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First Lady Laura Bush's Education Initiatives
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Bringing What Works to Parents
"As parents, the most important thing we can do is read to our children early and often. Reading is the path to success in school and life. When children learn to love books, they learn to love learning."

In 1998, in our highest poverty schools, 68 percent of fourth graders could not read at the basic level. Over the last 15 years, 15 million students have graduated from high school without the ability to read at the basic level.

Learning to read starts long before a child enters school, and reading is what helps turn a child into a good student. Reading is the skill that makes all other skills possible.

Unfortunately, not all adults know how important it is to read to very young children, and not all children have the advantage of owning and enjoying books of their own. Too many children begin elementary school ill prepared for successful reading and learning. They lack important basic skills.

In 1989, a team of pediatricians from Boston City Hospital created a program that incorporates early literacy efforts into standard pediatric care. They named the program Reach Out and Read (ROR).

Building on the trusting relationship parents have with their children's physicians, ROR uses regularly scheduled well-child visits to help parents understand the importance of reading to their young children.

In ROR clinics, doctors and nurses actually prescribe that parents read to their children. Volunteers in the waiting rooms show parents creative ways to use books with their children, and after each visit, every child leaves with a new book. By the time a child enters school she will have a collection of her own books.

In 1997, Laura Bush helped initiate the Reach Out and Read program in Texas. With Mrs. Bush's support and funding from private foundations, more than 60 Reach Out and Read clinic sites were opened around the state.

Reach Out and Read is a wonderful contribution to the effort to help children arrive in school prepared to read and learn. The First Lady is committed to supporting and expanding this vital program in communities across America.


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Last Modified: 03/01/2007