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I just transferred my second-grade son Caeden to a new school. He’s easily distracted; in first grade, he got labeled as a troublemaker at his old school. I refuse to have his first-grade problems define him. Should I meet his new teacher right away or wait until parent-teacher conferences?

Life doesn’t offer many do-overs, but the beginning of each school year gives every child a chance for a fresh start. This is especially true when entering a new school.

If you don’t want his previous record to define him, first make sure that he enters the new school with appropriate behaviors — fix those that may have generated the labels (fair or not) in the first place.

“Second grade is not too young to have a good heart-to-heart talk about how to take advantage of a fresh start,” says Allison Parker, a Texas educator with years of second-grade experience. “Sure, teachers look at a child’s records to get a sense of how well that student has mastered content and behaviors that will make for a successful school year. But most teachers prefer to make up their own minds about a student: They observe carefully and get to know their new students during the first days of school.

“If his new teacher doesn’t see the inappropriate demeanor displayed in first grade, the teacher assumes he’s making progress with positive social interactions.”

Be proactive about improvement; help Caeden master the comportment teachers expect in school. Can he listen intently, or does he talk or tune out while you’re talking? Can he follow a sequence of directions? Does he have basic organizational skills, such as knowing how to gather, store and care for his school materials?

Give him opportunities to practice and be rewarded for behaviors that count in class, such as: respecting adults and other children by listening; raising a hand to ask a question or make a comment rather than blurting it out; focusing his eyes on the teacher when she is speaking; keeping his hands and feet still at his desk; following rules for walking in hallways.

And, yes, make an appointment to see his new teacher soon.

“Don’t wait until the first conference,” says Marissa Gehley, founder of the consulting group KNOW (Kids Need Our Wisdom). “Tell her you want to meet, so together you can get Caeden off to a great start — that you want to make sure that you support the teacher’s goals for student success.”

Ask the teacher to suggest reinforcement strategies to try at home, and be sure to stay in touch with the teacher so that you both can monitor Caeden’s progress and know of any problems right away, Gehley advises.

“Make sure you let Caeden know that you’re talking to his new teacher and that the two of you will communicate regularly about his good work,” she says. “Then ask him to make a list of three or four things that he will do (and that you’ll review from time to time) to make sure second grade is the beginning of his best year ever!”

Our local service club is assembling backpacks with school supplies for students in our community’s poorest schools. We’ve purchased generic supplies only to learn that many teachers compile specific lists with brand-name items. Isn’t it better for a child to have a “no-name” notebook rather than no notebook at all? Why does a child need a certain brand of glue stick?

Kudos to your club for undertaking this wonderful effort. Every child deserves to start school with a backpack full of fresh supplies that support the work of the year ahead.

Is it important to follow teacher lists to the letter? It’s not critical, but try if you can. If you’re filling a pack for a specific student identified by the school counselor, you’ll know the child’s grade and teacher and can match the backpack to that child’s needs. If not, look for general grade-level guidance from the schools you’re serving. (For typical lists or to search for individual teachers’ lists, go TeacherLists.com.)

Teacher-approved lists may seem picky, but they serve a purpose, says Tim Sullivan, the founder and president of PTOToday.com.

“By sticking to the list, you won’t end up with things a child doesn’t need,” he explains. “When it comes to brands, teachers often have good reasons. For example, one type of notebook with sections and pockets might better suit the way a teacher organizes workflow. Or teachers might put supplies in a shared bucket for all the kids, so having one brand eliminates dustups between the kids over who gets what.”

Forgo notebooks, pencils and backpacks with television, video game or movie characters. Many schools discourage them, plus kids outgrow themed supplies. That “Minions” backpack may not be so trendy come springtime.

Class supply lists, once limited to pencils, erasers and the like, now include hygiene items such as disinfecting wipes and hand sanitizer.

“Tissues and paper towels are among the top five most requested back-to-school items,” says Sullivan.

Activity fees are another school expense that has increased over the years. Since the Great Recession, many schools have asked parents to pony up for sports, field trips, after-school clubs — even science lab courses and Advanced Placement tests. Approximately two-thirds of middle and high school students pay a fee to participate in school sports, according to a University of Michigan study.

The National Retail Federation projects that the average family with kids in grades K-12 will spend roughly $220 on new clothes, more than $100 on new shoes and just under $100 on school supplies during the back-to-school shopping season. If electronic devices are required, parents will shell out another $200.

