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VALLEY WEEKEND : KIDS : Cable TV Shows Open Windows to the World : Young viewers are gaining insight with offerings such as the Moscow news and the Spanish-language version of MTV.

SPECIAL TO THE TIMES

For Sarah Newton, a 10th-grader at Camarillo High School, her latest exposure to multiculturalism began a few weekends ago with an excited phone call from a friend. “Quick, put the TV on Channel 31,” her friend told her.

That particular place on the cable TV dial in Sarah’s community, it turned out, was carrying the Latino equivalent of MTV, “MTV En Espan~ol.” And since that day, Sarah watches it instead of “regular” MTV, she says. “This is better. They don’t have a lot of commercials and they have a lot of new songs. Some of them are Japanese music videos, which are really interesting and more artsy.”

She and her friends aren’t isolated cases. Across Southern California, kids are watching cable programming such as Moscow news on C-SPAN, with translation, stoking up on the mental equivalent of salsa, sushi and pirogi. “When I mentioned Channel 31 at school, like most everybody said, ‘Oh, yeah, we’re watching it too,’ ” Sarah said. “I try to understand the Spanish. I’m picking it up.”

A delicious irony in her case is that her father, Patrick Newton, is a teacher in nearby Port Hueneme who earns his living teaching largely Latino classes English as a second language. (He, in turn, assigns his students “Leave It to Beaver” episodes.) Some children in Southern California catch a dubbed version of the Moscow news as part of civics classes--studying how news presentation varies among broadcasters.

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Inevitably, teachers report, when kids see how other cultures report familiar events such as thJ. Simpson trial and other events in our area, they remark, “That’s not the way it was at all!”

Several Valley and Ventura County cable operators are now carrying a rich selection of imported programs, including the International Channel. Intended primarily as a service to the numerous foreign-language households served by Century Cable in the San Fernando Valley, plus Ventura County Cable, Jones Intercable and Avenue Cable TV Service, these channels have become a sort of “stealth learning” amenity for English-speaking families.

In the household of Kurt Taylor, general manager of United Artists Cable in the Valley, Saturday nights are given over to watching “Sabado Gigante,” the “Big Saturday” variety show from Mexico, “to refresh our high school Spanish.”

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The International Channel is a 24-hour operation that subtitles its French and Japanese news plus some Hindi, Farsi, Korean and other programming. Checking in with this channel at random, weekends or otherwise, is an adventure.

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UPDATE: Follow-up note on the astronomy column from October--Studio City Girl Scouts and elementary school children will be attending an event Sunday titled “You Can Be a Woman Astronomer” at Bookstar, 12136 Ventura Blvd. Author Judith Cohen will read from her book of that title at 3:30 p.m. The event is open to the public and admission is free. For details, call (310) 809-5767. Available in Spanish and English, the book is sold at major bookstores in the Valley and Ventura County.


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