Texas Book Festival Presents Kids on Congress

November 4 and 5 Event Features Family Fun Activities with Children’s Authors, Games, and More

The Texas Book Festival is excited to announce Kids on Congress, an avenue at the annual Festival on November 4 and 5 packed with some of the nation’s most beloved children’s authors and picture book illustrators, family-friendly activities, and live music. Children’s book and author highlights include: Matt de la Peña, Margarita Engle, and Sarah Dessen. This year’s children’s author lineup also includes Mac Barnett, Lemony Snicket, Javaka Steptoe, Stuart Gibbs, and Ellen Oh.

On Saturday, November 4, and Sunday, November 5, at 1 p.m., there will be a live performance of the new H-E-B Buddy League Training Academy, a high-energy show with song and animation, at the H-E-B Children’s Tent on Congress Avenue. Kids can travel the Festival with their own Passport guiding them through Kids on Congress. When they collect four or more stickers at each Passport session, kids will receive a coupon for a free scoop of Amy’s Ice Cream.

Art activities, crafts, and live entertainment can be found at the Children’s Activity Tent and Entertainment Tent. Kids on Congress Tents will include the following:

The Read Me a Story Tent will feature stories read aloud every half hour by top authors, with illustrators creating picture books for younger readers. Highlighted authors include Matt de la Peña, Lesléa Newman, and Dan Santat.

The ¡Ahora Si! Tent! will feature bilingual storytimes in English and Spanish by authors Juana Martinez-Neal, Monica Brown, Cynthia Leonor Garza, and Jorge Argueta. The tent will also host a special presentation by this year’s winners of the Tomás Rivera Mexican American Children’s Book Award: Francisco X. Stork, F. Isabel Campoy, Theresa Howell, and Rafael López.

The Next Chapter Tent, brand new this year, will feature middle grade chapter book authors Andrew Clements, Margarita Engle, Gene Luen Yang, Ellen Oh, and many more talking on panels about everything from being funny on the page to dealing with family drama to being an inclusive friend, reader, and citizen.

The YA HQ Tent will include two days of panels featuring young adult authors Sarah Dessen, Erika L. Sanchez, Jeff Zentner, Tochi Onyebuchi, Maggie Stiefvater, and more discussing fantasy, real life, writing mega-bestsellers, and brand new, buzz-worthy debuts.

In addition to the tents on Congress Avenue, the Festival will welcome many other great kids’ authors at venues around the Festival grounds. The full schedule and details on each session can be found here.

  • Saturday 11-11:45 a.m. We Love You, Mac Barnett!
    • Location: Capitol Auditorium
  • Saturday 1:15-2 p.m. Raid of No Return: Nathan Hale and His Hazardous Tale!
    • Location: Capitol Auditorium
  • Saturday 12:30-1:15 p.m. Katherine Paterson and Peter Sís In Conversation
    • Location: First United Methodist Church
  • Saturday 1-1:45 p.m. The Whiz Mob and the Grenadine Kid with Colin Meloy and Carson Ellis
    • Location: Omni Hotel Ballroom
  • Saturday 2:30-3:15 p.m. Illustrating American History with Kadir Nelson and Don Tate
    • Location: Capitol Auditorium
  • Sunday 11-11:45 a.m. Bad Moods, Be Gone! with Lemony Snicket
    • Location: House Chamber
  • Sunday 12:30-1:15 p.m. The Wonderful World of William Joyce
    • Location: Capitol Auditorium
All events at Kids on Congress are free and open to the public. The complete Texas Book Festival schedule is available at http://www.texasbookfestival.org/festival-schedule/.

The 2017 Texas Book Festival is co-presented by H-E-B and AT&T. Other major sponsors include Kirkus Reviews, Brigid Cockrum and Family, Tocker Foundation, Buena Vista Foundation, C-SPAN 2/Book TV, St. David’s HealthCare, Texas Capital Bank, Texas Monthly, Austin American-Statesman, and Pentagram.

Paving the Way to College: 4 Things Parents Need to Know

Senior year: It’s a time to finish college applications, solidify friendships and look forward to the freedom and the responsibility that come once that final bell rings. A lot of feelings surface during that final year, especially for parents. While your son or daughter might be overjoyed to finally fly the coop and live independently, you’ll probably be dealing with your own mix of emotions, and you’ll want to be sure they’re ready to begin college in the fall.