For poor families, back-to-school shopping can present a real hardship, says Sullivan, which is why your club’s project is so laudable.

“Not only will parents and kids appreciate your donations, teachers will too,” he says. “Each year, teachers spend an average of $500 of their own money on their class. The less they spend buying notebooks, the more they can devote to children’s books, games and art supplies that increase engagement and motivation.”

Our oldest child starts third grade soon. The school sent information on the Common Core learning standards and says parents should provide kids with keyboarding opportunities. We don’t allow our children to use computers or digital devices. Why would third-graders need this?

There are good reasons. One, keyboarding is in the Common Core State Standards (CCSS). Here is a grade three standard for students: With guidance and support from adults, use technology to produce and publish writing (using keyboarding skills) as well as to interact and collaborate with others.

Keyboarding is an essential word-processing skill and the sooner students master it, the more effective they’ll be at using technology. Research shows that learning to use a keyboard and execute basic word processing commands in the primary grades prevent poor habits from forming. Studies also indicate that students who use word processing become more motivated and better writers because they can revise, edit and review their work more efficiently.

Two, when it comes time for testing, students in most states with CCSS will take online assessments. Bill Laraway teaches at Silver Oak Elementary in San Jose, California. He helped his district transition from paper and pencil to online testing.

“By third grade, students are expected to feel comfortable with technology, especially the keyboard,” says Laraway. “New online Common Core and midyear benchmark performance testing requires students to input answers in a variety of modes: trackpad/input device, keyboard and the manipulation of online tools (especially in math). There are not only multiple-choice responses, but questions that require short-answer responses and essays typed directly into text boxes. Students with keyboarding skills can focus their time and energy during the assessment crafting their written responses.”

Starting keyboarding at an early age makes sense, says Laraway.

“I know parents who have an extreme ‘no computers/technology’ position, but it puts their students at a serious disadvantage,” he explains. “I’ve seen parents of fourth- and fifth-graders type their children’s reports because they see their kids struggling with the keys. Unfortunately, those children miss keyboarding practice that’s vital for success during the school day.

“Kids need these skills, not just to be better test takers, but to become wise digital citizens. As with everything else in life, taking a moderate approach to technology is sensible.”

Laraway suggests that third-graders should learn the keyboard layout and understand the function of the space bar, delete and arrow keys; know how to click and tap; grasp how to cut, paste and highlight; understand how to scroll; know how to select and unselect an object, text or area; and be able to drag, slide and drop selected material and use drop-down menus.

There are many online games that teach keyboarding, says Laraway.

“What motivates one child may bore another,” he says. “Let trial-and-error lead you to games that are fun and effective practice. Go beyond the drill and practice apps. Give the child a purpose for using those skills, like writing an email to Grandma.”

Most states teaching CCSS use tests from either the Smarter Balanced Assessment Consortium (smarterbalanced.org) or Partnership for Assessment of Readiness for College and Careers (PARCC, parcconline.org). You can find online practice tests at both websites.

Our son just graduated from high school, but isn’t ready for college. Mariano’s considering military service, but I worry that he’ll never go to college if he enlists. His job options are few in our small town, and I’m afraid he’ll just drift if he stays here. Our minister suggested a “gap year” in a service program. Can you recommend a program for a teen with talent who hasn’t figured out how to use it?

A gap year — a break from formal education, often between high school and the start of college — can include traveling, volunteering, interning, working or a combination of activities. The time off can be a good option for students such as Mariano, “as long as the year has a purpose, structure, routine and goals that will help him bring the benefits of further education into focus,” says Sally Reed, editor of College Bound, a monthly publication on college admissions and financial aid (collegeboundnews.com).

Ideally, this time away from formal education increases self-awareness, challenges comfort zones and encourages experimentation with possible careers, according to the American Gap Association (americangap.org).

For example, Mariano might consider the following programs that attract high school students interested in doing a year of service before heading to college.

– AmeriCorps offers a range of opportunities from VISTA (Volunteers In Service To America), a program that helps eradicate poverty through education initiatives, to FEMA (Federal Emergency Management Agency) Corps, which puts young people at the forefront of disaster relief.

AmeriCorps’ National Civilian Community Corps (NCCC) is a full-time residential program for men and women ages 18 to 24. NCCC is modeled on the successful Civilian Conservation Corps of the 1930s. Members work from one of five campuses — Denver; Baltimore; Sacramento, California; Vicksburg, Mississippi; or Vinton, Iowa.

