Summer books for fun and for learning


The Sun's question of the month got me thinking about how to continue the momentum of learning that my granddaughter has developed in her kindergarten class, where she was very fortunate to have two dedicated teachers who challenged and motivated her class to read and learn.

We want to continue to enhance her abilities and help her prepare for the first grade.

Our plan is to follow the lead of her teachers and do the following.

First, obtain a list of words that were required in kindergarten and review them.

Second, obtain a list of required words for the first grade, begin learning them and find books and activities that contain those words.

Third, set aside reading time each day. This will include an afternoon break and cooling-off before bed. When we spend time on the computer, we will use programs that teach words and activities appropriate to her age.

Fourth, we will utilize the library and its reading programs, The Sun's "Reading by Nine" information (especially the stories and activities) and the children's section of the Sunday comics.

We also plan to take field trips to bookstores when they have a special reading event and to malls when they have programs that will encourage reading.

The challenge in all of this is to make my granddaughter want to read and to make it fun.

We will have her keep a journal of the books she has read and of her reading activities. We will set a goal of 20 books or related activities a month and reward her with her choice of a trip to the local dollar store, an ice cream parlor or a snowball stand.

We will also let her pick a new book to purchase when she reaches her monthly goal.

By making all this a part of the daily summer routine, we will keep her mind engaged as she learns new things, expand her world, increase her vocabulary and give her a sense of accomplishment and self-confidence as she reaches her goals.

This will prepare her for success in first grade.

Robert Snyder, Baltimore

Yes, I have a reading plan for my children this summer: Each child, except my 3-year-old, must read a proverb a day.

My 8-year-old daughter is registered with the Enoch Pratt library summer reading program. My three boys are required to read for 30 minutes each day, and they also have to read the proverbs.

As a parent, I am committed to reading to my 3-year-old three times a day.

I am also committed to read a book a week.

Joyce Chapman, Baltimore

As a high school student, what do I plan to read over the summer?

Franz Kafka's "The Trial," some Friedrich Nietzsche, an account of contemporary Dachau, political essays, some nonfiction on existentialism by the usual gang and at least one psychological study on sex or love.

I also plan to read J.D. Salinger's lesser-known work, Aldous Huxley's lesser-known work, Anne Frank's diary, perhaps some Kurt Vonnegut and Edward Burroughs, Herman Hesse's "Beneath the Wheel," Oscar Wilde's classics, poems by Robinson Jeffers and a collection of essays on AIDS.

But what will I read over the summer? Books required for school.

For English literature next year, I'll spend time with dry, stuffy 17th- and 18th-century classics - 700 pages or so whose relevance is incomprehensible.

History class,too, demands mycontinued intellectual commitment.

Required reading futilely tries to get apathetic and shallow youngsters to exercise their minds, but those students have abandoned that path, and will continue that way despite well-intentioned but ill-conceived administrative attempts to steer them toward a higher plane.

Summer reading lists do succeed, however, in preventing the readers among us from getting much reading done.

And they do so in the only weeks of the year in which we might possibly have the time to pursue voluntary, non-patronizing reading.

Brendan Camiel, Towson

The answer to The Sun's question, "How do you keep your kids learning and their minds engaged during their summer vacation?" is simple.

I just hand over the TV remote and forget about them.

They do enough reading during the school year. They deserve a little violence, sex and a few vulgarities after working hard for nine months in school.

R.D. Bush, Columbia

Executions honor murder victims

If we abolish capital punishment, aren't we showing preference for the sacredness of the murderers' life over the sacred life of the victim?

Life imprisonment without parole, with its promise of tomorrows for a sociopath who denied them to his or her victim, is not justice.

It's a denial of concern for the victim, in particular, and a denial of concern for the safety and well-being of society as a whole.

No one disputes that every opportunity to establish the innocence of an accused murderer should be offered. DNA tests should be mandatory and the accused given the right to appeal after appeal, if necessary.

Taking the life of a man takes all he has. It's a very tragic business.

Society should not be seeking revenge, but rather providing equal justice for the victim as well as the criminal.

But if we conclude that equal justice never calls for the death penalty, we will have ceased to listen to the silent cries of the victims and their families.

Celebrity treatment is too often given murderers today; the victims are merely mentioned.

Those opposed to capital punishment appear on TV or wave placards at demonstrations denouncing the death penalty.

I'd be more prone to believe in the sincerity of their belief in the sacredness of all life and the inhumanity of executing another person if they demonstrated equal outrage for the dashed dreams and hopes of the victims.

Eleanor Wasielowski, Baldwin

Can we bring colonial history to life in Carroll Park?

The Carroll Park Foundation deserves public support for undertaking to discover the history to be found outside of the manor house of an important pre-revolutionary Maryland plantation that was owned by key figures in America's colonial history.

But The Sun's article "Turf battle in Carroll Park" (June 9) revealed that the Colonial Dames of America do not want the land surrounding Carroll Mansion to be disturbed, regardless of the historical value of what archeological studies can discover.

Indeed, instead of assisting the Carroll Park Foundation's efforts, they are apparently actively trying to prevent (and even sabotage) their worthwhile undertaking.

It is fortunate the Colonial Dames weren't in control of Mount Vernon, Monticello, Williamsburg, Sturbridge Village, Carter's Grove, or Plymouth, as they might have similarly sought to prevent the "unsightly" archeological work on those sites that has done so much to fill in the true story and history of our country.

Pretty homes with pretty furniture tell us only one small part of the life of colonial America.

They tell us little, for example, about the lives of enslaved African-Americans who made that elegant lifestyle possible, or the complex elements of plantation management, traces of which can be found on the property through the uncovering of ancient structures, personal objects and artifacts.

