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First Lady Tackles Outdated Libraries

July 31, 2001|EDWIN CHEN | TIMES STAFF WRITER

WASHINGTON — First Lady Laura Bush, a former teacher and school librarian who crusades for early reading skills, is creating a fund-raising foundation to help libraries buy books, the White House announced Monday.

"My lifelong passion for books and reading began when I was a little girl," Mrs. Bush said. "This new foundation provides yet another opportunity to share with America's children the magical world of books and reading."

Grants from the nonprofit foundation will help school and classroom libraries extend their collections, many of which are outdated. Some books are so old that they refer to the Soviet Union in the present tense and claim that man has not landed on the moon.

"Connecting children with books is a critical step toward instilling the love of reading early," Mrs. Bush added. "I look forward to working with other book lovers to ensure that every child in our great nation has access to the building blocks of learning through books."

Along with establishment of the Laura Bush Foundation for America's Libraries, the White House announced that Mrs. Bush will host the first National Book Festival at the Library of Congress on Sept. 8.

The festival will be modeled after similar events she sponsored as Texas' first lady. Nearly 50 authors and illustrators of books for children and adults are expected to take part in free readings and book signings.

Administratively, the Laura Bush Foundation will be housed within the Community Foundation for the National Capital Region, an umbrella organization in Washington with chapters throughout the country that promotes philanthropy. Yet to be worked out are the operational details for Mrs. Bush's group, including how it will raise funds.

The White House announcement on the foundation noted that school libraries throughout the country have lost funding as school district budgets have become stretched.

Thus, "it is not uncommon for libraries to receive funds for computers and related technology instead of books," a White House statement said. "As a result, some libraries lack up-to-date books and reference materials."

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