Getting ready for school 103

Time to buy the supplies


August is time to buy school supplies. Before you head to Target or tear the house apart to find the supply list your child’s teacher handed out in June, here is a general list of supplies needed for each grade, plus tips on finding good deals.

What they’ll need: the basics

According to the Chicago Public Schools’ Web site (, kids first grade and up need:

• Pencils and erasers

• Pocket folders

• A notebook (several for middle-schoolers)

• Washable markers and crayons

• Scissors

• A ruler

• Glue

• A box of tissues and a roll of paper towels

Your child will also likely need:

• Loose-leaf paper and a three-ring binder

• A supply box or pencil case (note: teachers may want their students to have a specific kind)

Older kids also need:

• A dictionary and calculator

• A compass and protractor

The backpack

Probably the most expensive item—the backpack—should be chosen with care, according to the American Academy of Pediatrics.

Don’t just let your child pick her favorite color or brand. The wrong backpack could hurt your child’s back or arms. The academy recommends backpacks with wide, padded shoulders—narrow straps can dig into the shoulders and cause pain or restrict circulation. The academy also recommends backpacks with padded backs to protect kids from sharp objects inside.

If your child will lug home many books, the academy recommends a rolling backpack.

But if your child will have to climb many stairs, keeping a set of books at home may work better. That’s what North Side mom Pamela K. Knight did when her daughter hurt her back. “Parents can explore book availability online,” Knight says. And you don’t have to buy doubles of everything. Buying just the heaviest book can help.

Buying the supplies

It’s a good idea to check the school supply sales at discount stores in August. But don’t overlook other retailers, which may offer better deals and supplies. Here are some places you may want to check out:

Teacher stores. Find a list of them at The Learning Tree on Chicago’s North Side has several rooms of supplies and educational workbooks. A popular item last year was Book Jammers—washable, stretchable fabric book covers that last for years.

Office supply stores. Office Max and Office Depot, as well as independent stores, often have high-quality school supplies. This is especially true when it comes to binders, protractors and compasses. If you order online with Office Max or Office Depot and spend more than $50, they deliver for free.

Online school supply retailers. Online school supply retailers such as or sometimes offer good deals. Many, though not all, items are sold in bulk. But if you have space, bulk buying may save you money and car trips.

eBay. This online auction site may provide some of the best deals if you want to buy in bulk and don’t mind waiting to see if your bid wins. When this story was written, a pack of 50 pocket folders was selling for $9.99 with only eight minutes left. Office Max sells a pack of 25 folders for $21.99. Merry Mayer

Kids Eat Chicago

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