No More Pencils, No More Books? Buy New Ones!

For 9-year-old Noah Brinton, helping his father fill a shopping cart with pencils, erasers and notebooks at the Staples store in Narberth can mean only one thing.

"Going back to school!" announced the boy, who will enter the fourth grade in September.

The back-to-school shopping season is in full swing, and while it may not rival the December rush, stores are making sure to advertise sales on school supplies and offer products with kid-friendly colors and designs.

One of the most important items that Noah chose was a two-in-one, Z-shaped zipper binder complete with an almost endless number of pockets to hold pencils, paper, folders and notebooks. It even has a shoulder strap to make it easier for the youngster to carry.

"We just a had a single binder," noted his father, Ralph Marcoccia, thinking back to his school days.

For Raquel Walton, shopping just one isle over, picking out items for her fourth-grade son Jonathan was a snap: She simply followed the list given to her by the Belmont Hills Elementary School.

"It's like the army. You're all given the same equipment, and you're ready to go," she said. "I was just kind of pushed out the door and sent to school, but a list definitely makes it easier."

The school requested that Walton and other parents buy some conventional items like notebooks, No. 2 pencils, and colored markers or crayons, but also had an unexpected addition: three large boxes of tissues.

"Maybe they're expecting a big flu season, I don't know," said Walton, who noted that she would buy them anyway.

After teaching for 17 years, Stacy Kurtz decided that this year, she was not taking any chances on her school not providing certain kid-friendly supplies for her first-grade class. That's why she and Wood Land kindergarten teacher Genny Geis headed for Staples to browse for paper and markers in colors like neon pink or bright orange.

"The brighter the better," said Kurtz.

"With little kids, the fun stuff matters," continued Geis, who's been teaching for 12 years. "I want them to be excited about sitting down and writing. And what makes it exciting? Neon paper and cool magic markers!"

Another innovative tool that Kurtz hopes to bring to her classroom — even if she has to pay for it herself — is a box of twistable crayons, which allows students to reload when the tip gets too flattened out.

"It's made coloring so much simpler," she said. "The crayons twist up, and you never get that dull tip of your crayon. It's always pointy."

For parents going school-supply shopping, Rabbi Joshua Levy, principal of Torah Academy of Greater Philadelphia, suggests that they ditch the regular old backpacks and instead choose a rolling school bag.

"The strain on the back is formidable, and we don't want to incur any issues with spine curvature and the like," said Levy, who runs the kindergarten through fifth-grade school in Ardmore.

One item that parents do not have to worry picking up for Torah Academy students is a yearly personal planner, something administrators expect to hand out to all students. Levy stressed that organization can be the difference between a child getting good grades or falling behind.

"Good planning skills for life really start in school," he said.

One item that Staples shopper Nancy Grossman never needed as a child was a laptop computer, but she sure needs one now because it's mandatory for her 11-year-old, who attends the Raymond and Ruth Perelman Jewish Day School.

"A laptop for a sixth-grader?" she posed.

Since she also has sons who are 4 and 8, she knew that getting a jump on buying school supplies can make a huge difference — that's why she did her shopping on Aug. 7, weeks before any school bells ring.

"Don't come here the night before school starts — you can't get in the parking lot! It's a mad house, so be prepared," she warned. "It's crazy. However late they stay open, that's how late people are here." 



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