AmeriCorps volunteers receive a modest living allowance and limited health benefits. Check out various programs at nationalservice.gov/programs/americorps.

– The National Park Service’s Public Land Corps restores and protects America’s National Parks. Members, who are between 16 and 25 years old, receive a living allowance and are trained to build and preserve trails in remote areas, prevent wildfires by clearing fire fuels, remove invasive species and add features that keep park visitors safe. Go to nps.gov/gettinginvolved/youthprograms.

– City Year (cityyear.org), a national youth service program founded in 1988, operates in 26 cities across the United States. Members are a diverse group of 18- to 25-year-olds who complete a year of rigorous community service, leadership development and civic engagement.

“City Year brings young people together to do great work, center themselves and decide their futures,” says David Caplan, dean of New York’s City Year chapter. “I love to see Corps members go from their service year to colleges and universities, work for Fortune 500 companies or even start their own nonprofits. The experience teaches them firsthand their power to change the world around them.”

– If Mariano chooses to go into military service, encourage him to connect with Student Veterans of America (SVA), an organization that helps veterans get the resources needed to succeed in higher education. (Learn more at studentveterans.org.)

My daughter Mikayla, a high school freshman, recently moved in with my new wife and me. She’s such a perfectionist! Her room looks like Martha Stewart cleaned it. She’s a competitive athlete and an A student, but stresses over things that don’t go according to her plan. We’re happy we don’t have to nag her about school, but worry she’s too obsessed with grades and getting into a top college. Should we be?

Since she’s just settling in with you, it’s unfair to Mikayla to assume she has a problem with perfectionism, says Dr. Jane Bluestein, educator and author of “The Perfection Deception” (Health Communications Inc., 2015).

“Welcome her with open arms,” she says. “There’s much to praise in a high-achieving teen who keeps her room tidy, aces her courses and has her eye on college. Take time to know her better. Support her efforts to excel.”

That said, today’s teens are subject to many parental, peer, academic and media pressures that can lead them to think that they must be perfect, notes Bluestein.

“To help her focus on the satisfactions of accomplishment, rather than the impossibility of perfection, help her learn four fundamental lessons,” she advises.

One, the goal of effort should not be achieving perfection, but doing our best, says Bluestein.

“There’s a big difference,” she explains. “Perfectionism — the belief that we can make all things perfect if we put in the right amount of effort — has high costs: stress, loneliness, fear of failure, perceived loss of control, negative self-worth should the littlest thing go wrong. These can lead to a mental health crisis if they add up.”

Two, it’s OK to take risks and fail.

“Recognize her achievements, precision, care, attention to detail,” says Bluestein, “but also make her aware that highly successful people succeed because they aren’t afraid to fail. In Silicon Valley, it’s viewed as a strength to have failed in a few start-ups, because it means you’ve gained experience that will be valuable when you tackle your next venture.”

Encourage her to join a group such as a robotics or STEM (science, technology, engineering and math) club, where trial-and-error projects are valued.

Three, accept and use constructive criticism, says Bluestein.

“The ability to view feedback as a positive, not a negative, helps high achievers benefit from the wisdom of others and develop resilience,” she says. “It defines them as learners who can work collaboratively as part of a team.”

Four, help her develop a strong social and emotional core that will serve her when she’s challenged by her goals. One way is to reflect on her achievements.

“Contrary to conventional wisdom, successful high achievers know how to take time out for themselves. They don’t multitask 24-7. They nourish their souls, and can step back to gain perspective,” says Bluestein. “They can calm their minds and look within so that they can continue to be creative. Perfectionists are so good at being busy that taking time to reflect feels like cheating.”

As she embarks on her high school career, encourage Mikayla to be guided by Winston Churchill: “Success is not final. Failure is not fatal. It is the courage to continue that counts.”

Our son Liam’s teacher suggested we work on reading comprehension skills this summer. He starts third grade this fall. We’re reading daily. Is that enough?

As you read together, you can do simple things to boost Liam’s ability to understand ever-more complex texts.

Comprehension skills are “the essential tools that children need to actively engage with content, construct meaning and grow their understanding of big ideas in the world,” says reading expert Debbie Miller, author of “Reading With Meaning” (Stenhouse, 2012).

Until recently, reading was taught as a progression of five skills: phonemic awareness, phonics, fluency, vocabulary and comprehension. Today, comprehension is front and center, especially within the Common Core State Standards (CCSS).

