Encouraging kids' imaginations to get carried away


November 05, 2001|By Sue du Pont | Sue du Pont,SPECIAL TO THE SUN

FEW THINGS are as amazing as children's imaginations, and reading can help transport them to the most amazing places.

That is why the theme of Children's Book Council's 82nd observance of National Children's Book Week is "Get Carried Away ... READ."

Since 1919, educators, librarians, booksellers and families have celebrated National Children's Book Week. Next week, the event will be observed by local authors and libraries, as well.

Annapolis children's book author Priscilla Cummings - known for her Chadwick the Crab books for youngsters and novels for older children - says, "Reading is tremendously important for all ages. It should be a habit kids pick up when they are really young so it becomes a very positive thing that they enjoy throughout their lives."

She calls reading "a wonderful escape."

"I think a lot of kids are missing the boat by watching television and being at the computer so much," Cummings says.

It might seem a little unusual that Cummings' first book was about a crab, since she had never spent much time around the water before moving to Maryland.

"I grew up on a farm in western Massachusetts and had never even seen a blue crab until I moved to the area," says Cummings.

Not long after arriving in the Chesapeake region and reading William W. Warner's Beautiful Swimmers: Watermen, Crabs and the Chesapeake Bay, the bay began inspiring her writing. Cummings' Chadwick the Crab and subsequent books have become favorites among area children.

Cummings is not the only children's book writer excited by the environment and our regional history. We are fortunate to have many nearby writers sharing their talent and enthusiasm with young people.

Nature photographer and author Bianca Lavies knows she inspires the schoolchildren she visits. "They pick up on my excitement about my adventures," says Lavies, who arrived in Annapolis after living in places all over the world and crossing the Atlantic Ocean aboard a 30-foot sailboat.

She was a National Geographic photographer for 18 years and began doing books for children after losing her job at the magazine.

Pictures of Lavies slithering among thousands of snakes to document their behavior can get a whole school excited and thinking about becoming a photographer like her.

"I tell all the kids I hope they get so excited that they become scientists and clean up the Chesapeake Bay and whatever else nature needs so that when they have grandchildren there will still be all these great things."

The Biggest (and Best) Flag That Ever Flew, one of 14 children's books by Annapolis author Rebecca C. Jones, is a true story about a young Baltimore girl who helped her mother make what turned out to be the flag that inspired Francis Scott Key to write "The Star-Spangled Banner."

Jones notices a lot of interesting parallels between this story, which takes place in Baltimore during the War of 1812, and current nationalistic sentiment. During the War of 1812, British ships patrolled Baltimore harbor and residents were scared.

"They made the huge flag so the ships in the harbor could see it and everyone would know that the Americans were standing strong," says Jones.

Children's Book Week is a great time to meet these and other talented local authors through their books. A visit to a library or bookseller can uncover information about local authors and books that teach us about the history, culture and environment of the area.

Many of the libraries in Anne Arundel County are celebrating the week with activities for children. Activities at library branches include reading trees, to which young readers can add a leaf with the name of their favorite book, and bookmark and book cover making.

Special events during the week include Harry Potter Night at the Annapolis Area branch and Babies in Bloom at the South County branch.

Event times and dates are available at local library branches or on the Anne Arundel County Public Library Web site, www. aacpl.net.

The Children's Book Council, which was created in the 1940s to administer Children's Book Week, has a wealth of time-tested suggestions for parents, communities, libraries and schools to spread the word about children's literature and encourage the joys of reading.

Ideas include dressing up like book characters, sharing books, having a TV-free week and taking a field trip. Visit the council's Web site, www.cbcbooks.org, for information and ideas to celebrate this important week.

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