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For Immediate Release
September 18, 2006

Mrs. Laura Bush Hosts White House Conference on Global Literacy

      White House Conference on Global Literacy

New York, NY - Mrs. Laura Bush will host the first-ever White House Conference on Global Literacy today at the New York Public Library. The Conference will highlight a variety of successful literacy programs and encourage sustained global and country-level leadership to promote literacy.

"We know that education, particularly for girls and women, improves the health of all members of a family. We know that higher literacy levels correlate with lower HIV/AIDS rates. We know that the children of educated mothers are more likely to succeed in school and send their own children to school, creating an ascending spiral that will benefit future generations. And we know that as farmers become more literate, they increase agricultural yields, thereby increasing food security for their families and communities," said Mrs. Bush.

The White House Conference on Global Literacy came about as a result of Mrs. Bush's visits to many countries around the world where she witnessed the power of literacy to improve lives, especially for women and girls. The Conference will help other First Ladies, First Spouses, Ministers of Education, and national decision-makers from all over the world to implement successful literacy programs in their countries.

The Conference will showcase initiatives now being used in transitioning and developing countries with high illiteracy rates, including some of the work that the U.S. government, the U.N. Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO), and private/local entities have supported around the world. Panels and informal discussions will focus on three vital areas of literacy: Mother-Child Literacy and Intergenerational Learning ensures that as mothers - our first teachers - learn to read, they can impart those skills to their children, beginning a cycle of literacy that continues from one generation to the next. Literacy for Health ensures that adults can make informed, wise decisions to protect the health of their families. And Literacy for Economic Self-Sufficiency ensures that adults, especially women, -can learn basic business skills that generate income, foster independence, and boost local economies.

Building on the work of the White House Conference on Global Literacy, UNESCO will host a series of regional conferences. Within the framework of the U.N. Literacy Decade and UNESCO's Literacy Initiative for Empowerment (LIFE), the regional conferences will address literacy challenges specific to various regions. They will gather regional experiences, disseminate effective practices, create cooperation among stakeholders, mobilize partners and resources, and promote literacy.

According to UNESCO, more than 771 million adults around the world cannot read. Eighty-five percent of them live in just 35 countries, concentrated in regions of poverty. More than two-thirds of these illiterate adults are women.

As Honorary Ambassador for the United Nations Literacy Decade, Mrs. Bush will host the White House Conference on Global Literacy in partnership with the U.S. Department of State, U.S. Department of Education, U.S. Agency for International Development and U.N. Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization.

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