Bone up for the books

August 18, 2003|by MARLO BARNHART

As a parent, former teacher and guidance counselor and now principal of one of Hagerstown's larger elementary schools, Drenna Reineck knows as well as anyone what it takes to get a child ready for school in the fall.

"First of all, parents need to make sure their children are registered," Reineck said.

That can be accomplished by calling the school the child will attend.

Then parents need to be discuss with their younger children what school is all about, Reineck said.

"Above all, I stress that children should be practicing their reading and writing skills."

Ideally, children should have been reading all summer so they will be right on track and ready to pick up where they left off in the spring, Reineck said. If that wasn't the case, it's not too late to pick up a book and read with a child now that school is just one week away.


"A neat idea is to have a child write a letter to his or her grandparents as writing practice," Reineck said.

That letter could take the form of what the child did over the summer or thoughts about going back to school, she said.

Re-establishing a regular bedtime and cutting back on television viewing also are good ways to make the transition to school a smooth one.

It's a good time for getting clothes ready for school, buying school supplies and packing up backpacks for the first day of classes.

In McConnellsburg, Pa., teachers ran a camp this summer for students in kindergarten through second grade who need an extra boost before school starts. The youngsters spent two weeks boning up on their reading skills and working on writing techniques.

The transition from elementary to middle school can be one of the toughest for children as they leave the "nest" and try their wings.

David "Doc" Holliday, a campus counselor for Hancock Elementary and Middle school students, said the schools go out of their way to ease this transition, holding special events in the spring and then again a few days before classes resume on Aug. 25.

"Already the kids from Flintstone and Hancock elementary schools have been in their new school to meet the teachers," Holliday said.

Parents also were invited to that spring event.

The early orientation takes away the mystery of school, Holliday said. The child sees the teacher, tours the classrooms and gets a list of what to know and what to bring in the fall.

"The parents are often as concerned as the students," he said.

A late July picnic at North Hagerstown High School for incoming freshmen proved successful in welcoming the newest class to the school, said Principal Robert "Bo" Myers, who is starting his second year at the helm of this bustling school.

"For other returning students, it is time to reconnect with school," Myers said.

As the first day of school approaches, Myers said, parents need to find out when orientation nights are going to be.

Schedules, which are finalized in mid August, will be in students' hands before they return to classes, Myers said.

"They can log onto the Internet for more information or call us at the school," he said. "We are here to help."

Berkeley County (W.Va.) Superintendent of Schools Manny Arvon said as an administrator and parent, he would advise students - especially adolescents and teens - to begin readjusting long before the bells ring on the first day of school.

"Getting back into a school/sleep schedule is vital," Arvon said. "You need to reset your body clock" after a summer of sleeping late.

Eating regular meals at a regular time is also a good way to start the new school year on a good note, Arvon said.

Even college students need to prepare, said Beth Stull, director of public information at Hagerstown Community College.

Tips for collegiate success include planning early, attending all classes, getting to know your professors, sharpening organizational skills, forming study groups, utilizing your resources, learning from failure and maintaining a positive attitude.

But don't forget to be good to yourself and have some fun, too, Stull said.

Reineck reminded parents that the Children in Need warehouse at the North Street School is open on Fridays from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. for free supplies for all children who can't afford to buy them.

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