Year End Letter from Ms. Makela

Dear Madera Family,

Do you remember summers as a child? For me, as a child growing up in Pleasanton, the lazy days of summer were spent sleeping longer, riding my bike, going to the fair, backpacking and hiking, swimming, eating dinner whenever it had cooled down enough to cook… I went to summer school not for remediation but for enrichment, to take classes like art or hiking. I read for hours, consumed in good books, and participated in the library reading program. We played board games and things like “Kick the Can” and “Hide and Seek”. I visited grandparents and went on family vacations that weren’t particularly extravagant but always memorable.
Here we are at the end of another school year. Having accomplished much, we are ready as ever for a much needed break from the fast pace of life that fills our days. Madera children work hard over the course of the school year! They develop strong foundational academic skills, challenged to push themselves to the next level, enriched by opportunities for study trips, music, art and garden. They read and write, pages and pages, learning to find their voice to tell their own stories. Many, if not most, of our students have made significant academic gains over the course of the school year and now they’re ready and excited for time off to do something different.

I wonder, is summer the time to slow down enough to put into practice the skills learned during the school year? Does a slower pace allow our brains time to sift, sort and make sense of what we learn? I suppose it depends upon what the summer looks like. Children without access to books and experiences fall behind over the summer, termed the summer slide. Yet those who read, explore and play, continue to make gains, even without an overtly academic emphasis. I think we need both the slower pace of summer and rich, engaging opportunities to use our minds in creative ways.

Here are some thoughts as you look forward to the coming weeks:

Read! Read! Read!

Access to books is important. The more children read the better and the more fun it is, the more they will do it. The public library is an excellent free resource for families to have access to books of a wide range of interests and reading levels. The El Cerrito and Kensington libraries have wonderful reading programs for children. When children select reading materials themselves and read for enjoyment, they receive the most gains in reading achievement, including better reading comprehension, writing style, vocabulary, spelling, and grammatical development.

Children tend to read more when adults in their lives encourage them to read, and also
when they see those adults reading often themselves so I wish you hours of reading this
summer too! I’m planning to read a fiction book a week and am encouraging kids to read
with me. Some of our 4th and 5th graders wanted a summer reading challenge, so they
created one. Watch for information coming home on Wednesday. Also, as we started last
summer, we’ll be posting books read on our Facebook page as a way of sharing what we’re reading along the way.

Get Out and About

There are so many great things to do in the Bay Area! Make time for exploration. I’m
planning to visit the recently reopened SF MOMA, take in a free concert or two at Stern
Grove, hike a lot and of course sail. Let’s post ideas and events on our Facebook page.
The average child now spends hours a day interacting with screens in one way or another. Take time to unplug and enjoy the benefits of being outside.

Make Math Real

Many children can “do” the math but have trouble applying it. Others have trouble making sense at all of this language of numbers. Summer is a perfect time to build math skills through games, cooking, building etc. A simple lemonade stand teaches a lot! While summer may not be the lazy days they used to be, I hope you will find time to slow the pace, enjoying each other and wish you a restful, replenishing summer with your children.

Please know that we are grateful for all you do, not only for your own children but for the community as a whole. We earned our Gold Ribbon School distinction this year as a result of the strong partnership working and learning together to provide well for our children. Madera certainly wouldn’t be what it is without you!

I look forward to seeing you in August and what next year, our 60th anniversary, will hold!