Olympian Jackie Joyner-Kersee, Actor Ben Vereen and Franklin the Turtle Team Up With Sears to Promote Family Literacy

Sears, Roebuck and Co. is combining the muscle of its highly successful community volunteer network with the popularity of a beloved children's character, an author and a celebrity reader to promote family literacy nationwide.

Sears volunteers, Franklin the Turtle, author Paulette Bourgeois (Franklin), illustrator Brenda Clark (Franklin), four-time Olympic athlete Jackie Joyner-Kersee and award-winning actor Ben Vereen are teaming up to help kick off the 33rd Annual International Literacy Day activities on September 8th. Together they will partake in a public reading of Franklin In The Dark to more than 300 children on the steps of the Library of Congress beginning at 9:30 a.m.

The goal is to recognize the initiatives of literacy organizations worldwide and encourage parents and caring adults to begin reading to children, even infants, on a daily basis in an effort to promote life-long literacy.

"Each of us has a responsibility to help children learn to read and the simplest way to do so is by reading out loud to them on a daily basis," said Joyner-Kersee, who parlayed her athlete prowess and worldwide fame into a foundation as well as a boys & girls club that provide recreational, educational and cultural programs to economically disadvantaged youth.

Universally, literacy organizations advocate reading out loud to children every day as the basis for the development of life-long literacy skills. According to the U.S. Department of Education, if a child is read to just 30 minutes a day from infancy he or she will have received 900 hours of mental stimulation by the age of five. If reading aloud is dropped to 30 minutes a week, the total hour of brain food plummet to only 130 hours by age five, and the figure drops to a mere 60 hours for children read to less than 30 minutes a week.

"Family literacy in the United States is a top-of-mind social issue and a priority for community leaders across the country, but it is an issue that must first be addressed at home," said Steven Sunderland, district general manager for Sears. "Reading to your children everyday is not only crucial to improving their literacy, but it's a fun, bonding experience for everyone involved. We are very proud to be part of the 33rd International Literacy Day. Congratulations to the countless volunteers and literacy organizations -- such as the International Reading Association, the National Coalition for Literacy, Literacy Volunteers of America, Reading Is Fundamental -- for their tireless dedication to further literacy rates of children, not only in the United States, but throughout the world."

Sears involvement with International Literacy Day 2000, comes just two days before the company launches its first Sears Volunteer Week (September 10th - 16th) when Sears associates nationwide will join forces with local citizens for community volunteer projects, many of which focus on literacy. The effort is part of Sears Good Life Alliance, a three-year commitment of more than 1 million volunteer hours over the next three years to build volunteer support for local youth and communities.

More information on Sears Volunteer Week and the Sears Good Life Alliance can be found at http://www.sears.com/alliance . Plus, individuals looking for ways to volunteer in their local communities can contact the 1-800-VOLUNTEER phone line (operated by the Points of Light Foundation).

"We are delighted to receive the support of Sears, Franklin, Paulette and Brenda. It demonstrates to us and to America that there is a strong and growing commitment to improving literacy among children and adults," said Carmelita Williams, president of the International Reading Association. "The participation of these groups and individuals in International Literacy Day 2000 sends a clear and hopeful message to other companies, celebrities and adults about the importance of reading. We hope their actions encourage others to take an active role in advancing literacy year-round. We are all dedicated to the improvement of reading achievement."

A loveable turtle character that encounters challenges common to most preschoolers, Franklin was created by author Paulette Bourgeois and illustrator Brenda Clark in 1986. Together they've created 26 Franklin adventures that have sold more than 32 million books worldwide. The books are available at dedicated Franklin boutiques in the kids department at the more than 860 full-line Sears stores nationwide, along with exclusive apparel and merchandise that captures both the educational and fun essence of Franklin. In addition, more than 11 million children watch the animated Franklin television show each week on Nickelodeon's Nick Jr.

Sears, Roebuck and Co. is a leading U.S. retailer of apparel, home and automotive products and services, with annual revenue of nearly $40 billion. The company serves families throughout the country through approximately 860 department stores, more than 2,100 specialized retail locations, and a variety of online offerings accessible through the company's Web site, http://www.sears.com/ .

Franklin is a Nelvana property. Nelvana is a leading integrated children's entertainment company which develops, produces, markets and distributes high quality branded media content and related product to children worldwide. The company operates through two core businesses: Production and Distribution and Branded Consumer Products. NELVANA's common shares trade on The Toronto Stock Exchange, under the symbol "NTV" and on Nasdaq as "NELV." Nelvana celebrates its 30th anniversary in 2001. Nelvana's Web site address is http://www.nelvana.com/ .

SOURCE: Sears, Roebuck & Co.

Contact: Troy Moore or Jodi Davis, both of 2wo One 2wo, 212-343-1733, or
Marie Alexander of Sears, Roebuck and Co., 847-286-5060

Website: http://www.nelvana.com/

Website: http://www.sears.com/

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