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Eat Pizza Hut - and learn to read, too

WASHINGTON - Companies eager to court young consumers and their parents are targeting a new marketing outlet: preschools. Ford Motor Co., for instance, is sending posters to 100,000 preschools, child-care centers, and kindergarten classrooms to encourage children ages 2 to 5 to think about safety in the home and, of course, in the car. With nearly 4 million youngsters attending organized child care, the potential market - kids and parents - is too great for companies to pass up. So the standard art supplies, blocks, trucks, and dolls are being supplemented with Milton Bradley and Care Bears worksheets, and Pizza Hut reading programs.

More bad news about college costs

Rising costs and plummeting investments have forced several states to suspend enrollment in tuition prepayment plans designed to protect families against spiraling expenses at public colleges. Ohio announced last week it was suspending its program for a year because the state was losing money. West Virginia, Kentucky, and Texas also have temporarily cut off new enrollment.

Tuition prepayment plans allow families to purchase tuition credits - based on the current rates - in lump sums or monthly payments. A state then pools the money in long-term investments, hoping that earnings will match or exceed the cost of tuition years later when a child is ready to attend college. Now, however, tuition is rising faster than investment earnings.

Free tuition to some Vermont residents

WHEELOCK, VT. - Dartmouth College's gift to this tiny town seems hard to believe: Any child from the hardscrabble community of 623 admitted to the Ivy League college can attend tuition-free.

There appears to be little to connect the rural town with the college in Hanover, N.H. But the truth is, Dartmouth owes its existence to Wheelock. Wheelock is named for Eleazar Wheelock, who in 1769 founded the college. After Mr. Wheelock died in 1779, his son John, the second president of Dartmouth, was desperate to keep the school afloat. He asked the Vermont Legislature for help and in 1785, Vermont granted Dartmouth 23,000 acres of land in a town it named Wheelock. Today, in gratitude, Dartmouth continues to honor a 175-year-old commitment made when it was a struggling college.

Web Smarts

www.pumpkin-patch.com

What: Just in time for Halloween, this site features everything you ever wanted to know about pumpkins, including unusual facts, varieties of pumpkins, growing techniques, and recipes.

Best points: The short history section explains the multiple uses of pumpkins by native Americans. Roasted pumpkin strips were a staple of their diet, and they made mats by weaving together dried strips of pumpkin. The standard orange variety of course is the most popular, but there are many other different shapes, sizes, and hues, such as white, dark green, and flesh colored. And believe it or not, pumpkins are not a vegetable - they are a fruit!

This section also explains the origins of Halloween, which dates back 3,000 years ago to a Celtic celebration called Samhain (pronounced "soh-WEEN") - a night to honor loved ones after they had died. [See kidspace, p. 18]

What you should know: There's a segment called "Pumpkin Jokes," but there are only a couple and they aren't very clever. There's a link to Pumpkin Carving 101, so parents should supervise young children.

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