First-class ready

Franklin Elementary first-grade teacher Debbie Harris organized books in her classroom Wednesday in preparation for the coming school year. (Don Frazier)

Tips to help parents prepare their children for the first day of school

In her job as a school counselor, Becky Peters has seen more than one child fall asleep in class at the start of a new year.

Students are so excited about the first few days of school that they really seem to be doing fine, but "by the end of a regular week they're going to be exhausted just because it's different from what they're used to," said Peters, who works at South Elementary in Jackson.

As the first day of school approaches, parents often hear gripes and grumbles about the summer's end. Waking up before midday, hitting the books and saying goodbye to three fun months of freedom may not be the first items on a child's to do list.

Fortunately for parents and teachers, heading back to school doesn't have to be all bad. In fact, there are a variety of ways to prepare children for their transition from the days of summer to going back to school.

While students gear up to face the infamous "What I did last summer" essay, parents can be doing their fair share of preparing. A simple, but important way for parents to help their children transition into the fall routine is by encouraging them to get more sleep, say local school officials.

"A good night's sleep is imperative," said Rhonda Dunham, principal of Franklin Elementary in Cape Girardeau. "We try to encourage parents to have the students go to bed a little earlier."

Parents can help their children get more sleep by beginning two or three weeks before the start of school, Dunham said. The more rest children get, the more cognitively and psychologically able they will be, she says.

Catching up on basics

After a summer of fun students can have a hard time jumping back into science, math and reading, says Dunham.

Parents can play an important role in preparing them by reviewing for the coming year. Parents don't necessarily need to sit down and work on math problems or assign quizzes -- they can use everyday experiences as teaching tools.

Although many schools don't assign summer reading, both Peters and Dunham agree that reading with children is one of the most meaningful activities parents can do during the summer.

"We highly recommend that they keep reading," said Dunham, adding that even something as simple as reading a recipe can be beneficial. "Read everything. Read the signs in the roads -- keep reading."

With her own children, Peters encourages them to keep reading by taking the family on trips to travel and sight see.

"Read about where you are going and what you are going to see," she said, explaining that this is an exciting way for her children to learn.

"A lot of times we will read through things together," she said.

Science and social studies aside, heading back to school can be a rollercoaster of mixed emotions for many students. Parents should talk with their children about the upcoming year, Peters says.

"Talk with them about it and make sure they are comfortable," Peters said.

Building excitement

One of the best things parents can do is openly explore expectations for the new year with their children, she said.

The coming year should be viewed as something positive and exciting, Peters said, and parents and children should work together to make it that way. Many times, getting young students excited about the new year isn't a chore at all.

"Lots of times, the kids will get pretty fired up just by going out for school supplies," Peters said.

The idea of starting a new year can be pretty exciting, Peters said, and if parents get excited, then children get excited.

Melissa Sirrine is a Jackson resident who attends Brigham Young University.