For families with a child headed to college, senior year is best thought of as a transition year. Plan ahead to make sure your family stays on track.

To help you and your child with a successful transition, here’s the essential list of landmarks on the road that will take your child from a senior in high school to a freshman in college.

1. Apply yourself in the fall

The journey to college begins early, and by the fall of senior year in high school, your child should be in full transition mode. They should be finishing campus visits and finalizing the list of colleges where they want to apply. Make sure they’ve spoken with admission counselors, thoroughly researched schools they’re interested in and have everything they need to complete their college applications.

Keep tabs on important deadlines and stay organized to avoid missing any critical due dates. For example, will they want to apply early decision or early action? If so, make sure you have weighed how this could impact your financial plan for college.

2. Focus on financial aid from the start

For many parents, one of the biggest anxieties around college is the cost. Don’t forget that the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) opens on Oct. 1, and some aid is awarded on a first-come, first-served basis. Make sure you submit the form as soon as it’s available.

Because everyone has different needs, figuring out how to finance your child’s education requires some research.

At College Ave Student Loans, you can find private loan options for parents and students. Even if you’re not ready to take a loan out yet, parents and students can try out the fast and easy pre-qualification tools to find out if their credit pre-qualifies for a loan, and what interest rates they could expect, all without impacting their credit scores. Calculators are also available to help you explore your options and see how you can customize the loan payments to fit your budget.

3. Spring time is decision time

Early in the spring, your child will start to receive their first acceptance letters. Once they’ve heard from all of the schools where they applied, they’ll have a big decision to make.

They need to do more than just decide which school to attend; they’ll also need to send in a deposit, complete their housing form and accept financial aid packages.

A crucial step in this process is comparing award letters from the colleges where your child has been accepted. In reading these letters, pay close attention to how schools list the total costs. For instance, some schools will subtract the awarded loan amount from the total cost of attendance, while others will not. This could make the net cost of some schools appear less than others when in reality they are not, so take your time reading the documents.

4. Tie up everything in the summer

Before they head to campus, you and your children should create a budget to keep tabs on college bills. This will help you to stay on track financially and set the right expectations about how they need to manage their money.

You can help your soon-to-be freshman by working with them to outline a monthly budget that will take into account expected and unexpected expenses. Take a look at their financial aid packages and any income they might be earning and block out the monthly mandatory expenses. Then decide how much money they can spend on things like entertainment.

If you find that scholarships, grants and federal aid don’t cover everything, private loans could be one solution for some college-bound students.

For parents and students, senior year is an exciting period. Knowing what steps to take and staying ahead of financial matters with useful tools like the ones at College Ave Student Loans can help make the transition easier for everyone. (BPT)

Texas Teen Book Festival Announces 2017 Schedule

Young Adult Book Festival to Feature All-Star Author Sessions, Panels, Workshops, Book Signings, Interactive Space, Costume Contest, and More
 
The Texas Teen Book Festival announced recently the full schedule for the 2017 edition, taking place on Saturday, October 7 from 8 a.m. to 5:30 p.m. at St. Edward’s University. This year’s Festival features an exciting program with opening keynote speaker Marie Lu and closing keynote speaker Jason Reynolds; panels and sessions by award-winning authors, including Lizzie Velásquez, Tillie Walden, Jennifer Mathieu, I. W. Gregorio, Mackenzi Lee, and Julie Murphy; plus book signings, educational workshops, a costume contest sponsored by Epic Reads, and the first-ever iTent.“It is finally time to announce the 2017 Texas Teen Book Festival schedule and we can stop struggling to keep secrets!” says TTBF Festival Director Shawn Mauser. “We are so excited to announce this program that has been in the works since January. We hope to see everyone out for a celebration of reading, authors, and the teens who love them!”The jam-packed festival day will begin at 8 a.m. and features panels, keynotes, and events, including:

