Commercial and Cable TV Join in Reading Campaign

With First Lady Barbara Bush looking on, the nation's commercial and cable television industries joined hands for the first time today to launch a new public-service campaign aimed at children to better link television and video with reading.

The campaign will kick off Monday when two 30-second public-service TV spots featuring the First Lady and several children will begin to air nationwide.

At a press conference here to unveil the spots, Barbara Bush reiterated her script for the spots: "When a good TV show makes you want to find out more, find it in a book. TV and books work together to really take you places."

Karen Jaffe, executive director of KIDSNET, which spearheaded the effort, called the TV and books campaign an "unprecedented" effort by ABC, CBS, NBC and the new Fox Children's Network.

"Never before has there been an effort to promote books and television in such a widespread cooperative fashion," Jaffe said. KIDSNET is a 6-year-old nonprofit computerized clearinghouse for children's television, video and audio programs.

In addition to already providing resources and products to educators and parents, KIDSNET plans to distribute 40,000 brochures to those who respond to the public service spots. The brochures suggest ways to better relate books to television.

The two spots were produced for the campaign at no charge by Nickelodeon, whose president, Geraldine B. Laybourne, a former teacher, said that the children's network plans to air the spots twice a day. She expressed hope that efforts such as this would help turn television into a constructive, less passive experience for children.

"The danger for kids watching 26 hours of television a week is that they will let it wash over them and not think about it," she said.

Featuring Bush in the spots, Laybourne added, "puts the First Lady's face on a very important issue. Kids revere her." For children, the message is that here is an important lady saying to them that they should read, Laybourne said.

Other companies that have lent support or scheduled activities in conjunction with the new campaign include Arts & Entertainment, the Discovery Channel, the Disney Channel, the Family Channel, HBO, Jim Henson Productions, Lorimar Television, Bravo, Showtime and USA Network.

The National Assn. of Broadcasters will distribute the public-service spots by satellite to commercial and public TV stations across the country.

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