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Planning Can Extend Learning Into Summer

Subtle selections of books and cassettes will serve to entertain --and teach--while the family is on vacation.


A summer vacation with kids in tow looms on the horizon for some parents, and memories of last year's back-seat turf fights send a collective shudder down their parental spines. How to keep the dear ones busy during the family's prolonged visit to grandma's house in West Virginia, or through days and nights in the Winnebago without cable TV?

Some experts recommend school. School--on the road? Parents might well raise an eyebrow. But college preparation companies and home-schooling experts believe that summer is a great time for exercising young minds.

Lora Malvani recently moved to Granada Hills to work at the Southern California headquarters of Princeton Review, a college test preparation company. She says that summer learning doesn't necessarily have to involve blackboard and textbooks. In fact, on her company's list of recommended reading are comic books.

"Back at our headquarters [in New Jersey] we posted 'Calvin and Hobbes' [cartoons] all over the office because they're a remarkable source of good SAT words," she explained, referring to the Scholastic Assessment Tests, which some kids as young as 12 face this fall.

She advocates a pre-vacation trip to the bookstore to stock up on the collected works of "Calvin & Hobbes" cartoonist, Bill Waterson, Berke Breathed's "Bloom County" collection, or some "Doonesbury" books by Gary Trudeau.

"They're full of Hit Parade words," she says, a tip-off to parents who want to guide their kids to higher test scores.

Andrea Wilson, spokeswoman for Kaplan Educational Centers, another test-preparation company, suggests parents use the daily newspapers available wherever they might travel.

"The op-ed sections of newspapers [provide] good practice in recognizing when an opinion is embedded in a passage." Such practice, she says, helps students get comfortable with the reading comprehension sections they will encounter on standardized exams. This "practice" also might stir up interesting conversations in the car or around the campfire.

Nancy McMillan runs Lewis For Books, the Reseda bookstore that's been helping parents educate their children at home since 1950. She's active in the "home-schooling" movement, which, she says, has relevance for parents even if their kids attend traditional schools.

Her "lineup of books great for traveling" includes catchy titles such as "Logic Safari" and "The Ambidextrous Mind"--both aimed at kids of elementary school age. The HomeSchool Assn. of California also provides a hotline for educational advice, operated by Barbara Alward, a member of the association's board of directors. Alward can also provide a list of fiction titles, such as "Little House on the Prairie" and "Red Badge of Courage," which may help your kids learn history in a fun way.

She cautions, however, "If you want your kids to learn a lot this summer, do things together that you genuinely enjoy. Put yourselves out in nature as often a possible, but more importantly put yourselves in touch with each other."

The Princeton Review provides a free publication called "A Guide for the College Bound Traveller." This brain-building book list for summertime, in addition to the comics, includes "Shoeless Joe," from which the movie "Field of Dreams" was made, and J. R. R. Tolkien's "The Hobbit."

Many works, including titles by Stephen King, Toni Morrison, Tom Clancy and Ken Kesey, are available on audiocassettes from libraries and bookstores, she says.


* Lewis for Books--(818) 343-5634.

* HomeSchool Assn. of America hotline--(805) 462-0726.

* Princeton Review--(800) 273-8439.

* Kaplan Education Centers--(800) KAP-TEST.

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