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

For Immediate Release
Office of the First Lady
July 7, 2004

Mrs. Bush's Remarks at Media Availability in Des Moines, Iowa
Blank Children's Hospital
Des Moines, Iowa

3:12 P.M. CDT

MRS. BUSH: I'm so glad to be here today at Blank Children's Hospital to talk about Reach Out and Read. I don't know if you all -- I know you didn't get to go upstairs with us to the Reach Out and Read clinic.

But if you don't know about Reach Out and Read, let me tell you what it is. It's a pediatric literacy program where doctors actually prescribe reading to mothers and fathers with their babies, and then their babies or toddlers go home with a free book from their visit to the well child visit.

And Dr. Barry Zuckerman, who is over here with us on the right, started Reach Out and Read, he founded it 15 years ago at Boston Children's Hospital. And it's a very important program, because it adds the authority of the medical community to literacy. And since parents do what their pediatricians tell them to do, it's a really very valuable part of getting parents to know that they need to read to their children.

But there's a lot of research that shows that babies brains develop during those first few years from when they're born until they start school. And if they're read to, they have a much larger vocabulary when they start school. If they live in a language-rich environment, where they're sung to and told stories to and talked directly to, then they really do a lot better at school.

So it's a message we're all trying to get out to parents, especially in the summer, when their children might not be in school or in day care. And that is to turn off the television and spend some time reading with your child every single day. It's really very beneficial for your child and it's great for a mother and a father to make memories for their children, that time they spend with their arms around their child, reading to them.

Reach Out and Read actually does get some federal funding and the President has proposed more for next year's budget. It started out totally as private, without federal funding. And people can volunteer to come down here to this Reach Out and Read clinic and read to children in the waiting rooms as they wait, show mothers how to hold the book and hold their babies and read to them. Or you can fundraise so that they'll have these books to give to children when they leave. By the time a child is six, they should have about 10 books for their library that they've gotten from a Reach Out and Read program.

This is one of my favorite programs. I think it's very, very important. And when George was governor, I started Reach Out and Read in Texas and I think I'm proud to say we have about 50 Texas Reach Out and Read sites now, and I'm so glad to be at this one in Des Moines.

Let me just also say I'm really glad to be in Iowa. I was in Council Bluffs this morning, talking about reading also, there at their public library, to talk about how important it is to take your children to the library and check out books in the summer; and then now, this afternoon, to be here in Des Moines for Reach Out and Read.

You know, we spent a lot of time here four years ago. We haven't spent as much time lately here, because we weren't involved in that -- those famous Iowa caucuses this time. But I have many really wonderful memories of that time that we traveled here so much, and it's great to be back in Iowa.

Any questions?

Q Mrs. Bush, there are some new faces in the race these days, just yesterday. What do you think about John Edwards and his wife and what that will do for the election?

MRS. BUSH: Well, President Bush and Vice President Cheney both welcomed John Edwards to the race. But as you all might guess, I'm solidly for Bush-Cheney. (Laughter.)

And I really think that President Bush and Vice President Cheney have the values, share the values and the character of most people in the United States, including of course Iowans and Nebraskans, the heartland here.

Q Mrs. Bush, have you seen the movie Fahrenheit 9/11?

MRS. BUSH: No, of course I haven't seen it.

Q Do you have any thoughts about how it's portraying your husband?

MRS. BUSH: Well, that it's propaganda.

Q Do you think your husband can win Iowa?

MRS. BUSH: I don't know, I hope so. We came very, very close last time. But, yes, I think we have a good chance.

Q What do you think of the election in general? People say it's pretty evenly divided. Certainly the polls would indicate that. How is it going to be the next four months? How tough of a race is it?

MRS. BUSH: Well, it's tough. I mean, we'll be working very, very hard. As you remember, the last race was also very close and very evenly divided. And I think that's just a fact of life right now in American politics. But we'll be working very hard all over the country.

Today, I was in these two towns and Omaha for lunch, and this weekend or Friday I'm going to be in New Hampshire and Boston. And of course, the President today is in North Carolina and Michigan. So we'll be traveling around the country from now until November 2nd.

Q Is your role going to increase in these months --

MRS. BUSH: I've been very busy and I'll continue to be really busy. I like to travel with him at the end of the campaign. I just like to be with my husband, and that's what I did in the last one. But for a couple of months, at least, I think we'll travel separately because we can reach more parts of the country.

Q Mrs. Bush, besides reading, what other issues do you think will be on your agenda as you campaign this election?

MRS. BUSH: Well, I talked about a lot of things. One is the Heart Truth Campaign, that is trying to educate women that heart disease is the number one killer of women. Most women think cancer is, and so they don't go to the hospital when they start to have signs of heart disease; they think that's a man's disease. And because they go later, they suffer more damage and more women actually die of heart attacks in the United States than men do. So that's been an issue that I've worked on with the National Heart, Lung and Blood Institute around the United States, just to educate women to go to the hospital or the emergency room if they have anything that they think might be a heart attack.

But also I've done a lot of work with women in Afghanistan, with teachers there in Afghanistan. We're in the midst of trying to build a teachers' college in Afghanistan, so that women from the provinces will have a safe place to stay if they come into Kabul to be trained as teachers, and then can go back to the provinces.

A lot of fathers still in Afghanistan want their girls to go to school separate from boys, or want their girls to have women teachers. And so I've done a lot of work with women in Afghanistan, on especially education but other issues as well. I'll continue those, those sort of issues with the women of Iraq and the women of Afghanistan.

Q How do you think your role this campaign may differ from the first time?

MRS. BUSH: Well, I think people know me better than they did. I think last time, they were getting to know my husband. But I think in general, people around the United States know me more now, so that actually gives me more of an opportunity. I've had a chance, because he's President, to have a forum to talk about things that interest me and that I thin are important for our country.

Q Do you enjoy it? Do you enjoy the campaign?

MRS. BUSH: I do enjoy it. I like people. You know, I like to be with people. And politics is a people business.

Today, I saw friends that I've had in Iowa for the past six years, I guess, from when George first started campaigning here. I meet new people. I get to see unbelievable programs all over our country.

I get to see -- Dr. Zuckerman is an example of somebody who saw a need and didn't wait for government, just acted upon it. That's what I really see all over the country, and how compassionate Americans are and how much ingenuity Americans have and how independent Americans are, and just go about their business and do the best they can in their communities, and really do lift up lives in their communities.

Q There will be a presidential debate. There will likely be a vice presidential debate. Do you think there should be a First Lady --

MRS. BUSH: No, I don't. (Laughter.) Thank you very much for mentioning it. I just don't think that's actually necessary.

Right now, we have a contest. It's the Family Circle cookie contest going on. So I'm glad we don't have to debate.

Q Do you consider Iowa important to the upcoming election, and will we be seeing more of you --

MRS. BUSH: Absolutely. Absolutely. We'll both be here.

What were you going to say?

Q I was going to ask what about the cooking contest? What's your recipe?

MRS. BUSH: Mine is a chocolate chunk cherry cookie -- sour cherry cookie. It's really good. (Laughter.)

Goodbye, everybody. Thank you all. Thanks so much for coming out. Thanks for getting out the word about reading to your listeners and your readers. I appreciate it.

Thanks, Dr. Zuckerman. It's so good to see you.

3:21 P.M. CDT


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