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Annenberg School of Communication and Journalism University of Southern California

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Festival of Books Encourages Early-Age Reading

Hundreds of parents brought their kids to campus for a learning moment.

Kids may have enjoyed the music and the food at the LA Times Festival of Books, but they did not forget the original purpose. 

"I like reading with mommy and daddy," said five-year-old Avery Stansbury. 

Parents took advantage of the thousands of books sold across the University of Southern California’s campus to help fill a literacy gap: 17 percent of students performed “below basic” or “far below basic” on the English component of their California Standards Test (CST) last year.

“It definitely starts at home,” Brenda Palacios said, between book readings with her toddlers. “You have to encourage your kids to read, and you have to read with them.”

Jenny Martin, who came to the festival with her four-year-old, was not pleased to hear of California’s standardized testing scores. 

“That’s a little alarming,” she said. “I think [kids] don’t read with their parents because other technologies have taken precedent.”

But if “other technologies” mean gaming and touch screens, she would be wrong, according to PBS employee Jamie Myers. 

Myers hosted a technology-based station with laptops, iPads, and a number of interactive games at the festival. "We’re supporting literacy and learning as part of the book festival, but we’re reminding parents that if they’re going to allow their children to access technology, there are educational places where they can access that technology."

Avery’s mother, Samantha Herrod, says she’s happy as long as her son is learning. “There was a stigma when we were kids that being smart wasn't cool,” she said. “So anything to help him be cool and smart, I can dig it."

Although some of the younger kids may not be thinking about stigmas just yet, one thing is for sure: With literacy on their side, they’re definitely thinking.

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