Sunday 25 October 2015

Laura Bush: UN Ambassador for Decade of Literacy

"I have found the most valuable thing in my wallet is my library card."
(Laura Bush)

Former First Lady Laura Bush was born in 1946 in Midland, Texas where her mother taught her the importance of reading from an early age.  "When I was a little girl, my mother used to read stories to me.  I have loved books and going to the library ever since.  In the summers, I liked to spend afternoons reading in the library.  I enjoyed the Little House on the Prairie Books and Little Women...Reading gives you enjoyment throughout your life." (

In the 1960's, Laura Bush's loved of literacy continued as she studied education at university and took a job as a teacher.  In 1973, Laura returned to school to pursue her Masters in Library Sciences and secured a position at Houston Public Library.  

In 1977, Laura met and married George Bush Jr.  When she was first introduced to her husband's grandmother, Dorothy Walker Bush, the latter asked her what she did for a living.  Her reply was simply:  "I read." (

In 1981, after three years of trying to conceive, Laura gave birth to twin girls, Jenna and Barbara, named after their grandmothers.  Continuing the family tradition, Laura read regularly to her girls, including the Laura Ingalls Wilder series.  

In 2001, Laura's husband was inaugurated as the President of the United States.  Here was Laura's opportunity to use her forum as First Lady to promote literacy, an opportunity that she seized upon with gusto.  In partnership with the Library of Congress, Laura created the National Book Festival in her husband's first year as president.  In 2002, she testified before the Senate Committee on Education for higher teachers' salaries.  The First Lady luanched "Ready to Read, REady to Learn" promoting early childhood literacy.  

In 2003, Laura was declared the Ambassador for the United Nations Decade of Literacy, a position which she held until 2012.  

Two years later, when Hurricanes Katrina and Rita hit, Laura secured a $500,000 grant for libraries in regions hit by these disasters.  Focussing on Texas, she headed up a book festival which raised $900,000 for 350 libraries in her home states.  As Laura explained:  "Once a child learns to use a library, the doors to learning are always open."

In 2008, Laura and her daughter Jenna co-authored the book Read All About It!  The same year, she visited the Laura Ingalls Wilder Museum, where she gave the writer the Save America's Treasures grant.  

In her role as United Nations Ambassador for Literacy, Laura has extended her focus to other nations, particularly the Middle East, and to women.  "Literacy lifts women out of poverty and opens doors of opportunity," said the former First Lady.

Note:  For more information, visit

Laura Bush participates in UNESCO round table discussion in Paris in 2007 courtesy

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