Don't forget the books

June 06, 2005|by KAREN HANNA

With school ending, area educators say there is nothing wrong with a little rest and relaxation as long as parents and students still give some thought to learning's three R's.

Reading. Reading. Reading.

"I'd say continue to engage your mind. Read, read, read. Read a little bit of the newspaper, keep up on current events," said Boyd Michael III, executive director of secondary education for Washington County Public Schools.

Summer vacation should be fun - and educational, Michael said.

"It doesn't have to be a quote unquote 'educational setting.' What I always like to do is something where the kids don't think they're learning because they're having fun," said Eric Goff, a chemistry teacher at Hedgesville High School in Berkeley County, W.Va.


Washington County students' last day of class is Tuesday.

According to Sharon Love, reading and Title I supervisor for the Chambersburg Area School District in Pennsylvania, teachers typically use the first month of school to review with children the concepts they learned - and forgot - the previous year.

Sandy Dougherty, an attendance officer for Jefferson County Schools in West Virginia, estimated the return to the routine takes even longer.

Dougherty believes struggling students who do not keep their minds engaged fall even further behind when they return to school. The key is reading, the former English teacher said.

"If kids do no more than keep up on current events and read some books, they will stay on target over the summer," Dougherty said.

Goff, who this summer is teaching a class using interactive computer mapping and visualization tools, said he believes about 40 percent of the students in his college-preparatory classes are involved in summer programs.

Vacation is a good time for students to explore their individual interests, he said.

"If you get out, just take the little opportunities, just keep the mind thinking," Goff said.

Goff and others said students, their friends and families can learn a lot by hitting the road.

They can soak up history while bathing in the sun on battlefields, or take in a few museums in Washington, D.C.

"It doesn't have to be big vacations. It could be little day trips to places they've never been before," Love said.

The Washington County Museum of Fine Arts, Hagerstown YMCA, Memorial Recreation Center Inc., the City of Hagerstown's Parks and Recreation Department and Girls Inc. of Washington County all offer summer programs for children.

Washington County Free Library and other public libraries sponsor summer reading programs, in which children can win prizes by reading a certain number of books.

The county library also offers arts and crafts classes and sponsors foreign languages classes for children entering grades three to six, children's librarian Jeff Ridgeway said.

"We want them to experience a sense of wonder and self-education through the materials that are here, and just a sense of fun," Ridgeway said.

North Jefferson Elementary School parents and students have asked about signing up for Energy Express, a summer program cosponsored by AmeriCorps and West Virginia University, all year, site coordinator Susan Heerd said.

Heerd is a kindergarten teacher at the Jefferson County, W.Va., school, which is offering the program for the second straight year.

Results from the reading program, which runs from 9 a.m. to noon every day from June 21 to July 29, show how much can be done in a short time.

"I have a little girl that was in my kindergarten class last year that had no idea that she could read at all - and her mom said she couldn't - but at the end of Energy Express, her mom said she was reading everything," Heerd said.

While students are on vacation, their brains don't have to be.

"I think everything we can do to keep children away from TV and video games, the better off we're going to be, especially in September when school starts," said Jill Burkhart, Washington County Public Schools' supervisor of elementary reading, social studies and early learning.

With summer camps, reading programs and road trips, Burkhart and other educators have an answer to children's traditional summertime refrain, "I'm bored."

"The world is our classroom," Burkhart said.

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