At 5 and 6, writing is the word

JUST FOR PARENTS

July 16, 2000

Advice and strategies to help your children read

Editor's Note: Jerdine Nolen concludes her series on language development. Her column appears bi-weekly.

Learning to read and write is not a single act but many steps on a developmental continuum. Most children develop the basic concepts of print by the time they are 6 years old. They begin to experiment with language. Some test their independence by reading by themselves. Others read simple stories and write about meaningful topics. Some will use an invented form of spelling, and almost all show their curiosity by asking many questions as they yearn to know more about the world around them. Don't be surprised as your young ones begin to develop their own interests; they may even choose books and magazines about the natural world.

Children at 5 and 6 years old:

* recognize and produce many shapes, letters and numbers

* understand that letters written on a page represent spoken words

* utilize writing and drawing tools

* dictate

* enjoy using computers

What you can do to help your child learn about language:

* Make sure your child has writing materials (paper, pencils, crayons, markers, chalk) within reach.

* Set up a place for your child to write.

* Let your child see you write every day.

* Discuss your child's writing and ideas with him.

* Keep samples of your child's written work to show progress.

* Provide reading materials (fiction and nonfiction books) that appeal to him.

* Plan trips / excursions that reflect your child's own interests.

* Encourage your child to create art projects depicting his interests.

A resident of Ellicott City, Jerdine Nolen is the award-winning children's author of "Harvey Potter's Balloon" and "Raising Dragons." Her most recent book is "Big Jabe." She is a former teacher and administrator in elementary education.

Where to find recommendations for good summertime reading

Dr. Donna Shannon, a professor of library and information science at the University of South Carolina, says reading to children, even well after they have reached the stage of being able to read independently, is a valuable part of the at-home educational experience. She adds that summertime reading acts as an effective bridge between spring and fall school sessions. By discussing books with their children, parents make reading active and dynamic, a reciprocal exercise that heightens enjoyment for everyone involved.

Encourage your child to try a variety of titles and genres. She suggests these Web sites as good places to search for those books:

* American Library Association (www.ala.org)

* New York Public Library's 100 Favorite Children's books (www.nypl.org/branch/kids/)

* Database of Award-Winning Children's Literature (www2. wcoil.com/~ellerbee/childlit. html)

-- Athima Chansanchai

Summer Reading Activities

Learning by the book

Turn scrapbook materials into an educational tool for your young ones. Make an alphabet book. You'll need:

* Old magazines, catalogs, or newspapers with pictures

* Glue stick, glue or tape

* Scissors

* Construction paper

* Crayons or a marker

* Hole punch

* Some string or yarn

Punch three evenly-spaced holes along the left margin of about 14 sheets of the construction paper (you can also use regular lined paper with pre-cut holes). Bind the book together with string or yarn through the holes. Personalize the book's cover.

Write each letter in order in large print on each page -- front and back -- of the book. Go through your catalogs and magazines with your child for simple pictures that start with different letters of the alphabet. Cut out the pictures. Paste or tape the picture onto the corresponding letter page and label it. Find this and other craft ideas at www. enchantedlearning.com/crafts/.

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 email 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.

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

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