Advice from a real teacher.

Dear Mrs. James,
I really agree with what you say about keeping kids stimulated over the summer, but what about people who can't afford tutoring and camps and things like that? Do you have any ideas?
Thanks,
Kori Sanchez

Hi Kori,
Thanks for writing in! This is definitely a valid question and I know there are tons of people in your position. There are many things you can do, but it's going to require some research and creativity on your part! Here are a few tips to get you started.

Make your kids read over the summer! You can borrow books from the library -- they're totally free, and free books read just as well as books that aren't free! The library also offers free summer reading challenges and programs, so check it out!

There are tons of grade-appropriate math games online that your kids can play instead of video games.

I know that some churches offer camps at a very low cost and some offer education-based moms' days out at least once per week. You just have to do the research for the resources out there.

Now, some people legitimately cannot afford summer programs for their children. But, some people CAN afford it, but would rather get their "nails did" and "hair did" than invest in their children's education. Although I am more experienced in adverbs and pronouns than in financial planning, I still want to suggest that parents sacrifice so their children can have these experiences. Camp increases self-esteem and promotes friendships on top of summer learning. Summer tutoring, even if only once per week, could make a world of difference in your children's academics next year. Think about it and try to make the adjustments.

I hope this helps! I'm sure you'll do great! E-mail if you need more ideas!
Love,
Mrs. James

Dear Mrs. James,
Do you have any book suggestions that have multicultural/diverse characters for an eighth grader? I want something enthralling that she can read over the summer but also want her to experience different cultures rather than just our own. I don't know how much of this she gets in school.
Thanks,
Sarah James-Dobson

Sarah, darling,
You're about to open Pandora's Box! I am a middle school reading teacher and I could probably go on and on for days with book suggestions for your eighth grader! However, I will try to contain myself.

My first suggestion is Copper Sun by Sharon Draper. My eighth graders and I completely fell in love with it! Enthralling is an understatement! It's a historical fiction story about a 15-year-old girl who is captured from her native home in Africa and sold into American slavery. Amari, the main character, is raped, beaten and tortured on a regular basis until she and her white comrade, Polly, make plans for a new life. I won't spoil it for you by sharing too much, but I highly recommend it. It is painful to read, but it's amazingly written and my students loved it. Eighth graders seem to be really interested in books that deal with controversial subjects.

My second suggestion is Sold by Patricia McCormick. This book is about a 13-year-old girl named Lakshmi who lives in Nepal, India. Although her family is poor, she is a happy girl with an exciting hope for her future. She takes a job in the city as a maid to help her family with their financial struggles, only to later find out that she has actually been sold into a brothel by her stepfather.

I recommend it without reservation if you are prepared to discuss the relevant issues. Let me know how much you LOVE them!

Until then ...
Keep up the good work!
Love,
Mrs. James





Rashaun James is the founder and owner of Mrs. James' Learning Club. As a successful and innovative middle school teacher, one of her many professional achievements includes the OCTELA Teacher of the Year Award. She lives in Columbus with her husband.