  • 8 a.m. – TTBF Bookstore Opens, Alumni Gym
  • 8:30 a.m. – Early Bird Signings
    • Featuring: Marie Lu, Jason Reynolds, E. Lockhart, and Stephanie Perkins
  • 10 a.m. – Official Welcome and Opening Keynote at RCC Gym
    • Featuring: Marie Lu
  • 11:15 a.m. – Panel: To Thine Own Self Be True, at RCC Gym
    • Featuring Jason Reynolds, Zac Brewer, Tillie Walden, Renée Watson, and Corrie Wang
  • 11:15 a.m. – Panel: Me + You = Fate at Mabee Ballroom
    • Featuring Kathryn Ormsbee, Mackenzi Lee, Julie Murphy, Adam Silvera, and Jenna Evans Welch
  • 11:15 a.m. – Panel: The Ties That Blind at Jones Auditorium
    • Featuring Sandhya Menon, Amy Tintera, Jessica Taylor, Peter Bognanni, and Andrew Shvarts
  • 11:15 a.m. – Badgerdog Poetry Workshop 1 at Fleck Hall, Room 314
  • 11:15 a.m. – Barrio Writers Workshop at the Library, Room 141
  • 11:15 a. m. – Book Signings
  • 12:30 p.m. – Panel: Where I Belong: Stories of Immigration, Resilience, and Hope at RCC Gym
    • Featuring Mitali Perkins, Adi Alsaid, Francisco X. Stork, and Diana J. Noble
  • 1:30 p.m. – Special Speaker at RCC Gym
    • Featuring Lizzie Velásquez
  • 2:30 p.m. – Panel: Smart is the New Black at Mabee
    • Featuring Marie Lu, Ashley Poston, Kerri Maniscalco, and Ryan Graudin
  • 2:30 p.m. – Panel: Fierce Reads at Jones Auditorium
    • Featuring Mitali Perkins, Caleb Roehrig, Anna-Marie McLemore, and Jennifer Mathieu
  • 2:30 p.m. – WNDB Educator Workshop at Library, Room 142
  • 2:30 p.m. – Book Signings
  • 3:15 p.m. – Epic Reads Costume Contest Judging at RCC Gym
  • 3:30 p.m. – Panel: Of Myth & Mystery at Mabee Ballroom
    • Featuring E. Lockhart, Stephanie Perkins, Julie Buxbaum, David Bowles, and Cory Putman Oakes
  • 3:30 p.m. – Panel: It’s Time to Save the World… Again at Jones Auditorium
    • Featuring Cindy Pon, Aditi Khorana, Erin Bowman, Lisa Maxwell, and S.J. Kincaid
  • 3:30 p.m. – Badgerdog Workshop 2 at Fleck Hall, Room 314
  • 3:30 p.m. – Educator Workshop 2: AISD Educator Book Club with Adi Alsaid at the Library, Room 142
  • 3:30 p.m. – Book Signings
  • 4:15 p.m. – Opening to Closing Note: Essay Presentation at RCC Gym
  • 4:30 p.m. – Closing Note Speaker Jason Reynolds at RCC Gym
  • 5:30 p. m. – Final Group Signing
In addition to panels and workshops throughout the day, the Festival will feature:
  • Writing workshops hosted by Badgerdog and Barrio Writers at 11:15 a.m. and 3:30 p.m. Badgerdog is a writing program of the Austin Public Library Foundation for writers of all ages and skill levels, and Barrio Writers is a creative writing program that provides free college level writing workshops to teenagers in underserved communities.
  • A We Need Diverse Books (WNDB) workshop led by Dhonielle Clayton, COO of WNDB, to discuss using diverse books in the classroom at 2:30pm. This workshop is specifically programmed for educators, who will also hear about WNDB’s new app, “Our Story,” a useful book-finding tool for teachers, librarians, and students. “Our Story” offers cool content from authors as well as WNDB-themed curriculum and material perks. This event is for pre-registered attendees only, and reservations are available via the Texas Teen Book Festival website.
  • An Austin ISD Adult Book Club and an Educator Book Club Discussion with Adi Alsaid at 3:30pm. This kick-off meeting will give adult readers the opportunity to meet Alsaid and discuss his latest novel, North of Happy.
  • Additionally, this will be the first year for the iTent. This interactive space is designed to bring YA fans closer to their favorite authors and will offer opportunities to learn, create, and share. Book Talks, Zine Making, and Ask Me Anything sessions will all take place in the iTent. Full iTent schedule to be announced closer to the Festival.
TTBF is presented in collaboration with the Texas Book Festival, BookPeople, a dedicated team of librarians, and venue sponsor St. Edward’s University. The program is made possible in part by a grant from Humanities Texas, the state affiliate of the National Endowment for the Humanities.TTBF remains free and open to the public thanks to generous donors, sponsors, and dozens of committed volunteers. For more information, please visit www.texasteenbookfestival.org and keep up with announcements at Facebook.com/TexasTeenBookFestival, and on Twitter and Instagram @TXTeenBookFest.

