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 Home > News & Policies > April 2002

For Immediate Release
Office of the Press Secretary
April 3, 2002

President and Mrs. Bush Promote Early Childhood Education Initiative
The East Room

     Fact sheet In Focus: Early Childhood Education

President's Remarks

2:23 P.M. EST

THE PRESIDENT: Thank you all. Thank you. Laura and I are honored to have you all here today and thank you for coming. Some of you have been to the White House before, and I know we've got some first-time visitors here.

For example, this will be the first time the Vowelles have ever been to the White House. (Laughter.) Theo and Cleo Lion are also here to sing a song titled "W Trouble." (Laughter.) I don't know the song, but the theme is familiar. (Laughter.) My mom often used to say, "The trouble with W" -- (laughter) -- although she didn't put that to words. President George W. Bush and Laura Bush discuss the importance of involving families and teachers to help children read at an early age in the East Room Wednesday, April 3. Promoting the Early Childhood Education Initiative, Mrs. Bush is the honorary national chairperson of the PBS Designated Reader campaign. After their remarks, the audience of adults and children were visited by Mister Rogers and Elmo from Sesame Street. White House photo by Evan Parker.

We're delighted that so many children can be a part of this special event here in the East Room. Thank you all for coming. It's so good to see you. It is wonderful to see children so young and so eager to learn, with so many fun opportunities to learn together. Every child is born with a love of learning -- every child. We adults have a responsibility to give them every possible chance to learn, and to start early.

I appreciate the Secretary of Education, Rod Paige, for being here today. Thank you, Mr. Secretary.

I want to thank all the good folks at PBS for coming. I appreciate your concern for our nation's children. And as Laura said, we've been aware of your program for a long time.

I notice that we've got a larger-than-usual contingent of White House staff here today. I know they're not here to see me. (Laughter.) They're here to see Mr. Rogers. (Laughter.) When he comes to the White House, it's sure to be a beautiful day in the neighborhood. (Laughter.)

It is impossible for us to count the number of lives you have touched. But you have had a huge impact on thousands and thousands of children. And there are thousands and thousands of parents and Americans who are grateful for your service to the country. (Applause.) In "Mister Rogers' Neighborhood," every child is welcomed into the world of learning -- not just a few, not just ones from certain neighborhoods, but every child.

Our goal as a nation must be to make sure that no child is denied the chance to grow in knowledge and character from their very first years. The public broadcasting system has excelled in carrying out that responsibility.

Shows like "Between the Lines" bring a combination of charm, creativity, inclusiveness and, as importantly, proven teaching methods to the task of educating young children. And these shows are being used in Head Start and day care centers to encourage early learning. The "Ready to Learn" program helps make all these shows possible, and my administration is proud to support it.

America is making great progress in education reform. We're providing higher levels of support for our schools, higher standards for performance in the classrooms. We're giving teachers the resources and training necessary for their mission. We're respecting local control of our schools, and respect the authority of parents, so that moms and dads have greater say in how their children are educated.

Under the bipartisan reforms we passed into law, all students in America have a better chance to learn and excel and to live out their dreams. Yet, as we prepare our schools to teach, we must prepare our children to learn. As we raise educational standards, which we must do, each of our children needs an equal opportunity to meet those standards.

And creating that opportunity must begin early, even before school starts. On the first day of school, children need to know letters and numbers. They need a strong vocabulary. And they need to love books. These are the building blocks of learning, and this nation must provide them.

Early learning is a priority for my government. By implementing a new accountability system, we'll make sure every Head Start center is providing early learning in the best way possible. Starting this summer, we will train Head Start teachers in proven methods, to encourage early reading and language skills. And the federal government will work with states to promote early learning programs.

More than anyone else, parents need to be involved. Laura has begun an important effort to get new parents the information they need to start their sons and daughters on the path to learning. And we're so proud to be working with PBS and a host of other organizations to get this information out more broadly.

Reading to your children is a joy. We believe it's a responsibility. Parents are the first teachers in their children's lives, and they can also be the best.

I thank all the parents in this room for what you do, and for the important example you set. I want to thank the teachers who are here for devoting yourselves to one of the great callings in life. I want to thank the broadcasters and others who play such an important part in the life of our country.

Again, welcome to the White House. May God bless the nation's children. And may God bless America. (Applause.)

END 2:32 P.M. EST