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Lots for families to do for back-to-school

Citizen Staff Writer



School starts in a couple of weeks or sooner for thousands of Tucson students. But it’s not too late to help them shift their sleep schedules, get their shots and brush up on the learning they’ve lost over the summer.

Teachers say they see a lot of sleepy faces the first week or so when parents haven’t eased their children into a bedtime ritual before school starts.

Experts say 5- to 9-year-olds need 10 or 11 hours of sleep a night; 10- to 14-year-olds need nine to 10 hours; and high school-age students need eight to nine hours.

The Pima County Health Department and the El Rio and Marana community health centers are offering free or low-cost immunizations at convenient locations through Aug. 14.

There’s also time to squeeze in a trip to local interactive museums such as the Tucson Children’s Museum, the International Wildlife Museum or the Arizona-Sonora Desert Museum to get those brain cells sparking again.

Students, on average, lose about 2.6 months of grade-level equivalency in math computation skills over the three summer months, according to information on the Johns Hopkins University’s Center for Summer Learning Web site.

It states children of low-income families experience an average summer loss in reading achievement of more than two months.

Game plans for academic brushups don’t have to be complicated. Reading is the key.

“The ones who have read have an easier transition to assignments and just the whole school concept,” Hohokam Middle School teacher Stacia Reeves said.

For those who haven’t, “there are a few cobwebs and the beginning of school is sort of a shock to their system,” Reeves said. “They also will have a shorter attention span.”

Her advice to students, especially middle schoolers, as summer comes to a close: “Libraries have phenomenal selections of teen literature. And young people can read just a little bit a day. It just gives them a little structure.”

For parents: “Don’t put parameters on them that are so strict. . . . It’s hard to say, ‘OK, sit down and read for an hour,’ when that attention span isn’t there.”

Steve Courter, president of the Tucson Education Association, said the teachers union at Tucson Unified School District agreed that this time of year is “ideal for parents to get their kids back into the habit of school.”

“During the summer a whole lot of kids just sit in front of the TV or play games, and when you ask them to sit down and apply themselves, there is a lot of psychological adjustment.”

Courter said if parents have intriguing things for their children to do and to read and maybe even some math review sheets, “it not only will help them academically, but will make them more psychologically prepared so back-to-school won’t be so brutal.”

The Alvarado family has been plugging away all summer and definitely isn’t letting up these last weeks before school.

Elizabeth Alvarado, 8, sits in a low chair at a big round table at Mission Branch Library, reading quietly to herself, while her brother Damian, 13, reads a wrestling magazine.

The library trip is a daily excursion for the pair, along with dad, Jesus Alvarado, who says it is going to keep his children sharp and ready to start learning new lessons in school.

Damian doesn’t have to read a textbook to keep his brain in gear. The wrestling magazine will serve the same purpose. It’s fun to read and will give him something interesting to talk about with his friends.

Reeves said the Alvarados are on the right track. “Let them choose what they want,” she said, “and it could be the beginning of engaging them to read more, to spark their interest.”

It’s great if students read all summer long, Reeves said, but “it’s never too late. Never, never, never.”


District – First day – Last day – Projected enrollment

Sunnyside Aug. 7 May 20 17,500

Sahuarita Aug. 7 May 22 4,308

Amphitheater Aug. 9 May 22 16,685

Flowing Wells Aug. 9 May 21 6,000

Tanque Verde Aug. 9 May 22 1,400

Marana Aug. 13 May 22 13,229

Catalina Foothills Aug. 13 May 22 4,577

Tucson Unified Aug. 14 May 22 59,075

Already begun

Vail July 16 May 21* or 22** 8,900

* high school; ** kindergarten through eighth grade


• The Pima County Health Department is providing back-to-school immunizations at the Tucson Convention Center, 260 S. Church Ave., Exhibit Hall A.

Thursday: 10 a.m. to 4 p.m.

Aug. 7: 1 to 7 p.m.

Aug. 9: 10 am. to 4 p.m.

Aug. 11: 9 a.m. to 2 p.m.

Aug. 14: 1 to 7 p.m.

Cost: $15 per child (not per shot). Fee is based on ability to pay.

• El Rio Clinic and Food City are offering free immunizations for school-age children.

Wednesday: 1 to 4 p.m. at Food City, 1221 W. Irvington Road, near Interstate 19.

Aug. 11: 10 a.m. to 1 p.m. at Food City, 428 W. Valencia Road, at South 12th Avenue.

• Marana Health Center and Marana Unified School District will have their sixth annual Marana Care Fair, including free immunizations and dental screenings and $20 school physicals for students.

Saturday: 7:30 to 11:30 a.m. at Marana Middle School, 11279 W. Grier Road.

At all the clinics, parents must bring their children’s immunization records.


The Pima County Public Library’s 2007 Licensed to Read program offers these book suggestions for teens to read before school starts:

• “Stormbreaker,” by Anthony Horowitz

• “Payback,” by Andy McNab and Robert Rigby

• “The Tuxedo Junior Novelization,” by Ellen Weiss

• “Modern Crime & Suspense Writers,” by Harold Bloom

• “R.O.D.: Read or Die: Volume 4,” by Hideyuki Kurata

• “Twins,” by Francine Pascal

• “Disappeared,” by Lynn Mason

• “Man vs. Beast,” by Robert Muchamore

• “River Secrets,” by Shannon Hale

• “The Great Game: The Myth and Reality of Espionage,” by Fredrick Porter Hitz


Liz’s Pantry, a group run by teenage sisters Sasha and Tamara Laczkowski, will have its sixth annual Stuff-the-Bus event for Tucson Unified School District students from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. Friday, Saturday and Sunday at Wal-Mart, 7150 E. SpeedwayBlvd., near Kolb Road.

Any type of school supply is welcome, the sisters say.


Roxy, DC, Quicksilver, Volcom and Hurley. These are the name-brand clothes that my kids want, no, scratch that, they demand or else they will branded losers or worst of all NERDS. Well, what this means to me is $20 to $30 extra per pair of pants and $10 to $15 extra on shirts. Not to mention that my son Robert’s DC shoes cost almost $75.

My daughter’s name brand of choice is Roxy. So all I ever hear is Roxy shirts, Roxy pants, Roxy belt, Roxy shoes, and don’t forget the Roxy watch. She spent about $450, and she still is not done with her school shopping.

When I used to start school as a kid, I got two pairs of jeans and a couple of shirts and a brand new pair of Converse Chuck Taylor high tops (this was before they were popular and only $14 a pair). I couldn’t even begin to recall what I wore, but I know it was whatever was on special at the time.

Today my youngest son, Tony, spent most of the morning looking online for the perfect pair of DC shoes (only $85 plus shipping). . .

With the money I am spending on getting my kids ready for school, I think I can probably feed a small country.

Francisco Medina

• Check out the “Mamas and Papa” blog and the Mom’s page at www.tucsoncitizen.com.

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