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PBS's 'Storytime' Seeks To Instill Love of Books

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The Public Broadcasting Service has some stories to tell children, beginning this week.

"Storytime,'' a new half-hour show aimed at getting 3- to 7-year-olds interested in stories and books, is set to debut on PBS stations.

"The premise is surprisingly simple--we read storybooks aloud to children,'' said Patricia Kunkel, the executive producer of the show for public-television station KCET in Los Angeles.

"There is a bit of irony there,'' she said. "Television is probably one of the problems when it comes to why people read less. But I think we can be part of the solution.''

"Storytime'' features such celebrity readers as the actors John Goodman, Mariel Hemingway, Tom Selleck, and Edward James Olmos, among others, who each read a children's book to a young person. The show has three regular hosts as well: Marabina Jaimes, Anne Betancourt, and a puppet named Kino--performed by Mark Ritts, who is also Lester the Rat on the science show "Beakman's World.''

Twenty episodes of "Storytime'' have aired on KCET since late 1992. Those shows, plus 20 new ones, will make up the first season of national broadcast on PBS.

The show is debuting just as PBS is preparing to roll out its expanded "Ready to Learn'' children's-programming block next month. (See Education Week, Dec. 15, 1993.)

"Storytime'' joins other literacy-related series on PBS such as "Reading Rainbow,'' another story-based series, which is geared to slightly older children, and "Ghostwriter,'' a weekly mystery show that promotes writing.

'The Magic of Stories'

The new series is not aimed at teaching children how to read, Ms. Kunkel said.

"It's really about sharing with children the magic of stories,'' she said. "The goal is to encourage parents to read aloud to their children.''

Among the tales used are classic stories such as "Goldilocks and the Three Bears'' and recent children's books such as The Rooster Who Went to His Uncle's Wedding, by Alma Flor Ada.

While "Storytime'' is expected to air during mornings or afternoons on most PBS stations, the network has scheduled a prime-time special for June 20 at 8 P.M. Eastern time.

Ellen Swengel, a spokeswoman for the Center for the Study of Reading at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, said the show's goal is positive.

"TV is still passive,'' she said. "Hopefully, this will carry over, and children will want to be reading with their parents more.''

"Just by showing that reading is something pleasurable, you are certainly encouraging it,'' she added.

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