Back to School to-do list: 5 ways to get kids reading this summer

It’s been a week since school ended. We bet your kids have done what my have done: watch a lot of TV, play a lot of video games, be like slugs.

Children listen to a story in their pajamas. Photo by Lee Hershfield

Of course, we need to get their bodies moving: RELATED: KIDS WANT TO PLAY MORE, BUT THEY THINK VIDEO GAMES COUNT

But we also need to get their minds going, too.

Time to get reading for fun. Sharyn Vane, our children’s books columnist has suggestions of new books this summer. She includes the latest from “Coraline” author Neil Gaiman, “Cinnamon.”

Austin Independent School District also offers a 5 Book Dive. Go online to and see a list by your kids’ age of great books to read. The idea is that by just reading five books this summer, you can prevent the summer learning slide. Download a bookmark to serve as your reading log. If you complete the log and turn it in to BookPeople, you’ll get a $5 gift certificate.  BookPeople is kicking off the program with a summer reading party at noon on June 17.
Other summer reading programs to check out: Austin Public Library has a reading log you can download and fill out to get two free books.

Half Price Book’s summer reading log, gives you Bookworm Bucks for reading 15 minutes a day or 300 minutes. It also has a list of 40 books every kids should read and more.

Scholastic Books has a Happy Camper summer reading challenge that lets you unlock rewards for reading and earn Klutz books. You can also see how many books kids in your area have read.

Austin-based children’s performer Ms. Staci Gray entertains at a room packed with kids and their parents as they try to burst bubbles during story time at Book People. RICARDO B. BRAZZIELL / AMERICAN-STATESMAN

Here’s some more ways to pull your kids into reading this summer:

