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Mrs. Bush visiting and reading to students. White House photo by Paul Morse.

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Ready to Read, Ready to Learn

Letter from Mrs. Bush

As a child, I loved listening to my mother read to me. Little did I know that she was doing much more than providing comfort and entertainment; she was paving the way for my learning and success in school.

Research tells us that the early language experiences and education we provide our children shape the way they think and learn. The quality of these experiences affects a child's enthusiasm for learning, ability to interact with others and success in school.

Though many children grow up hearing a broad vocabulary and being read to from infancy, others enter school without knowing the names of letters or how to count. For these children, reading and learning can be a struggle. If they are unable to overcome this obstacle, their loss affects all of society.

Our challenge is to reach all children early so that every child starts school with the skills needed to learn. Once they are in the classroom, our children deserve excellent teachers and a high-quality education.

As a mother and former public school teacher and librarian, I believe we all have a duty to help our children achieve success. And I am proud to join President Bush in his goal to make America's schools the best they can be.

Ready to Read, Ready to Learn Summary

Laura Bush understands the responsibility that parents and other adults have to help children develop strong cognitive skills in the early years so that they are prepared for school. As a former public school teacher, Mrs. Bush also knows that the quality of a child's education hinges on the quality of that child's teachers.

With this in mind, Mrs. Bush launched her Ready to Read, Ready to Learn initiative with two major goals:

  • to ensure that all young children are ready to read and learn when they enter their first classroom; and
  • to ensure that once there, children have well-trained, qualified teachers, especially in our most impoverished neighborhoods.

The Ready to Read, Ready to Learn initiative works to achieve these goals by:

Teaching reading is one of America's top domestic priorities. The Bush Administration wants parents - children's first and most important teachers - caregivers and teachers to have the most effective tools and information for teaching reading, the skill upon which all other learning skills are based.

Research shows that reading to children early and often is the best way to ensure success in school and in life. Children need basic skills to prepare them for learning to read. Because these skills are not developed automatically, children need help and practice through language play, sound games, reading aloud together, and talking about book characters and content.

Many children have difficulties learning to read because they did not develop the basic building blocks of language during their early years. Vocabulary knowledge, letter recognition, and phonemic awareness are significant predictors of a child's ability to do well in school. For example, reading scores in the 10th grade can be predicted with surprising accuracy based on a child's knowledge of the alphabet in kindergarten.

Laura Bush believes that everyone in America should know how important basic language and reading skills are for young children. Moms, dads, grandparents and all those who care for children at some point during the day need to know about specific age-appropriate, fun activities that prepare children for learning in school.

Just as children should be ready to learn to read when they start school, teachers should be able to teach reading when they enter the classroom. Research shows which teaching methods are most effective. Teachers should learn these methods and colleges of education should teach them. Teachers need training and the resources to succeed, including:

  • a thorough and up-to-date knowledge of teaching skills and subject content;
  • the ability to assess student needs, including early diagnosis of reading difficulties; and the most effective instructional tools.

The The No Child Left Behind Act is the greatest federal investment ever - $4 billion to recruit, prepare and train teachers. The Act, passed overwhelmingly by Congress, gives schools much more flexibility to use federal funds where the local need is greatest. President Bush has charged the U.S. Department of Education to develop a database of the most recent and most reliable information on what works in teaching reading. Teachers and schools will have the best information available to them at the click of a mouse.

These reforms and resources are key to improving America's schools. Mrs. Bush's Ready to Read, Ready to Learn initiative is an integral part of the President's education reforms. The initiative is designed to:

  • Highlight successful early childhood programs
  • that teach children important pre-reading and vocabulary skills.
  • Give parents and caregivers information so they can help their children learn.
  • Help recruit and retain excellent teachers.

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