“CCSS emphasizes higher-level comprehension work, even for our youngest readers,” says Miller.

Kids with strong comprehension skills connect new information to what they already know. They determine and remember key points in a passage. They use text clues to guess new words. They synthesize information to gain new knowledge. They also distinguish fiction from nonfiction.

The academic nonprofit Urban Education Exchange lists 21 strategies in its Concepts of Comprehension framework. By reading with Liam, you have a perfect opportunity to teach some of these before school starts:

– Find explicit information. After reading, ask Liam questions about information in the text. Have him show you where it’s located.

– Be able to tell fiction from nonfiction. Reading and discussing paired books on a common theme can help Liam learn the difference. For example, if you’ve read a “Star Wars” book, follow it up with Brian Floca’s gripping true story of “Moonshot: The Flight of Apollo 11″ (Atheneum, 2009). You can find paired books that match up Liam’s interests at your library or online.

– Make predictions. Discuss a story’s title and ask Liam to guess what it might be about and to explain his reasons. Stop occasionally to ask him to predict what will happen next and why.

– Describe the setting. In other words, have Liam tell you where and when the story takes place.

– Determine the main idea. The “big idea” can be in a title, the opening passages or even the last sentence. Have Liam make note of words that are repeated. At the end of the story, have him summarize the main idea.

– Determine the story’s sequence. Most books for young readers have a clear beginning, middle and end. As you read, discuss its sequence. Use a graphic organizer if you find it helpful.

– Find clues to new words. Help Liam look for context clues. For example, words such as is, are, was, were, like, including, known as, meaning, or called provide clues.

For example, in this sentence, “Several African nations, including Gabon, Uganda and Kenya, are on the Equator,” the word “including” gives readers clues as to what are the three nations.

– Learn how to read the different parts of text features. Especially important in nonfiction reading are headlines, graphic devices and pictures that help organize information. Find articles in magazines, newspapers or online news sites. Point out headlines, sidebars, photographs, captions, graphs and other features that would help a reader understand the story.

– Finally, make it fun! Weave these strategies into your reading time in a conversational manner so that it never seems like a drill. Keeping Liam interested, curious and eager to read should be your main goals this summer.

I purchased a road atlas for a trip, but my boys asked why we don’t just use GPS. They have zero map skills, so I was hoping some atlas activities would teach them and keep them busy on a long trip. Do you have any suggestions?

Despite the wide availability of mapping services and apps, many long-distance travelers don’t leave home without a road atlas. “An atlas helps you see the big picture, not just the next turn,” says Bennett Moe, the director of innovation at maps.com.

Take that atlas along with you and put the boys in charge of it, says Moe.

“GPS devices are great for navigating from point to point, but an atlas gives you context to the areas you are traveling,” he says. “It helps you eyeball distances. It alerts you to elevations, rivers and other topological features. Atlases often add cool information about states — their mottos, state flowers and so on. Make that atlas your stealth teaching tool this summer.”

Before you head out, cover map basics: Teach the boys how to read map symbols indicating various types of roads and highways. Show them how to read a compass rose to determine north, east, south and west, as well as intermediate points. Explain to your kids how to estimate distances. Learn how lakes, streams and rivers are denoted and how to read contour lines to determine elevation. Discover what symbols designate local, state and national parks. (For more information, National Geographic has engaging online map skills activities at education.nationalgeographic.com/education/map-skills-elementary-students.)

Next, create fun activities to align with your trip, suggests Moe.

“For example, if you plan to drive from Nashville, Tennessee, to La Crosse, Wisconsin, have the boys use the atlas to plan the shortest route,” he says. “Then have them check their route using a digital mapping application. How close were their estimates in miles and hours? Have them determine the most scenic route, even though it may not be the fastest. Ask how many states the route will take them through, and so on.”

Using sticky notes, have the boys mark points of interest they want to visit along the way. The more they familiarize themselves with the route prior to leaving, the more they’ll anticipate segments of the trip.

“One great atlas activity is a variation of the license plate game,” says Moe. “In addition to counting and graphing the state plates that you see, use the atlas to answer questions about each one. ‘Where is that state in relation to where we live? Is that state larger or smaller than yours? What is the capital? How far do you think those in the car traveled to get here?’”

Use your atlas to plot geocaching, a treasure hunt GPS activity, suggests Moe.

“Geocaching combines lessons in navigation, longitude and latitude, geography, mapping, measurement, distance, satellites, strategy, teamwork and problem solving — kids love it because it’s high-tech,” he explains. (Go to geocaching.com for more.)

