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For kids, anytime is a good time to rhyme

Mary Ann Hoberman has been writing rhyming stories for children for more than 50 years.

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The Hobermans live in a house that he designed, and they have two dogs, Pico and Maria. When Mrs. Hoberman isn't writing, she likes to spend time in her gardens. Gardening even inspired one of her books. "Whose Garden Is It?" shows that even though a garden may belong to a person, it is also shared by many different creatures, such as moles and bees.

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All those books

Over the years, Mrs. Hoberman's success as a children's author has grown. Her book "A House Is a House For Me" was published in 1978. In 1983, it won a special prize: an American Book Award (now called the National Book Award).

The story describes all kinds of houses that people or animals live in. Here is an excerpt of the rhyme:

A hill is a house for an ant, an ant.
A hive is a house for a bee.
A hole is a house for a mole or a mouse...

She got the idea for another zany story, "The Seven Silly Eaters," from observing the funny or strange eating habits of her children and grandchildren when they were young.

In 2003, Mrs. Hoberman received the National Council of Teachers of English Award for Excellence in Poetry for Children. And she continues to write splendid children's verse today.

Her newest book series, "You Read to Me, I'll Read to You," is designed to help children learn to read. One of the series, "Very Short Scary Stories to Read Together," builds on kids' interest in monsters.

Another recent book, "Mrs. O'Leary's Cow," is based on an old song telling the story of the great Chicago fire of 1871. Supposedly, the blaze started when a cow knocked over a lantern in a townswoman's barn. Here's a bit of the verse:

The cow looked out
And started to moo.
We got up
And wondered what to do;
And when the smoke poured out,
We started yelling, too,
There'll be a hot time
In the old town tonight!

Reading, writing, and kids

Mrs. Hoberman's rhyming verse for children focuses on rhythm, language, and visual imagery. She writes for kids who are between 1 and 9 years old. Although a 1-year-old baby cannot read yet, his parents can read to him. And Mrs. Hoberman thinks this is a marvelous thing to do.

She feels that parents should not only read to their children, but that they should also make up their own stories or poems and share them with their kids.

She even suggests that parents sing some of the poems they know to their boys or girls.

But Mrs. Hoberman doesn't believe in pushing kids to learn to read too early.

"Some children are not ready at an early age. It's OK if they are ready, but the majority of children are not ready for the high standards that schools now set for reading," she says.

Whether boys and girls learn to read by themselves at an early age or later on, reading can be a joy from early childhood through adulthood. And Mrs. Hoberman does her part to make reading exciting.

She often goes to elementary schools and talks to the students about her books. She introduces her books to children by reciting poems and having the kids read and memorize the poems in class.

"It should be fun," she says. "Poetry is fun."

If you want to be a writer like Mrs. Hoberman, she advises you to write, of course, and to read and make up stories.

"Tell your stories or poems; recite them orally to friends, pets, or even dolls," she says. "Go to the public library and take out books. Collect stories and poems. Try to memorize some of the poems and stories. Memorization is an important skill to learn."

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