The most important achievement

JUST FOR PARENTS

Advice and strategies to help your children read

February 10, 2002

Editor's Note: In her next-to-last column today, Jerdine Nolen writes a personal correspondence to her readers.

Reading and writing are celebrations of the mind's ability to think. We are wired to search for and construct meaning from our environments. We strive to understand the most un-understandable things. Learning to speak, listen, read and write -- to become literate -- is the most important thing a person can ever do in his or her lifetime. It is by far the best ticket for success. It can also lead to incredible adventures.

I remember when I began to unlock the mystery of those black, squiggly lines floating on the white paper. "Look, look, look!" I screamed, jumping up and down. I showed it to my parents. It was the word "look." I knew I had done something big and grand. My father's deep voice rang out as he lifted me off the floor, nuzzling me: "Well, what do you know about that? This child can read!" For a time, it was my job to read "look" whenever we found it on the page we were reading together. Soon, I could decipher other words and their meaning.

My goals for this column have always been simple: to share my enthusiasm for reading, writing and literature with parents and caregivers, to create conversations about what we do at home to encourage children to become lifelong readers and writers. I hoped that you would in turn share your enthusiasm with your own children. Children become readers by reading many books or being read quality literature. When we provide these opportunities for them, we instill in them a joy and delight of the written and printed word. It is my hope that you will continue to share with your children a love of good books and a joy of writing. And, for all our sakes, continue to let it be part of your daily lives.

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

A fresh look at old favorites

Reading a book aloud to your child is one of parenthood's familiar rituals. You've probably gone through enough books to recite some by memory, particular those that your kids clamor for on a regular basis (you've all been through the Barney phase). Now you can have some help in squeezing the most out of the experience. Bring fresh ideas to old favorites using Games With Books by Peggy Kaye (Farrar, Straus and Giroux, $14-$30). Twenty-eight beloved children's picture and chapter books are given the red-carpet treatment with tailored activities to bring out the best part of every book. These games have the added benefit of helping kids sharpen academic skills.

They'll learn how to make Charlotte's web a template for solving geometrical problems; how to earn points by spelling Winnie-the-Pooh's wobbly words correctly; and how to construct their own adventures from inspiration from Harold and his famous purple crayon. Kaye is able to take books featuring such well-known characters to another level, taking their inherent lessons and placing them in hypothetical situations that can apply to the child in your life.

-- Athima Chansanchai

New York Times Best Sellers List: Children's Paperback Books

Editor's Note: The children's best-seller list has three categories -- picture books, chapter books, and paperbacks -- which are published in rotation, one category per week.

1. Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban, by J.K. Rowling (weeks on list: 20)

2. Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets, by J.K. Rowling (73)

3. Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone, by J.K. Rowling (116)

4. Chicken Soup for the Teenage Soul on Tough Stuff, compiled by Jack Canfield, Mark Victor Hansen and Kimberly Kirberger (13)

5. Captain Underpants and the Wrath of the Wicked Wedgie Woman, by Dav Pilkey (23)

6. Clifford's Valentines, by Norman Bridwell (3)

7. The Case of the Game Show Mystery, by Jim Thomas (2)

8. Sealed With a Kiss,

by Judy Katschke (7)

9. Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them, by Newt Scamander (37)

10. Quidditch Through the Ages, by Kennilworthy Whisp (38)

Contact us

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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