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For Immediate Release
Office of the Press Secretary
September 8, 2001
THE PRESIDENT: Good morning. This weekend in Washington, my wife, Laura, is hosting the first National Book Festival, continuing a tradition she began as First Lady of Texas. With visiting authors and special events, the Book Festival will highlight the importance of reading and libraries in our national life. A few days later, she and I will host the White House Assembly on Reading at the Library of Congress. We will bring together scholars and educators committed to the cause of teaching every child to read.
As a former teacher, herself, the First Lady is a passionate advocate for reading. She and I and my entire administration believe that teaching every child to read is critical to making sure every child has the opportunity to realize the American Dream.
Reading is, after all, the most basic educational skill, and the most basic obligation of any school is to teach reading. Yet earlier this year, tests showed the almost two-thirds of African American children in the 4th grade cannot read at a basic level, and reading performance overall is basically unimproved over the past 10 years.
The ability to read is what turns a child into a student. When this skill is not taught, a child has not failed the system, the system has failed the child. And that child is often put on a path to frustration and broken confidence.
The methods we use to teach reading are critically important. First, we will have diagnostic tests to identify early reading problems in grades K through 3. Second, we will correct those problems with intervention to give children the best possible help. Third, we will support reading instruction based on sound research, with a central role for phonics. And we'll make sure that every teacher is well-trained in these proven methods.
All of this can serve an important goal I have set for our country, to ensure that every child is able to read by the end of 3rd grade. Meeting this goal requires not only encouragement to our schools, but resources, and my budget provides them. Altogether I have asked Congress to triple the amount of federal money available for reading programs across America.
We must also bring accountability and high standards to every public school. At the heart of my education reforms is a confident belief that every child can learn if given the chance. When our expectations are high, America's children will rise to meet them.
I have agreed with the Congress that we must increase education spending. But some, for whom the increases this year may not be enough, are threatening to stall these much needed reforms. That is a tactic of the past in Washington that has neither worked for our country, nor, more sadly, for our children. After many years of debate, the American people are counting on us to deliver on our promise of reform for the public schools.
Both the House and the Senate have passed good bills that hold schools accountable and expect results. The hardest work is behind us. We have a chance now to pass education reform based on good principles. When the Congress sends me that bill I will sign it, and I urge the Congress to send it quickly.
Thanks for listening.