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Books just in time for vacation

The weather says it is definitely summertime — often travel or vacation time.

Lots of families will take road trips; many will visit some of the wonderful national parks across the country. And a great time it is, too; after all, July is Park and Recreation Month.

In addition to summer pleasure reading, two recent books are must-haves on these excursions.

Sure signs of summer: watermelon and weather

I love the long days of summer. I even enjoy the heat (not so much the humidity though). And what could be better on a hot summer day than a cool slice of watermelon?

Thunderstorms are a part of summer, too. But many brave children who (like a small dog named Rosie) aren't afraid of night shadows or tigers or anything else — except thunder. Rosie's boy couldn't comfort her — not even by telling her that "thunder was watermelons rolling off a watermelon truck." But the wait for the end was much easier when the boy held Rosie.

No screen required

Many are best done outdoors while others are really intended for indoor use; some require special accoutrements, others none. They were once called "diversions" and although the names have changed, games are still around and in fact, have never gone away. (There is even evidence that ancient people in Greece, China, and even Sumeria played them.)

And summer is the time when there's more down time for children or even adults to learn or revisit games.

The fun begins at summer camp

As summer gets underway, lots of children prepare for what is often the first time away from home — a sleep-away camp: lots of outdoor activities (swimming, archery, hiking — more?), camp fires, camaraderie and independence.

Sleep-away camps can be a fine way to allow children to connect with nature and start to figure thing out alone (though with guidance, of course). It can be downright transformative.

All children should have a camp experience. If it can't be gotten in person, then maybe the next best thing is to vicariously experience camp.

Keep 'em laughing all summer long

Do you ever drag your feet when someone tells you absolutely must do something — especially when it's supposed to be "good" for you? I know I do —and so do lots of young people. Call it human nature. Call it whatever, but foot-dragging can be a real drag on summer learning especially for children who associate books exclusively with school.

Maybe a different approach can help: a carrot rather than the old stick. The potential for a chuckle rather than a push?

How books can open minds

During a school visit recently I met classes of 3rd and 5th graders to talk about authors and illustrators, share some of their books and highlight some of their advice for young readers. I talked to the children about what they would do if they were in a position similar to those that book characters were placed.

The power of story

A friend and colleague was telling me recently about a project that her son was working on and the power of a book they shared had on his thinking.

Informational picture books in preK

The lasting impact of early childhood education has been known for a long, long time. The first three years of a child's life are crucial to their development socially, emotionally, and educationally.

We've gotten the word from pediatricians like T. Berry Brazelton and child development specialists such as Burton White. They provide evidence for what teachers already know.

Were they really the good old days?

It's not at all unusual to hear adults lament the loss of the "good old days." Memories are, of course, filtered and perhaps even reworked over time.

I know I've had fond memories of books that I read and adored as a child blown away when I reread them as an adult. (As a child, I identified with Peter Pan, never Wendy; but when I read it as an adult, I was shocked at Peter's take on Wendy's role and how she embraced that role. I won't even mention Barrie's treatment of Indians.)

It's that baseball time of year

It's that time of year! Baseball season has officially started. Little leaguers are playing, summer teams are forming, and lots of people are heading to major and minor league ballparks. (I just bought stamps commemorating major league ballplayers.)

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"There is no substitute for books in the life of a child." — May Ellen Chase