For Immediate Release
First Lady Laura Bush Launches Education Initiatives
Hyattsville, MD - First Lady Laura Bush today announced her plans to focus America's attention on recruiting the best and brightest to the teaching profession and ensuring that all young children are ready to read and learn when they enter the classroom.
"From the crib to the classroom, children need parents, teachers and others to help them prepare for success in school and in life," said the First Lady. "President Bush has a plan to help schools succeed in their mission to teach children. I want to help him keep that promise."
Mrs. Bush made her plans known during a speech at Cesar Chavez Elementary School in Hyattsville, MD, a campus attended by primarily Latino and African American children. She was joined by Secretary of Education Rod Paige, and was introduced by the school's principal Adela Acosta.
As First Lady of Texas, Mrs. Bush took an active role in sharing critical information with Texans to help them better prepare young children for success in school and life. As the nation's First Lady, she will use her public platform to promote efforts that give parents, teachers and caregivers information about child development and learning - factual information based on years of research and sound science.
She will also highlight the need for more Americans to answer the call to teach. From young adults to retirees, she will encourage people to bring their talents, energy and enthusiasm to classrooms throughout the nation.
"Across America, there are countless classroom heroes who are providing children with the tools to beat the odds," said Mrs. Bush. "I want to build on their success by helping to recruit more teachers, shine the spotlight on successful pre-reading and vocabulary activities, and assist parents in gaining access to information that will help their children learn."
Mrs. Bush's first priority centers on the need for parents to give young children the skills to succeed before they enter their first classroom. Learning to read starts long before a child enters school, and reading skills help make children good students. Reading skills make all other skills possible. In 1989, a program known as Reach Out and Read (ROR) that incorporates early literacy efforts into standard pediatric care was created at Boston City Hospital. In ROR clinics, doctors actually "prescribe" that parents read to their children, volunteers in waiting rooms show parents creative ways to read to their children and every child leaves with a new book.
In 1997, Mrs. Bush helped initiate ROR in the Lone Star State. With her support and funding from private foundations, more than 60 ROR clinic sites have opened around the state. As the nation's First Lady, she is committed to supporting this vital program in communities across the country.
Mrs. Bush's second priority focuses on ensuring pre-schools have the tools to teach what works. "Education experts agree that we should incorporate stronger pre-reading and vocabulary activities in pre-kindergarten programs," said Mrs. Bush. The Margaret Cone Head Start Center, located in one of Dallas' poorest neighborhoods, created a model program that documented success in helping children enter grade school ready to read and learn. After seeing first hand how the Center's methods made a difference for young children, Mrs. Bush worked to help more pre-school programs build similar curriculum and teacher training models. She encouraged the state to create the Ready to Read Pre-school Grant Program. As a result, the Texas Legislature appropriated $17 million to replicate programs like the one utilized at the Cone Center.
Mrs. Bush will continue to encourage and promote strong cognitive activities and teacher training models in Head Start Centers and other pre-schools. And, she supports the President's Early Reading First Program that will provide grants for pre-school programs to implement curricula rich in pre-reading and vocabulary skills.
Finally, Mrs. Bush will encourage others to pursue teaching as a career. "As a former public school teacher and librarian, I have tremendous respect for people who answer the call to teach," she said. "Teaching is challenging, sometimes thankless, but incredibly rewarding. We need many more dedicated Americans to teach our children how to learn so that they may ultimately lead successful lives."
She will encourage America's best and brightest college students, professionals and military retirees to bring their talents and experiences to classrooms across the nation, especially in inner-city schools where the need is greatest.
Specifically, she will promote three innovative efforts already underway to recruit new teachers: Teach For America, The New Teacher Project, and Troops to Teachers.
"We must do more than say that all children can learn," said the First Lady. "We must believe it." Mrs. Bush is proud to join with President Bush in his mission to reform education with her Ready to Read, Ready to Learn Initiative.
After her speech, Mrs. Bush visited with Mrs. Sharon Chen's kindergarten classroom where she read If You Give a Pig a Pancake to the students.