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“Fourteen percent of American adults can’t read,” Caroline Kennedy said. “It’s a slow-motion disaster.” She hopes her new poetry book will get kids excited about reading.

Mary Altaffer • Associated Press ,

Mandela

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Caroline Kennedy shares love of poetry in new children's book

  • March 31, 2013 - 7:37 PM

– Beginning work a few years ago on her latest book, an anthology of poems for young people, Caroline Kennedy found herself looking through one of her mother’s scrapbooks. She burst into laughter, she says, as she came across a poem that her brother, John, as a youngster, had copied as a gift to their poetry-loving mom.

“Willie with a thirst for gore, Nailed his sister to the door,” went the poem, by an unknown author. “Mother said with humor quaint, ‘Careful, Willie, don’t scratch the paint!’ ”

The poem “brought back memories of our relationship,” Kennedy told a bookstore audience last week.

But for Kennedy, now 55 and a mother of three grown children, there’s a deeper meaning to that irreverent ditty. Poetry was a central part of her home life growing up. She and John regularly copied out and illustrated poems for their mother, Jackie, upon birthdays and Mother’s Days. Sometimes, they’d recite them, too. And at family gatherings, there were frequent challenges to recite Henry Wadsworth Longfellow’s lengthy “Paul Revere’s Ride.” Only Uncle Ted, it seems, was able to recite it in its entirety.

Now, with her 10th book, “Poems to Learn By Heart,” Kennedy wants to share with young readers the love for the written word. It’s also an effort to promote literacy, a cause Kennedy has supported in a number of ways. “Kids need a way in,” she says, “and reading needs to be fun. Poetry can give them that — with the current emphasis on poetry slams and these other open mike events. That’s actually why I think poetry has a chance.”

Mandela still in the hospital

Former South African President Nelson Mandela remained in a Johannesburg hospital Sunday while receiving treatment for a recurrence of pneumonia, the government said. South African presidential spokesman Mac Maharaj said there were no updates on 94-year-old Mandela since an official statement Saturday on his condition. That statement reported the anti-apartheid leader was breathing without difficulty after having a procedure to clear fluid in his lung area.

IT’S a girl: “The Hurt Locker” star Jeremy Renner and girlfriend Sonni Pacheco confirmed Friday that they are the parents of 7-pound Ava Berlin Renner. A statement released by Renner spokeswoman Susan Patricola says the new parents “are beyond thrilled.” Renner played a military explosives expert in the 2008 Oscar-winning film. Renner has also starred in “The Bourne Legacy” and “The Avengers.”

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