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Barbara Bush Begins Family Literacy Foundation

March 7, 1989

WASHINGTON (AP) _ First lady Barbara Bush began her own literacy foundation Monday, saying its goal is to break the generational cycle of illiteracy by involving parents as well as children in learning.

″It’s become very clear to me that we must attack the problem of a more literate America through the family,″ Mrs. Bush told guests at a White House luncheon to launch the Barbara Bush Foundation for Family Literacy.

Mrs. Bush has been a leading advocate of reading and literacy programs for many years. She will serve as honorary chairman of the foundation but will not be involved in raising or spending funds.

The premise of the new foundation is that since parents who can’t read often raise children who can’t read, both generations need help to break the cycle.

Joan Abrahamson, chairman of the foundation board, said the group hopes to add an ″intergenerational dimension‴ to existing successful literacy programs; provide seed money for family literacy programs; support training for volunteers and teachers; and honor successful volunteers, teachers and students. The foundation also plans to publish a book highlighting successful family literacy programs.

President Bush made a cameo appearance at the luncheon, calling himself ″a fly on the wall″ regarding his wife’s project.

Bush said the foundation fits with ″the concept of outreach, the concept of 1,000 points of light, the concept of one American helping another″ that he has tried to stress in his administration. ″I really can’t think of anything that is more important than this focal point,″ he said.

The luncheon participants, about 80 in all, included literacy experts from the corporate and voluntary sectors; Health and Human Services Secretary Louis Sullivan; Education Secretary Lauro Cavazos; Labor Secretary Elizabeth Dole; Republican Party chairman Lee Atwater; and James Billington, the librarian of Congress.

Also attending were three little girls and their mothers who had participated in family literacy programs in North Carolina, Kentucky and Washington. The programs and families were featured in a videotape shown at the luncheon.

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