Scholastic site promotes Hispanic literacy

NEW YORK: The National Council of La Raza, Scholastic Corporation, and Verizon Foundation have launched an interactive Web site designed to foster literacy among Hispanic American preschoolers around the country.

NEW YORK: The National Council of La Raza, Scholastic Corporation, and Verizon Foundation have launched an interactive Web site designed to foster literacy among Hispanic American preschoolers around the country.

Unveiled earlier this month, the bilingual site is the online extension of one-year-old Lee y Seras (Read and You Will Be), an initiative which promotes early childhood literacy via storytelling, poetry, and song. While that program continues to expand in cities including Los Angeles, Dallas, and Chicago, there was a growing need for it beyond major cities, said Cathy Lasiewicz, director of corporate communications at Scholastic.

"Latino parents want to be involved, they just don't know Lee y Seras exists," she explained. But with the new Web site, families can obtain free access to the school-prep information "whether they're in an urban area or the middle of Iowa."

According to Irene Cuyun, director of special projects for nonprofit Hispanic advocacy organization La Raza, the site's main message is identical to that of the initiative itself: Parents need to encourage their kids to recognize letters and sounds before they enter first grade "or they will already be behind."

Content includes learning games, podcasts, and streaming panel discussions on topics ranging from the future of education to the socioeconomic impact of illiteracy in the Latino community. The site also features blogs— in both Spanish and English— which allow parents to "talk to each other about what worked, and share insights and tips," said Paul Niemi, corporate communications publicist at Scholastic. "The [misconception] is that Latinos are not utilizing the Internet. Clearly, they are."

Another myth the site aims to break, added Cuyun, is that parents must speak English to promote literacy among their offspring. In fact, she said, reading and singing in Spanish "is just as valid and stimulating."

Word of the Web site (www.leeyseras.net), "has already started flying around the education community virally," Niemi said. To drive more users in, in-house PR and community affairs teams at Scholastic and La Raza will work with Metropolitan PR in Washington to reach out to general and Hispanic media, family advocacy associations, business leaders, and libraries in many Hispanic communities. Last week, the Lee y Seras team launched a series of site-promoting PSAs on outlets including Telemundo and NBC's Qubo, and sent email blasts to educators and community leaders throughout the country.

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