  1. Meet an author. Kayla Olson is reading “The Sandcastle Empire” at 5 p.m tomorrow at BookPeople.  It’s going to be turned into a movie, so you’ll want to read it before that.  This month you can also hear Cora Carmack: “Roar.” 6 p.m. June 24. Michael Merschel: “Revenge of the Star Survivors.” 2 p.m. June 24. Richelle Mead: “Midnight Jewel.” 6 p.m. July 8. P.C. Cast and Kristin Cast: “Loved.” 7 p.m. July 17. Jason Gallaher: “Whobert, Whover, Owl Detective.” 2 p.m. July 22. BookPeople, 603 N. Lamar Blvd.
  2. Attend a story time. Your library branch has story times most days and they are grouped by age. In Austin, there are also pajama story times and sensory friendly story times as well as bilingual story times. Just next week, there’s Chinese story time at Old Quarry Branch at 10:30 a.m. Tuesday, a sensory story time at 11:15 a.m. on Tuesday at the Carver branch and 11:15 a.m. Thursday at the Ruiz branch, a Spanish dual language story time at 10:15 a.m. Wednesday at the Southeast Branch and at 10:30 a.m. Wednesday at the Terrazas branch and 10:15 a.m. Friday at both the Pleasant Hill and Southeast branches, and a pajama story time 6 p.m. Wednesday at Windsor Park Branch and at 6:30 p.m. Thursday at Manchaca Road.
    Barnes & Noble has story times at each of its stores 11 a.m. every Saturday and some of the more active stores have story times throughout the week. We especially love the 7 p.m. Friday at the Round Rock store.
    At BookPeople, story times are every Tuesday and Wednesday at 10:30 a.m. and Saturday at 11:30 a.m.
  3. Join a book club. The Austin Public Library has clubs for teens, tweens, moms and daughters, manga-lovers. The NBTween Book Club is reading “Me and Marvin Gardens.” 4 p.m. June 14, Howson Branch; “Raymie Nightingale,” 6 p.m. June 15, Twin Oaks Branch; “The Wild Robot,” 6 p.m. June 28, Spicewood Springs Branch. “The Best Man.” 4 p.m. July 12, Howson Branch. “Full of Beans.” 6 p.m. July 20, Twin Oaks Branch. “Raymie Nightingale.” 6 p.m. July 26, Spicewood Springs Branch. “The Girl Who Circumnavigated Fairy Land in Ship of Her Own Making.” 4 p.m. Aug. 9, Howson Branch. “The Evolution of Calpurnia Tate.” 6 p.m. Aug. 17, Twin Oaks Branch.
    Teen Book Club is reading “Jellicoe Road.” 6:30 p.m. June 15, Spicewood Springs Road. “To Kill a Mockingbird,” 6:30 p.m. June 20, Howson Branch. “I’d Tell You I Love You, But Then I’d Have To Kill You.” 6:30 p.m. July 18, Howson Branch. “My Lady.” 6:30 p.m. July 20, Spicewood Springs Branch. “The Impossible Knife of Memory.” 6:30 p.m. Aug. 15, Howson Branch. “A Monster Calls.” 6:30 p.m. Aug 17, Spicewood Springs Branch.
    The Mother-Daughter Book Club is reading “The Girl Who Drank the Moon.” 6 p.m. June 21, Hampton Branch.  “The Dreamer.” 6 p.m. July 19, Hampton Branch. “Smile.” 6 p.m. Aug. 16, Hampton Branch.
    Teen Manga Book Club is reading “Soul Eater.” 5:30 p.m. July 13, Little Walnut Creek Branch. “Blue Exorcist.” 5:30 p.m. Aug. 10, Little Walnut Creek Branch.
    You can also test out books for the Bluebonnet Award. Camp Bluebonnet at the Austin Public Library is for grades 3-6. 3 p.m. June 12, Old Quarry Branch; 1 p.m. June 16, Manchaca Road Branch; 3 p.m. June 19, Old Quarry Branch; 3 p.m. June 26, Old Quarry Branch.
  4. See a story performed, then pick up a similar book. Literature Live Presents: “Wiley and the Hairy Man.” at Austin Public Library branches: 2 p.m. June 12, Windsor Park Branch; 2 p.m. June 15, University Hills Branch; 2 p.m. June 16, Terrazas Branch; 3 p.m. June 20, Twin Oaks Branch; 2 p.m. June 22, Pleasant Hill Branch; 2 p.m. June 23, Yarborough Branch; 3 p.m. June 25, Manchaca Road Branch; 6 p.m. June 26, Carver Branch; 2 p.m. June 28, Ruiz Branch; 2 p.m. June 29, Milwood Branch.  2 p.m. July 5, Little Walnut Creek Branch; 3 p.m. July 10, Howson Branch; 3:30 p.m. July 12, North Village Branch; 3:30 p.m. July 25, Old Quarry Branch; 3 p.m. July 27, Southeast Branch.
    Literature Live! “Predicts the Forecast: Fantabulous Finger Fun.” 3:30 p.m. June 7, North Village Branch; 3 p.m. June 19, Howson Branch. 2 p.m. July 7, Terrazas Branch; 2 p.m. July 13, University Hills Branch; 2 p.m. July 14, Yarborough Branch.
    Bernadette Nason Presents “Stone Soup.” 2 p.m. June 21, Little Walnut Creek Branch; 2 p.m. June 22, Milwood Branch; 3 p.m. June 27, Twin Oaks Branch; 2 p.m. June 28, Hampton Branch. 3 p.m. July 3, Howson Branch; 2 p.m. July 6, University Hills Branch; 2 p.m. July 11, Cepeda Branch; 3 p.m. July 16, Manchaca Road Branch; 2 p.m. July 24, Windsor Park Branch.
    Elizabeth Kahura Presents: Folktales for Africa. 2 p.m. June 8, University Hills Branch; 2 p.m. June 15, Pleasant Hill Branch; 2 p.m. June 21, Ruiz Branch; 2 p.m. June 27, Cepeda Branch. 2 p.m. July 5, Hampton Branch.
    Hey Lollies Present: “Iris Saves the Land of Black and White.” 2 p.m. July 3, Spicewood Springs Branch; 3 p.m. July 17, Howson Branch; 2 p.m. July 21, Yarborough Branch.
    Sandbank Shadow Factory Presents: Rapunzel. 6 p.m. July 3, Carver Branch; 2 p.m. July 5, Ruiz Branch.
    Spotlight on Opera Presents: “The Coyotes and Rabbits.” 2 p.m. July 18, Cepeda Branch; 2 p.m. July 19, Hampton Branch.
    Literature Live! Presents: “The Fifolet.” For ages 8-12.4 p.m. Aug. 1, University Hills Branch; 6 p.m. Aug. 3, Manchaca Road Branch; 3 p.m Aug. 4, Little Walnut Creek Branch; 2 p.m. Aug. 6, Faulk Central Library; 2 p.m. Aug. 7, Windsor Park Branch; 3 p.m. Aug. 19, Recycled Reads Bookstore.
  5. Read to someone else. Reading can be a family event. Even if your kids are older, have a nightly story time. Or, have your kids read to you, their siblings, their grandparents, their friends or a pet. Don’t have a pet? Every Saturday at 11:30 a.m. at the Yarborough branch of the library, Bonnie the dog is ready to hear your stories.

