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Just For Kids

Young readers, writers, and artists! Here are some pages just for you.

Ideas for Readers
Just for Young Writers and Artists
Kids Did It—Amazing Ideas and Projects
Great Links

Ideas for Readers

Collect Words
You know that I'm word crazy—I'm a logophile, someone who loves words. What about you?

Send your favorite words to "Word Crazy,"

One nine-year-old logophile said, "It sounds funny and rolls off my tongue. It means an ill-tempered person. I don't really like the definition that much, just the sound."

Track Your Books, Bibliophiles!
I read a lot. Sometimes I have three books going at once. (You won't be surprised to learn that I often work on more than one book at a time, too!)

Here are some ideas for keeping track of the books you read.

For each fiction book, keep track of . . .
the title
the author and illustrator
how many pages
your very favorite character
the part you liked best
what made you laugh out loud
any cool new words
the time period-now? the past? the future?
the setting-where the story takes place
a short plot summary

Then rate the book-is it a five-star or a two-star? Thumbs up or thumbs down?

For each nonfiction book, keep track of . . .
the title
the author and illustrator
how many pages
the topic and why you chose it
the part you liked best
any cool new ideas you got from the book
connections you made with other books

Then rate the book-is it a five-star or a two-star? Thumbs up or thumbs down?

Start a Book Group
I also belong to a book group. We meet each month to talk about a book we've all read. We all love reading and maps and looking up new words in the dictionary and watching how characters grow and change. We also have tea and treats—trying to match the food to the book! Best of all, we're friends, and even when friends have really busy lives, they make the time to be together.

Lots of kids have formed mom-kid or dad-kid or neighborhood book groups. They're a lot of fun.* Give your book club a great name and let me know what you're reading! I'm always looking for new titles.

Parents, teachers, and youth leaders: Shireen Dodson's 100 Books for Girls to Grow On and The Mother-Daughter Book Club have lots of ideas, specific book suggestions, and talking points. Dodson makes it easy to get started.

Just for Young Writers and Young Artists

Ask questions.
I know—that can be hard.

I was shy when I was young-never brave enough to ask about something I didn't understand. Give it a try—the first time you ask a question may be hard, but the next time and the time after that will be easier. The same goes for speaking to your class or an assembly or being in a play.

I once watched fifth and sixth graders in Santa Rosa, California do a poetry read-every single student said an original poem into the microphone. I was amazed and impressed and proud of them. They'd practiced and it worked!

Learn other languages.
At assemblies, I've met young people who speak as many as four languages. Becoming multi-lingual is easier at your age than mine! Find a friend or neighbor who will talk with you in French or Chinese or Farsi or Spanish or Tagalog. Get language tapes or CDs. Get a pen pal in another country. Look for books in other languages in the children's section of your library. Use an electronic translator. Take classes. It's fun and exercises your brain.

Savor words and art.
Most of all, enjoy writing and drawing-savor words and how they work together to create meaning. Relish the enjoyment you get from working with colored pencils, water colors, and other art media.

Tips for Young Writers Tips for Young Artists

Start now. Don't just talk about wanting to write. Don't wish you could write. Start writing!

Read. Read lots. Read the comics, your favorite magazine, fiction and non-fiction. Read about ancient cities, space travel, leaf-cutter ants, pirates, sports figures, prehistoric animals, tide pools, constellations, inventions . . .

Track your reading. Write down book titles and rate each book with stars from * (so-so) to **** (fabulous). Make brief notes to help you remember the characters and plot. (See the ideas above.)

Visit your local library often. Spark your curiosity by attending extra programs, author visits, travelogues, special events.

Notice what section of the library pulls you-Science? Music? Biography? History? Mystery? Science Fiction? Nonfiction? Sports? Cooking? Some people lean toward fiction. Some lean toward non-fiction. Some like a mix.

Send stories, articles, poems, and jokes to children's magazines. (Your teacher or a children's librarian can help you find addresses.)

Give your story a twist (a surprise ending). Read Eve Bunting's The Wednesday Surprise to learn how that works.

Collect words! Be curious about words and their meanings. Invent words-especially "sound" words: SKLORK!

Avoid clichés (tired, worn-out phrases: right as rain, sly as a fox, dark as night . . .).

Write a story, edit it, hone it, then turn it into a book by stapling or sewing pages together and adding a decorated cover.

Catch your ideas. Always keep a small notebook with you-ideas are all around. The trick is remembering them! Write them down!

Write letters-send pictures and poems and jokes and riddles to your grandparents, friends who have moved away, old neighbors.

Send letters to the editor of your local newspaper.

Enter contests-ask your children's librarian for names of magazines that accept work by writers your age.

Be curious about the world around you.

If you're a young writer,

Start now. Don't just talk about wanting to draw well. Don't wish you were an artist. Start sketching!

Notice details in print: color, fonts, point size, balance, design, perspective, mood, form, line, things that draw your eye, various art techniques.

Try many art media: clay, chalk, charcoal, paint, collage, printing, paper folding, fingerpainting, colored pencils, sidewalk art . . .

Use recycled paper for your practice.

Take a sketchbook with you around your neighborhood, on field trips, or while traveling-draw what you see. You'll remember much more about where you went and what you did. Date your drawings. You'll be amazed at how your skills change.

Study the artwork in children's books.

Sketch from nature.

Copy different cartoon styles.

Take classes.

When you're really happy with a piece, and it feels right, send your artwork to children's magazines. (Your teacher or a children's librarian can help you find addresses.)

Display your art in your hometown. (There's nowhere to do it? Start a Kids' Art Display! Try your library, stores, doctor's offices, parks, bus stops . . .)

Visit art museums.

Study the work of artists from different centuries.

Enter contests -ask your children's librarian for names of magazines that accept work by artists your age.

If you like to write and draw, you could be like Maurice Sendak, Jan Brett, Rosemary Wells, Stephen Kellogg, and other famous author-illustrators.

Replicate pictures from books or cartoons-it's great practice to study the shading, brush strokes, proportion, and lines.

Be curious about the world around you.

If you're a young artist,

Kids Did It-Amazing Ideas and Projects

Do you know a school that needs books? A homeless shelter that needs peanut butter? A park that needs cleaning? Older people who need their houses painted?

As our book
Armando and the Blue Tarp School shows, all it takes for big things to happen is one person with determination.

Plant trees. Clean a beach. Read to little kids or help them learn to read. Hold a bake sale. Read Miss Rumphius by Barbara Cooney for another great idea.

Follow these links to inspiring stories of kids who made a difference!

Inspiring Kids Making a Difference!
Amazing Kid: Celebrating the Achievements of Children
Children Helping Children
Let me know what you're doing to make the world a better place.

Great Links

Google your favorite authors’ names to find their websites. You’ll take a magic carpet ride into the world of reading and writing.

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