A well-thumbed, annotated atlas is a great trip souvenir, says Moe.

“Map skills are important in many professions, from policing, meteorology, environmental engineering, to farming, city planning and marine biology,” he says. “Your boys need this hands-on experience to develop strong geospatial skills they’ll use throughout their lives.”

Our daughter, Meghan, starts kindergarten in August. She was excited after orientation, but now she’s so anxious about it. She cries that she wants to stay home with her little sister. She’s one of the youngest in her class, so maybe she’s not ready. Should we hold her back a year?

Wanting to stay home with her younger sister isn’t a good reason to hold your daughter back a year. Unless there’s something that educators didn’t pick up during her kindergarten screening, stick with your plan.

“Kids pick up on parents’ feelings, so show enthusiasm and stay positive,” says North Bellmore, New York, kindergarten teacher Robin Obey. “Questioning Meghan’s readiness will only reinforce her own hesitancy.”

Kindergarten jitters are completely natural, says Obey. She suggests the following activities to help Meghan overcome her worries:

– Share books about starting kindergarten: There are many great “first day” stories that capture the feelings Meghan might be having. Bookstores, online vendors and libraries feature them this time of year. Reading and discussing them with Meghan can help allay her jitters.

Obey suggests these classics: “Kindergarten Rocks!” by Katie Davis (HMH Books for Young Readers, 2008); “First Day Jitters,” by Julie Danneberg (Charlesbridge, 2000); “Timothy Goes to School,” by Rosemary Wells (Puffin, 2000); “Will I Have a Friend?” by Miriam Cohen (Star Bright, 2009); “Miss Bindergarten Gets Ready for Kindergarten,” by Joseph Slate (Puffin, 2001); “The Night Before Kindergarten,” Natasha Wing (Scholastic, 2001); “Countdown to Kindergarten,” by Allison McGhee (Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, 2006); “Wemberly Worried,” by Kevin Henkes (Greenwillow Books, 2010); “The Kissing Hand,” by Audrey Penn (Tanglewood Press, 2007); and “Tiptoe Into Kindergarten,” by Jacqueline Rogers (Cartwheel, 2003).

Address her concerns. Meghan may worry about something that you assume she already knows, such as, “How will I get to school?” or “How long do I stay?” or “Will I be able to play?” and so on. The more details you provide — such as driving the school route and showing her how long the trip takes — the better.

Visit her new school if possible. Some schools allow short visits prior to the first day. If yours does, show Meghan her classroom, cafeteria and gym, and check out the bathrooms. (Show her how to flush those noisy toilets!) If you can’t get into the building, visit the playground.

Polish her kindergarten skills: Find opportunities to model and describe problem solving, resilience and independence, says Obey. Look for things Meghan can do to assume new responsibilities, such as helping set the table, unpacking groceries and laying out clothes. Give positive reinforcement when she seeks attention appropriately and waits patiently.

Remember, it’s a transition: If Meghan is still apprehensive when school starts, let her teacher know her concerns and what you’re doing to ease them, but don’t hover at school. Avoid overscheduling Meghan during the first few months. Make sure she gets enough rest and free play to balance the structure of kindergarten.

Be sure to ask those all-important questions: What did you learn today? Who did you meet today? What questions did you ask your teacher? You’ll build Meghan’s language skills, along with her confidence as a learner.

My son just finished middle school and got a notice from his high school encouraging him to take Advanced Placement (AP) classes this fall. I was shocked. He’s smart, but he’s just leaving eighth grade. This is so much pressure! Why are schools pushing freshmen to take AP courses?

Advanced Placement courses, essentially first-year college courses, are offered in almost 60 percent of the nation’s high schools, according to the College Board, which administers them and oversees their academic standards. Courses are given in subject areas ranging from English language to statistics.

The number of students taking AP classes has more than doubled in the last decade. Currently, more than a million students take AP exams each May. Good scores mean that students can “place out” of certain college courses, which is why they are called Advanced Placement tests.

Increasingly, high school teachers encourage enrollment among students whose records suggest that they’re capable of succeeding in AP classes.

There are good reasons, says Lindsay Cohen, who heads up precollege programs for The Princeton Review: “AP classes offer four key benefits.”

One, they prepare students for college.

“AP courses are more similar to college courses than regular high school classes,” she says. “Exposure to the next phase of a student’s educational journey as early as possible helps a student get ready for what awaits in four short years.”