And, if you have older kids who have summer reading requirements, do not wait. Go now. Pick up the books. School will be here before you know it.




Back to School to-do list: Clean out the backpack

Remember when the backpacks were brand new? They don’t look like this anymore.

Yes, we know this is the last day of school for kids in Austin Independent School District, and for kids in neighboring districts, it seems like school just ended, right?

Well, you’ve got work to do.

That full backpack with all the stuff that the teacher sent home on the last day is waiting for you to tackle it.

DO IT NOW. Why? Because there will be surprises in there, and if you wait until August 20, the day before school starts, a huge, stinky mess could be waiting for you.

Step 1. Dump it out. Empty all the pockets. We like to do this in the middle of the kitchen floor. All those crumbs from half-eaten snacks are going to end up there eventually. Go ahead and make it easy to sweep it up.

Step 2. Sort the pile. 

Throw out: Anything your child will never use again. Any school supplies that are broken. All those worksheets you don’t care about.

Save: School supplies that are still good. Keep them in your home for next year when you need glue and crayons for some amazing project that your child remembered at 8 p.m. is due the next day.

Save: Anything sentimental. Have an acid-free box where you keep the artwork, journals and stories that will mean something to you or your child 10 or 20 years from now. Don’t have room for all of that or just aren’t sure? Take a picture.

Save: Anything that could help them academically the next year. Latin vocabulary lists, I’m talking about you. Math formula sheets, we might need you. If you don’t have a filing system for these items, create one. If you don’t have room in your over-filled house, take a picture or scan the sheets in and save them to a Google Drive or Dropbox for future use. Be sure to label them well.

Keep: That house key, that calculator, those earbuds, the chargers — all the stuff you know your kid needs and has been looking for repeatedly all year only to discover that they have been in the bottom of the backpack the whole time.

Toss: EVERYTHING ELSE. If you don’t need it, toss it out. No teacher is passing judgement that you didn’t keep all her homework sheets.

Step 3. Put away everything you’ve kept in an organize place that make sense. No, the middle of your room or the top of the desk is not an organized place, child. Toss everything you’re not keeping and sweep the floor.

Step 4. Evaluate the backpack. Can it be used again with a good washing in the washing machine? Or is it full of holes and tears? We think it’s probably the later, but if it’s the former, think about how you can use it. Can it be turned into a beach bag, a gym bag, a holder for odds and ends that need containing? Or can it actually be used as a backpack next year? Just because your child wants a new bag every year doesn’t mean he really needs one, right?

Step 5. Enjoy summer. You’ve done the work and now that stinky backpack won’t be in the way all summer long.


Back to school to-do list: Schedule doctor visit for vaccines, sports physicals

Daniela Flores, 12, smiles as she receives an immunization at the Austin Independent School District and City of Austin Back-to-School Bash. Deborah Cannon/AMERICAN-STATESMAN 2011

Yes, I know that school is not out yet for most kids. I get that. Now is the time to get your doctor appointments to get your sports physicals and make sure your vaccinations are current.

Before you go, make sure you print out the sports physical form found on your school district’s website if you have a rising seventh grader and up. You never know if your previously unathletic kid might decide to try out for basketball. Many summer camps also require it.

Also, find that pesky shot record that you shoved in some file cabinet or drawer last summer.

Kids need these vaccinations for the 2017-2018 school year:

Kindergarten-Sixth Grade

Diphtheria/Tetanus/Pertussis: four or five doses depending on which version your kid got.

