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JOURNALING AS A TRANSITION TO BACK TO SCHOOL

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By Maxine Roeper Cohen, M.S.

In a few weeks sweet summer will be over and it’s time to begin a new school year. After ten weeks of summer vacation, children forget a sizeable chunk of the previous year’s curriculum. It’s not uncommon to lose two months of grade level equivalency over the summer. Students have a tendency to score lower on standardized tests after summer vacation than at the end of the previous school year.

How do we push away the summer doldrums and get children invigorated to welcome September and the new school year? One method is to give your child a present, a brand new notebook or journal which can be decorated with summer souvenirs collected during the hot months. Even better is to purchase a journal for yourself as well and model the behavior you are hoping your child will copy. Take time, maybe around the dinner table, to talk about summer experiences such as local trips to beaches, parks, zoos, aquariums, museums, theme parks, or even visits to family who live far away. You will find that it is great to reminisce, laugh together, and retell funny experiences that happened this past summer. Try to build enthusiasm for putting those memories into words that are entered in the journals. Ask leading questions such as: “What was your favorite day this summer and what did you do?” “What new place did we visit?” “What’s your favorite thing to do at the beach?” “What activity did you enjoy most at summer camp?” “Which book did you enjoy reading the most?” These questions, and the many more you think of, stimulate everyone’s imagination, yours included!

When children see their parents writing in their journals, this might increase their desire to write as well. For very young children who cannot write yet, watching older siblings increases their desire to have a journal too. They can color in it, tell their thoughts and have a grown-up or older sibling write these words down and feel part of the family activity. Journals can be illustrated with drawings and souvenirs, tickets from events can be glued on pages. Covers can be decorated with sea shells, leaves, pressed flowers, etc.

This subtle return to creative thinking and analyzing, and then putting ideas into written words, will help children make the transition to the higher level thought processes required in school. These journals also become treasured books of memories years from now when they are unearthed and read with great pleasure.

One final recommendation for parents: Keep an ongoing journal where you record funny, outrageous, innocent and daring things your children say or do. We lead such busy lives and memories fade quickly. Journals serve as loving repositories of family love and growth. There’s nothing better than fresh books and pencils as we start anew, so get your creative juices flowing and reminisce about the end of sweet summer.

Maxine Roeper Cohen is a Parent Educator with Cornell Cooperative Extension of Suffolk County’s Family Health and Wellness Program. She can be reached at mc333@cornell.edu.

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