Just for Parents

Advice and strategies to help your children read

April 16, 2000

Children have a great time when they read rhymes

Poetry is the liveliest use of language, and nobody knows more instinctively how to take delight in it than children, who have one week within National Poetry Month designated Young People's Poetry Week. From April 10 to 16, this annual event, sponsored by the Children's Book Council, highlights poetry for children and young adults. With choices like Mother Goose and Dr. Seuss, parents quickly learn how much children love rhymes, word games and the magic of verse.

According to Jim Trealease ("The Read Aloud Handbook"), "It is not an exaggeration to say that all young children are natural poets." The trick is to translate their talent and enthusiasm into enjoyable literary moments. Begin by reading a variety of poems, limericks, haiku and free verse. Create a poetry notebook. Children can copy and illustrate favorite poems or write original poems. Here are some other ways to share the magic:

When Reading Poetry Aloud:

* Don't show your child the accompanying pictures. Ask for vis-ual impressions. Read it again, and be sure the child follows along with words and illustrations.

* Children love to hear the rhythm of words and to memorize their favorite poems, so read poems at least twice.

* To bring poems to life, add props. Exaggerate and change your voice.

Other sources of information include the Web. The Children's Books Council, www.cbcbooks. org, offers a plethora of poetry information. At Scholastic's Web site, www.scholastic.com, a search for author Jack Prelutsky will yield interactive fun with sound effects and a "Poetry Writing Challenge."

Parents and teachers can also pick up a valuable resource in "Kids Poems" by Regie Routman.

Check out these poetry books:

* "Lemonade Sun: And Other Summer Poems" by Rebecca Kai Dotlich

* "Words with Wrinkled Knees: Animal Poems" by Barbara Juster Esbensen

* "Where the Sidewalk Ends: The Poems and Drawings of Shel Silverstein"

Susan Rapp

Village Reading Center

Read about things they understand

It's never too early for children to develop a love of reading. "Reach Out and Read," a national pediatric literacy program, encourages parents to read aloud to their infants. It also offers age- appropriate reading tips and strategies. One of the best ways to get kids interested in reading is to introduce them to books that are about things they understand. Different age groups are drawn to different stories. The program suggests children like these kinds of books:

Infants 6-12 months

* Board books with photos of other babies

* Brightly colored, sturdy books that can be handled (and handle being tasted)

* Books with pictures of familiar objects like balls, bottles and stuffed animals

Toddlers 12-24 months

* Books with kids sleeping or playing

* Goodnight books for bedtime

* Books about saying "goodbye" and "hello"

* Books with just a few words per page

* Books with simple rhymes or predictable text

* Animal books

Preschoolers 2-5 years

* Books about making friends

* Books about going to school or the doctor

* Books about having brothers or sisters

* Books that have simple text to memorize

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.

Son reads to mother

"I take my younger son to his room and allow him to pick out any book that he wants and ask him to read a story to me while I prepare dinner. He really enjoys this type of independence, and it allows my older child some time to complete his assignments in peace."

-- Yelva Burley, Baltimore

It's never too early

"My tip would be to start reading to your children from the time they are born."

-- Debra Hayes, Baltimore

Family goes to library

"Spend time at the library with your family. My parents would bring miscellaneous work with them to the library while we did our homework or read. We were allowed to interrupt them if needed. We would be encouraged to check out a book as we left."

-- Pei-Ying Lee, Baltimore

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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