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January 05, 1986|KRISTIANA GREGORY

WRITING FOR KIDS by Carol Lea Benjamin (Harper & Row: $3.95; 102 pp., ages 8 to 12). Children who can express themselves by writing will grow into communicators, possessing a skill vital to this information age. And what nicer way to be nudged than with this friendly text which has an anybody-can-do-it tone. Even adults learning to put thoughts on paper won't feel silly with this on their desks.

The author says she wants to help people enjoy writing whether for private or public eyes. No pressure, no competition. First, find a notebook, give it a title and start small. Even if it's just one sentence, write every day. Experiment with "strong, passionate" feelings by finishing phrases such as, I love it when . . . I cried when . . . It makes me laugh when . . . Memorize "two new lovable words a week," and in a few months you'll be surprised to see how smart and insightful you are. What a wonderful way to encourage reflection and to build self-esteem.

Everyone is full of stories but instead of waiting around for inspiration, borrow ideas from photos or dreams and, most important, write about what you know. "Write with detail. Write with clarity. Write with affection."

Carol Lea Benjamin quotes authors and famous opening sentences to suggest ways to begin a story, then stresses how a dictionary is a writer's best tool. As Mark Twain said, "The difference between the right word and the almost right word is the difference between lightning and the lightning bug."

This is where A FIRST THESAURUS by Harriet Wittels and Joan Greisman (Golden: $5.95; 126 pp., ages 8 to 11) would come in handy. More than 2,000 entries are listed in a simple dictionary format that won't intimidate even the youngest aspiring writer. Line drawings are sprinkled in margins, antonyms are in red, and its soft 9x7 size can slip easily in a backpack or folder.

Don't rush out for MURFLES AND WINK-A-PEEPS: FUNNY OLD WORDS FOR KIDS by Susan Kelz Sperling, drawings by Tom Bloom (Clarkson N. Potter: $7.95; 44 pp., ages 7 to 12). The most interesting part here is the author's foreword, in which she explains origins of some of the old English words she unearthed for this collection. Otherwise, this is just archaic fadoodle kids might enjoy rolling off their tongues.

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