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

For Immediate Release
Office of the First Lady
July 9, 2004

Mrs. Bush's Remarks in Media Availability in Portsmouth, New Hampshire
Portsmouth Public Library
Portsmouth, New Hampshire

photos  Photos

3:17 P.M. EDT

MRS. BUSH: Thank you all for coming out today to see these readers here at the library. I actually wanted to be here in the Portsmouth, New Hampshire, library because Portsmouth is one of the 11 sites in the United States that was chosen for a No Child Left Behind Summer Reading Achievers site.

Laura Bush listens to children read while participating in the No Child Left Behind Summer Reading Program at the Portsmouth Public Library in Portsmouth, New Hampshire, Friday, July 9, 2004.  White House photo by Joyce Naltchayan And the cities that were chosen around the United States were chosen because they had a very active school district that was working really hard to close the achievement gap, because they had a good public library that would partner with them, and because they had a lot of community support in either business or other community group supports. And so Portsmouth is one of those towns.

And the reason No Child Left Behind wanted to have the Summer Reading Achievers Program is to mitigate the loss of reading skills that happened to kids who don't read all summer. There's a -- any teacher actually can tell you that in the fall, when kids come back to school, it's very obvious which ones have read over the summer and which ones haven't because they actually have to start over a little bit on their reading skills. And it takes them a month or two to catch back up to where they were at the end of school the year before.

So I'm proud to be here at this library, because they are one of the sites for the No Child Left Behind Summer Reading Achievers Program. There are 11 other towns and one state that were chosen by the Education Department to be here.

And, of course, one of the very best ways to read in the summer is to have a library card from your public library and to go to your library every week. And so I want to urge parents in the Portsmouth area and all over New Hampshire to take your children to the library and to check out books. Librarians really want to help you. They want to help you find the appropriate reading level for your children, they help you find books that your children would be interested in.

I want to encourage you to go so that your children don't lose skills this summer and start school in the fall right where they were or better, because they practiced reading in the summer.

Okay, any questions?

Q What do you think of the new Democratic presidential ticket?

MRS. BUSH: Well, I think Vice President Cheney and President Bush welcomed Senator Edwards to the ticket. But I know you all know that I support the other ticket, the Bush-Cheney ticket, wholeheartedly. And we'll see. We don't have that long left now, just about four months -- especially since the election is early in November this time, November 2nd. We'll see.

It's our last campaign. And being here in New Hampshire is sort of bittersweet for me. Because of course four years ago, we spent a whole lot of time here. This year, without a primary, we missed both New Hampshire and Iowa. But both states are so critical to American politics -- I talked to your state librarian today. We were talking about the library that he has of all that political memorabilia from years of New Hampshire being the first primary.

Laura Bush answers reporters questions after participating in the No Child Left Behind Summer Reading Program with local children at the Portsmouth Public Library in Portsmouth, New Hampshire, Friday, July 9, 2004.  White House photo by Yoni Brook You have a chance in your state to actually meet every candidate, everybody that's running. And so I know for every candidate and for their families who campaign here, both Iowa and New Hampshire have a special place in your heart. We campaigned here for President Bush, for 41, and then, of course, we were here a lot four years ago.

Q I would like to yield to our young reporters --

MRS. BUSH: Sure, that would be great. I see our young press people here.

Q Mrs. Bush, I know that you were a librarian. Do you still remember the Dewey Decimal System? And also, I'm 11 and just finished fifth grade. What were Jenna and Barbara's favorite books when they were my age?

MRS. BUSH: I think they loved the Ramona books. I'm trying to remember if those were the ones in fifth grade. But they loved all the Beverly Cleary* books. They thought they were great. We read some of the Little House on the Prairie books, the older ones, Little House -- Those Happy Golden Years and the books about Laura when she was a little bit older.

I do remember the Dewey Decimal System. And I actually -- this will really -- probably a lot of people won't believe it, but I have my books on the shelf in Dewey Decimal order. They're not catalogued; I don't have numbers on the back of them. (Laughter.) But I know the order, so I know where I can look for all the books that are biographies, for instance, and they're of course, as you know, in alphabetical order by subject. And then fiction is in alphabetical order by author. And so that's the way I put my books up so we can find them easily.

Q You mentioned No Child Left Behind, and your husband's challenger, some of the Democrats, have criticized the President for not fully funding No Child Left Behind. I was just wondering how you respond to that criticism?

MRS. BUSH: No Child Left Behind has brought more money than ever before. More money is appropriated with it, more money has been spent than ever before with that federal education bill. And, in fact, I can tell you exactly in New Hampshire. New Hampshire has gone from $85 million in 2001 in federal education money for K through 12 to $120 million in 2004.

The requirements of No Child Left Behind are difficult, and they -- because of the requirements, it really forces school districts and states and principals and teachers and school administrators to be really organized about what they want for children. It's all left up to the states. The states devise the curriculum they want, what they want their children to know. They devised the test, the accountability test, over the curriculum that they devised themselves.

