Fall Book Fest Slated

First lady Laura Bush announces first annual national book festival at Library of Congress Sept. 8 to promote reading July 30, 2001
First Lady Laura Bush, a former teacher and librarian, is putting her enthusiasm for books into the nation's first-ever National Book Festival. She kicks off the weekend's events Friday morning when she reads to a group of Washington, D.C., area students.

But first she talks to The Early Show about her love for reading, her chosen issues, and the last eight months as our nation's first lady.

The festival will be held at the Library of Congress and on the grounds of the Capitol Building Sept. 7-8. The Book Festival is designed to celebrate books and reading for everyone -- children and adults alike.

Mrs. Bush joined James H. Billington, the Librarian of Congress, in announcing the plans for the two-day event. The first lady will read, A Year Down Yonder by Richard Peck on Friday and that evening, she will host a black tie gala at the Library. On Saturday, Sept. 8, on the grounds of the Capitol and at the Library of Congress, there will be mor ethan over 60 authors to sign books and give readings.

Among them are: Sue Grafton, Stephen Ambrose, Scott Turow, Michael Beschloss, Robin Cook, George F. Will, David Macaulay, Larry King, Liz Carpenter, Doris Kearns Goodwin, Jan Karon Michael Collier and Walter Mosley.

Mrs. Bush said she hopes to inspire American families to develop a stronger interest in reading. The First Lady and other sponsors hope the Book Festival will become an annual event, like the Book Festival Mrs. Bush launched in Texas in 1996.

The First Lady has also announced the creation of her own foundation, the Foundation for America's Libraries, to help outdated school libraries buy new books and reference materials.

So far as first Lady, Laura Bush has championed the cause of reading in different ways. She actively promotes early childhood learning and pushes her "Ready to Read, Ready to Learn program," which she worked for while she was Texas' First Lady and has made her key issue at the White House.

At a two day summit held at Georgetown University in Washington, D.C., Mrs. Bush said, "The best way to prepare children for learning to read is to read to them often and surround them with books . . . books are vital in a child's life. Without this early preparation, children face a much steeper learning curve."

Experts at the summit said that parents should read to their infants and toddlers to familiarize them with sounds and inflection and then teach phonetics and the alphabet before children start kindergarten. Mrs. Bush also noted that reading problems typically occur among the poorest children, with as many as 60 percent of fourth-graders in the poorest schools unable to read at their grade level.

Other ways Mrs. Bush has championed reading is through her newly created library foundation, the Texas Book Festival and now the National Book Fetival. In San Fernando, the First Lady read to a circle of young students and praised an innovative literacy curriculum. At Occidental College, she praised "Teach for America" a program that encourages new college graduates to teach for a couple of years in poor or rural areas.

She also recruited Navy personnel in San Diego to participate in "Troops to Teachers" a government effort that prods military retirees to teach in schools. In October, Mrs. Bush will substitute teach in various elementary schools to call even more attention to teacher recruiting.

Mrs. Bush has said she considers herself an activist, and her aides have made it clear that Mrs. Bush will use the White House "bully pulpit" to promote her causes, but that she will leave the policy making to her husband.

©MMI, CBS Worldwide Inc. All Rights Reserved