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Parents: Keep your kids engaged academically and socially this summer

By Ernie Brown

Saturday, July 1, 2017

If you’ve been reading our paper the last few days, you’ve noticed several stories about the summer camps for children from as young as 1 to age 18.

I am suggesting that parents, especially those is the urban communities in Youngstown and Warren, take advantage of these camps to keep your children engaged academically and socially.

Sadly, there was a time where young black kids didn’t have access to summer camps because of cost and, frankly, because of the color of their skin.

If your church didn’t have vacation Bible school, some black kids missed out on field trips, arts and crafts and other activities to keep their minds sharp and pique their curiosity.

Today, however, several organizations have camps available at little or no cost. For example OCCHA, 3660 Shirley Road, Youngstown’s primary social-service agency for the Latino community, has a camp for children age 5 to 11 from 9 a.m. to 2 p.m. Monday through Thursday until July 20. Children learn about team-building, reading and crafts. To find out more, call the Organizacion Civica y Cultural Hispana Americana at 330-781-1808.

The Summer Manufacturing Institute put on by OH WOW! The Roger & Gloria Jones Children’s Center for Science & Technology and the YWCA of Youngstown still has spots open for fourth- through sixth-graders to apply for boat building from July 10-14, and construction, taking place from July 24-28.

Breakfast and lunch are included in the manufacturing-institute camps at OH WOW!, 11 W. Federal St., downtown. For information and registration, call Brittney Duley of the YMCA at 330-746-6361, ext. 126.

Summer is also the perfect time to take children to the Butler Institute of American Art, the zoo, or call Mill Creek MetroParks or Trumbull County MetroParks to find out about various activities that have minimal or no costs.

Why is this so important, especially for minority youths?

I received an email from black educator Jawanza Kunjufu, a national education consultant and best-selling author, who answered that question.

“Middle-income parents who value education enroll their children in some type of academic experience during the summer,” he writes. “They also visit libraries, museums, zoos and colleges.

“Other parents allow their children to sleep longer, play more video games, watch more television and play basketball until they can’t see the hoop. These students will have to review the same work they had mastered in May in September,” he added.

Kunjufu is a strong believer that three months off from school in the summer is a detriment to children, especially black youth. His argument is that such a long time off has its beginning in our nation’s agrarian roots, but few black children will be or are farming.

He is a proponent of schools remaining open during the summer, but failing that, he says black parents are obligated to keep their children academically engaged so they don’t fall behind their white peers.

“We need every parent to make sure their child reads at least one book per week and to write a book report,” Kunjufu writes.

Reading has become somewhat of a lost art. My late mother used to read to me and my siblings as children, and I remember reading anything I could get my hands on in the summer – although most of that reading was DC and Marvel comic books.

Kunjufu owns a company – African American Images – that has designed a special collection of books specifically for black boys. He said research has shown one of the major reasons boys dislike reading is because of the content.

If you are interested in Kunjufu’s Best Books for Boys set, go to his website – – for information. Click on the Store link and type in “best books for boys” in the search area. You also will find several other titles to purchase, including “100 Plus Educational Strategies to Teach Children of Color.”

Parents have an obligation to manage the time their children are using their electronic devices. They should also make sure their children get outside and just play.

It doesn’t take a lot of money to keep your child engaged with academics. It will take some of your time, mom and dad, but parents are supposed to invest time in their children.

Ernie Brown Jr., a regional editor at The Vindicator, writes a monthly minority-affairs column. Contact him at