3 Easy DIY STEM Projects for Kids

Looking for hands-on activities to engage your kids? It’s never too early to introduce them to important STEM subjects at home.

STEM stands for science, technology, engineering and mathematics. These subjects are critical for all students to learn because they are required for so many careers in the future. In fact, STEM jobs are growing faster than any other U.S. sector, according to Wired magazine.

If you’re looking for fun, hands-on STEM projects to do with your child, 4-H is a tremendous resource! 4-H utilizes exciting topics like robotics, rocketry, computer science and even electrical engineering to teach youth problem solving, creative and critical thinking, and build excitement for technology and STEM careers. To reach more youth with STEM programs, the National 4-H Council has partnered with HughesNet, America’s #1 choice for satellite Internet, to help introduce youth to hands-on, community-based STEM learning. HughesNet is a national sponsor of 4-H National Youth Science Day (4-H NYSD), the world’s largest youth-led STEM challenge. 4-H NYSD projects can be used by local clubs, families, homeschoolers and teachers to give youth a fun way to learn about STEM.

Here are three exciting NYSD STEM projects that are so much fun, your child will think it’s playtime, not work time.

Project 1: Incredible Wearables

The FitBit and Apple Watch craze have inspired “Incredible Wearables” — the 2017 NYSD experiment. Designed by the University of Nebraska-Lincoln Extension, this project teaches students how circuits, sensors and health data can be blended with fashion to create a wearable tech product.

To get started, visit https://shop4-h.org/ to order an affordable kit that provides everything needed for up to eight kids to make their very own wearable fitness devices. These wearables can track heart rate, steps and more! Best yet, the kits are reusable so they can have fun building, designing and testing their tracker time and time again.

Project 2: Drone Discovery

For children excited by aeronautics and design, Drone Discovery enables youth to explore how drone engineering and remote sensing can be used to solve real-world problems, such as helping a community develop climate change resiliency and energy sustainability. To succeed in this challenge, youth need to think like an engineer as they design, build and test drones. There are many different kinds of engineers and different ways to approach a challenge. What kind of engineer do you think you’ll need to be to master drone technology? The engineering design process has three basic steps: define, design and optimize.

Project 3: Rockets to the Rescue

Rockets to the Rescue is a competitive project, enabling youth to design and build a rocket that could be used to transport food and deliver supplies to disaster victims. This project, which is incredibly timely with major storms hitting the United States, teaches engineering concepts, math skills, nutrition and how to help solve a relevant, global issue.

The possibilities are endless

From simple building blocks to tackling science kits and constructing robots, there are plenty of STEM projects guaranteed to pique your child’s interest. Not only are you spending quality time with them having fun, but you’re also helping them learn critical STEM skills that will positively impact their future. To learn about other fun STEM activities, visit www.hughesnet.com/4h and www.4h.org.

Try This Science-backed Way to Learn in Your Sleep

The brain never rests. If you’ve shared a room with a sleep-talker or woken from an intense dream, it’s pretty clear the brain is always active, even during sleep.

If we better understand what is happening up there while we rest, perhaps we can direct that activity into something meaningful that improves our lives. Did you know that, for example, sleeping can help you learn a new language? Recent research has shown that while we sleep our brains are solidifying memory, and that has implications for our language skills.

Despite what we’ve seen in science fiction, it turns out that learning in your sleep does not happen by osmosis. You still have to learn the words while you’re awake.

To use an example on how to do this, take the word “tulo.” Before you go to bed tonight, repeat to yourself, “Tulo means sleep.” That’s what it means in the language of Chichewa, which is spoken in the countries of Zambia and Malawi. When you lie down and close your eyes, say it a few more times. “Tulo means sleep.”

What does the brain do while we’re sleeping?

In order to understand how you can use sleep to help you commit the word “tulo” to memory, it’s important to understand something about sleep and brain science.

When you think about it, sleep doesn’t make a lot of sense from an evolutionary standpoint. We hate to lose all that productivity, not to mention that sleep makes animals in the wild vulnerable to predators. We still don’t fully understand why we sleep, but as scientists study sleep in humans and animals, its benefits keep emerging and unfolding. For example, scientists have discovered that sleep flushes toxins from our brains, and dreaming helps us process emotional events.

