MELISSA BLOCK, HOST:
Brown bear, brown bear, what do you see?
ROBERT SIEGEL, HOST:
I see a red bird, a green frog and a new government program. Today, President Obama unveiled an initiative aimed at getting more books to low-income children. From the NPR Ed team, Cory Turner reports.
CORY TURNER, BYLINE: Let's start with the president earlier today, telling kids at the Anacostia Library in Washington, D.C., just how old he is.
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PRESIDENT BARACK OBAMA: There was something called The Hardy Boys back in the day. I know you guys don't read that probably anymore, but...
TURNER: Their response - a few laughs, mostly crickets. After Obama professed his love for Treasure Island," the student moderator took pity on him.
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UNIDENTIFIED STUDENT: And to make you feel younger, my best friend read "Treasure Island."
OBAMA: Well, that does make me feel better.
UNIDENTIFIED STUDENT: Yeah.
TURNER: In addition to sharing his early reading list, Obama also unveiled a plan to make over $250 million worth of e-books available to young, low-income readers for free. The effort will work through a new app being developed by the New York Public Library that has the buy-in of major publishers.
CAROLYN REIDY: Children should not be unable to get reading materials because their parents don't have money.
TURNER: Carolyn Reidy is president and CEO of Simon & Schuster, which has offered to make available all of its titles for kids from 4 to 14. Candlewick Press, which publishes the popular "Judy Moody" series, is also opening its catalog, says CEO Karen Lotz.
KAREN LOTZ: We really, really care about getting books to all kids, kids who can't afford them, kids who are in rural areas and not near bookstores.
TURNER: If there's a fly in the ointment here, it's one little letter - E. Publishers aren't giving kids a quarter of a billion dollars' worth of free books. They're free e-books, which require two things - a good Internet connection - at least at school if not at home - and, says Reidy of Simon & Schuster...
REIDY: They do however need to get machines in all these schools, which we can't help them with.
TURNER: According to the Census Bureau, in 2013 nearly 40 percent of households that earned less than $25,000 a year did not have a computer - 40 percent - and less than half had an Internet subscription. The Obama administration can't simply give a computer or tablet to every kid who wants to read an e-book. But it has made it a priority to get broadband into just about every public school and library by 2018. Megan Smith, the nation's chief technology officer, says that's key.
MEGAN SMITH: Really leveraging the libraries as a third place; if families don't have access to devices at home, the children can get to the library and getting that habit.
TURNER: To help make that happen, the White House is also running a program in more than 30 cities and counties to give every student a library card. As for the e-book titles that'll be available through the new program, it's a growing list that includes "Dr. Seuss," "Twilight" and, of course, "Brown Bear, Brown Bear, What Do You See?" I see a blue horse, a purple cat and Cory Turner, NPR News, Washington.
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