The White House
President George W. Bush
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For Immediate Release
Office of the First Lady
March 3, 2008

Mrs. Bush's Remarks at a Laura Bush Foundation for America's Libraries Gulf Coast School Library Recovery Initiative Grant Announcement
Henry C. Schaumburg School
New Orleans, Louisiana

10:55 A.M. CST

MRS. BUSH: Thank you very much, Kiara. Thank you for introducing me and for telling those facts about me that people might not know.

I want to acknowledge Supriya Jindal, Mrs. Jindal, the wife of the Governor of Louisiana. Thank you so much for being here with us today, Supriya. Also, the principal, Mrs. Ripoll, thank you very much for letting us have this great event here at your school. And the librarian at Henry Schaumburg School, Mrs. Magee, thank you. Thank you for being the one who -- (applause.) I think it might have been Mrs. Magee's idea to apply for a grant for a new school library. And a special thanks to Ambassador Pam Willeford. Pam is the chair for the Laura Bush Foundation for America's Libraries. She's the one that does all the hard work of reading all the grant applications that come from schools, meeting with all the schools to see if they're ready for their money so they can get their grant, and then working to pick each one of those schools. So thank you very much, Pam.

And thanks to each and every one of you -- especially all the students. Thank you to the little students who are here in front of me who've been so patient sitting here so long this morning.

You know, every time I visit the Gulf Coast, I'm encouraged by more progress. I see more progress every time, and one of the great success stories are the schools. Schaumburg looks great. Congratulations to you on how terrific it looks. And I'm so glad that you're filled with all these new and successful-looking students who are back.

Schools are essential to the recovery that's under way here. We know that young people who've endured the trauma of the storms heal best when they can go back to their own normal routine at their own school. After Hurricane Katrina, teachers and school superintendents and state school officials faced the unprecedented task of rebuilding whole school districts as fast as possible.

Today in New Orleans, many private and parochial schools are back up and running. More than 80 public schools are open -- nearly half of them now run as charter schools, as public-school enrollment has increased, about 20 percent over last year, and school officials have also expanded capacity.

And of course, newly rebuilt schools need rebuilt school libraries. Basic school library collections are a big expense for schools. A public -- basic elementary school library collection costs about $50,000, and a secondary school library collection costs at least $75,000 -- from about $75,000 to $150,000. And these are expenses that school districts have on top of all the other expenses of rebuilding.

So in September 2005, just after the hurricanes, the Laura Bush Foundation for America's Libraries established a special fund to help schools across the Gulf Coast rebuild their book and material collections. Since then, and with the grants we're awarding today, the Foundation's Gulf Coast School Library Recovery Initiative has awarded more than $3.7 million to nearly 80 schools in Mississippi, Louisiana, Florida, Alabama, and Texas. (Applause.)

Today we're also awarding grants to schools that are in Louisiana's Recovery School District -- including Henry Schaumburg. The RSD is a special state school district administered by the Louisiana Department of Education, and it's made up of 60 public schools. Established in 2003, the RSD is designed to take underperforming schools and transform them into successful educational institutions. Most of the Crescent City's schools were transferred to the RSD by the Louisiana legislature in 2005 -- so the Recovery School District has been tasked with opening new schools to meet the needs of New Orleans' returning population.

As they welcome students back to the city, RSD schools are upgrading their curriculums to make sure that all children are being taught at grade-level standards. RSD schools improve education for older children by distributing laptops to high-school students, by expanding reading interventions to include 4th through 11th, grade. RSD schools also have smaller class sizes, and they involve the community in making sure New Orleans schools are safe places for New Orleans students.

I want to say thanks to the representatives of the Recovery School District who are here today, and congratulations to the RSD schools that are receiving Laura Bush Foundation grants.

Thanks also to the generous support of philanthropic organizations, businesses, and caring citizens across the whole United States. These grants will help librarians build new collections to support their schools' new curriculum. And they'll help young people use these libraries to find comfort and inspiration in their favorite books.

Henry Schaumburg is one of the schools receiving a grant today, and it's also a great example of how reading, writing and books can help young people overcome the trauma of the hurricane, and how reading, writing and books are essential to helping young people succeed.

I've just met with Schaumburg's Freedom Writers -- promising young authors from Ms. McClain's Reading 180 class. One day during free period, Ms. McClain gave her students a choice: they could either read a magazine or draw. These eight boys decided to draw, and then add words to match their illustrations. Their eagerness to write grew into a club, which soon grew into a book project. The Freedom Writers have just produced the "504 Boyz Go to College" -- a novel that portrays them as first-year college students. And I've just become a lucky recipient of an autographed copy. (Applause.)

This book has a great message about the importance of staying in school and pursuing higher education. And I just want to ask everybody: How many of you are going to go to college? (Applause.) Great, I hope every one of you grow up and go to college.

As the Freedom Writers have learned about the -- written their book, they've learned about the process of brainstorming and writing and editing. And they've learned how to be successful authors. I know the Freedom Writers are already working on the sequel, and we're excited about their next book.

One of the Freedom Writers, Joshua Wilson, has said: "By writing this book, I feel I have persuaded people to stay in school ... get them to go to college ... and do positive things. And I want them to write, too." Thanks to Joshua and to the whole Freedom Writers group for being such great examples for your fellow students, and congratulations on your book. (Applause.)

I also want to thank the AT&T Foundation's Pioneers who are over here in their t-shirts. Would you all stand up over here? (Applause.) The AT&T Pioneers are retired and active AT&T employees, and they volunteer in schools to improve education. Working with students, the AT&T volunteers teach young people about the importance of reading, and they use their own experiences to highlight the role reading has played in their career success. Thank you for everything you're doing. Appreciate it very much. (Applause.)

A school's culture of reading starts with a good school library -- and today, I'm pleased to announce that the Henry C. Schaumburg School is receiving a $75,000 grant from the Laura Bush Foundation. (Applause.) When the hurricane struck, Schaumburg's library had a collection of more than 7,000 books -- and the storm destroyed every single one. The destruction at the school mirrors what Schaumburg's students and teachers face in their own personal lives: many families are still waiting to return to their own homes.

Over the last two and a half years, the Schaumburg community has worked very hard to rebuild. Your faculty says that throughout the process, your students have maintained their positive outlook. The number of your books in your library collection has gone from zero right after the storm to nearly 3,700 today. There's still a long way to go, though -- and your teachers recognize how important these learning materials are to the children who need them. This is what your librarian Mrs. Magee says. She says: "Students ask daily for reading material. Older students are especially hungry for books as they start to explore their options for education and their career."

Mrs. Magee is optimistic about the Schaumburg library's future. She said: "The years have passed, and the struggles continue, but through these struggles, our school meets the challenges with resourcefulness, creativity, and an unquenchable thirst for knowledge." Congratulations to the Schaumburg School.

And Schaumburg is just one of the 12 schools receiving nearly $560,000 as part of the Foundation's sixth round of grants, and behind us, on the back two rows, are all of the representatives from the recipient schools that are receiving grants today. Congratulations to each of you. (Applause.)

Today, as we celebrate these awards, I also want to encourage schools throughout the whole Gulf Coast to apply for Foundation grants. As soon as schools are up and ready, be sure to apply so you can fill your library with a good, new, big collection of books for your students. Rebuilt schools need rebuilt libraries. And rebuilt libraries will help bring children back to their schools. And rebuilt schools will bring families back to the Gulf Coast.

Thanks to each and every one of you. Congratulations to all the grant recipients. And may God bless you, and may God especially bless the children.

Thank you all very much. (Applause.)

END 11:07 A.M. CST

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