Mother Goose vs. Pac-Man

International Children's Book Day falls on April 2, the birthday of one of the most famous authors of children's literature, Hans Christian Andersen. Celebrating this day can be accomplished by encouraging young ones of every nationality to read.

Reading is an added dimension in our busy lives and the lives of our children. The written word is as important for our youngsters' minds as food is to their bodies.

Is it possible to pry our children away from the television, Atari, Pac-Man and the other electronic games? Will they sit still long enough to read a book? If they had a choice, would they choose a modern-day book or a classic from the past?

In 1697 the classic, ''Tales of Mother Goose,'' was published. It was the first book written specifically for children. Only a sprinkling of books followed in the 1700s, but one -- ''The History of Little Goody Two Shoes,'' in 1765 -- was the child's first novel. More than a hundred years passed before children's literature became a major industry. One of the most famous additions was Andersen's tale, ''The Ugly Duckling.''

In the beginning children's literature was filled with moral sermons to frighten youngsters into obedience. Many of the nursery rhymes were political satires, and some of the early fiction was both racist and sexist.

Today children's literature boasts an assortment of novels, how-to books, autobiographies, and biographies to stimulate young minds. In the past few years books concerning social and personal issues, which include the previously avoided subjects of sex and death, have sought to bring an added dimension to children's literature.

The movie industry and television have capitalized on the classics of the 1800s in the form of animated color cartoons and wonderful full-length film features. Both play a major role in our children's lives. Used as a baby-sitter and a teacher, television is entertaining as well as informative, but it is a spectator's sport. Though reading is a private matter, books can also be shared.

Here are seven ways an adult can participate in celebrating this international holiday -- any day in the year.

1. Give a book to each of your children, grandchildren, your neighbor's child , the children of a friend, a handicapped youngster and/or a stranger.

2. Sit down with a child and read to him/her.

3. Be informed. Read the book before giving it.

4. If you are sending a book by mail, tell the child you have read it and add a few teaser remarks about the plot.

5. Take a youngster to the library and familiarize him/her with the many books on the shelves. Point out the books you liked as a child.

6. Choose a special book that relates to a youngster's interests.

7. Help children understand that books are a part of their country's heritage.

A few well-thought of remarks about the novels and nonfiction books that we share with our children will show them that adults are interested in literature. It will help spur them on to many reading pleasures.

Now, we can all celebrate International Children's Book day together. Can we visualize the active minds of young ones all over the world soaring to adventure in exciting places where there are no trespassers?

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