Tired of hearing, "Are we there yet?" Getting there may be half the fun for families who prepare ahead. On your next family trip, try the following ideas, which will keep your kids thinking, evaluating and making decisions while they get their fun fix. However you choose to get there, here are some games to help make it a smoother ride:
Lap map: Make a simplified route of your next road trip. Draw or list some of the highlights and landmarks you will pass. Give a copy of the map to your child and let her color in each sight she spots along the way. Mark certain spots to let her know when she will receive a "goodie" of your choosing.
Trip reporter: Give your child a spiral or composition notebook to write down events and ideas she observes on the trip. Take pictures as you leave the house, are on the road and finally arrive at your destination -- these can be put into the journal later.
Stranger in the family: Say four words, such as sky, sun, river, cloud. Your child must guess which word is the "stranger" -- the word that doesn't belong with the rest. In this case, it's river -- because it is not in the air.
Story letter: Place some letter tiles in a bag. During the trip let each person pick a letter and write down several words that begin with it. Try to make up a short story using each of the words.
Word hunt: If you're off to sea this summer, make a list of some boating items. Once on board, let your child walk around and check off each item as he finds them.
-- Susan Rapp, Village Reading Center
Taking ownership of knowledge
Active learning is the best way to instill a love of reading in children and make it stick. The Children's Book Council offers several ways for kids to take ownership of the path to knowledge. Though most of these suggestions were drawn up with bookstores in mind, some can definitely be adapted for home use:
* Cliffhanger: Read part of a short story or book to your child. Ask her either to discuss or to write down what she thinks the ending will be. Older children can try writing an ending in the style of the rest of the story.
* Reader's Choice Awards: Have your kids make lists of their favorite books and characters. Create categories such as Favorite Female Character, Best Mystery, Best Book and Favorite Author. Make up a ballot and have them vote for winners in each category. Keep the results a secret and hold an awards ceremony where the winners are revealed.
* Game show: Ask children to choose some of their favorite book characters. Make sure everyone is familiar with the books. Invite three of them to impersonate those characters on a mock game show panel and then have each "contestant" try to guess who's who in 20 questions or less.
To see the other 10 suggestions and see what else is happening in the world of children's books, check out the Web site at: www.cbcbooks.org/navigation/ booindex.htm.
-- Athima Chansanchai
Letter by letter
Summer Reading Activities
Now that the kids are out of school for the summer, you might find it hard to keep them indoors. But on rainy days or too-hot days there are some things you can do to combine a creative outlet with learning skills. Shaping their method of learning could be as easy as finding something for them to mold into their own vision of language -- a 3-D word plaque, as described by Peggy Kaye in her book "Games for Reading." You'll need: four-color Play-Doh, cardboard, glue, a paint brush and tempera paint.
What you and your child are going to do is make words. Let him choose any word and get to work. Roll the dough into pencil-thick coils. Once you have enough coils, start forming letters. Pinch the coils together to make firm connections. It doesn't matter if the letters are in capital letters or lowercase or a combination of both. Mix and match colors. Make a couple of words. Then when play time is nearing its end, ask him to choose one word to keep while the others get recycled back into their containers.
Leave the saved word out to dry -- this will take a day, maybe two. Flip the letters halfway through the process so that they dry completely. (If any of the letters split, take some white glue and cement the pieces back together.) While waiting for those letters to dry, cut a piece of cardboard that will fit the letters. Let your child paint one side of the cardboard. Let that dry. Glue the letters onto the cardboard. Voila! Now your child can proudly display his work!
-- Athima Chansanchai
On Wednesdays: The Just for Kids section with read-aloud story, puzzles and poster
The Sun invites readers to send in tips about encouraging children to read. 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. email@example.com; or by mail to Reading by 9 Parent Tips, The Sun, Features Department, 501 N. Calvert St., Baltimore, Md. 21278.