Polio: four or three doses

Measles, Mumps and Rubella: two doses

Hepatitis B: three doses

Varicella: two doses

Hepatitus A: two doses

Seventh graders

Diphtheria/Tetanus/Pertussis: three doses of the primary series plus a booster within the last five years

Meningococcal: one dose

Seventh grade is often where parents get caught. They bring their kids to the first day of school only to have them have to sit in the cafeteria until they can produce a shot record or get their vaccines up to date.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention also recommends these vaccines for the 11-year-old or 12-year-old check up:

  • HPV vaccine
    Human papillomavirus (HPV) vaccine helps protect against HPV infections that cause cancer. All boys and girls should finish the HPV vaccine series before they turn 13 years old.
  • Quadrivalent meningococcal conjugate vaccine
    Quadrivalent meningococcal conjugate vaccine protects against some of the bacteria that can cause infections of the lining of the brain and spinal cord (meningitis) and bloodstream infections (bacteremia or septicemia). These illnesses can be very serious, even fatal.
  • Tdap vaccine
    Tdap vaccine provides a booster to continue protection from childhood against three serious diseases: tetanus, diphtheria, and pertussis (also called whooping cough).
  • Flu vaccine
    Preteens and teens should get a flu vaccine every year, by the end of October if possible. It is very important for preteens and teens with chronic health conditions like asthma or diabetes to get the flu shot, but the flu can be serious for even healthy kids.

That check up is also a time to make sure that all the other shots they should have had by kindergarten are up to date. If not, you’ve given yourself the summer to catch up.

There is some movement by the Society for Adolescent Health and Medicine to add some vaccine recommendations to the 16-year-old check up. It would like doctors to routinely give 16-year-olds a second dose of meningococcal ACWY and the meningococcal B vaccine. All good ideas before heading off to college.

Most health insurance plans cover the cost of vaccines. If you don’t have insurance, or if it does not cover vaccines, the CDC’s Vaccines for Children program provides vaccines for children ages 18 years and younger, who are not insured, Medicaid-eligible, or American Indian or Alaska Native.

There is a way to get a vaccine exemption if you deem it necessary. Go to under “School & Child-Care.” Please understand that when you choose that it’s not just your child you’re choosing it for. You’re choosing to not protect the many kids and adults who cannot have vaccines because of health conditions. Let’s not go back to the days of small pox.


Where does Texas rank in an online list of states with the biggest bullying problems?

As summer comes to a close and the first day of the new school year rapidly approaches, many kids are probably dreading going back to school.  Most probably just aren’t excited about giving up all that free time, but some kids might not be enthused about returning to school for another reason: bullying.

Wikimedia Commons
Wikimedia Commons.

A statistic from the National Education Association states that “one in three American schoolchildren grades six through 10 are affected by bullying, and 83 percent of girls and 79 percent of boys report experiencing harassment” at school.

Read more: What we miss about grade school: Trapper Keepers, Lisa Frank and more

Bullying has become more of a political issue in the past few years, with several states enacting policies to curb online and in-person bullying. But how does Texas stack up to the rest of its peers when it comes to stopping bullying? A new study released by WalletHub suggests the Lone Star state isn’t too great at combating bullying.

In its “States with the Biggest Bullying Problems” ranking, WalletHub evaluated 45 states and the District of Columbia on bullying prevalence, bullying impact and treatment and anti-bullying laws. (Colorado, Iowa, Minnesota, Oregon and Washington were excluded because of data limitations.) Each state was graded on a scale of 1-100, with a higher score indicating a higher prevalence of bullying. Texas ranked 27th for bullying prevalence, first for bullying impact and environment and third for anti-bullying laws, for an overall score of 55.08 overall, placing 6th. Michigan took first place, with a score of 60.18.

Read more: Austin district launches new bus-tracker mobile app

According to the study, Texas also tied for first in its metric measuring the highest cost of truancy for schools due to bullying. Other metrics used to evaluate ranking were the prevalence of online bullying, the prevalence of physical bullying, the number of high school students who have attempted suicide and the percentage of students involved in a physical fight at school.

You can see the full methodology here.