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Secretary Spellings Joins First Book and Scholastic Inc. to Launch 2007 Gulf Coast Summer Reading Initiative


Kiln, MISS — U.S. Secretary of Education Margaret Spellings today visited Gulfview-Charles B. Murphy Elementary School in Kiln, Mississippi, to launch the 2007 Gulf Coast Summer Reading Initiative, a public-private partnership between the U.S. Department of Education, First Book, and Scholastic Inc. 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., today renewed its efforts to distribute books to communities affected by Hurricanes Katrina and Rita.

Speaking at a school assembly, Secretary Spellings announced that the Initiative will support the distribution of 500,000 new books this spring to help replenish schools, libraries, community organizations and homes in the five states most affected by the hurricanes of 2005. Secretary Spellings emphasized the importance of helping young students develop strong reading skills, and practicing those skills throughout the summer months. To kick off the Initiative and ensure students are sustained with reading opportunities throughout the summer, each student today was given a free, new book to take home.

“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 Spellings said. “I’m inspired by the perseverance of educators and students at Gulfview-Charles B. Murphy Elementary School and throughout the Gulf Coast region for their dedication to restoring our schools and ensuring our students achieve.”

Secretary Spellings also sent a message today on behalf of First Lady Laura Bush, conveying her support for the Initiative and its efforts to help Hurricane-affected children develop and maintain a love for reading.

“These books are just some of the half-million volumes that will be distributed over the next few weeks through the 2007 Gulf Coast Summer Reading Initiative. I’d like to thank the Department of Education for storing and shipping the books, and educating communities about this Initiative. Thank you to Scholastic for your generous donation of children’s favorite stories. And I’d especially like to thank First Book, which, through its Book Relief program, has distributed 3.6million books to Gulf Coast communities since fall 2005,” said Mrs. Bush.

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 the distribution announced today, the U.S. Department of Education and First Book will have distributed over one million books to schools, community libraries and homes across the Gulf Coast through Book Relief.

First Book president Kyle Zimmer 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.”

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.”


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