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A Colorful Salute to Reading

Literacy. Libraries are taking a page from 'Pleasantville' for Children's Book Week.

November 11, 1998|RICHARD KAHLENBERG | SPECIAL TO THE TIMES

If you ask screenwriter Gary Ross ("Big," "Dave") where the idea for the climax of his latest comedy-fantasy, "Pleasantville," came from, he doesn't mind confessing that he got it at the Los Angeles Public Library.

Ross, who also directed and produced the film, doesn't mind divulging details of the movie, which is set in a 1950s TV world in which people live in black and white but change to full color by the end.

"The kids' big run on the library and the thrill they have from suddenly reading, that's the moment in the movie when they turn full color," Ross says.

It's that joy of reading that libraries will celebrate next week during National Children's Book Week, an annual effort to highlight reading programs for young people--from babies to high schoolers.

Penny Markey, coordinator of youth services for the county's public library system, sees Children's Book Week as an opportunity to highlight a particular reading program. She believes that you're never too little to enjoy books.

The Begin at the Beginning with Books "mini-classes" for mothers and babies, at which books suitable for reading to infants will be given away (in addition to child-care and nutrition advice), are held in East Los Angeles, Bellflower, Compton, Huntington Park, Lynwood and Norwalk. Call (562) 940-8504 for details on times and locations.

Thursday through Nov. 22, city and county libraries plan a wide range of events for school-age children, including the Dress Up as Children's Book Characters contest at the John C. Fremont Branch on Nov. 16; cartooning lessons in Palos Verdes; "Teatro de Marionetas" in South El Monte, San Fernando and Lennox; a steel band performance in Cudahy; a "Not So Little Pigs" puppet show and a book raffle in Glendale; Japanese drum concerts in Diamond Bar, Rowland Heights and Los Nietos; animal-book programs, featuring live creatures, in Covina and Monterey Park; Bubblemania in El Cerritos; and a Telebration sponsored by the Long Beach Public Library on Nov. 21 featuring storytellers.

Among the library programs now opening up for teenagers is a workshop called "How to Write a Great College Application Essay" on Saturday from 10:30 a.m. to noon at the Los Angeles Public Library's Central Branch.

And Ross couldn't be happier with the attention to reading. He's become something of a crusader for young readers. He's served on the Los Angeles Board of Library Commissioners and donated the proceeds from a special premiere of "Pleasantville" to help triple the size of the Central Branch's Teen'Scape area for teenagers.

Reese Witherspoon, who stars in the movie, says the film's message is a strong one: "When [the kids in the movie] start reading and learning more about themselves and becoming more self-actualized, their insides fill in and start to turn to color and sort of bring their insides out. . . . It's about finding individuality and identity."

For details about programs near you, call your local library.

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