In 2014, scientists from the Swiss National Science Foundation published study results in the journal “Cerebral Cortex” that could help your “tulo” game. Here, 60 German-speaking students were asked to memorize some Dutch words before 10 p.m., words that were unfamiliar to them. Half the students were then allowed to sleep. As they slept, recordings of the words were played for them. Meanwhile, the other half stayed awake, listening to the recordings.

At 2 a.m., scientists tested the knowledge of the two groups. (The first group was awakened and the second group was still awake.) The group that had slept recalled more Dutch words than the group that stayed awake.

Another finding lends startling insight as to why the sleeping minds might have had better recall. Brain scans taken from the sleeping subjects indicate that their brains responded to the spoken words, helping them solidify a meaningful connection with the words.

Tips for learning in your sleep

Before you leap into your language study, give it a test run with “tulo.” Follow these three steps to see if the insights from the brain and sleep studies help you commit the word to your memory.

Prime the mind: Again, this learning does not happen by osmosis. Before you sleep, it’s important to spend some time with the word “tulo.” Write it down, say it to yourself in a sentence, and tell others about it. “Tulo means sleep.” That alone may or may not be enough to help you remember what you need to know, but at the very least, you are creating the conditions.

Create a good sleep environment: You can’t get the full benefits of sleep if you’re not getting enough of it, and that also applies when you’re trying to memorize new words. In order to capture these full benefits, make sure you set yourself up for the best possible night’s sleep. Stay away from caffeinated beverages four to six hours before bedtime, exercise regularly, and keep your bedroom dark and quiet, and at the right temperature. Make sure you’re going to bed and waking at the same time every day.

Play a recording: Make a recording of yourself saying, “Tulo means sleep,” and have it play on repeat for a few hours while you’re in dreamland. Be sure and have a sticky note posted near your bed to remind you when you wake up — “what’s that word you have to recall?” When you wake up and read it, chances are, the answer will come right out: “Tulo.” (BPT)

5 Ways to Re-Engage High School Dropouts

For Christine Wilkins, now 16, freshman year of high school was an ordeal. The same students who bullied her in middle school were at her new high school. Just approaching the school entry filled her with angst. One day, instead of going in, she turned around and went home.

“The idea of walking through those gates gave me so much anxiety,” she says.

Christine hated school. Unable to focus or dedicate herself to her schoolwork, she made C’s, D’s and F’s.

Eventually, Christine stopped going to school and dropped out.

Tackling the dropout issue

There are many reasons students drop out of high school. Poverty, pregnancy, homelessness, bullying or just losing interest are some of the many issues that cause students to skip a day of class, a week and eventually drop out altogether.

According to the U.S. Department of Education, missing just three weeks of school is enough to threaten a student’s chance to graduate.

What can be done to help these students?

As each person is a complex individual, there is no single solution that can reach the multitude of different students.

This is why Learn4Life, a nonprofit dropout recovery program, takes a dynamic approach to reengage students.

The average student who enrolls in Learn4Life has been out of school for 11.4 weeks. Through different methods, such as personalized learning, mentoring and job skills training, the program has been highly successful in reengaging dropouts and keeping them in school.

These are the five effective ways they reach out to these students.

1. Dealing with issues outside of the classroom. Whether it’s counseling to help students come to terms with issues they’re facing or a mentoring program that builds confidence, helping students deal with non-academic issues is a way to give them the stability they need to succeed.

2. Meeting students where they are. Not every student is at the same emotional, academic or mental level as their peers. Through one-on-one attention, personalized learning and academic planning, students can get help where they most need it. This personalized approach is designed to find a solution that’s best for the individual.

3. Removing obstacles to learning. Sometimes it’s something as simple as not having proper transportation or childcare that prevents a student from returning to complete their education. Giving students flexible schedules, help with transportation and access to teachers or mentors at different hours of the day can make a big difference in their ability to learn.

4. Making them feel safe. It’s an unfortunate fact that schools are not always the safe environment they ought to be. Creating a respectful and safe place to learn is essential for removing social anxieties and fears that can hinder learning.

5. Helping them see a future. Through job skills training programs, students can prepare for a future beyond a diploma. As a Workforce Innovation and Opportunity Act (WIOA) partner, Learn4Life offers courses in work-readiness skills, career exploration, writing cover letters and resumes, completing applications and interviewing.