Laura Bush discusses the importance of reading with children participating in the No Child Left Behind Summer Reading Program at the Portsmouth Public Library in Portsmouth, New Hampshire, Friday, July 9, 2004.  White House photo by Joyce Naltchayan But it does require a lot of organization and discipline on the part of school administrators and teachers and principals, but that's also what we all require from students, that's exactly what we want students to have. We want students to be organized, we want them to be focused in school. And so I think it's really a good way to get school districts and states to pay attention to what it is they really want children in their schools to know.

I know that one of the things that's been criticized is the accountability part of it. And this morning, I was in Boston and visited a school that had a Reading First grant, which is part of the No Child Left Behind. And they -- part of what they were using their reading first grant for was summer school for children who were at risk, who needed special help. And so I visited that summer school. But the teachers there talked about that accountability piece.

And it doesn't have to be a long test; it can be a little assessment test. But the point is, what you know is which children need help, whether or not what you're doing is effective, how you can change your curriculum, how your curriculum and your techniques can be driven by what works for children. And so that piece of it, the accountability piece, is very important.

I always say, if we went to our doctor and said we weren't doing well, we wouldn't say to them, you can't run any tests on me to find out why I'm not doing well. And testing, diagnostic testing and assessment in schools, is very, very important. It's a very important piece. It's not punitive; it's not to try to punish kids or teachers, but in fact it's to try to inform teachers and parents about how they can best help children.

Q Where do you want to take this program? Where do you want to take this? I mean, we're at a level now of 11 sites, but how do you --

MRS. BUSH: Well, I mean, we'll see how these work. What they'll know when school starts is how many children were actually involved. The first year they did this program, they did it only in Atlanta. And Atlanta knew that out of, I think, 91,000 children, so many of them -- some number of them, some large percentage actually were involved and actually did read over the summer, and that's what the goal is.

But when the children here turn in their summer reading achievement list, which will be the books they've read and one or two things about them, then the Portsmouth School District will know if it really made a difference, and, in fact, many more children read over the summer than in previous summers.

Q Mrs. Bush, what are your thoughts about polls that suggest now that the majority of Americans think the war in Iraq was wrong, was a mistake?

MRS. BUSH: Well, I mean, I don't really believe that for one thing. I think as people see 50 million people freed from the tyranny of Saddam Hussein, they don't really believe that.

Fortunately, the Iraqi Interim Governing Council has taken responsibility now for the country, and I think that's very, very important. The same thing in Afghanistan -- in Afghanistan three years ago, women couldn't leave their homes without a male relative. And if they didn't have a male relative, they couldn't leave their homes. And girls were forbidden to attend school. It's very hard for us to imagine a government that actually condemns half of the population to ignorance.

It's tough, there is no doubt about it. And we have sacrificed. Our country has sacrificed. But I think there will be a really good outcome in both Iraq and Afghanistan. We're starting to see -- we already see in Afghanistan, you know, more than 2 million girls are back to school, a lot of them for the first time in their lives.

But I'm proud of our country. We can do the hard things. We've done the hard things. I mean, we know that from going to D-Day, commemoration of the anniversary of D-Day in France. My parents' generation liberated Europe from the Nazis, and we know that. We know that a lot is required of us because a lot has been given to us. But that also we can do hard things.

Q Mrs. Bush, what do you thin about this terror -- you know, the fact that they're talking about the convention, that the conventions are going to be prime targets for terrorists to strike?

MRS. BUSH: I think ever since September 11th, all of us, every one of us, and certainly our government, have worried that there would be another terrorist attack. I hope there won't be.

We're a lot more vigilant. I think we're more vigilant as a whole group of people. And I think because of what happened on September 11th, that ordinary people are much more likely to call authorities if they see something they think is odd or have suspicions about something that they see.

But I also know that our government is going to do everything they possibly can, and that's government on every single level, from city governments who are working to make sure the people in their city are safe, to the federal government is working for that. But I know that, since September 11th, I'm afraid people have been -- we've all been worried that it would happen again. God willing, it won't.

Q Mrs. Bush, what do you say to librarians and others who have opposed the part of the Patriot Act that requires libraries to show reading lists?

MRS. BUSH: Well, I'm a librarian, as you know, and I'm a very strong believer in intellectual freedom. And I think all Americans are very strong believers in intellectual freedom. That's part of the freedom that we maybe took for granted before, but that we think is very, very important. And that's the huge contrast between our country and many other countries, countries that we're trying to help now.

But at the same time, I know it's the President and the federal government's responsibility, just like she said, to protect the United States from a further attack. And I don't know that those parts in the Patriot Act about libraries have been used or not. But we are in a special time right now, where we need to do everything we can to avoid another attack.

Q Are you looking forward to the election?

MRS. BUSH: I am looking forward to it.

Q Are we going to see your daughters with you?

MRS. BUSH: One of them is out there in Pennsylvania with the President today. She went out on her first trip. They're on a bus tour in Pennsylvania, and the other one might be traveling with me maybe next week. They're sort of nervously out there. They wrote an introduction for their dad but they didn't think they could give it yet. So they're just on the bus tour. Jenna is out with her dad.

Q Are we going to see a lot of you here in New Hampshire?

MRS. BUSH: Absolutely. I'll definitely be back.

Thank you all. Thanks a lot, I really appreciate it.

END 3:30 P.M. EDT

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