- The Washington Times - Thursday, April 4, 2002

When Theo and Cleo Lion complained, "We got W trouble," they were not bemoaning the fact that President Bush didn't stick around to hear what they had to say.
The characters from the children's TV show "Between the Lions" were explaining, through song, children's struggle with a tricky consonant as they learn to read.
The lions along with Elmo, Mister Rogers and singing Vowelles in bright feather boas joined Mr. Bush yesterday in the East Room of the White House to begin a national PBS "designated reader" campaign promoting literacy among young children. First lady Laura Bush is an honorary chairman of the effort.
The president reviewed the plan he announced Tuesday to give more training to teachers in the federally funded Head Start preschool program. But he also said more must be done to ensure children are ready to learn when they arrive at school.
"Children need to know letters and numbers. They need a strong vocabulary. And they need to love books," Mr. Bush said. "These are the building blocks of learning, and this nation must provide them."
Mr. Bush praised the contributions of programs such as "Between the Lions," a PBS series about a magical library run by a family of lions, where vowels sing and characters jump to life from the pages of books.
The president nicknamed by his middle initial, W said he is not quite familiar with the "W trouble" the Lions sang about.
"I don't know the song, but the theme is familiar," Mr. Bush said. "My mom often used to say 'the trouble with W,' although she didn't put that to words."
The Lions did. With the Vowelles singing backup, Theo and Cleo pointed out that "the W's 'whuh' sound, it doesn't make sense," then strung together a series of "W" words like worry, weep, worn, weary to show that the sound can be mastered.
By this point, though, Mr. Bush had left the East Room by a side door.
Spontaneous applause erupted as Fred Rogers, longtime host of the popular show "Mister Rogers' Neighborhood," entered the room with no introduction in a zippered red cardigan sweater and took a seat on the front row.
But he hushed the audience by asking for 10 seconds of silence to "think about anyone who has loved you, and wanted the best for you."
"There was a day when early care was considered menial work. Not now," Mr. Rogers said. "Nobody grows to be a competent person without the investment of others. Whatever gifts we give in love will always eventually make a profound difference in this life."
Mrs. Bush recalled how her twin daughters, then toddlers, would crow "Ah Dah" at the television set when they were ready to watch Mr. Rogers' program.
The first lady said that before she and her husband became parents, they had a theory or two about the best means of helping their children learn.
"Now, we've got a couple of kids, and no theories," she joked.

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