The effectiveness of Learn4Life’s approach can be seen in the fact that when students enroll, only 15 percent of them come to school regularly, but as the year goes on, that number jumps to 86 percent.

Concluding Christine’s story

After six months out of school, counselors at Christine’s old high school pointed her to a Learn4Life program at Desert Sands Charter School.

She enrolled and by participating in an internship with Pacific Gateway, part of the YouthBuild WIOA program at Desert Sands, Christine gained experience in customer service and Microsoft applications.

Currently, Christine attends school and is getting all A’s and B’s in her school work, and has a full-time internship. At the end of the internship, she will receive certificates in customer service and Microsoft Office.

“I’m dedicated because I’m getting knowledge and experience for a life outside of school,” Christine says. (BPT)

How to Build Healthy Habits for the School Year and Beyond

Bells are ringing across the country as kids settle into classrooms for a year full of fun, friendship and plenty of learning.

While exciting, adjusting to new school schedules is a hectic time. Healthy habits are often forgotten as the focus shifts to studies, assignments and extracurriculars.

“Parents and caregivers can make a big difference in helping kids lead a healthy lifestyle during the back-to-school season and beyond,” says Deanna Segrave-Daly, a mom and registered dietitian. “A few proactive steps can set kids up for success in and out of the classroom.”

Segrave-Daly offers six easy ideas you can try to help encourage your kids to build healthy habits that last a lifetime:

Prioritize sleep

Sleep is something families often sacrifice due to busy schedules. Remember, kids need significantly more sleep than adults to support their rapid mental and physical development, according to the National Sleep Foundation. School-age children should strive for nine to 11 hours of sleep each night. Establish a nighttime routine and prioritize sleep every night.

Eat breakfast

We all know that breakfast is the most important meal of the day — especially for our kids. Help them jump-start their day with a quick breakfast of healthy foods like fruit, eggs and whole-grain cereal. For those busy mornings, grab fridge-free, GoGo squeeZ YogurtZ, made with real low-fat yogurt and fruit, for a wholesome option they can easily eat in the car or bus with a banana, toaster waffle or whole-wheat toast.

Encourage exercise

Kids should do at least 60 minutes of physical activity each day, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Hopefully some of this physical activity can take place during the school day, but there are lots of easy ways to build healthy activity into daily life at home. Make a habit of going on a family walk after dinner (a great chance to unwind and reconnect) or challenge kids to bring their books up the stairs or to another room one at a time. Take 10-minute “dance party” breaks during homework or see who can jump rope the longest.

Manage screen time

It’s important for families to be mindful of screen time for kids. The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends kids ages 2-5 limit screen use to one hour per day of high-quality programs. For children 6 and older, place consistent limits on the time spent using media and monitor the types of media used.

Snack well

Kids love to snack, and it’s important to keep nutritious options on hand for when hunger strikes — it helps them avoid emergency vending machine stops. Stock your pantry with healthier snacks like GoGo squeeZ applesauce pouches. These fridge-free pouches, made from natural ingredients, are easy to grab on the way to soccer practice, music lessons or the playground. They’re also an easy lunchbox addition!

Adjust the attitude

Mental wellness is part of overall wellness. Keep in mind the power of a positive attitude toward education. Encourage kids to look at issues from different angles, appreciate diversity and be resilient. Have conversations with children and truly listen to their concerns to build trust and solve problems.

Finally, it’s the adult role models in a child’s life that really set them up for success.

“If you model healthy habits, your child is likely to follow your lead,” says Segrave-Daly. “Try to routinely eat well, sleep well, exercise and have conversations about the good and bad parts of your day. Your kids are paying attention even when it seems like they aren’t!”

Ride Safe

Bus Safety Tips for Back-to-School

While school safety is of the utmost importance to parents, millions of school-age children begin and end their days with a bus ride. To provide some measures for parents to help increase safety going to and from the bus and during the ride, the National Association for Pupil Transportation offers these tips.

