By TY ALLAN JACKSON
It’s the most wonderful time of the year. NO, not the holiday season, back to school!! Well, it is for the parents who no longer have to worry about summer camps, long trips in the car and how to keep their kids entertained for 10 weeks out of the year.
But for the kids, it’s another story. Back to school is a term that can bring chills down a little kiddos spine, with thoughts of homework, school lunches and the dreaded book report assignment. But “back to school” does not have to be feared, in fact it should be embraced.
Today there are more activities before and after school to keep kids engaged. Besides the usual sports programs many Berkshire County Schools offer, fun alternatives like Computer Lab with the newest Apple technology, including iPads to take home for advance students, and culinary programs for your future chefs. One class my teenage daughter (a future chef) loves is the Culinary Arts class at Pittsfield High School, where she not only learns the in’s and out’s of restaurant management but it can also earn her six college credits.
But don’t just rely on school to keep your children entertained. There are interesting things you can do after school, too, like start a book club.I know this may sound like it could be a snoozer, but when you add cool books like “Diary of a Wimpy Kid” by Greg Heffley or “The Hunger Games” by Suzanne Collins for older kids, you can create a unique forum for discussion and sublimely promote literacy. They can even use tools like Skype and FaceTime to include kids outside of their communities. If you don’t want to take this on yourself look into programs at any one of the local libraries in and around Berkshire County. Lenox Library offers two book clubs throughout the year — Reading with Girls for fourth- and fifth-graders, and More Reading for Girls in grades six through eight, and I’m sure there are more. Teen readers may also be interested in perusing the “Reading Rants! Out of the Ordinary Teen Booklists” blog at readingrants.org. It not only provides the overview of dozens of teen-friendly reads, but teens can submit comments and strike up their own bookclub-like conversations with fellow readers.
Don’t be afraid to think outside of the box this school year. Take a risk and introduce your child to dance at any one of the regions multiple dance schools and/or fitness centers (Berkshire Pulse in Housatonic, the Pittsfield YMCA and Terpsichore in Pittsfeld, Dalton Ballet Studio and the Dalton CRA in Dalton, and Berkshire Dance Theatre in northern Berkshire County and Bennington, Vt., are just a few of a the myriad places offering a variety of dance classes spanning the dance genres in the region). Or start a kid community-based business (like making jewelry, tutoring or even raking leaves). Activities outside of school will not only keep them busy, but deter them from the usual — playing video games and talking/texting to their friends day and night.
So put your thinking caps on and expand your child’s horizons. They’re counting on it!
Ty Allan Jackson is the founder of Pittsfield-based Big Head Books and the author of “Danny Dollar Millionaire Extraodinaire: The Lemonade Escapade,” “When I Close My Eyes” and “The Supadupa Kid.” Stop by the Berkshire Athenaeum at 1 Wendell Ave., Pittsfield on Saturday, Sept. 22, at noon, to catch Ty and the rest of the Big Head Books gang at the company’s “Are You a Dog or an Angel” event featuring author Nik Davies who will be speaking about and reading from her recently released book “Fif15teen” and perhaps giving participants a sneak peek of the just finished sequel “Still Fif15teen”; a book-signing will follow. Learn more about Ty and Big Head Books at bigheadbooks.com.