First-graders to get a free bilingual book
The Arizona Republic
Aug. 2, 2003
Governor carries out vow to promote kids' reading
and Robbie Sherwood
Every first-grader in Arizona
will soon be getting a bilingual book about a Native American child, the result
of a campaign promise Gov. Janet Napolitano made in last year's governor's race.
Napolitano initially made the
pledge to promote reading and early literacy. She emphasized Friday that the
book handout is just the first step in retooling Arizona's outdated system of
She worked out a discount deal with an Arizona publisher and two corporate
sponsors to make sure 80,000 youngsters get a free copy of
This House Is Made of Mud, the story
of a desert family and their way of life. The books, written in English and
Spanish, are scheduled to arrive in classrooms in October.
"We want to re-enforce our focus on reading, reading, reading," said Napolitano,
who made the campaign promise in her announcement for governor last year. "It's
one piece of a gigantic puzzle we will put together on early education. By the
time they hit first grade, they should be reading or very close to reading."
Eric Howard, marketing director for Northland Publishing in Flagstaff, said the
company was thrilled when it found out that Napolitano wanted to hand out one of
Chief Executive Officer Ron
Billideau worked out a deal to publish 80,000 copies at about a 75 percent
discount from the $6.95 cover price.
"Ron told them, tell us what you have to work with, and we did," Howard said.
"Due to the generosity of the corporate sponsors, the kids are going to have a
wonderful book in their hands that will demonstrate some of Arizona's great
Two companies, Southwest Gas and Phelps Dodge, are covering the $140,000 cost.
The book was written by former Tucson resident Ken Buchanan and depicts the
building of an adobe house through the eyes of a young American Indian boy.
Buchanan and illustrator Libba Tracy have moved to the Pacific Northwest.
The softcover book, published in 1992, continues to sell well, Howard said, but
in a niche market that means marketing about 54,000 copies over the past decade.
Most gubernatorial candidates last year talked about the importance of early
education. They stressed early literacy as a way to cut Arizona's high dropout
Some challengers, such as Democrat Mike Newcomb, mocked Napolitano's idea as a
"campaign gimmick." But Matt Salmon, Napolitano's Republican foe in the race,
applauded her for keeping her promise.
"If she was able to get it done with no cost to the state, I think that's
great," he said. "I applaud her. That's good news."
Napolitano said the book
project is a "visible symbol" of her commitment to early education. In
September, the governor and her education advisers will go to North Carolina to
look at that state's "Smart Starts" program, touted as a national success.
By the end of the year, Napolitano hopes to roll out a conceptual plan for a
universal pre-kindergarten and all-day kindergarten programs.
She said it's too early to tell how the program will be structured or how much
it will cost. The tough question, though, is how Napolitano will pay for this
just as the state continues to face a massive fiscal crunch. Last year,
legislative analysts put the cost of a statewide, full-day kindergarten program
at more than $200 million.
Howard said he's glad children will be reading the book.
"It's an Arizona story written by Arizona authors, and it's bilingual," Howard
said. "Every page has both languages on it, so it works for primary Spanish
speakers learning English, and it works the other way around."
House Is Made of Mud
Ken Buchanan. Illustrated by
A Native American child
growing up in the desert.
Won the Arizona State Library
Association's award for Children's Book of the Year in 1992 and was featured on
the television show ReadingRainbow
during the 1992-93 season.
$6.95 softcover, $12.95