Before the Bus Arrives

  • Ensure backpacks are packed securely so papers and other items don’t scatter as the bus approaches.
  • Create a morning routine that puts kids at the bus stop five minutes before the scheduled pickup time. This helps avoid a last-minute rush, when safety lessons are easily forgotten, and ensures kids are safely in place for boarding.
  • Encourage children to wear bright, contrasting colors so they can be seen easier by drivers.
  • Walk young children to the bus stop or encourage kids to walk in groups. There is safety in numbers; groups are easier for drivers to see.
  • Instruct children to walk on the sidewalk. If there is no sidewalk, advise them to stay out of the street, walk single-file, face traffic and stay as close to the edge of the road as possible.
  • If kids must cross a street, driveway or alley, remind them to stop and look both ways before crossing.
  • Verify that the bus stop location offers good visibility for the bus driver; if changes are needed, talk with nearby homeowners or school district officials to implement changes. Never let kids wait in a house or car, where the driver may miss seeing them approach the bus.
  • Remind children that the bus stop is not a playground. Balls or other toys can roll into the street and horseplay could result in falling into the path of oncoming traffic.
  • Instruct children to stay at least three steps away from the road and allow the bus to come to a complete stop before approaching it.

On the Bus Ride

  • When boarding the bus, items can get bumped and dropped. Caution children that before picking anything up, they should talk to the driver and follow instructions to safely retrieve their possessions.
  • Teach safe riding habits: stay seated with head, hands and feet inside at all times; use a seatbelt (if available); keep bags and books out of the aisle and remain seated until the bus stops moving. Also instruct children to never throw things on the bus or out the windows and to never play with or block the emergency exits.
  • Remind kids that yelling and other loud noises are off limits as they could distract the driver.
  • If cell phones and other electronic devices are permitted, instruct children to mute the sound or use headphones so as not to create a distraction for the driver or other riders.

Leaving the Bus

  • Remind children to look before stepping off the bus. If they must cross the street, teach them to do so in front of the bus by taking five big steps from the front of the bus, making eye contact with the driver and waiting for the signal that it is safe to begin crossing.
  • For parents who meet their kids at the bus stop, remember that in their excitement kids may dart across the street. Eliminate the risk by waiting on the side of the street where kids exit the bus.
  • Make the bus ride part of your daily “how was school?” discussion. Encourage kids to talk about the things they see and hear on the bus so you can discuss appropriate behaviors and, if necessary, report any concerns to school administrators.

Discuss the Bus

Join the discussion (or start one) on school districts exploring a switch from diesel buses to cleaner alternatives by downloading resources including fact sheets, videos and more at BetterOurBuses.com.

A Safe Transportation Option

Beyond teaching safety precautions around the bus, there is another option to ensure kids are transported safely to and from school each day. Many school districts are moving away from noisy, pollution-inducing and expensive diesel buses in favor of buses powered by an alternate fuel, like propane, which offers numerous benefits for school districts and their students.

Safety: Jenna Bush Hager, a teacher, author, journalist and parent of two, has partnered with the Propane Education & Research Council to educate parents and school districts about the benefits of propane school buses.

School buses powered by propane offer numerous safety advantages. Propane school buses are quieter than diesel buses when operating, making it easier for drivers to hear both inside and outside the bus. This can have a direct impact on student behavior, and many districts have reported fewer disciplinary issues as a result. An interactive audio quiz detailing the difference between the types of buses can be found at QuieterSchoolBuses.com.

“As a former teacher, I know parents often overlook how the ride to and from school can impact a child’s performance in the classroom,” Hager said. “A child’s attitude or behavior before they arrive at school can set the tone for the whole day.”

In addition, these buses meet rigorous U.S. Federal Motor Vehicle Safety Standards and each is equipped with an automatic shut-off feature that prevents fuel flow to the engine when not running.

Another safety consideration is the health implications of older diesel buses. The shorter height of younger students can put them face-to-face with a black cloud of diesel smoke every school day. With propane buses, however, students aren’t exposed to the harmful particulate matter in diesel exhaust, which is known to aggravate asthma and has been identified by the World Health Organization as a carcinogen. However, “low-NOx” propane engines are 75 percent cleaner than current federal emissions standards require.

Savings: Not only is propane consistently less expensive than diesel fuel, the buses themselves don’t require the same expensive repairs and replacement parts that today’s modern diesel buses demand. Saving money on transportation costs puts schools in a better position to appropriate budget toward meeting students’ needs in the classroom and other areas, such as fine arts and athletic programs. (FamilyFeatures)

Top Tips for Making Back-to-School a Success

Summer days are getting shorter. Summer fun is winding down for the season. Bedtimes are starting earlier. And parents seem to be oddly excited.

Back to school is right around the corner.

For most kids, the thought of going back to school can be a drag. But it doesn’t have to be.

