Obama launches e-book initiative: Will kids in need be able to access them?

30 Apr 2015 | Author: | No comments yet »

Obama Promotes E-Book Gift for Poor Kids Amid Inequality Debate.

President Obama announced Thursday that a string of major book publishers have pledged $250 million in donations to help low-income kids access electronic versions of around 10,000 of the most popular titles in children’s literature.Washington (CNN)President Barack Obama will visit a public library in Washington’s Anacostia neighborhood, one of the poorest areas in the District, Thursday to announce two new efforts to bolster reading among children in low-income areas. The president is also seeking commitment from local schools and governments to ensure that every student has a library card. “We’re going to provide millions of e-books online so that they’re available for young people who maybe don’t have as many books at home or don’t always have access to a full stock of reading materials,” Obama said during a virtual town hall sponsored by Discovery Education.

According to the National Assessment of Educational Progress, 81% of DC 4th graders read below grade level — a problem not unique to the nation’s capital. President Barack Obama was to announce the two initiatives Thursday at a Washington library as part of his two-year-old ConnectED program that aims to improve education through digital connectivity. The president announced his plans to provide educational materials to low-income students in the public library of one of Washington’s poorest neighborhoods, Anacostia. This comes after the President linked some of the racial tension between police officers and communities to education and lack of opportunity Wednesday, saying the society’s responsibility was to rebuild these impoverished communities. “The problem is clear, and it’s also clear that access to books is part of the solution,” Jeff Zients, a chief economic advisor to the President, told reporters. The offer of e-books comes as low-income households still lag far behind others in computer ownership, but White House officials said libraries and schools in poor communities are increasing access to the Internet.

The White House will also work with libraries to find ways to get more kids reading, as well as work on previously announced plans to upgrade Internet and computer access in schools and libraries so kids will be able to read the e-books. Aides hinted that the president would use the event as a demonstration of how the administration is addressing income inequality amid racial unrest in cities like Baltimore. “If we’re serious about living up to what our country is about, then we have to consider what we can do to provide opportunities in every community, not just when they’re on the front page, but every day,” National Economic Council director Jeff Zients said Wednesday in a conference call for reporters. Obama told the students that how well they do in life is going to depend on whether they love reading and learning, and whether they know how to find information and use it. But the program, which features commitments from brand-name publishers like Penguin Random House, Harper Collins, and Simon & Schuster, faces some hurdles in reaching the children who could benefit the most. But some critics have pointed out that the e-readers and other electronic devices necessary for reading e-books may not be readily available for all students.

In addition, the New York Public Library is working to give low income students ranging from four to 18-years-old access to thousands of digital books, through an app it is developing. At the same time, Obama will appeal to library directors, local governments and school officials to work together to provide universal access to library cards. According to a report by The National Telecommunications and Information Administration, 30 percent of households did not have internet access as of 2011. Cecilia Munoz, director of the Domestic Policy Council, pointed to the “presence of a lot more devices in schools” and said that Apple Inc. had previously pledged to donate $100 million in iPads, laptops, and software to underprivileged schools. But, he said, “the truth of the matter is we live in a digital age.” Obama said e-books are “easy to carry” and that making them available free of charge to people who don’t have a lot of books or who can’t afford to buy many “can even things out between poor kids and rich kids,” who can afford them.

The program will draw on $2 billion in private-sector commitments and funding from the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) for school and library connectivity, which includes $2 billion specifically for Wi-Fi.

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