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U.S. Department of Education, First Book® and Scholastic Inc. Support 2007 Gulf Coast Summer Reading Initiative


Pensacola, Fla. — The U.S. Education Department’s Kathleen Leos, First Book Senior Vice President Wendy Bhagat, and Scholastic Inc. Representative Gayle Cowley today presented free books to Escambia County students as part of the 2007 Gulf Coast Summer Reading Initiative. In all, Scholastic donated 500,000 children’s books, which are being distributed by the Education Department and First Book to schools, community organizations and homes in hurricane-affected communities across the Gulf Coast.

In a ceremony held at Allie Yniestra Elementary School in Pensacola, Fla., Leos, Bhagat, Cowley and Superintendent of Schools Jim Paul stressed the importance of reading—especially summer reading—and hailed the project to restore book supplies in the Gulf region.

Building on the Gulf Coast Summer Reading Initiative established in 2006 by the U.S. Department of Education and First Book, the 2007 Gulf Coast Summer Reading Initiative, now also in partnership with Scholastic Inc., renewed its efforts to distribute books to communities affected by hurricanes Katrina and Rita.

“The 2007 Gulf Coast Summer Reading Initiative is the kind of partnership that has been so instrumental in helping the communities throughout this region get back on their feet and get books back into the hands of children,” Secretary of Education Margaret Spellings said. “I commend Allie Yniestra Elementary School and the people of Escambia County for welcoming, sheltering, and educating the school children who needed it most after the hurricanes of 2005.”

Kyle Zimmer, president of First Book, said, “The Gulf Coast Summer Reading Initiative provides a great opportunity to keep kids engaged in reading while they’re not in school and also serves as a reminder to all of us that the children, families and schools in this region still need our support. Thanks to the generous donation of 500,000 books by Scholastic, and the support of the U.S. Department of Education, First Book is able to bring the joy of reading back into the lives of thousands of children who lost so much when Hurricanes Katrina and Rita devastated their communities.”

First Book is a national nonprofit organization whose mission is to give children from low-income families the opportunity to read and own their own first new books. The Gulf Coast Summer Reading Initiative was established in 2006 to support First Book’s Book Relief Program, whose aim is to provide five million books to communities directly impacted by the hurricanes of 2005. Including today’s distribution, the U.S. Department of Education and First Book will have distributed more than one million books to schools, community libraries, and homes across the Gulf Coast through Book Relief.

Scholastic Inc. is the world’s largest publisher and distributor of children’s books and a leader in educational technology and children’s media. In addition to the books distributed at today’s event, Scholastic also donated to each student a “Scholastic My Time: A Box for Comfort and Fun™” kit, which features age appropriate books, magazines and art therapy tools that can be used by parents, school officials and community members to help children overcome stress and anxiety caused by disasters or crisis situations.

“We are pleased to be working with First Book and the U.S. Department of Education to help the families and communities of the Gulf Coast support children whose lives were affected by the 2005 hurricane season,” said Karen Proctor, vice president of community affairs at Scholastic. “Scholastic My Time is inspired by the understanding that kids who have lived through disasters often struggle to learn because of the stress of their situations. Our goal is to help parents guide their children through emotional recovery.”

For more information on hurricane related support from the U.S. Department of Education, visit: and

For more information on the Book Relief program visit:

For more information on “Scholastic’s My Time: A Box for Comfort and Fun™” kit, visit:


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