BRANDOLAND: Talking to God...For You!

Wednesday, October 01, 2003

THE FIRST LADY GOES BERSERK IN MOSCOW

All right. I know. That’s not the official headline.

I wish it was, though.

"Laura Bush, in Moscow, Scolds Americans"

By JENNIFER LOVEN, Associated Press Writer

MOSCOW - In a Kremlin library thousands of miles from home, Laura Bush chided U.S. parents for letting their children watch too much television and pleaded with them to spend more time reading with and to their kids.

"American children, I'm afraid, are addicted to television," she told the first ladies of Russia, Armenia and Bulgaria on Tuesday, citing studies that place average TV consumption in the United States at several hours a day.

(She neglected to point out that her husband’s friends at McDonald’s, Disney and Coke were “elated” and “thrilled beyond belief” to find that “children were addicted to television.” “They’re supposed to be,” said one top executive. “If they weren’t, we’d have to rethink ‘things.’ Do things differently. Like, take over the schools or something.”)

Mrs. Bush came to Moscow as the guest of Lyudmila Putin, the wife of the Russian president, who has organized a book festival focused on children's literature. The festival, modeled after events Mrs. Bush has put on for years, begins Wednesday.

Mrs. Putin came to the United States last fall to attend Mrs. Bush's festival and started discussions with Library of Congress officials about how to stage one herself.

On Tuesday, the Russian first lady gathered Mrs. Bush and their fellow first ladies, Bella Kocharian of Armenia and Zorka Purvanova of Bulgaria, for a round table on the relationship of books to family and education.

(And a discussion on the virtues of Stepford-wifing.)

When Mrs. Bush's turn came, she told of her main mission as first lady: trying to spread the word that reading to children, starting when they are babies, not only helps them develop richer vocabularies but makes them feel loved.

"When you read with your child, you show them that reading is important, but you also show them they're important — that they are so important to you that you will spend 20 minutes a day with your arm around them," she said. In that context, she termed TV-watching a big no-no.

(Waitaminute. 20 minutes a day? That’s all you gotta do? To raise kids? That’s not so bad. Thought it was harder than that. Thought you had to play with them, like, non-stop. You know, to show them that “they’re important.” But, hey, fuck it, one of the twins made it to Yale; the “20 minutes a day thing” obviously worked for the first family. Good enough for me.)

Back to the article…

“Mrs. Bush also passed around several American children's classics that she said showcase "the values that had to do with living a good life."

(Like the autobiography of J. Paul Getty?)

Dr. Seuss' "Hop on Pop" was popular in the Bush household when her twin daughters were young, she said, describing how they acted it out by jumping onto their father as he lay on the floor reading it to them.

(She did not mention if “he” was still drinking back then.)

"Frog and Toad" is another good choice for early readers, Mrs. Bush said. "Frog and Toad are best friends. It's a story of friendship," she said.

(Kind of. It’s more like a bunch of stories of Frog and Toad doing dopey things like swimming, looking for buttons, hibernating and “saying hello” to the spring.)

More later…

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