View Header


Office of the Press Secretary

For Immediate Release December 20, 1999

                            The White House

                           December 20, 1999

Today, the President and First Lady will be joined by 50 children from Washington, DC elementary schools for their annual reading of "Twas the Night Before Christmas." The President will encourage all adults to give the gift of literacy to children during this holiday season. He will also applaud the America Reads Challenge, the Administration's Literacy Initiative, for promoting reading, and announce the donation of millions of books to children in need by America Reads community partners.

THE AMERICA READS CHALLENGE: PROMOTING LITERACY. Recognizing that reading is the key to learning, President Clinton in 1997 issued the America Reads Challenge. The America Reads Challenge is a grassroots national campaign that urges every American to help our children read, including English language learners and students with disabilities. America Reads has been a great success -- more than 1,200 colleges and universities now send thousands of federal Work-Study students into surrounding communities to tutor children in literacy. Through the Corporation for National Service, thousands of senior citizens, high school students, and young adults mentor and tutor children in reading -- through AmeriCorps alone, 2.2 million children have been served. America Reads issued 2.5 million literacy kits to enable children to practice their reading and writing skills last summer. Last year, the President signed the Reading Excellence Act, which provides professional development for teachers to help children learn to read, supports reading tutors to provide children with extended learning time, and boosts family literacy programs. And the President's Coalition for the America Reads Challenge, which unites businesses, schools, faith-based organizations and non-profits in the literacy campaign, has marshalled a wide array of commitments.

DONATING BOOKS TO CHILDREN IN NEED. During this holiday season, members of the President's Coalition for the America Reads Challenge are promoting literacy by donating millions of books to children in need. The Marine Toys for Tots Foundation is distributing 2 million books, in partnership with Scholastic, Inc., to needy children: Recipients will include North Carolina children who lost their homes -- and books -- in the recent hurricane disasters. Public donations of children's books are accepted at more than 300 Toys for Tots locations. Reading Is Fundamental is collecting and distributing children's books through partnerships with Kiwanis International and Boys & Girls Clubs in communities across the nation. The non-profit group First Book is working with online booksellers and publishers to get free and donated books to low-income children. Through First Book, Golden Books is delivering 10,000 new books to reach every child in subsidized childcare in Washington, DC. And Gifts In Kind International is distributing 250,000 books, donated by Golden Books, to Girl Scouts of the USA, the YMCA and YWCA, Head Start centers, and many others.

ENCOURAGING ADULTS TO READ TO CHILDREN. The President today will encourage adults to improve child literacy by putting a book for every child on their shopping list and by donating books to needy children. The gift of literacy, he will remind all Americans, is one of the simplest and most enduring legacies we can leave our children -- this holiday season and every season.