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Teach kids with stories of you

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It is a truism that few things are more important to our society than the education of our young. By imparting knowledge and values from generation to generation, we hope that those who follow us will enjoy a better life. Particularly in today's busy, two-career households, grandparents can play a vital role in children's education.

Take reading, for instance. All of us have some favorite children's stories, and there's nothing quite like the thrill of sharing a story with a grandchild. There's more to it than the reading itself, which is the foundational skill for all learning. Reading a story with your grandchildren helps to make a connection with them.

I remember well the look of wonderment on my grandchild's face after we read one of Kipling's "Just So" stories, as I shared with him that it was one of his parents' favorite stories, too. And one of mine when I was a boy. That we should have a favorite story in common absolutely thrilled him.

Small children always are interested in exploring new things, and you can help to foster their curiosity and learning simply by explaining things that you enjoy. If you are a gardener, it won't take much coaxing to get a child who likes to be a helper to join you in the garden, where you can tell him or her about the various plants and other things. Remember, to small children many things are still new.

Some of the most important things we can teach children aren't in any book. Every family has its own lore and history, if you will. In an age when families are likely to move not just across town but across the country, it is often a challenge to pass on the wonderful stories of generations past that help kids to understand who they are.

Whether it's a favorite story or a shared family experience, grandparents can, without making a formal lecture out of it, teach children things they'll never fully appreciate if it is just given to them as part of a school lesson.

Art Linkletter, noted radio and TV personality for more than 50 years, is a spokesman for United Seniors Association, a senior organization with more than 675,000 members.