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Soaring imaginations

Gail Carson Levine, author of "Ella Enchanted" and her newest book, "Fairy Dust and the Quest for the Egg," has suggestions for parents and guardians on how to help children develop imagination:

Read to your children. "That is the most important thing, especially with young kids. But it's not a bad thing with older kids, either." Just because kids learn to read, it doesn't mean you should quit reading to them. "If a big person invests time in reading, kids learn reading is important, the child is important, words are important, stories are important."

Ask questions. Pause and ask what the child thinks will happen next. Ask what else could happen? What are the other possibilities? If you were in this story, what would you do? If you were Little Red Riding Hood, would you be persuaded by the wolf? What happens after the story ends? "Sometimes the kids come up with better endings than the real story."

Be encouraging. "Encourage children to write their own stories, and then don't rain on their parade. Don't say, 'that's not true.' Applaud flights of fantasy. Help with spelling and grammar, but stand up and cheer the use of imagination."

Talk. Use books as a springboard to talk about anything and everything. "Get to know your kids' minds and how they think."