'Wonderful program' helps youngsters to read

May 10, 1994|By Mary Maushard | Mary Maushard,Sun Staff Writer

Patricia DiPietro is like a magician when it comes to helping youngsters read. She has plenty of tricks up her sleeve.

Well, they're actually in her "story bag" and her "prediction pocket" and in the webs the Carney Elementary School reading specialist helps her students weave to understand what they're reading.

Now, she and other reading promoters are sharing their tricks with parents of elementary school students. As members of the Baltimore County Reading Association, Mrs. DiPietro and her committee created a calendar of activities to help parents help their children become able readers and writers.

Originally created to celebrate "I Love to Read Month" in April, the calendar is finding more than its usual 30-day shelf life as parents and teachers keep using the ideas assembled by the group's Parents and Reading Committee, made up of teachers and administrators.

For parents of youngsters in the primary grades, the calendar suggests, for example:

* "Ask your child to tell you about one of the characters from a favorite book. Ask if your child would like to be that character and tell why or why not."

* "Take a spring walk or a drive with your child. See how many signs your child can read along the way."

And for parents of older readers:

* Show your child a magazine or newspaper ad. Ask your child to find the key words used to attract the buyer.

* Listen to your child read to you. Ask your child to state the author's intent in writing the book. Was it for pleasure or information?

"This really is a wonderful program," said Kathy Jewell, who has been using the calendar's ideas with her two sons, who attend Carney Elementary. "We're going to use it during the summer. It's an excellent idea."

Mrs. Jewell and her younger son Allen ("I'm five and three-quarters"), took the suggestion about a walk. Allen found he could read stop signs, house numbers and even "Beware of Dog." "If you see 'beware' on a fence, you don't go in," he explained.

Every public and Catholic elementary school in Baltimore County received copies of the calendar to reproduce for their students.

Some schools are using it widely and giving students certificates for completing the activities, Mrs. DiPietro said. Others are not using it at all because of the expense of reproducing it. If the committee members ultimately decide it was successful, they'll do a similar project next spring, she said.

This year's packet includes a page for parents explaining the benefits of reading to children for as little as 10 minutes a day, other activities such as making pop-up books and instructions for setting up a reward system as youngsters complete activities.

"We want to strengthen the tie between home and school," said Mrs. DiPietro. "Parents are constantly asking for ways in which they can work with their children at home."

But what about Mrs. DiPietro's other tricks?

Her story bags come in different sizes, with attractive exteriors. Inside are the tools she uses to help students -- the book itself, pictures of the setting or key elements of the story, or words the children might not know.

Her prediction pocket is attached to an apron that she dons. From the pocket she produces words and pictures that help the children predict what a book will be about.

And the story web? Educators call it "a graphic organizer" that helps youngsters group ideas before they write. Mrs. DiPietro explained that it's really "an outline, but more fun." In the center of the "web" is the main idea from which children can spin off ideas they want to include in their discussion or assignment.

Mrs. DiPietro also gives her children caps with light bulbs attached for thinking and plastic eyeglasses she calls "lookers," when they need to get a good, close look at a story. She has her own "lookers," too -- a bright yellow pair big enough for a Ringling Brothers clown.

Part magician. Part clown. "You've got to be creative and innovative if you are going to make a difference in the lives of these kids," she says.

All Baltimore County public and Catholic elementary schools should have copies of the "I Love to Read" packet. Families who did not receive them should contact their school or Patricia DiPietro at Carney Elementary, (410) 887-5228.

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