Two, they can help your son stand out in college applications.

“Taking AP courses as early as freshman year opens up a student’s high school schedule to additional AP courses in subsequent years, allowing him or her to display an additional level of mastery to colleges,” notes Cohen. “Universities look closely at a high school student’s ’strength of schedule’ when making admissions decisions. Taking AP courses shows admissions committees that a student is committed to a rigorous course of study and is a strong candidate for college success.”

Three — and this is a biggie for families taking out college loans — AP courses allow students to earn credit at many colleges, resulting in substantial tuition savings.

“Students who earn scores of three or higher (on a scale of one to five) on AP exams can place out of certain college courses,” Cohen explains. “High scores can save as much as a semester of college tuition costs.”

Four, taking AP courses in high school allows a student to look into college electives that interest them.

Cohen says that there’s “no compelling research suggesting that there’s a benefit in waiting to take an AP course.” While AP courses are more rigorous, the growth in enrollment among freshmen shows that many rise to the challenge.

Research AP courses with your son before making a decision. Check out apstudent.collegeboard.org. Browse AP guidebooks. Talk with students who have taken the classes. Meet with his high school counselor.

No one knows your son better than you, says Cohen, who advises, “If you feel like he isn’t ready, or you would rather have him ease into the high school experience, that is a decision for you and your family to make. If he decides to pursue the AP path, there’s lots of help available along the way.”

Our school district is offering a STEM (science, technology, engineering and math) summer camp for students. I didn’t enroll our kids due to the camp schedule. What are they missing? Can we do STEM activities at home?

Are you ready to unleash your imagination, embrace trial-and-error problem solving and tolerate the wonderful mess of making stuff? Then set up a STEM camp at home, says Nancy Bourne, a STEM resource teacher in the Palm Beach County (Florida) School District.

“The STEM movement is all about encouraging kids to see these subjects as fun tools that help them make sense of the world,” she says. “Kids are extraordinary thinkers and doers. Good STEM activities encourage kids to think, ask ‘what if,’ use their creativity and enjoy learning.

“STEM projects should be about delight and discovery. You want kids to develop a positive mindset about these subjects that will carry thoughout their lives.”

Let these rules guide kids, Bourne advises:

– Dream big. Ask questions. Take notes. Write down what you want to know more about.

– Try new things. “Remember, failure is OK!” she urges. “I tell kids that FAIL stands for ‘First Attempt In Learning.’ You want them to venture their ideas.”

– Be open to what is around you. Observe carefully. “Wonder how to fly? Look at a bird. That is what the Wright brothers did and they invented the airplane,” says Bourne.

She further suggests organizing three types of STEM activities:

– Make and do. Plenty of websites support the “maker movement,” an initiative to stimulate kids’ imaginations with more hands-on activities.

“Find a space at home to invent, construct and get messy,” Bourne advises. One of her favorite sites is Design Squad Nation at pbskids.org: “The directions are good. In no time, kids start creating their own engineered fun.”

Other sites she likes that you might want to browse for more resources include edutopia.org, drawastickman.com, abcya.com/animate.htm and makesomething365.blogspot.com.

– Explore STEM resources nearby. Check out free and inexpensive offerings at science centers, parks, children’s museums and the like. Go geocaching and search for hidden caches using GPS. Try a variation called EarthCaching, where kids learn about unique geologic features. (For more information, go to schoolfamily.com and search “geocaching.”)

– Read for knowledge and inspiration. “Kids build knowledge in STEM subjects by reading a lot,” says Bourne. “There are many excellent nonfiction books in STEM areas that librarians can help you locate.”

In addition, the Children’s Book Council lists the best science titles at cbcbooks.org. Go to ReadingRockets.org to check out science and math titles and author videos. Kids are encouraged to read such nonfiction magazines as Wired, Popular Science, National Geographic, Time For Kids, SuperScience and DynaMath.

Biographies can also inspire kids to make their mark on the world, says Bourne. There are many excellent series featuring innovators from Albert Einstein to Sally Ride to Steve Jobs. Share videos and TV programs, too.

“Kids need to see people exploring this great globe, solving problems and making new things,” she says.

She also suggests watching TED Talks that are appropriate for kids (ted.com). There, Bourne says you can listen to a 2006 talk by English writer Ken Robinson. He calls creativity “as important in education as literacy, and we should treat it with the same status.”

Make that your STEM camp theme.

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