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Copyright 1982 In a letter to Mr. Bell written late last month, Roy H. Millenson, director of education and library affairs for the aap, argued for retention of a section of the act entitled "Prohibition Against Federal Control of Education." That section restricts federal officials from exercising "direction, supervision, or control over the curriculum, program of instruction...or over the selection of library resources, textbooks, or other printed or published instructional materials by any educational institution or school system...."

Although there are at least two other laws that prevent the federal government from becoming involved in the selection of school books and curricular matters, this provision, Mr. Millenson said in an interview, is the broadest. Moreover, one of the others is contained in the Department of Education Organization Act, which may also be repealed, he said.

What the publishers' association hopes, Mr. Millenson added, is that someone in the Education Department will recognize that it will look ''foolish" if, at a time the Administration is seeking a diminished federal role in education, it gets rid of one provision that ensures just that.

A revised edition of How Children Fail--by John Holt, the prolific critic of the schools--will be published next month by Delacorte Press/Seymour Lawrence.

First published in 1964, his analysis of the classroom's effect on children's learning has sold more than a million copies in paperback alone, according to Merloyd Lawrence, Mr. Holt's editor. This edition will appear in cloth and paper simultaneously.

The revision, Ms. Lawrence said, has come about because Mr. Holt "hasn't stood still, but has lots of new ideas" that have grown out of his continued involvement in education reform, including home schooling. These ideas, she added, do not significantly modify those originally presented, but "confirm and expand" them. In fact, the book will reproduce the "whole original version" with Mr. Holt's additions inserted in a different typeface.

Home schooling, of which Mr. Holt is a well-known proponent, also provides much of the new material for his revision of How Children Learn, another of the author's widely debated books, in which he called for education that respects children's "natural" style of learning. The revised edition of How Children Learn will be published in August or September, Ms. Lawrence said.

What do children look for in choosing a book to read? How much money will they spend on a book? Do they prefer paper or cloth bindings?

In the past, according to Publishers Weekly, the book industry's trade magazine, such questions have been posed to booksellers, editors, and educators.

But several weeks ago, the magazine announced it would go "directly to the well" for its information--by asking the children themselves. In a survey published in the magazine, children of subscribers are asked to answer 30 questions about their book-buying and reading habits. The questions, aimed at the 6-to-13 age group, touch on library visits; book clubs; tv spinoffs; favorite authors, illustrators, and topics; and sources of financial support for the child's buying habits. (For example: "Do you pay for the books you buy out of your allowance? What is the most you have ever paid for a book?")

The children are to answer in their "neatest handwriting," and parents are asked not to lend help.

Although the survey will be used in a marketing feature for the magazine, it may yield other leads for publishers as well. The last question of the survey asks: "Do you think you might write or illustrate a book when you are older? On what subject?" The children are asked to sign their names.

Publishers Weekly will publish the results in its Feb. 26, 1982, issue, which will be devoted to children's books.

"Limiting What Students Shall Read," the report of a nationwide survey of censorship in the public schools, is now available from the Association of American Publishers. Released last summer [see Education Week, Sept. 7, 1981], the results of the survey documented an increasing number of attempts to restrict books used in classrooms and school libraries. The report, which summarizes the responses of some 1,900 public-school administrators and chief state textbook officials, recommends procedures for handling complaints fairly. Copies can be obtained from the aap at 1707 L St., N.W., Washington, D.C. 20036 or at One Park Ave., New York, N.Y. 10016, for $5 each; prices are $4 each for five to 49 copies, $3 each for 50 or more.--M.L.W.

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