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On the Web, a Site for Baby's First Clicks


Also: A question from Rwanda about George Washington. And music from Norah Jones’ latest album. Transcript of radio broadcast:

DOUG JOHNSON:

Welcome to AMERICAN MOSAIC in VOA Special English.

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I'm Doug Johnson. Today on our program, we listen to music from Norah Jones ...

And we answer a question about George Washington.

But first, we tell you about a Web site for children too young to even use a mouse.

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DOUG JOHNSON:

The Internet is filled with web sites offering all kinds of games for children in school to adults in retirement. But now there is a Web site with games designed for the youngest members of the family. Faith Lapidus has our report about Kneebouncers.com.

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FAITH LAPIDUS:

Two-year-old Lilianna Robinson is sitting on her mother's lap. Lilianna is busy with one of her favorite activities -- playing Kneebouncers on the computer.

Her father, Jim Robinson, was one half of the team that developed the Web site.

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JIM ROBINSON: "I do all of the drawings and the characters and the silly little games, and Kurt brings them to life."

FAITH LAPIDUS:

Kurt Dommermuth is the other half of the development team.

KURT DOMMERMUTH: "That's my passion is the Web, and what I love. So it's natural that we complement each other very well that way."

FAITH LAPIDUS:

The two men first had the idea for Kneebouncers seven years ago. They both had baby girls at the time.

JIM ROBINSON: "Mine was six months old and Kurt's was nine months old, and I had two older kids, too. They could play on older sites, the Disney.com and PBS.com, but their little sister couldn't use the mouse and she was getting frustrated."

FAITH LAPIDUS:

With Kneebouncers, touching any part of the computer keyboard effects an action on the screen. Jim Robinson says many of the eighteen games on the Web site are designed for very young children.

JIM ROBINSON: "A lot of the games came from just the simple games we play with our kids when they are babies – peekaboo, bubbles. Who doesn't like bubbles? Balloons, popping balloons, popping bubbles, jumping on the bed, splashing in puddles, even playing musical instruments."

FAITH LAPIDUS:

News of the Web site spread beyond the Robinson and Dommermuth families and friends. More than one million people from more than one hundred eighty countries have visited Kneebouncers.com.

The Web site has added educational games to teach babies shapes, letters, colors and numbers. The two fathers say they are developing programs for the Internet and television based on Kneebouncers.com characters.

But Kneebouncers remains free. And, Jim Robinson says the Web site is important in another way.

JIM ROBINSON: "We have created a safe environment, too. There is no advertising on the site. They're not going to hit a banner ad that will take them somewhere else. There is nothing to download. There is no sign up, you just to Kneebouncers.com, you pick a game and you start Kneebouncing."

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DOUG JOHNSON:

Our question this week comes from Rwanda. Mutangana Herman wants to know about George Washington, America's first president.

This is a good time to answer the question. Monday is Washington's Birthday, the federal holiday that honors the former leader.

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George Washington has a special place in American history. He is known as the father of the country. General Washington commanded the forces that won American independence from Britain. He served as president of the conference that wrote the American Constitution. And, he was the first President of the United States.

George Washington was born in the British colony of Virginia in seventeen thirty-one. He grew up in a wealthy farming family. He enjoyed that life, but was strongly interested in the military.

In seventeen fifty-nine, he married Martha Dandridge Custis. She had been married, but her husband had died. She owned many slaves and lots of land.

George and Martha Washington took care of their property around Mount Vernon, Virginia. George Washington also served in the Virginia House of Burgesses. However, he felt used by British businessmen and found British laws too restrictive.

George Washington was named Commander-In-Chief of the Continental Army in May of seventeen seventy-five. Two months later, he was leading troops into battle against British forces. The war lasted six years. But in seventeen eighty-one, Britain surrendered. The American Revolution was won.

General Washington wanted to return to Mount Vernon and his farmland along the Potomac River. But, his country still needed him. In seventeen eighty-seven, he was elected President.

George Washington retired at the end of his second term as president. He spoke to Americans before leaving office. He urged them to take care in forming overly strong party alliances.

George Washington died of a throat infection only three years after leaving office.

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DOUG JOHNSON:

Norah Jones has released her fourth studio album, "The Fall." Critics say it is different from her earlier best-selling albums in many ways. Barbara Klein plays some examples.

BARBARA KLEIN:

Norah Jones is one of the most successful singers of recent years. She has sold more than thirty-five million albums. Critics have always praised her warm, deep, jazz-influenced style since her first big hit, "Don't Know Why."

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"The Fall" is her first solo album without Lee Alexander, her former boyfriend, bass player, songwriter and producer. Most of the songs on her new album are about loneliness and the difficult end of a relationship. "Back to Manhattan" is about having two lovers on opposite sides of New York City.

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A new group of well-known musicians play drums, keyboards and electric guitar on "The Fall." Jones also plays electric guitar on some of the songs. She played piano on her earlier albums.

Critics say "The Fall" represents a new sound for Norah Jones. But they say fans of her earlier albums will not be disappointed. She continues her deep, jazzy sound while adding more pop and rock influences. "It's Gonna Be" is an example of this new sound with electric keyboard and pounding drums.

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Norah Jones begins a tour in March; she will be performing in thirty-six American cities. We leave you now with Norah Jones choosing to be with her dog in "Man of the Hour."

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HOST:

I'm Doug Johnson. Our program was written by Shelley Gollust, Susan Logue Koster and Caty Weaver, who was also our producer. For transcripts, MP3s and podcasts of our programs, go to voaspecialenglish.com. You can also post comments.

Do you have a question about people, places or things in America? Send it to us through our Web site -- click on the Contact Us link. Or write to mosaic@voanews.com. We may answer your question on our show.

Join us again next week for AMERICAN MOSAIC, VOA's radio magazine in Special English.

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