Literary Classics Get School Push; Mrs. Cheney Promotes 15 Books

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Byline: George Archibald, THE WASHINGTON TIMES

Lynne V. Cheney yesterday gave fourth-graders from Arlington's Francis Scott Key Elementary School a quick tour of America's continuing struggle for human freedom and announced the administration's second selection of classic books for the nation's schoolchildren.

Surrounded by 18 9- and 10-year-olds before panels of the former Berlin Wall at Freedom Park in the Rosslyn section of Arlington, the wife of Vice President Dick Cheney caught the class off-guard with her first question: "Can anyone tell me what a minuteman is?"

No one raised a hand.

Mrs. Cheney held up a book that she said was her grandchild's favorite in the set, "Sam the Minuteman" by Nathaniel Benchley, recommended for kindergarten through third grade.

"A minuteman was someone who could get ready to fight for our country on only a minute's notice" when Colonial settlers decided to throw off British rule in the American Revolution, she explained.

The event was part of a $100 million "We the People Bookshelf" program started by President Bush last year through the National Endowment for the Humanities (NEH) to teach youngsters more about American history and culture.

The set of 15 books recommended last year, and provided free to school libraries, were on the theme of courage. The selections this year focus on freedom and include a complete set of C.S. Lewis' "The Chronicles of Narnia" for grades four to six and Alexander Solzhenitsyn's "One Day in the Life of Ivan Denisovich" for high school students.

"These books are about freedom sought, freedom denied, freedom lived," said Bruce Cole, NEH chairman and art historian, who accompanied Mrs. Cheney, a former NEH chairman.

During question time, Jose Grijalza, 9, wanted to know: "If you could change anything in history, what would you change?"

"I wish we had never had slavery in this country," Mrs. Cheney replied. "That is what I would change."

Alison Ramirez, 9, asked: "Is it true that the Civil War was our country's bloodiest war? …