Monday, March 22, 2010

Topic 2: Laura Bush on Education and Literacy

Over spring break, Laura Bush came to speak at the local college in my parents’ hometown in Michigan. My dad, ever the staunch Republican and Bush-supporter, bought two tickets to see her. My mom decided that watching American Idol was more important than seeing the former First Lady speak, so I went in her stead. It turned out to be lucky for me, because Mrs. Bush addressed many of the issues I care most about, and listening to her was an enlightening experience.

Laura Bush majored in education in college, and then went on to receive her Masters degree in Library Science. She took advantage of her role as First Lady to encourage reading among the masses, with an emphasis on children. Her speech demonstrated her passion for teaching children to read early in their development and her unwavering support for all educators. In addition to raising funds for literacy-related causes, Mrs. Bush founded the Laura Bush Foundation for America’s Libraries, which is of particular interest to anyone planning to work in school libraries, as it makes several grants to school libraries across the country to purchase books. More information on that is at

She talked quite a bit about September 11th and what it was like in the White House during such a turbulent time, and then she connected the tragedy with her stance on reading when she described the National Book Festival that took place the same month. With the help of the Library of Congress, Mrs. Bush launched the festival as an attempt to share the joys of reading and to celebrate authors. I can get behind anyone who makes the effort to spread the word on books!

At the end of the speech, Mrs. Bush accepted questions from the audience. Many people asked about her views on specific education and literacy issues. One interesting point she made regarding adult literacy addressed the issue of vision health care and how many of those who cannot read at an acceptable level are also those who cannot afford regular visits to the eye doctor. Who would have thought that a problem as simple as poor eyesight could be one of the big contributors to illiteracy?

Mrs. Bush spoke only briefly about her controversial husband and their relationship, emphasizing that she supported his efforts even if she didn’t agree with them because, as she stated, she herself was not the president and had no place trying to influence his actions. She briefly mentioned President Obama’s decision to continue with the “No Child Left Behind Act,” which I can’t personally support because of the financial devastation my own high school suffered as a result of the program. But otherwise, I fully agree with her stance on the importance of teaching reading to children at an early age. I don’t even want to imagine how differently my life would have turned out had my parents not read to me from the beginning. If not for their encouragement, as well as the influence of my elementary school teachers, I could not have come nearly as far in my education as I have.

Hey, she's a fellow dog-lover.

Political alliances aside, Laura Bush is really a classy lady. Although she is seemingly reserved and doesn’t particularly stand out against the likes of Hillary Clinton or Michelle Obama, her views and her efforts on behalf of education and literacy are definitely worth checking out.


  1. I was likewise impressed by her the one time I saw her speak at the launch of The Big Read program. She's got some great ideas. And I have personally benefited from them - the fellowship that supported my PhD has her name on it.

  2. Until your post, I must admit I didn't even realize she was an MLS. I had seen that Andrea had won a Laura Bush fellowship, but didn't really think about it much beyond that. I wish now her achievements had not been so overshadowed by other events.