Just For Parents

Advice and strategies to help your children read

March 26, 2000

Practice makes perfect with reading, writing

Editor's note: Jerdine Nolen today discusses creating a daily reading and writing habit. Her column appears biweekly.

Daily reading and writing practice are habits to nurture and foster. Exposure to good literature also develops and maintains good linguistic abilities. Like every other skill, writing fluency does not happen overnight; rather, it builds up with daily engagement.

Some things to consider:

* By making signs, labels and advertisements, children can demonstrate an increasing awareness of the world of print.

* Children are able to write shopping lists, little stories, notes and newspapers.

* Children pick up words, phrases, parts of plots and dialogue from books they know.

* The practice of reading and writing daily helps increase fluency.

Writing daily allows us to:

* Share our own thoughts.

* Expound and elaborate on someone else's thoughts.

* Communicate with others.

* Record events.

* Share our vision of the world we know.

* Develop better writing skills.

* Develop vocabulary.

* Become better readers.

What you can do at home:

* Create opportunities for quiet reading/writing time.

* Encourage children to write letters, poems, etc.

* Write notes to each other.

* Encourage children to read aloud what they've written.

* Visit libraries and book stores to help your child select age appropriate reading/writing materials.

A resident of Ellicott City, Jerdine Nolen is the award-winning children's author of "Harvey Potter's Balloon Farm" and "Raising Dragons." She is a former teacher and administrator in elementary education, and has personally field-tested her suggestions on her son and daughter.

Guide suggests read-aloud books

Reading aloud with your kids helps them improve their vocabulary and reading skills, and also is a great way to spend time together as a family. Make it a group activity. Younger children can turn the pages and find objects in pictures that the story mentions. Older kids can alternate between being read to and reading to you or their younger siblings.

The Children's Book Committee at Bank Street College, a group of educators, librarians, authors, parents and psychologists that promotes quality children's literature, has created a guide called "Books to Read Aloud With Children of All Ages." It features more than 400 recommended readings divided into three categories and is arranged by suggested age and form (verse and information books, including true tales and ancient fables).

Choose readings suited to your family. Are your children natural listeners or are they too active for longer books? The guide groups children's ages in two-year increments, corresponding to their level of attention.

Order the 60-page guide for $9.50 (including shipping and handling) by calling 212-875-4540, or by going to www.bankstreet. edu/bookcom.

-- Tricia Bishop

On Wednesdays: The Just for Kids section with read-aloud story, puzzles and poster

The Sun's readers tell their success stories and offer tips on encouraging children to read.

Hide and seek

"After reading the story, we play 'find me.' We take turns picking out something from the picture and then asking the other to 'find me.' An example might be 'find me a yellow ball, a green shirt' or any other thing that is in the picture. If the person can spot it, they get to choose an item."

-- Jean-Marie Taylor

Baltimore

Curtain call

"After bath time, the first child to get dressed and brush his teeth is allowed to pick the first book. My husband and I often act out the parts in the book and the kids join in. Acting out parts is fun for everyone and keeps the children more involved in the stories as they wait for their lines."

-- Louis Nelson

Austin, Texas

It's in the bag

"Write down the titles of all the books in your collection and put the names in a bag. Let your child reach in the bag and pull out a title. This makes each night's reading a surprise."

-- Pamela Johnson

Edgewood

The Sun invites readers to send in tips about encouraging children to read, and we will print them on this page or on sunspot.net, our place on the Internet. Please include your name, town and daytime phone number. Send suggestions by fax to 410-783-2519; by e-mail to sun.features@baltsun.com; or by mail to Reading by 9 Parent Tips, The Sun, Features Department, 501 N. Calvert St., Baltimore, Md. 21278.

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