The White House, President George W. Bush Click to print this document

For Immediate Release
Office of the First Lady
June 10, 2002

Mrs. Bush's Remarks at the Idaho Early Childhood Cognitive Development Summit
As Delivered
Boise, Idaho

Thank you very much. Governor and Mrs. Kempthorne, thank you for hosting this summit.

Mrs. Leavitt, Mrs. Gerringer, distinguished guests..and I must say, this is a very distinguished group - you represent state education agencies, school districts, the university community, head start and other early childhood programs, corporations and foundations -- thank you for being here for this important discussion about America's children and their future.

President Bush and I and all Americans want our schools to do a good job of educating children; we want our teachers to teach them well; and we want children to learn well.

As you've just heard, years of research in early childhood cognitive development tells us what we can do to make sure children are ready to read and learn when then enter school.

Last July I hosted the White House Summit on Early Childhood Cognitive Development.

We heard from some of America's most respected and innovative researchers in the field of cognitive development, many of whom are here today, and from people who've put that research to work and have seen great results.

Because of nationwide interest in early childhood development, several participants from the White House Summit suggested that I take the show on the road, so to speak.

So, we have hosted regional summits in Ohio and Arkansas, and this, of course, is the third regional summit.

The presenters have given you a great deal of information today with one central theme, and that is: the first five years of life are a critical time for children to develop the physical, emotional, social, and cognitive skills they will need for the rest of their lives.

Infants and toddlers need parents and caregivers who understand the importance of these early years.

If we take the time to talk to and listen to children -- to read with them, to surround them with books, and to help them put names on things in their environment -- then we will help establish the skills, knowledge, and confidence that will help them learn to read and succeed in school.

Children do not automatically learn to read - they need help and practice.

Moms, dads, grandparents - all those who care for a young child at some point during the day -- need to know what they can do to enhance children's language skills and prepare them for success in school.

A new series of magazines for parents and caregivers called "Healthy Start, Grow Smart" is designed to do just that.

This monthly guide will be published in both English and Spanish and will be available to parents every month during their baby's first year of life.

These are two of the magazines, for newborns and one-month-old babies, and they're available for all of you today. These magazines will provide valuable and age-appropriate information about health, safety, nutritional needs, and early cognitive development that has been proven to help babies thrive.

Grants from the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services will be made available to states to mail these magazines to mothers with newborns who are receiving Medicaid services.

You can also find these on the White House website at

Today's event gives me the chance to thank two of the editors of the magazine - Dr. Susan Landry and Dr. Craig Ramey.

Some parents and caregivers may not realize how important it is to make time for language and literacy building activities.

They may think that is the job of the pre-schools and early childhood centers, or that television is a good substitute.

Children's television programs can enhance, but not replace early learning activities. Educational shows like "Between the Lions" or Mr. Rogers' Neighborhood are merely a starting point for further education once the television is turned off.

I support PBS's new "Designated Reader" campaign that will encourage millions of parents and caring adults to read to young children every day.

Many thanks to those from PBS who are here today for supporting early childhood education.

We must also close the gap between the best research and current practices in our Head Start and other pre-school programs.

Our early childhood educators deserve training based on the latest research proven to help prepare children for success in school.

We know what works. And as you heard from Dr. Landry we are bringing this information to early childhood educators across the country.

The Early Reading First part of the No Child Left Behind Act, passed overwhelmingly by Congress and signed into law by President Bush, includes funds to train early childhood educators so they can incorporate into daily activities pre-reading and language skill development for young children.

Journalist David Shribman spent a year asking people about the role teachers played in their lives.

The often humorous and heart-warming answers were compiled into a book titled, "I Remember my Teacher."

A superintendent of schools in Concord, New Hampshire, said:

"I remember Miss Gray. She taught first grade in North Quincy, Massachusetts. I remember her with graying hair, wearing gray, and looking gray. But I remember one thing: She taught me how to read."

While we face a challenge of making sure children are ready to learn to read when they start school, this challenge is not insurmountable.

By working together, we can make sure that parents, early childhood teachers, and other caring adults have the skills and information to help their children succeed.

A child's success is not a matter of chance but a matter of choice - choices that we as adults make for our young children and choices that they make for themselves later in life. Thank you for choosing to be here today and for working with us to ensure no child is left behind.

I encourage you to use the information you heard and the contacts you made to help enlist parents, educators, physicians, child care providers, and others in your communities to make a difference in the education of our young children.

Many thanks to our hosts and sponsors, and thanks especially to our distinguished presenters for being here.

Thank you.

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