Obama promotes reading through e-books, library program

30 Apr 2015 | Author: | No comments yet »

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

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.Washington — Linking reading to technology, the White House marshaled major book publishers to provide more than $250 million in free e-books to low-income students and is seeking commitments from local governments and schools across the country to ensure that every student has a library card. 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.

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. 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.

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. 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. 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.

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