The White House
President George W. Bush
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For Immediate Release
Office of the First Lady
May 30, 2007

Mrs. Bush's Remarks in a Laura Bush Foundation Grant Announcement
The Island School
New York, New York

9:35 A.M. EDT

MRS. BUSH: Thank you, Mayor Bloomberg, for your very kind introduction. And thanks to each and every one of you for your warm welcome to New York.

I want to recognize the Chancellor of the New York City Department of Education, Joel Klein, who has done a terrific job for the schools in New York, but also working with our Department of Education to spread some of the good examples that are here in the city across the country. And this is certainly one of them, Barbara. Principal Slatin, thank you for the great work you do. And you can tell when school people are empowered, they do great jobs. And I want to congratulate you and thank you. Barbara is not only a great principal; she's also a great grant writer. And you can tell that from the newly refurbished auditorium to some other things you'll hear later in my speech.

I also want to recognize Kenny Emson, who is from the Laura Bush Foundation for America's Libraries, from the Community Foundation of Washington. (Applause.)

I'm delighted to be here at the Island School to announce the latest round of grants from the Laura Bush Foundation. Today, 263 schools across the nation will receive more than $1.2 million to update and expand their library book collections. This includes 28 school libraries in New York State; 23 of those libraries are here in New York City. (Applause.) These resources will benefit nearly 130,000 students across our country. These children attend large inner-city schools like Chicago's Clemente Community Academy, which has more than 2,200 students; small rural schools, like Alaska's Bethel Youth Facility, which has just 19 students, and every type of school in between. We're also awarding our first grant to a Department of Defense school -- Spangdahlem Elementary -- which serves the children of military personnel stationed at Spangdahlem Air Force Base in Germany.

What all of these schools have in common are teachers and principals and librarians who encourage students' love of books. These staff members know that reading is essential to academic success. In fact, a Department of Education study shows that the more books children have in their homes, the better they perform in school.

But of course, we know that many children don't have books in their homes, which makes it even more important for them to have access to a well-stocked school library. Young people should be able to read the classics of children's literature, as well as new books that reflect their own interests, backgrounds and cultures. And their teachers need libraries that are filled with up-to-date non-fiction books that support the school's curriculum.

Across the United States, there is a huge demand for more good school library books. Over the last five years, nearly 9,000 schools have applied for Laura Bush Foundation grants to expand their collections. With the grants we're announcing today, the foundation has given more than $4.3 million to nearly 900 schools in all 50 states, the District of Columbia, Puerto Rico, and the U.S. Virgin Islands. (Applause.)

And through the Gulf Coast School Library Recovery Initiative, the foundation has distributed approximately $2.5 million to 54 schools throughout the Gulf Coast, to rebuild library collections destroyed by the 2005 hurricanes.

One of the schools receiving the grant today is this school, the Island School. (Applause.) And this is actually this school's second foundation grant. The award you received in May 2005 helped fill your new library shelves with books on language, folklore, and science. Students appreciated the new sports biographies of their favorite players and teams. The middle-schoolers used to request -- and I quote -- "scary books." So with the grant, they got new mysteries and books by R.L. Stine and Robert Cormier.

Since the addition of these new volumes, the library's circulation has increased by 275 percent. That's unbelievable. (Applause.) Today's grant will bring new books to the library's non-fiction collection, to meet the students' expanding research needs.

And it will bring new life to the "learning hub" of the Island School. A typical day in your library finds students drawing, playing chess, researching the history of your 100-year-old school and the Lower East Side. Students visit with the librarian Mr. Lahana's puppet friends, and I got to meet one of those puppets today. Grades K-8 learn about good library behavior from "Shmorka," and about the importance of being honest from "Casey." And they're informed about every topic imaginable from free-styling "Cool." It's not every school library that has a puppet rap artist. Mr. Lahana admits he has to be fully caffeinated to do that one. (Laughter.)

The Island School library is what every school library should be: a vibrant place brought to life by the children and their love of books. Congratulations to all the librarians, teachers, and administrators here today who are helping children improve their learning by encouraging them to read.

Now I'd like for all the representatives of the 20 schools who have joined us today who are receiving grants as well today, would you all stand up, please? (Applause.) These school people represent 20 of the New York area -- 28 schools that are getting grants across the state. Most of them are here in the city, or close to the city. Thank you all for joining me today. (Applause.)

I also just want to say one thing about school people. I know, because I visited schools across my state when George was governor, and then across the United States since he's been President, how tough school people are, and how reliant we are as a nation on them, on teachers and principals. And it's been really brought home to me by my visits to the Gulf Coast, where I've seen school districts, whole school districts have to rebuild as fast as they can, every school district. It's an unprecedented challenge in our country's history. And I've seen those school superintendents and those principals and those teachers who work every single day to rebuild their school and make sure kids can come back to those schools while they themselves are rebuilding their own lives and living in FEMA trailers.

So I want to congratulate and thank each and every one of you, everybody who works for schools all across our country, for the terrific work you do for our children and for our nation.

Thank you all very, very much. (Applause.)

END 9:44 A.M. EDT

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