"Reading and literacy are increasingly recognized as essentials in our technological society" said Center for the Book Director John Y. Cole on March 23 in welcoming participants to the annual gathering of the center's national reading promotion partners.
More than 30 educational and civic organizations sent representatives to the meeting in the Library's Mumford Room, where they discussed and obtained materials about "Building a Nation of Readers," the center's national reading promotion campaign through the year 2000. In a lively discussion, they also exchanged ideas and information about their own reading promotion projects and plans. Librarian of Congress Emeritus Daniel J. Boorstin and his wife, Ruth, were special guests. Dr. Boorstin established the Center for the Book in 1977.
Mr. Cole described the Center for the Book's reading promotion partnership network, which since 1987 (the "Year of the Reader") has brought national organizations together to learn about reading and literacy projects in which they can become involved and to describe their organization's initiatives. The Center for the Book's publication The Community of the Book: A Directory of Organizations and Programs, compiled by Maurvene D. Williams (3rd edition, 1993), grew out of the partnership program. Today, information about the programs of more than 60 organizations in the partnership network is kept current by Ms. Williams on the Center for the Book's Web site.
Mr. Cole also described the plans that are being developed for the Library of Congress's Bicentennial commemoration in the year 2000 and suggested ways that the Bicentennial theme of "Libraries, Creativity, Liberty" could complement and support projects that promote reading and literacy.
With help from Virginia Nelson from the National Newspaper Association Foundation, Mr. Cole described a partnership event held the previous week, on March 19, when the Center for the Book co-hosted the National Newspaper Association's congressional luncheon. Community newspaper editors from throughout the nation attended the luncheon, along with more than 75 members of Congress. Brief remarks at the event were presented by Deputy Librarian of Congress Donald Scott, who urged the editors to publish articles in their newspapers about the "Building a Nation of Readers" campaign and about the Library's forthcoming Bicentennial celebration. Mr. Cole cited the luncheon as an example of the type of beneficial activity that could develop out of the reading promotion partners network.
The discussion of partnership projects on March 23 began with a brief description by Murray Jolivett of the Corporation for Public Broadcasting of its "Ready to Learn" program, which links public television stations with local partners to help prepare young children for their school years. The program started in 1994 with 10 public television stations; today 122 "Ready to Learn" stations participate. Two major new programs slated for 1999 are "Dragon Tales," a daily animated preschool series with an accompanying weekly parenting series, and "Between the Lions," a daily program originating from WGBH in Boston that will help children from 4 to 7 years of age learn to read. "Between the Lions" is set in a library. John Cole, James Wendorf of Reading Is Fundamental (RIF) and others described how several reading promotion partners are involved in promoting the series.
Diane Frankel, director of the Institute of Museum and Library Services (IMLS), provided an update about IMLS funding and plans. Most of the $91 million in the current budget goes directly to the states. She provided information about a new program of "national leadership grants" and outlined several programs of interest to reading promotion partners: education and training of individuals who are in library and information science programs; research and demonstration projects involving technology, reading promotion and other library needs; the preservation and digitization of collections; technical assistance for Native American tribes; and model programs that demonstrate cooperative efforts between museums and libraries. The Center for the Book's "Library-Museum-Head Start" project (1992-1995) was cited as an early example of a library-museum partnership that encouraged family literacy and the development of community resources.
Ann O'Leary of the U.S. Department of Education spoke about current developments in "America Reads," President Clinton's literacy initiative to ensure that children can read well and independently by the end of the third grade. The initiative is supported by a partnership coalition of 180 organizations; the Center for the Book's partnership network was an important resource in building the coalition, which is now called the President's Coalition for the "America Reads" Challenge. She described the growth of the America Reads summer pilot program, which last year had 14 sites and this summer will have a pilot site in every state. She noted and thanked the many organizations represented in the room that were America Reads participants and supporters.
Ms. O'Leary concluded with a legislative update about the Reading Excellence Act being considered by Congress and by distributing the executive summary of a recently published study by the National Research Council and the National Academy of Sciences called "Preventing Reading Difficulties in Young Children." She cited the study, with its findings regarding the importance of starting to read early, as an affirmation of the work that has been under way for years by many of the Center for the Book's reading promotion partners.
