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For Immediate Release
Office of the First Lady
March 23, 2002

Mrs. Bush's Remarks on Early Education to Eradicate Poverty and Promote Social Integration

Thank you. Dr. Karp, Dr. Lynch, I applaud your continuing work to improve education for the children of Peru.

As a former public school teacher and now as the First Lady of the United States, I am committed to helping the children of my country succeed in school. That success begins very early, in the years between birth and the first year of school, when children have the best opportunity to acquire early reading and learning skills.

Research shows what parents have always known intuitively, and that is: when parents hold babies in their arms and sing to them or talk to them, they are actually promoting physical and emotional growth. This interaction establishes a strong bond between parent and child, and it promotes a child's happiness and self-confidence.

Research also shows that it is very important for parents to read to their children from the time that they are babies. Children who are read to learn two things: First, that reading is important, and second, that they are important.

Sadly, because many parents do not know how to read, they cannot help their children develop a love of reading and of language. Those missed opportunities can have devastating effects on children's success in school and in life. Illiteracy rates also have a very strong impact on a country's economy. That's why it's very important to make sure that adults, as well as children, can read.

Another priority in the United States is to encourage more people to choose teaching as a career. I am working with organizations to recruit recent college graduates, career professionals and retiring military because our country faces a teacher shortage over the next 10 years.

Education is a top priority for President Bush's administration. In his annual address to the United States Congress, President Bush said:

"All fathers and mothers, in all societies, want their children to be educated, and live free from poverty and violence... No nation owns these aspirations, and no nation is exempt from them."

This means we all must invest in better schools and teachers and also make sure that this investment reaches every sector of society. That is what President Bush means when he says that "No child should be left behind."

This same principle applies to our foreign assistance programs.

The Centers for Excellence in Teacher Training, which President Bush announced at the Summit of the Americas in Quebec last April, is one example of our work with our global neighbors.

These Centers will work to improve teacher training and the quality of reading instruction in schools in three regions: The Andes, Central America and the Caribbean. The Andean Center of Excellence for Teacher Training, which will include institutions in Peru along with Ecuador and Bolivia, is expected to be operational by year's end.

The United States has committed $20 million dollars to these centers - which is above and beyond the $33 million dollar commitment to education programs in these regions last year.

This year in Peru, the United States is launching an expanded girl's education initiative. This effort will help support Peru's National Network for Girl's Education public awareness campaign and the Rural Girl's Education Law.

The United States, through our Agency for International Development, has also pledged to support the Peruvian Congress and Ministry of Education's new policy to "strengthen public schools to educate in democracy and citizenship." Part of their effort is to focus on education in rural areas and extend pre-school education.

We are a strong partner with Peru, supporting its democratic institutions and working to reduce poverty. This year the United States will provide $195 million to strengthen democracy, fight drugs, improve the quality of life in rural and poor areas, and help the private sector create a more robust and stable economy.

Our children rely upon us to improve their lives. We can help improve their lives through efforts that promote proper health, nutrition and education. Their success is our success.

The United States is committed to working with you on behalf of the children of the Americas, to make their futures bright and to make education the key to a lifetime of opportunity.

Thank you for your friendship and support. Thank you very much for inviting me to speak to you today.

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