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Beacon Street Girls series encourages girls to be kids a little longer

Teaching Your Child

Teaching Your Child

February 01, 2008|By LISA TEDRICK PREJEAN

In recent years, educators have gone to great lengths to combat the declining reading habits of young people.

What can be written to encourage a love of reading? What can we put before the eyes of our youth that will inform, entertain, persuade? Could it also be wholesome?

That's a rather tall order, but if we care about raising a future generation of thinkers, it is a goal we all must work together to meet.

A few weeks ago I wrote a column about the American Girl series of books that my daughter and her friends have been reading.

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I mentioned how pleasant it is to finally see my daughter reading. I had tried to stimulate her interest in many different types of books, but until she became interested in the American Girl series, my efforts were for naught.

After that column appeared, I received an e-mail from Bobbie Carlton, director of marketing for B*tween Productions, home of the Beacon Street Girls.

Carlton says her company's books are often the next step for girls who have enjoyed reading the American Girl series.

The Beacon Street Girls concept is the brainchild of Addie Swartz, who sought healthy role models for her oldest daughter. Swartz wanted to create a world where girls could have fun and learn about who they are. The books allow girls who are "between toys and boys" to be kids a little longer, Carlton says.

Longer than the typical American Girl story, the Beacon Street Girls books are about 240 pages each. The setting is current-day and the issues pertain to preteens living in an age of information.

Designed for girls ages 9 to 13, the Beacon Street Girls books are values-oriented and cover topics such as:

· Being the new kid in school

· Healthy eating habits and the importance of exercise and positive body image

· Underage drinking prevention

· Competition and sportsmanship

· Cyber-bullying, Internet safety and gossip

Some girls are introduced to the series of books through the company's interactive Web site. Girls meet the characters there and want to read more about their adventures, Carlton says.

This kind of connection encourages preteen girls to read, Carlton says, noting that girls sometimes become so involved in the story lines that they send e-mails to the characters, all the while understanding that they are fictional.

It's just fun, so why not?

Carlton also has received requests from girls for a biography of Annie Bryant, the author of the books. They've wanted to do school book reports on Bryant.

Since the Beacon Street Girls books actually are written by a team of writers and experts, Carlton has had to gently explain that Annie Bryant is a pseudonym. The writers of the books collaborate on each project to assure the age-appropriateness of the content. Advice from child development experts is woven throughout, but girls won't recognize it as such because it is being played out in the lives of "just like me" characters, Carlton says.

Friendly advice of that nature is sure to win a parental stamp of approval.

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For more information on the Beacon Street Girls, go to www.beaconstreetgirls .com. In addition to offering fun activities for girls, the Web site also offers educational activities that can be used by teachers, Girl Scout leaders and other club directors. These activities were developed by a retired teacher.

Lisa Tedrick Prejean writes a weekly column for The Herald-Mail's Family page. Send e-mail to her at lisap@herald-mail.com.

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