James Wendorf of Reading Is Fundamental reported that last year RIF's programs "brought nearly 11 million books to kids." He described RIF's successful "Read Me a Story Program" sponsored by Visa, which has helped reading gain visibility and in particular has helped local RIF projects obtain community resources and funding. RIF now serves more than 3 million children and has 240,000 people volunteering with local programs at 15,000 locations. Mr. Wendorf cited school librarians and reading teachers as important bases for the volunteer program, but expressed the hope that in the future more libraries might become homes of RIF programs.
A discussion about using television and other media to promote reading and literacy was stimulated by a special presentation about the Library of Congress/CBS Television "Read More About It" project made by Michael Gargiulo of CBS Television. Prepared by the Center for the Book since 1979, the 30-second "Read More About It" messages are aimed at stimulating interest in books about the topics of CBS television programs, sending viewers to their local libraries and bookstores. Mr. Gargiulo gave a behind-the-camera description of how the project works, and showed a videotape containing recent messages presented on CBS by Dan Rather, Cheryl Ladd, Dana Delaney and others.
Brief reports were also presented from other participating organizations (see box) and from Center for the Book consultants Cathy Gourley (the "Letters About Literature" project), Pamela Michael (the "River of Words" project) and Virginia H. Mathews (the Viburnum Family Literacy project). In her remarks, Ms. Mathews, who has been promoting reading and libraries since she served as director of one of the Center for the Book's predecessors, the National Book Committee (1954-1974), reminded participants of the importance of what they were doing: "You are plugging children and adults into the ultimate power source: reading. What's more, reading is a permanent power source. It lasts a lifetime and changes lives forever."
Center for the Book Reading Promotion Partners Participating in the Annual Meeting
American Association of School Administrators
American Booksellers Association
American Federation of Teachers, AFL-CIO
American Library Association
Armed Services YMCA
Center for Applied Linguistics
Corporation for Public Broadcasting
Correctional Education Association
Council for Early Childhood Professional Recognition
District Lines Poetry Project
Everybody Wins! D.C.
Friends of Libraries U.S.A.
General Federation of Women's Clubs
Institute for the Study of Adult Literacy
International Reading Association
International Rivers Network
Literacy Volunteers of America
National Association for the Education of Young Children
National Council for the Social Studies
National Federation of Press Women
National Newspaper Association
Reading Is Fundamental Inc.
United States Board on Books for Young People
U.S. Department of Education, "America Reads" Challenge
U.S. Institute of Museum and Library Services
U.S. National Commission on Libraries and Information Science
U.S. National Institute for Literacy
White House Conference on Libraries and Information Services Taskforce
Weekly Reader Corporation
"LC Artifacts and Archives" to Be Discussed at June 18 Program
Library staff members who contributed to the creation of the current exhibition "The Thomas Jefferson Building: Book Palace of the American People" will participate in a program on Thursday, June 18, at noon in the West Dining Room on the sixth floor of the Madison Building, 101 Independence Ave. S.E. Speakers will include exhibit director Martha Hopkins, Frank Evina of the Copyright Office, LC archivist William Mobley and John Y. Cole, director of the Center for the Book, which is sponsoring the program. The event is open to the public.
"Twenty-one individuals loaned items from their personal collections for display in the exhibition," said Mr. Cole. "Before the show closes on July 6, we wanted those involved to share information about their collections of LC memorabilia and to learn about current developments in the LC Archives, which are in the Manuscript Division."
The exhibition, which marks the centennial of the Jefferson Building, focuses on the excitement the new building generated when it opened in 1897. In addition to contemporary photographs, guidebooks, advertisements, and newspaper and journal articles, the exhibition includes paintings, mirrors, trinket boxes, scissors, letter openers, watch fobs, a buttonhook, trays, paperweights, napkin rings, plates, cups and saucers, spoons, plaques, a powder container and a souvenir pillow.
The Center for the Book was established in 1977 to stimulate public interest in books, reading, literacy and libraries. For information about the center's program, visit its site on the World Wide Web.