Mrs. Bush's Remarks at the Laura Bush Foundation for America's Libraries Award Presentation
Austin Community Academy High School
Chicago, Illinois

11:30 A.M. CDT

MRS . BUSH: Thank you very much, Brad, that was terrific. I really appreciate the introduction. I want to thank everybody who has come out today to join us. I want to thank everybody from Austin Community Academy High School that is here. I'm especially happy that your school received one of the grants from the Laura Bush Foundation. I also want to congratulate Chicago High School for Agriculture Science. DuSable High School and Ryerson Elementary School, congratulations to you, as well, for receiving the Laura Bush Foundation grants.

Laura Bush attends the Laura Bush Foundation for America's Libraries, June 2, 2005, at Austin Community Academy High School, Chicago, Illinois.  White House photo by Krisanne JohnsonThe Laura Bush Foundation has my name on it, but the hard work is done by the Executive Director, Beth Ann Bryan. Beth Ann, thank you very much for everything you said. (Applause.)

By the Leadership Council, which is led by Bill Marriott, and Ed and Debbie Jannotta who are here with us today or here from Chicago, and they also are very -- have done a lot of work to make sure we have the money so we can give the grants. And then by the grant readers, like Dr. Junko Yokota. Thank you very much, Dr. Yokota, for working so hard to pick these schools that were picked in the Chicago area, as well as the other schools around the country. They are the ones, that committee -- the committee of library experts -- librarians, and children's literature experts, are the ones who have to make the choices among so many worthy applicants.

The need is so great, as Beth Ann mentioned to you. The very first year of grants we just put out through the American Library Association that -- we were going to give these grants to school libraries, specifically to school libraries, and we got more than 6,000 applications. And that was with no advertising or anything about the grants. And I think that number really shows how desperate school libraries are for materials, and how important it is for people in every community to make sure their school libraries are stocked with great books so that children really have the chance to read.

All of the efforts of the Leadership Council and experts show -- allow the Foundation to give these awards, and I'm really grateful to everybody involved. Thank you all very much.

I also appreciate Michael Scott. Thank you for telling your story about how a book changed your life. Thank you for everything you do as President of the Board of Education. It's a very, very difficult job. It's a thankless job in many ways, but you're doing a terrific job, and I appreciate that.

And of course, to Dr. Anthony Scott, the Principal of this school, thank you for welcoming us here and thank you for your good work for your students.

I first fell in love with books when I was a child in Midland, Texas. My mother used to take me to the Midland County Public Library, which was in the basement of the courthouse in the center of the little town I grew up in. And we'd check out books, and then we would spend hours reading with each other. I was an only child, but I soon found that I didn't have to be lonely as long as I had a book in my hand.

Today's children have many more ways to entertain themselves, with television and video games, but reading still provides better stimulation for the brain. Books can be a source of entertainment, they can be a source of knowledge, and they can be a source of inspiration. And they're essential for academic success.

A study from the Department of Education showed that the more books children have in their homes, the more successful they are in school. But of course, we know some children don't have any books in their homes, and that makes it all the more important for school libraries and community libraries to have well-stocked shelves. Young people should have access to the timeless classics, as well as to new books that reflect their own interests, their backgrounds, and their cultures.

With the grant they're receiving today, the administrators at Austin Community Academy High School will have resources to buy new books for their students. And I know the grants will be put to good use, because I just spoke to students from the Mayor's Book Club. It was really fun, too. I had a great time talking to students about their favorite books and about what they want in their school library. And they were sure to let Ms. Hadac know what kind of books they wanted.

I also know that they want a wider selection of books, that that's what the Mayor's Book Club students want. They want to read books about sports and sports heroes. They want to read mysteries and biographies. And their librarian also wanted books for them in other languages so that the IB students would have books in French and Spanish to read.

We must do everything we can possibly do to make sure that children and teenagers read. And everyone in every community has a responsibility to make sure their students get an excellent education. Public schools can benefit from private sector initiatives like this Foundation, efforts that bring together members of the community to help students in their schools.

And while most school funding comes from local and state governments, the federal government also has to fill a need. A new federal program called Striving Readers provides funding to school districts that use research-based methods to teach reading to high school- and middle school-age students to help them improve their reading skills.

I visited several schools that are using these kinds of programs, supported by Striving Readers, and teachers tell me that students are improving their reading ability by two, three and sometimes four grade levels in one year. These students once had little hope of academic success because they'd gotten all the way to junior high or high school without knowing how to read. But now they have really good grades, and they have more opportunities for the future, because they have stronger reading skills.

Great credit goes to the teachers who are dedicated to making sure that all of their students read well, to the librarians who make important contributions by introducing children to the pleasures of reading, and to the techniques of research. And the teachers, librarians and books at Austin Community High School are vital resources for students at every reading level.

Thank you every one of you for treasuring books and for valuing education. And congratulations to all the schools who are receiving grants from the Laura Bush Foundation. Thank you all and congratulations. (Applause.)

END 11:38 A.M. CDT .