A festival for children centered on early education, school readiness, and that most primary of intellectual skills ó reading ó is coming to Santa Monica.

The seventh annual Raising Readers ó A Literacy Festival is scheduled from noon to 4 p.m. Saturday, April 21st, at the Santa Monica College (SMC) Clock Tower Quad, 1900 Pico Blvd., Santa Monica. Admission is free.

Literacy and quality childcare that promotes early language development as the foundation of a childís education will be the topics of the event.

At the festival, entertainers, storytellers, theater groups and musicians will emphasize the ìjoy of readingî to children. Early-childhood educators will present ideas to parents that help ensure children that arrive at kindergarten ready to learn to read and write.

The event is organized each year by Connections for Children, a nonprofit childcare resource and referral agency founded in 1976 that serves childcare providers, educators and parents in the western region of Los Angeles County. Connections for Children launched the Raising Readers festival in 2001 to celebrate 25 years of support for childcare services. Now an annual event, Raising Readers attracts an estimated 1,200 to 1,500 young children, families and caregivers each year, according to Connections for Children.

Live entertainment, with an emphasis on reading and storytelling, will include performances by Dan Crow and the Thunderwear Band, Flights of Fantasy Story Theatre, Rhythm Child and a visit from Clifford the Big Red Dog.

Seeking to entertain children and adults alike, Dan Crow serves up a fast-paced, nonstop show of zaniness, organizers say.

Flights of Fantasy Story Theatre is a group of storytelling performers who seek to put a fresh spin on folk tales, fables and poetry from a number of cultures around the world. The group seeks to make the tales come to life through the use of masks, props and costumes.

Rhythm Child devotes itself to the advancement and promotion of what the group calls ìpositive musicî for the next generation. The group seeks to create an environment that allows for young children to come in direct contact with the power of music by merging various styles of contemporary grooves, primal drums and classic childrenís melodies into a collection of fresh lyrical themes that offer an alternative approach to entertaining children, according to the group.

Clifford the Big Red Dog, an icon of Scholastic Books, will be in attendance, greeting children at the book fair segment of the festival.

Each year, Connections For Children helps about 6,000 families select the childcare placement that suits their individual needs. In addition, the group administers several childcare subsidy programs that help about 1,000 families cover childcare costs for approximately 1,500 children. The group uses a database to describe the potential childcare provider to parents and to make parents aware of any prior substantiated or inconclusive complaints about the provider.

Information, (310) 452-3325 ext. 237.