Free DVDs feature classic children's stories

This is no fairy tale.

Two Augusta State University professors led a project that is resulting in the distribution of more than 3,500 DVDs to Richmond County public school kindergartners. The teachers, in turn, will give the DVDs to their pupils starting Monday.

This afternoon, 24 kindergarten teachers gathered at the district's headquarters to receive the DVDs, which each contain about 10 hours of nursery rhymes and fairy tales being read aloud, mostly by ASU student volunteers.

Some of the rhymes are as short as 10 seconds. The longest story is "Hansel and Gretel," clocking in at 22 minutes, 15 seconds.

Dr. Walter Evans, an English professor at ASU, said he originally envisioned the project as the distribution of CDs, but teachers he discussed the idea with convinced him that today's children need not only spoken words, but also text and pictures, to get the full effect of being read to.

"The teachers immediately, unambiguously, redefined the project for me," Evans wrote in an introduction to the DVD. "(You may remember from school how bossy kindergarten teachers can be!)"

Evans said he hopes in the next few weeks to have more DVDs with nursery rhymes and fairy tales to distribute for public school kindergartners in Columbia and Aiken counties. PotashCorp, a multinational fertilizer company that has an Augusta location, is underwriting the costs of producing the DVDs.

Some teachers already have been using CDs, DVDs or both with these nursery rhymes and fairy tales in their classes.

Samantha Terry, who teaches kindergarten at Diamond Lakes Elementary, said her children love the nursery rhymes. In addition to the classic fairy tales on the CDs and DVDs, she uses updated versions, such as Shaq and the Beanstalk and Other Very Tall Tales, written by Shaquille O'Neal.

As for the DVDs, Terry and other teachers said those reading the stories generally did a good job.

"We listen to the CDs in our morning work, station work and nap time," Terry said. "The people who did the reading are very soothing and mellow."

Willis Foreman Elementary kindergarten teacher Elaine Canady took it a step further. She had her pupils pick a problem and a solution from "Humpty Dumpty." She shared a couple of the responses with the teachers gathered Thursday afternoon.

"One child said the problem was, he was broken to pieces. The solution? Glue him back together," Canady said. "Another child said he fell down, so his solution was, ‘We can stick him on the wall.'"

Dr. Jené Walker Kinnitt, the district's language arts coordinator, said the DVD project will tremendously help Richmond County pupils become better readers.

"This is a wonderful effort to improve students' vocabulary and listening comprehension," she said. "These fairy tales provide rich story and a lot things they may or may not have had exposure to. Fairy tales and nursery rhymes are becoming sort of a lost genre with younger parents, but this will help us bring it back."

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