.

Documentaries can so beautifully grip one's heart while bringing awareness to a great variety of topics. I think it is so important that kids know about this diversity of issues. In June I was in Harlem, NY to do a showing of Screenagers at an after school program. Before the screening, I asked some students what they knew about the film they were going to watch. One student replied, ”I don’t know, but I know it is a documentary, so I think it will be about animals.” Another student then said, “Nah, it could also be about history.”

I feel lucky to have been able to raise my kids on a healthy dose of documentaries. I have learned that the more a documentary matches where my kids are at in their lives—things they care about and characters close to them in age—the higher the chance they will be pulled into the film.

Summer is an excellent time for a mind and heart expanding documentary—and don’t forget the popcorn drizzled with soy sauce (my weird popcorn preference).

Below is a collection of some of my family’s favorites (There are many others, but I will save them for later). At the top are ones that I think are appropriate for all ages and below are ones best for teens and older.

For this week’s TTT share this list with your family and pick one to watch together. Please share with me what you watched if you get a chance. Also, it would be great to get your favorite kid/teen friendly docs on our Facebook page."


  • Spellbound chronicles the experiences of eight kids as they progress through the 1999 Scripps National Spelling Bee.

  • First Position looks inside the determined and focused world of youth ballet. This documentary follows six dancers as they compete in the 2011 American Grand Prix, an annual competition for dancers aged 9 to 19.

  • That Sugar Film is a documentary in which Filmmaker Damon Gameau takes us along for the ride as he goes from a diet of no sugar to one with sugar.

  • Batkid Begins is a true heart warmer. This documentary invites you along with the Make-A-Wish foundation as they turn San Francisco into Gotham City for 5-year-old cancer survivor Miles Scott so he can save the day as Batkid.

  • My Kid Could Paint That introduces us to Marla Olmstead, a four-year-old who paints incredible paintings—but is she truly doing it alone?


  • Mai's America follows the experiences of a Vietnamese teenager from the bustling city of Hanoi as she spends her senior year in rural Mississippi.

  • Devil's Playground offers a unique glimpse into the lives of Amish teenagers as they embark on the coming-of-age ritual of Rumspringa. Teens have the option to party at age 16 and then decide if they want to stay in their Amish culture or not.

  • Ivory Tower investigates the cost and value of higher education. I really think this is an excellent film for those who are finishing high school or in college now.

  • Street Fight follows Corey Booker and 16-year incumbent Sharpe James during their 2002 New Jersey mayoral campaign.

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