Authors try to teach kids to love written word

April 29, 1998|By KERRY LYNN FRALEY

The subject matter was a far cry from the romantic and mysterious fare she pens.

Still, Keedysville novelist Nora Roberts was in familiar territory reading a story from Norman Bridwell's Clifford the Big Red Dog series to a baker's dozen of twitching tykes Tuesday morning during the Project Head Start book fair at the center on West North Avenue in Hagerstown.

She read about the colossal canine to her own children, now grown, when they were little, said Roberts, fresh from a whirlwind 20-city tour to promote her latest hardcover release, "Homeport."

Roberts was one of two local literary celebrities reading to children during the annual event, designed to promote literacy by getting children to read and parents to read with them, said Stephanie Scott, coordinator of family services for Project Head Start.


Children's book author and illustrator Mary Alice Baumgardner, who lives near Waynesboro, Pa., read from her own book, "Alexandra Keeper of Dreams," about a duck chick who dreams of becoming a ballet dancer.

Both authors individually read to several classes then joined together for a lively question-and-answer session with parents, many of them fans of Roberts who later asked her to autograph copies of her books.

About 180 children ages 3 to 5, including children who attend the Noland Village Project Head Start site, participated in the book fair this year, Scott said.

As in past years, children were allowed to choose several books they could keep, an activity aimed at giving them something they'll want to read at home with their families, she said.

The books were purchased jointly by Project Head Start and the Kiwanis Club of Suburban Hagerstown, Scott said.

In past years, volunteers from the club read to classes, she said.

This was the first year celebrity readers were asked in, said Scott, who said they've tried to make the event a little bit different each year.

Teachers prepared their students for the noteworthy visitors by explaining what an author is and telling them that's what the women who would be reading to them do, she said.

Though it was her first experience reading in a school, Roberts seemed comfortable fielding questions and comments from her pint-sized audience members as she paged her way through the colorful, oversized books.

"They really are incredibly cute and enthusiastic," said Roberts, who said literacy is an important cause for her personally and for the Romance Writers of American, a group of which she is a charter member.

"They love stories," she said. "If you can get them loving stories now, the written word, they'll be readers and they can go anywhere."

Five-year-old Shane Muldoon said he couldn't remember what Baumgardner read to his class about, but he liked it.

He likes reading and being read to, he said.

Why? "You learn," he said.

Classmate Kayla Exline, 4, said she likes reading better than watching television.

"I really like it. I read at the nighttime, too," she said.

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