Official Magazine for the Next 15 Minutes

No. 15

September 11, 2000

Give us 15 Minutes and We'll Give You News and Views Covering Society and Celebrity - Travel and Entertainment - Jam-packed with Anecdotes Guaranteed to Amuse and Entertain as Well as Inform and Enlighten

Celebrating fashion legacy

Up the aisle under the chupah

Honoring Danny Levine

Join us in our quest for
The Girl From Ipanema: Chapter 3: Getting warm

Polaroid candids signed by the stars

Honors Dick Robinson
For Inspiring Reading

By Tim Boxer

HEN we think of great and influential publishers, those who have shaped our country’s culture, who comes to mind? Naturally you’d say Maxwell Perkins, Bennett Cerf, Alfred A. Knopf, people like that, right? We certainly wouldn’t think of people who publish books that have sentences like:

His eyes are as green as fresh pickled toad
His hair is as dark as a blackboard
I wish he was mine – he’s really divine
The hero who conquered the dark lord.

“But the fact is,” Katie Couric said, “those silly sentences were written by A.K. Rowling in Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets and published by Dick Robinson and Scholastic.”

What an impact those silly words have had on our society!

Scholastic’s Dick Robinson and
former Congresswoman Pat
Schroeder, president/CEO of
Association of American

“The Harry Potter series,” the hostess of NBC’s Today Show said, “is responsible for more young people reading – and more important, being excited about reading – than at any time in memory.”

Of course, that also means that more children than ever before want to ride around on broomsticks and get invisibility cloaks for Christmas and turn their little brothers into eight-legged rodents.

It is little wonder that the Publishing Group of UJA-Federation of New York honored Richard Robinson, chairman of the board, president and chief executive officer of Scholastic Inc., at its annual dinner at the Grand Hyatt. Peter Mayer of Overlook Press presented the award to Robinson.

After succeeding his father, M.R. Robinson, who founded the company in 1920, Richard continued his father’s mission to help young people develop a lifelong love of reading and learning.

The other side of the coin is that, even with Harry Potter taking up every other slot on the bestseller list, “we are facing a literary crisis,” Couric said.

“More than 20 percent of adults read at or below a fifth grade level. That’s 1 in 5 people! Almost 40 percent of America’s children are still failing to read at any grade level by the end of the third grade. In some of our major cities, that statistic rises to 80 percent. That’s scary stuff!”

It got scarier as Couric pointed out that last year 20 percent of all elementary school libraries were inadequate, and 70 percent of all elementary school teachers reported receiving no funding for their libraries.

“Reading is essential to success,” she added. “The ability to read should become every child’s civil right.”

That is where Scholastic comes in. “Under Dick Robinson,” Couric said, “Scholastic is a shining example of a company in the business of selling books to those who can afford them, and a company that understands it’s also in the business of giving books to those who cannot afford them.”

Scholastic sponsors the National Teacher of the Year Award, the Scholastic Art and Writing Awards, the Early Childhood Professional Awards, and the Bilingual Teacher of the Year Award.

Knowing that Dick is one of the most well respected people in publishing, Couric sent him the manuscript of a children’s book she had written. She proceeded to read the “lovely and heartfelt” letter Dick sent her, because “it truly shows the level and stature he has attained today.”

Dear Katie:

Thank you so much for sending in your book, The Brand New Kid. Maybe you haven’t heard – we publish Harry Potter now. We’re really rich and successful. We don’t need you anymore. Stick to TV.

P.S. Next time, call my assistant and stop bothering me at home.

That broke up the 500 dinner guests, including such stalwarts of the publishing industry as Peter Workman, Laurence Kirshbaum of Warner, Steven Elliot of McGraw-Hill, Mel Parker of Book-of-the-Month Club, literary agents Aaron Priest, Esther Newberg and Jane Dystel.

As the Friars would say, you only roast the ones you love.

UJA-Federation of New York is the largest local philanthropic organization in the world, raising over $200 million each year. It provides social services, educational programs and cultural opportunities in New York, Israel and around the world.

By the way, Doubleday is publishing Couric’s book in September.

Alison Lazarus (l-r), sales division president, Holtzbrick Publishers; Mel Parker, senior vice president/editor in chief, Bookspan; Babara Macus, president, children’s books, Scholastic; Dick Robinson; Jane Friedman, president/CEO,  HarperCollins.

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