Too many parents think that "getting ready for school" means buying clothes, notebooks, pencils, and sneakers. It doesn't. Spending money is the EASY part. There are bigger, more important tasks.

What else is there to do? Here's a handy dandy list that you can use from year to year – no matter the age of the child.

1. Insist that your child read something every day during the summer. It doesn't matter what it is, but the printed word should be in front of his eyes for at least 30 minutes a day. It would help if the entire family had a 30-minute silent reading period. After all, the parent is the first and most important teacher, right? If you don't read, your child won't think it's important.

2. Take your child to visit the school over the summer (this works for pre-schoolers as well as college kids). Visit the library and the classrooms. Check out the "special" sections of the school. Talk to a principal or dean or teacher that's available. Let your child ask questions.

3. Get a required reading list from the school, or talk to your neighborhood librarian to find out her recommendations.

4. Just in case the English teacher asks your child to write an essay on "My Summer Vacation," get him ready by talking about what he might write. Even if your family didn't go on a fancy trip, your child should be able to put 100 words down on paper about his summer experiences. Help him formulate those ideas.

5. Yes, you need to buy school clothes. However, you do not need to buy them all at once and ruin your budget. Buy one or two outfits for fall (since your child will probably wear summer clothes for the first few hot weeks) and then wait until the mad school buying rush is over and prices drop.

6. Buying school supplies without knowing what teachers will require is a risk. Some teachers send home lists during the summer. If you don't know for sure, buy very little – just the bare essentials (pencils, pens, paper, three-ring binder) until your child's actual needs are understood. Some poor kids on the first day of school carry a backpack that weighs more than they do. There's no need for that.

7. Have a positive attitude about the upcoming school year. Tell your child that you expect his best work. Remind him that he has a clean slate, a new chance, and that only he can benefit from it.

8. Don't hover around the school on the first day. Let your child go on the bus, if available. Let your college-aged child alone for the first week. Tell him that he can call home anytime he needs to. Children must learn to make their own way in this world.

9. Understand the school's food program and get a monthly menu and post it on the refrigerator. Make sure that your child's lunch money or dining room fee or dormitory expenses are secure and paid at the beginning of the year. There's nothing worse than being hungry and trying to learn. A full tummy makes for a happier student.

10. Make a vow to help your child with his schoolwork any way you can. Be a partner in his education. Know what he is studying and what his current grades are in each subject. When the first report card comes home, there should be no surprises.

I hope that the new school year will be a good one for all the parents and their children. If I can ever help with questions or concerns, please don't hesitate to contact me.

IF YOU WOULD LIKE TO CONTACT DR. SMITH ABOUT THIS OR ANOTHER EDUCATION AND FAMILY TOPIC, SHE CAN BE REACHED AT HER EMAIL ADDRESS: jsmith1313@cfl.rr.com [1] OR IN CARE OF THIS NEWSPAPER.