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For Immediate Release
Office of the First Lady
July 24, 2007

Mrs. Bush's Remarks on Improving Literacy Through School Libraries Program
Driggs Elementary School
Waterbury, Connecticut

11:03 A.M. EDT

MRS. BUSH: Thank you so much, Madam Secretary. Thank you very much. Thank you all very much. Thank you so much, Margaret. Thank you. Thanks, everybody.

Thank you Secretary Spellings, thank you for your very kind introduction and thank you for your terrific work for children and students all across our country.

I also want to recognize Governor Michael Fedele, and Carol. Thank you all for joining us today, I appreciate it very much. Mayor Jarjura, thank you for being here with us. Mary Ann Marold, the principal of Driggs, thank you for hosting us here and letting us have this opportunity to be at your school, and thank you for your great work for students for years, so many years. Superintendent David Snead, thank you very much for joining us today. And Deputy Commissioner, Connecticut Department of Education, George Coleman, thank you for being with us.

Students, it's great to be with each one of you. Teachers, librarians, state and local officials, distinguished guests, thank you for the very warm welcome to the Driggs School and to Waterbury.

I'm delighted to be in Connecticut to announce the 2007 Improving Literacy through School Libraries grants. Connecticut has a rich literary tradition and has produced some of America's best-loved writers. In fact, right after we leave here we're going to visit Mark Twain's home in Hartford.

Twain once said, "The man who doesn't read good books has no advantage over the man who can't read them." Mark Twain understood that reading books is essential to personal success. Of course, Mark Twain made his life writing books, so when he said that, he may have had his own personal success in mind.

Twain knew that reading is how we shape our beliefs and our character. He knew that by losing ourselves in a good book, we can find fundamental truths about our own lives. He understood that reading is vital to a good education. Across the United States, students are receiving a better education because they have greater access to books -- thanks to the Improving Literacy through School Libraries Program.

The grants that the Department of Education is awarding today will provide $18 million to more than 300 schools in 28 states. These resources will help librarians in 78 of our nation's most impoverished school districts expand and upgrade their school library collections.

With the money they receive from these grants, rural and urban schools can replace outdated reference materials. They can acquire new technology to improve students' research skills. Districts can increase professional development for school librarians and teachers and administrators.

With the support they receive from these grants, schools can keep their libraries open before and after school, on weekends, and during vacations. In communities where local public libraries have limited offerings -- and where children may not have many books at home -- extended school library hours benefit students who want to be able to read all the time.

This year's Improving Literacy through School Libraries grants will benefit a quarter million students across the United States. Rural Lafourche Parish, Louisiana, will use its grant to buy library software for middle and high school students who need help with phonics, vocabulary, and reading comprehension. Librarians in Passaic, New Jersey, will purchase new fiction for their students, because their students are so eager to read -- so eager, in fact, they ask for the books every day.

At the Para Los Ni os Charter School in downtown Los Angeles, a certified, bilingual librarian will purchase computers and projectors to improve students' research skills in science and social studies. In Monroe County, Wisconsin, the Cashton School District will use its grant to expand its library hours, and then publicize these expanded hours throughout the community with flyers and newsletters. At the district's Family Literacy Events, parents will learn reading strategies to use at home, and receive guidance on Internet safety for children.

From Maine to California, students from low-income communities will now have access to top-notch libraries. In every one of these school districts, the grants we're awarding today will help teachers, and principals, and librarians encourage their students' love of books.

These staff members know that reading is essential to academic success. In fact, every one of us know if you can read, you can read every subject. You can read science and social studies and math and all the other things that you need to be able to read to succeed in. A study from the Department of Education shows that the more books children have in their homes, the better they perform in school. But of course we know some children don't have books at home -- which makes it even more important for them to have access to books at school. Teachers appreciate libraries filled with up-to-date books that support the curriculum.

Across the United States, there is a huge demand for good school library books. Over the last five years, about 3,000 school districts -- representing approximately 10,000 schools -- have applied for Improving Literacy through School Libraries grants. Since 2002, when Improving Literacy Through School Libraries was established as part of the No Child Left Behind Act, the program has provided more than $10 [sic] million to upgrade school libraries in nearly 500 school districts.

One is the Albert Gallatin Area School District in rural Pennsylvania. There, most of the students qualify for the free lunch program; local public libraries have few offerings for children; and personal book collections are rare. Resources for public school libraries were, in the words of one librarian, "pitiful."

One of the district's elementary school librarians, Melba Gillingham, remembers that she had no non-fiction to offer her students because the school couldn't afford it. Reference books were out of date. The school's atlases were printed in the early 1990s. As the Soviet Union dissolved, and the world's geography changed, Melba says, "I couldn't change with it ... I never had the money."

Two years ago, Albert Gallatin received nearly $190,000 from the Improving Literacy through School Libraries grants. For the first time, Melba was able to buy non-fiction books for her early grades. She updated reference materials and she bought enough dictionaries and almanacs for a whole class -- so that students could learn to use these references when they were in the library. When she places new books out on the library table, the students race to grab them. When the book-hungry kids come in, Melba says, "The first question they'll ask are, 'Where are the new books?'"

"I can't tell you how many stunning things took place because of this money," she said. Visiting authors shared their perspectives on children's literature with Albert Gallatin teachers. For the first time, district schools could invest in CDs and headsets to go with read-along books. The mother of a special-needs student told one Albert Gallatin librarian that the new CDs made all the difference in teaching her child how to read.

As excited as students are now, Melba says the true benefits of Albert Gallatin's grant will be seen in the years to come. Melba has been a librarian in the district for 27 years. Today, she's teaching the grandchildren of some of her first students -- and from one generation to the next, she sees families stuck in the same cycle of poverty. Very few students go on to college. But those who do usually point back to an early reading experience that sparked their love of learning.

"They come back and tell me, 'I remember when you introduced me to this book -- so I bought a copy of it, and have it at my desk at college as a reminder,'" Melba says. She adds that now, thanks to Albert Gallatin's grant, "My dream is that more kids will do that -- that someday they'll come back from college and say, 'I remember when you introduced me to the book that got me interested about learning.'"

With the grants we're announcing today, children across the United States can get interested in learning -- with help from librarians and some good books. Here in Waterbury, 20 urban elementary schools are receiving nearly $300,000 to upgrade their libraries. The grant will support your district's innovative literacy project, which will add new non-fiction books to library shelves, and integrate advanced technology into the pre-K through 5th grade curriculums. Teachers and library media specialists will receive additional training to improve science, social studies and math instruction.

Thanks to the grant, more than 9,400 children in Waterbury will strengthen their skills in research and reading. Congratulations to the Waterbury Public Schools. I'd like to ask the librarians, teachers and staff members representing these schools to please stand. (Applause.)

Thanks to each of you -- thank you for your commitment to your students. Thanks especially to the students for working hard throughout the school year -- and even into your vacation. And remember, keep reading. Congratulations and thank you all very much. (Applause.)

END 11:14 A.M. EDT

*$100 million

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