One cannot help but wonder about the motives of the Colonial Dames to stop archeological work and keep the property "nice."

Are they trying to preserve "their" home as a private club and to maintain control to serve their own ends rather than serve the public interest?

Phyllis K. DuVal, Monkton

As a member of a family that has lived in the vicinity of Carroll Park for more than a century, I found The Sun's article, "Turf battle in Carroll Park" (June 9) fascinating.

Consider the players. First, a group of "red, white and blue-blooded" ladies who champion the status quo, with longevity their only defense and exclusivity their sole tactic.

Then we have an upstart archeologist, Pamela F. Charshee, whose understanding of Baltimore is so limited she dares assert only she can turn our city into "a real place" saved from "East Coast cookie-cutter" status.

Ironically, her vision requires stamping Carroll Park's quiet turf with the most used and misused of American cookie-cutters: Colonial Williamsburg.

Add a chief of parks who dismisses the altercation as a school-yard squabble and finally a city planning department that will "unveil its vision for the site in its Carroll Park master plan next month."

Will planners never understand that their job is to nurture the vision of those affected by "master plans," not to "unveil" such plans to a public that is then given the dubious opportunity to respond?

Nothing should ever be veiled about plans for a public park.

If Ms. Charshee took an unbiased look at our city, she might find that the old brewery in East Baltimore and the surrounding devastated neighborhood would offer more scope for a vision of living history.

Imagine the beautiful brewery restored and again producing beer; imagine dray horses pulling wagons of beer barrels through gas-lit cobblestone streets; imagine workers at the site dressing in 19th-century garb and living in houses whose exteriors are restored to their 19th-century appearance while the interiors reflect modern lifestyles; imagine corner pubs ringing with nightly entertainment.

Imagine resurrecting a moribund part of the city instead of driving the gentle, somnolent spirit of Mount Clare from its peaceful haunt in Carroll Park.

Baltimore is a unique and beautiful city. Part of its uniqueness is grounded in its eccentricity, such as that of the Colonial Dames, the Flower Mart and the Woman's Industrial Exchange on Charles Street.

Those who would reform Baltimore should learn to understand and protect its special qualities.

Mount Clare, like antique furniture, may be best appreciated if it is allowed to reflect all of its history, instead of merely its past.

Jane Ball Shipley, Baltimore

Books inspire readers

Donald Langenberg's article ("We must break chains of ignorance," June 11) highlighted the National Reading Panel's analysis of effective reading program and how to implement them.

What Mr. Langenberg's article failed to address is that even the best programs will not be successful if children do not have ready access to lots of books, about many subjects and at a variety of levels.

For young people to feed their natural curiosity and ability to progress, books must be everywhere.

But, as a reporter for a community newspaper, I often visit public school libraries and see empty shelves. Some libraries are no more than half-full.

My local public library has volunteers who fix old books. But they are just a stop-gap to maintain inventory in a system that needs money for more books.

Also in the June 11 Sun was an article describing Russell Wattenberg's crusade to get books and give them away to anyone who wants them ("A novel idea -- free books"). What a concept.

Reading programs will not be effective if schools and homes don't have enough books and public libraries don't have the funds to keep pace with a public that wants to read.

Susan C. Ingram, Randallstown

After I read the article "A novel idea -- free books" (June 11), I couldn't wait to go to Charles and 27th streets to see Russell Wattenberg's "Book Thing."

I was the first one there, other than Mr. Wattenberg, the next morning. When I walked in, I was amazed at the amount and variety of books available.

I stayed for two-and-a-half hours searching for books, and selected great books for my 6-year-old daughter and 8-year-old son, whom I home-school. I also found a huge selection of literary classics for my niece who just graduated from high school. All free.

My children were so excited at their new books that we gathered some books of our own to donate and headed back that afternoon. There we spent another two hours looking for books.

The looks on the faces of the children who rode up on bicycles to take home carts of free books showed me how excited they were to get books.

Mr. Wattenberg is inspiring children and adults to read in a city where reading scores are low.

I plan to volunteer at the Book Thing to help sort the mountains of books donated. Mr. Wattenberg very much needs shelving, and I hope people who want to make this city a better place to live will help with donations for a great cause.

Mr. Wattenberg certainly inspired me and my children.

Sandy Moore, Baltimore

Black history in Balto. Co.

In recent weeks, Sun articles have depicted the plight of three African-American landmarks in Baltimore County: East Towson ("East Towson residents seeks to save old house," June 6), Asbury United Methodist Church ("'Please save our church,' members urge local officials," June 6) and Hopewell Avenue in Essex ("The name of the past," June 13)

Baltimore County has 40 historically African-American communities. I grew up in one of them, Cowdens- ville, located near Arbutus in southwest Baltimore County.

Cowdens- ville is more than 200 years old and many of its original families still reside there.

Such communities, some of which are more than 300 years old, are a source of pride that you cannot fully appreciate unless you grew up in one of them.

So to Josef L. Gehring, the owner of the log house in East Towson damaged by fire, I say, try to work out a compromise so the community can preserve the structure.

To the Baltimore County Council, grant historic designation to the Asbury United Methodist Church.

To the developers of Hopewell Pointe, be understanding and pick another name for your development -- let the residents of Hopewell Avenue keep their heritage.

I invite developers, elected officials and community members to learn more about these African-American communities by attending the fourth annual Baltimore County African-American Cultural Festival on Sept. 16 in the Towson Courts Plaza area.

Perhaps learning more about these communities will give us a greater appreciation of the treasures of Baltimore County history.

Adrienna A. Jones, Towson

The writer is executive director of the Baltimore County Office of Fair Practices and represents District 10 in the House of Delegates.

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