Books and TV mix 'Ready to Learn': MPT and state libraries join to encourage families to read more.

November 01, 1996

OIL AND WATER. The mongoose and the snake. Leftover Halloween candy and your diet. Some things just don't mesh. Books and television might be considered as two other forces that repel.

But in an unusual match, Maryland Public Television and the state's 24 library systems have joined to promote each other. With its apparent mutual benefits, the initiative could become a model for public broadcasting and library systems elsewhere in the country, officials hope.

Its unwieldy title aside, the MPT Ready-to-Learn Library Reading Station Project is a good way for local libraries to use the promotional muscle of a statewide television network, and for MPT to promote its children's shows out in the community. Libraries will create a "reading station" with posters and hanging mobiles tied to public TV shows for kids.

The Marion I. and Henry J. Knott Foundation is donating $10,000 to supply books related to some of these programs, such as "Reading Rainbow" and "Storytime." Libraries will host workshops for parents on ways to encourage reading. Some centers will also have computers linked to the World Wide Web, so families can tap into the whiz-bang home pages offered by some of these shows.

The campaign kicks off tomorrow with celebrity readers and other events. Cookie Monster himself will visit branches in Canton in the city and Baltimore County's North Point since a "Sesame Street" touring show is playing at the Baltimore Arena.

"This kind of a partnership is so productive for both," says Linda Mielke, president of the National Public Library Association and administrator for the Carroll County Public Library. Indeed, it suits both the mission of MPT, which began building a block of children's programming a few years ago to the point where it now fills more than one-third of all its air time, and libraries, ever threatened by the budget ax.

From President Clinton to local school superintendents and teachers, many people are emphasizing that child literacy is critical to solving not only educational shortcomings, but broad social problems down the line. Ready-to-Learn is a good example of government entities talking to one another to accomplish more with limited dollars.

Pub Date: 11/01/96

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