Marley Dias, 12-year-old founder of #1000BlackGirlBooks, knows a thing or two about balancing extracurricular activities and back-to-school readiness.

According to Marley, preparing for back to school is the key to success. “Tweens know, going back to school can be stressful and to conquer it with a smile takes guts,” said Dias. She offers these seven simple tips for parents to help make a smooth transition back to school.

1. Get Back to a Routine

A healthy routine is essential to getting your body clock back on schedule. A week before school starts, the family should wake up early and eat a healthy breakfast, lunch and dinner. For that week, everyone should try to go to bed at a reasonable hour.

2. Power Your Inner Potential

Seventy percent of the immune system is located in your gut. I take a daily probiotic like Renew Life Ultimate Flora Kids Probiotic to stay healthy and operate at my best. Probiotics help keep my gut healthy, which improves my sleep, mood and memory, all important aspects to being a good student, especially during the first few weeks when you still feel sluggish from summer.

3. Reconnect with Friends

Your kids’ friends have been away at camp, on vacation or visiting relatives all summer long. Chatting with friends gets kids excited about the new school year and helps avoid the back-to-school jitters.

4. Set Goals

Having your kids set goals helps them attack the school year with purpose. Challenge them to improve at a subject, try a new sport or make a new friend. Ask them to write down their social and academic goals; you can’t get anywhere without a plan!

5. Shop!

Indulge in a new outfit or cool locker supplies for your kids. Buy those fun items, but also the functional ones that last throughout the year.

6. Getting Organized at Home

Getting organized now helps them tackle all of those upcoming assignments. Help them review old work to jog their memory. Plan outfits the night before. Pre-pack lunches and snacks. Post all assignments and activities in a visible spot in the house. And lastly, set up a home homework space. Kids need a dedicated place to focus.

7. Pick a Place to Just Breathe

Pick a peaceful spot at home where kids and parents can practice deep breathing and relaxation. The school year is a hectic time. Take a moment to push pause on all electronics. This quiet moment will help each member of the family prep their mind and body for everything the school year brings.

Getting back into a routine after summer takes guts. Make sure yours are up for it. To help keep your complex digestive system thriving and restore good bacteria, visit www.RenewLife.com. #beinghumantakesguts (BPT)

Writing a Winning College Essay

Tips for letting your story shine through

For the more than 2 million students applying to colleges and universities, the task of essay writing can be a dreadful experience.

Whether applying for admission or scholarships, many students find this part of the application process to be the most stressful and daunting part of their senior year. Often without understanding how to approach the essay, students struggle with staring at a blank page and finding a compelling topic.

However, according to Howard Reichman, president of EssayDog, an easy-to-use, cloud-based platform that helps students write winning college application essays, “a college application essay is really just a story – a story colleges want to hear about you.”

“Every good story, from a blockbuster movie to a novel from your high school English class to your favorite show, has four critical elements that make it fascinating and reveal inner depth about its characters,” Reichman said. “That’s exactly what you want your college application essays to do: show the real you beyond the test scores and GPA.”

According to Reichman, every good story has these four essential elements:

  1. The initial plan
  2. The anticipated outcome
  3. The setback
  4. The discovery

Whether students use an online tool like EssayDog, which gets students started quickly by asking them to write just one sentence about each of these four parts, or they tackle the task of essay writing on their own, the next step is to round out the narrative by filling in details that let the applicant’s true character shine through.

The essays that resonate most with college admissions departments typically convey a student’s intangibles or “the Four Ps,” specifically:

  • Passion: What drives you and what do you really care about?
  • Personality: What are you like to be around? Would your friends and family be able to identify you by reading your essay?
  • Perseverance: How do you respond to challenges? What gives you strength, both intellectually and emotionally?
  • Potential: What talents, interests and goals will you bring to a university’s campus next fall? How can a college help you further develop these as you continue to grow into adulthood?

More than anything, procrastination and stress are often students’ worst enemies when they sit down to begin the essay-writing process.

“If you feel you are wasting time, switching topics or disagreeing with your parents, teachers or college counselors about the direction your essays are taking, try going back to these simple storytelling techniques to ensure you are showcasing what sets you apart from other applicants with similar grades and scores,” Reichman said.

Visit essaydog.com or find EssayDog on Facebook and Twitter to find more tips for confidently writing standout college essays. (Family Features)