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Read to feed a life of imagination

(ran NTP edition)

Many children grow up listening to stories about Winnie the Pooh, Clifford the Big Red Dog and Max the bunny.

But others barely hear about these characters until they enter school. One popular children's writer hopes to change that.

Rosemary Wells, author of the Max the bunny series, will talk about the importance of parents' reading to their children Tuesday at 7 p.m. at New Tampa Regional Library, 10001 Cross Creek Blvd.

Wells, who has written more than 50 books, recently published Read To Your Bunny, an intimate poem that expresses the importance of reading to a child so that a child will, in time, read to you.

At her only public appearance in Tampa, Wells will discuss the message behind her poem, offer tips and techniques for parents and teachers and sign her books.

Many child health experts also back reading for 20 minutes each day.

A national program encouraging parents to read to their children began this month in two Tampa clinics, as a cooperative effort between pediatricians and local libraries. Through the Born to Read program, pediatricians use regular health examinations to tell parents the benefits of reading to children.

"They talk about shots and diet, but there's no opportunity to talk about the benefits of reading," said Patrice Koerper, community relations specialist for Tampa-Hillsborough County Public Library System.

Participants have received information about the library and free books. Koerper hopes to add two more locations next year.

"It's all about maximizing the potential between birth and 4 years," Koerper said. "It's having books in your home, telling nursery rhymes. It's interacting with language from day one. To be able to touch a child at that age is just incredible."

Over Wells' nearly three-decade career, her two children and her terrier have inspired many books.

Judy McAfee, principal librarian at New Tampa Regional Library, said many teachers and parents have been asking about Wells' appearance.

"It's fantastic to have her coming here," she said. "She's really well known for her children's books and there's been a lot of interest in this."

If you have a story about New Tampa, call 226-3464 or 226-3376.

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