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Simple Tips to Start the School Year Right

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August 31, 2011

MADISON, Wis. - As families across the state prepare for Thursday's start of school, an assistant professor of medicine at the University of Wisconsin is issuing a reminder about some simple steps parents can take to help make sure their children succeed.

Dr. Dipesh Navsaria, who also is a pediatrician at American Family Children's Hospital in Madison, says a good night's sleep is critical.

"If you go to school tired, you're not going to be able to learn well. Children will often say no, no, they don't feel tired, but frankly our society is very good at chronic fatigue, and we don't often realize when we're just a bit tired and how that can affect us and affect our learning."

Another issue that seems to come up every year is the big backpacks that students lug around. Navsaria says parents should monitor the packs to be sure they're as light as possible.

"Heavier items should really be closer to the center of the back so they're not causing the child to lean in one direction or another, and the pack should never weigh more than 10 to 20 percent of the child's total body weight."

For example, if your child weighs 65 pounds, the backpack should not weigh more than 13 pounds, Navsaria says, adding that the child should be sure to use both straps when putting the backpack on.

In addition to a regular bedtime and a good night's sleep, Navsaria says parents should read aloud to children every day.

"And that's important not only in young children but even in school-age kids, that even taking 10 minutes to read aloud, they're not too old to be read aloud to, and it can really benefit them in their own reading ability and grasping the information that's in there."

Parents can find more back-to-school advice online at healthychildren.org.

Tim Morrissey, Public News Service - WI