Bookstore owner happy with idea


Results: In the two years since JoAnn Fruchtman started a foundation as a way to bring literature to city schoolchildren, thousands of books have been placed in Baltimore classrooms.

January 27, 2002|By Mike Bowler | Mike Bowler,SUN STAFF

IT'S TWO YEARS now since JoAnn Fruchtman, owner of the Children's Bookstore in Roland Park, gathered her friends and said she had come up with an idea to get literature into the hands of Baltimore schoolchildren.

The plan was simple in design and execution: Fruchtman would establish the Children's Bookstore Educational Foundation. City teachers would apply to the foundation for free books to be used as classroom supplements. Fruchtman's store would buy the books and sell them to the foundation at cost. Approved teachers would pick up the books at the store on Deepdene Road. After their use, the books would belong to the children and their families.

If Fruchtman could raise the money, she thought, the plan had several advantages: She wouldn't be giving books away willy-nilly. They would have to have meaning to teachers and kids. Fruchtman would play an advisory role in the approval process, but she wouldn't be dictating school curriculum.

The foundation would have low overhead because it would be housed in the bookstore.

Finally, and best of all, the books wouldn't finish their days on a dusty school shelf. They would go home to be read by moms and dads, sisters and brothers.

"That's been the most satisfying part," Fruchtman said last week in summing up the first two years. "In many cases, this is the first book that's been in these homes."

Here are the foundation's two-year numbers: It's raised $650,000, in large part thanks to generous matching grants from the Harry and Jeanette Weinberg Foundation.

When the spring cycle is complete, the foundation will have placed 11,000 books in the classrooms of 160 city teachers.

Books have been distributed across all grades, said Fruchtman. Titles range from Night, Elie Wiesel's attempt to find meaning in the horror of the Holocaust, to A Grouchy Ladybug, Eric Carle's wonderfully illustrated tale of an ill-tempered bug that appeals to readers as young as 3.

Children's book awards recognize some good reads

The American Library Association's major children's literature awards were announced Tuesday, and Fruchtman said she expects a run on the books that won the Caldecott Medal for the most distinguished picture book of 2001 and the Newbery Medal for excellence in young adult literature.

I've read the Caldecott winner, David Wiesner's The Three Pigs, and although I'm pitifully far beyond childhood, I recommend the book to readers of any age - it's a trip. When the wolf approaches the first house, for example, he huffs and puffs - and blows the pig right out of the story frame.

The Newbery Medal goes to A Single Shard by Linda Sue Park, a novel set in Ch'ul'po, a potter's village in mid- to late-12th-century Korea. The novel for young adults tells the story of Tree-ear, an orphan who becomes a potter's helper, and the obstacles he overcomes.

Another prize-winning picture book, Susan Meddaugh's The Best Place, is being read this month in thousands of schools from Connecticut to Florida by volunteers from First Union Bank (now a part of the Wachovia Corp.). By Jan. 31, about 20,000 bank employees will have visited prekindergarten, kindergarten and first-grade classrooms in a childhood literacy program called Reading First.

Home, sweet home is the theme of The Best Place, which describes the voyage of an old wolf who discovers that the grass isn't always greener.

N.J. governor keeps focus on reading, despite shortfall

New Jersey has a $1.9 billion budget shortfall, so the new governor, Democrat James E. McGreevey, is telling state employees that raises are out next year, and it might be a struggle to maintain this year's payroll.

In his recent inaugural address, McGreevey mentioned only one program promised in the fall campaign. He said he would budget $40 million to deploy reading coaches to hundreds of elementary schools.

"It is intolerable that 30 percent of third-grade students in hundreds of grammar schools across New Jersey are not reading at grade level," said McGreevey, 44.

Harry Potter photocopy for sale on Vietnam streets

It happens with designer watches and handbags. Why not intellectual property?

A friend who recently returned from a vacation in Vietnam witnessed the purchase from a street merchant of Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets. The book, a perfectly readable photocopy produced in English with no regard to copyright, sold for $2.75 - after bargaining.

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