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by Mrs. Bush at Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD)
\"Providing a quality education for our children begins with putting
first things first, and in education, reading always comes first. Reading
is the first step to learning. So that all our children can achieve their
dreams, my own country, and countries around the world, must do a better
job of teaching children to read.
\"Children who can read have a greater chance of succeeding in school
- and in life. According to a recent study from the OECD, at least 15 percent
of the world\'s 15-year-olds can read only at the most basic level, and
in some countries, that number is as high as 30 percent.
\"A parent is a child\'s first reading teacher. The early years of a child\'s
life are critical to life-long learning, so President Bush has announced
an early childhood initiative called \"Good Start, Grow Smart.\"
\"This initiative will strengthen and improve our Head Start pre-school
education programs by including early literacy, language and number skills.
It will help pre-schools coordinate with elementary schools to make sure
children enter school with the pre-reading and language skills necessary
to succeed. And the initiative will provide parents and caregivers with
the latest information about early literacy and teaching strategies.\"
\"Research also shows that it is very important for parents to read
to their children from the time that they are babies. Children who are
read to early and often learn two things: First, that reading is important,
and second, that they are important.
\"Before children are old enough to attend school, they should learn
basic vocabulary words; also, they should begin to recognize the letters
of the alphabet and understand the sounds that correspond to those letters.
If children start school with this knowledge, they are much more likely
to succeed in school.
\"For example, reading scores for 10th grade students in the United States
can be predicted with surprising accuracy based on a child\'s knowledge
of the alphabet in kindergarten.
\"A growing body of scientific research is providing new information
about the best and most effective way to teach reading, and we are eager
to share that information with parents, teachers, and all who care for
\"A former President of the United States said that where knowledge
spreads, wealth spreads; and to diffuse knowledge in the world is to diffuse
wealth in the world.
\"Those words were spoken by President Rutherford B. Hayes on May 15,
1878, and they are as true today as they were 124 years ago.
\"Those who acquire knowledge have a better opportunity to acquire wealth,
and the truly knowledgeable human being also desires to be a better neighbor,
citizen and student of the world. Education is the most important long-term
investment we can make in the future, because through education, all the
world\'s children have a far better chance of pursuing their dreams in peace
\"I had the honor of meeting Afghan Interim Chairman Karzai in January,
and presented him with a children\'s dictionary which symbolizes the importance
the United States places on education. Prosperity cannot follow peace without
educated women and children. When citizens are educated, and especially
when women are educated, people\'s lives improve in significant, other ways
as well. For example:
- \"Improvements in women\'s education have contributed the most by far to
the total decline in child malnutrition;
- \"And mothers with a secondary education have children with mortality rates
nearly 36 percent lower than mothers with only a primary school education.\"
\"When you give children books, you give them a piece of hope they can
hold and the ability to imagine a future of opportunity, equality and justice.\"
\"... the countries of the OECD can commit to no more important challenge
than to make sure every child everywhere in the world can read and attend
school. Together, we can make a tremendous difference in our countries
and in developing nations. With commitment, resources and energetic leadership
we can reach - and teach -- children everywhere.\"
\"The most important gift we can give the world\'s children is the gift
most likely to lead to future peace and prosperity - and that is the gift
of a good education. Thank you for inviting me.\"
[entire speech: whitehouse.gov/firstlady/news-speeches/speeches/fl20020514.html]