Raising a Reader book bags pass test | AspenTimes.com

Raising a Reader book bags pass test

John ColsonAspen, CO Colorado

Parents and teachers learned Monday that those Raising A Reader bags – and the books they carry – soon will be back in eager little hands of preschoolers throughout the region.Well, most of them will, after a battery of scientific tests showed that the amount of lead in the book bags is minimal and poses no health risk to children or anyone else. Some of the bags, while technically not hazardous, will be pulled from circulation and replaced. Most of them, however, will be back in use this week.Raising A Reader is a national child-literacy program that offers bright red book bags, made in China, filled with books every week for students to take home. The idea is for parents to read to their kids from the books, which are a mixture of Spanish and English, as a way of encouraging interaction within the family and boosting literacy among the kids and the adults.The program, which local director Jayne Poss brought to area preschools four years ago, now serves more than 1,300 youngsters from Aspen to Parachute. It was put on hold three weeks ago when it was learned that tests had detected lead in parts of the bags.But a subsequent battery of tests, according to Poss and the national Raising A Reader office in California, showed that the levels of lead are not hazardous, and that bags manufactured and shipped before 2005 can remain in use.”To put this in perspective, the trace amount of lead that might be transferred to a child’s hands from rubbing the interior surface [of one of the bags] is much smaller than what might be transferred to a child playing with brass house keys or many other common household items,” according to a statement from Raising A Reader.A special “saliva test” mimicked “mouthing behavior” common among very young children, using a saliva-like solution to see if dangerous levels of lead can be leached from either the interior or the exterior of the bags.Poss reported that the saliva test results were similar to results from recent tests conducted on vinyl baby bibs. She noted that the Consumer Product Safety Commission declined to issue a recall on the baby bibs, and said that Raising A Reader has reasoned that the results indicate the book bags are safe, especially since a child’s exposure to a bib, which can be used in feeding, is far greater than it would be to a book bag.But just to be on the safe side, Poss said, Raising A Reader is culling from its stock of book bags all the red and blue bags made and shipped in three particular lots between 2005 and 2007. Of the 1,300 bags involved, some 400 are being pulled and thrown away, for replacement either with paper bags outfitted with large Ziploc baggies to protect the books, or a type of plastic bag area libraries already hand out to kids carrying books in inclement weather.After three weeks of no books, Poss said, children have begun pestering teachers and parents to resume the program, which prompted the decision to find an interim way of getting the books home.”This is about the books, not the bags,” she said, adding, “We have a lot to be thankful for, with Thanksgiving Day coming up and all.” She praised Raising A Reader for taking the initiative to get all bags tested once the lead-level issue came up, and for deciding to replace those bags with the highest detectable amount of lead even though the level is not considered dangerous by government standards.”This was the socially responsible direction to go,” she said. “They just wanted to say, ‘We have higher standards.'”John Colson’s e-mail address isjcolson@aspentimes.com