School official offers mindful tips

BURBANK — With more families staying close to home this summer due to climbing gas and food prices, it is as important as ever to keep kids academically engaged, said Jack O'Connell, state superintendent of public instruction.

O'Connell provided parents with suggestions on Thursday morning at Buena Vista Library on how to make learning a year-round quest rather than just confined to the school year.

The tips included having children play mind-bending games such as Scrabble, write in a journal or diary, set aside time for reading and volunteer at a community organization.

“It is especially important this year to find creative ways to engage kids academically,” O'Connell said.

In the past few months, he has met with parents, teachers and students to come up with fun and interactive tips to keep kids' minds engaged during the summer.

O'Connell's other suggestions for kids include playing outside and turning off the television and the computer as well as starting to collect stamps, coins or other historical items.

He also said parents should take their kids grocery shopping and let them add up the bill to exercise math skills, and to have their kids plan and cook dinner, which teaches reading and math skills.

This year also marks a new challenge for California school districts. Because of state budget constraints, many school districts have had to cut summer school programs.

“Many schools are not offering summer classes because they had to scale back,” O'Connell said.

“Burbank is fortunate because despite everything, they are keeping summer school open.”

The city's summer school this year has the largest enrollment to date, Supt. Gregory Bowman said.

“In light of the economy, our No. 1 goal is student learning,” he said.

“And we do that through our summer program and maintaining close relationships with our community resources such as library services.”

Burbank's three libraries offer a reading club for six weeks every summer, which asks students to read five books of their choice and participate in weekly events, said Sharon Cohen, library services director.

Reading helps kids maintain their skills, improve their vocabulary and think creatively, Cohen said.

“I love reading,” said Isabella Cordova, 7, peering over the top of a children's book on Thursday at Buena Vista Library.

Her grandmother, Marta Cordova, has been taking Isabella and her sister Victoria, 2, to the library a few times a week during the summer.

“We come here to read books or we go to the parks,” Marta Cordova said.

“When they get out of school they have more time to hang around and watch TV, which isn't very good for them .?.?. it is important to do activities with them outside of the house.”

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