Originally created 05/11/04

Family Briefs



Lions, tigers and bears

NEW YORK -- Bigger is not always better when it comes to family-friendly zoos: The Lowry Park Zoo in Tampa, Fla., is the nation's best, according to Child magazine.

The magazine reports in its June/July issue the results of its five-month project to find the top zoos for kids. More than 150 members of the American Zoo & Aquarium Association were surveyed and ranked based on interactive features, education programs, security, safety, among other criteria.

"One trend we noticed was the use of interactive features - from puppet shows and plays to question-and-answer sessions with veterinarians - aimed at providing children with a memorable experience," says Child editor in chief Miriam Arond.

Most of the zoos that scored well are mid-sized and make excellent use of their resources to intrigue children, according to the magazine.

For example, the Lowry Park zoo has a 4 1/2-acre Australian-theme children's zoo, where kids can feed and pet kangaroos and wallabies and pretend they're herding sheep; at the Oklahoma City Zoological Park & Botanical Garden in Oklahoma City, Okla., there is a monthly stroller safari given by a naturalist who examines insects, leaves, plants, and other things at the children's eye level.

The top 10 listed in the magazine are:

1. Lowry Park Zoo, Tampa, Fla. Children can ride a camel caravan, pet fish in the koi pond, and have lorikeets land on their fingers.

2. San Diego Zoo, San Diego. It's the only American zoo to successfully breed, birth, and rear healthy giant pandas.

3. Oklahoma City Zoological Park & Botanical Garden, Oklahoma City, Okla. Thanks to its certified botanical gardens, the zoo puts its 539 animal species in enchanting settings.

4. Brookfield Zoo, Brookfield, Ill. It was the first U.S. zoo to exhibit animals in a barless setting and to breed black rhinoceroses.

5. Phoenix Zoo, Phoenix. The Phoenix Zoo launched a landmark conservation program that saved the Arabian oryx (an antelope) from extinction.

6. Cincinnati Zoo & Botanical Garden, Cincinnati. This is home to the largest venomous snake in the New World, the bushmaster.

7. Bronx Zoo, Bronx, New York. The "Tiger Mountain" exhibit is a 3-acre re-creation of Amur Valley on the border of Russia and China with dramatic views of Siberian tigers.

8. Toledo Zoo, Toledo, Ohio. A new 5-acre African exhibit replicates the plains of the continent and features numerous free-roaming African animals.

9. Fort Wayne Children's Zoo, Fort Wayne, Ind. This zoo boasts the only Tasmanian devil outside of Australia.

10. Columbus Zoo & Aquarium, Columbus, Ohio. The Stings, Wings, 'N Playthings is an insect-theme playground with a giant monarch climb and millipede slide.

On the Net: http://www.child.com

Expanded reading list

NEW YORK -- Classic books such as Harper Lee's "To Kill a Mockingbird" and J.D. Salinger's "Catcher in the Rye" are often required reading for high schoolers - and students learn to love the books before they get to the last page. But what about offering a new generation a new group of "classics"?

In "Great Books for High School Kids: A Teacher's Guide to Books That Can Change Teens' Lives" (Beacon), Rick Ayers and Amy Crawford offer nearly 400 other titles that should both intrigue and educate teenagers.

The books are put into categories such as "History Reimagined," where you'll find Patrick O'Brian's "Master and Commander"; "Big Fat Books to Take on Road Trips," which includes James Baldwin's "Another Country"; and "Books Made Into Good Movies," including Nick Hornby's "High Fidelity."

Ayers and Crawford, however, also encourage teen readers to do their own exploring of library and store shelves.

"Our recommendations are meant to be exploratory and inviting suggestions, not academic requirements, and certainly not the definitive list that will get you into Yale," write Ayers and Crawford, both high school English teachers in Berkeley, Calif.