This fall 3,700 Bay Area/Northern California disadvantaged youngsters, many of whom have never owned their own book, will take part in an innovative literacy program featuring a cast of centuries-old characters from halfway around the world.

What?! Never owned a book? In America? Surely not here. Maybe Biafra, or someplace else we tried to mail our uneaten "children are starving in Biafra" peas. But here?

Yup. The Hoopoe Books Share Literacy Program aims to solve this problem by providing at-risk kids with books and supportive materials they can own and learn to read and read better. The book series is based on something called "Teaching Stories"...

Teaching-Stories™ is the name given to this literary genre, which is all but unknown in Western cultures. Educators and psychologists recognize these stories as developing higher-level thinking skills in both children and adults. They do this by presenting a series of unexpected patterns and relationships carrying multiple levels of meaning that can be discovered at the reader’s own pace. These stories encourage flexibility of thought essential to understanding and coping with our complex world.

That sounds hard and fun and the illustrations and descriptions of the books are great. Kaiser Permanente is sponsoring the program locally but Share Literacy could always use your donations. One of the most timely options might be to donate directly to the books for Katrina kids.