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Vol 57 No. 6 | Mar. 2005
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Vol 57 No. 6 | Mar. 2005
Berdan Does His Part for Literacy Festival

Poster CSULB's Center for Educational Technology and Learning and its director Robert Berdan used a combination of literacy and high-tech savvy recently to kindle interest in Ray Bradbury's classic science-fiction novel Fahrenheit 451 as part of the weeklong literacy festival Long Beach Reads One Book.

The classic science fiction novel was selected to star in the March 13-18 community-focused cultural initiative, now in its fourth year, designed to bring people together and raise the standards of literacy by encouraging every one in Long Beach to read the same book at the same time. It beat out more than 100 other nominations to become this year's selection for the event sponsored by the Long Beach Library Foundation.

Fans of the classic novel named for the temperature at which paper burns, can access the first eight pages of the book read by the author himself. 451 speculates about a future where firefighters start fires instead of putting them out and their favorite kindling? Books!

“The center's partnership with the Long Beach Public Library goes back several years and we were delighted to be involved again this year,” said Berdan, a linguist who joined the university in 1983.

Berdan has something more in mind than just creating a high-tech Web site that allows readers to open the book's distinctive cover and read page by page. “Our real focus is on helping readers develop fluency,” he said. “Most of our research involves young children but with this book the center has aimed at adolescents and adults.” Carol Lord, from Teacher Education and Linguistics, is the primary researcher for the project. “We're helping new and struggling readers to understand the story as well as the words.” The book is accessible now through the Long Beach Public Library's home page. It can also be accessed at   

Previous websites created by the Center focused on Mitch Albom, author of Tuesdays with Morrie and Erin Gruwell, teacher in residence for CSULB's Department of Teacher Education, and her book The Freedom Writers Diary: How a Teacher and 150 Teens Used Writing to Change Themselves and the World Around Them. Several of Gruwell's students read portions of the diary.

“There's a certain authenticity that comes with an author reading his or her own writing, and that's what we have in all these Web sites,” he said. “We are looking at the ability of the reader to access the structure of a story as well as the words and the potential to sense almost instantaneously how that structure unfolds.”

Berdan takes the long view of the Web site's impact beyond the literacy festival. “This kind of Web site is a way for struggling readers to have access to the fluent reading of a novel,” he said. “Over time, this may change their own reading. That's the real influence we hope to have. We didn't do this to replace a CD to be played on a road trip. We were looking for something more for very special audiences.”
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