What’s the Big Deal About First Ladies: 6 Reasons Laura Bush is a Reading Superhero + Contest

Posted March 15, 2017 by Sara 2 Comments


Today, we’re celebrating both Women’s History Month and the delightful new picture book, What’s the Big Deal About First Ladies? with a super fun blog post featuring one of my favorite first ladies.

What’s the Big Deal About First Ladies? by Ruby Shamir and Matt Faulkner explores what it means to be First Lady and the typical duties a First Lady takes on, as well as highlighting various fun facts and details about our first ladies. Be sure to keep reading for more about the book AND your chance to win a copy!

One recent First Lady not only took on all the roles and responsibilities expected of the President’s spouse, but she was also a fierce advocate for that thing we all love here at Novel Novice: READING. Laura Bush is a champion of childhood literacy, family reading time, and books.

Here are:

6 Reasons Laura Bush is a Reading Superhero

1. She was a teacher & a librarian!

Photo: Stephanie Meza, Daily Texan

Did you know Laura Bush was once a teacher and a librarian? It’s true! She began her career as an elementary school teacher in Texas. Later, she went back to college for a Masters Degree in Library Science and became a school librarian.

Laura Bush has said she loved reading from a young age, crediting both her mother and her 2nd grade teacher for inspiring her love of books.

“When I was a little girl, my mother would read stories to me,” she said in a 2003 speech. “I have loved books and going to the library ever since.”

2. She fought for literacy across Texas …

When her husband, George W. Bush, became governor of Texas, Laura focused her work on causes for women and children, including education and literacy.

She promoted family reading and childhood literacy through three organizations during her tenure of First Lady of Texas: the Barbara Bush Foundation for Family Literacy, Reach Out and Read, and Ready to Read.

She also helped establish the Texas Book Festival, which helps raise money for public libraries. And she founded the First Lady’s Family Literacy Initiative to encourage families to read together, a practice that has been proven to promote higher literacy rates in school-aged children.

3. … and all of America!

Photo: White House Archive

After George W. Bush took office as President, Laura Bush made it clear that education would be a high priority for her work as First Lady.

In 2001, she teamed up with the Library of Congress to the launch the National Book Festival. And later, she testified before Congress about the need to pay teachers higher salaries.

Laura Bush also helped create the “Ready to Read, Ready to Learn” initiative, which promotes reading from a young age to help kids better prepare for school.

She also helped put together a $500,000 grant for school libraries in the Gulf Coast that had been devastated by Hurricanes Katrina and Rita.

4. She continues to fight for literacy today!

After leaving the White House, she established the Laura Bush Foundation for America’s Libraries – which awards more than $1,000,000 in grants to U.S. schools every year to help their libraries update, expand, and diversify their book collections. Another program she created helps fund recruitment and retention of library students, as well as continuing education for librarians.

5. A Bookish White House Christmas

Did you know one of the First Lady’s roles is to select a theme for the White House Christmas decorations each year and supervise their installation? (A tradition began by Jacquelyn Kennedy in 1961!)

Display of State Floor decorations including Harry Potter. Credit: White House Archive

I’m a huge geek for holiday decorations, so I always love seeing what the First Lady does each year — and my favorite theme was Laura Bush’s 2003 pick, “A Season of Stories” — described by the Bush White House Archive as such:

This year’s holiday theme combines the wonder of the season with the magic of those classic children’s stories that have captured our hearts and shaped American culture. Just like the holidays, great stories have a way of bringing families together.

On winter nights, children enjoy curling up with a loved one for cocoa and a story. And parents beam with excitement when their children unwrap a new book which just happens to be one of their childhood favorites.

Since stories bring us together, we’ve brought some favorite children’s storybook characters to the White House to celebrate the holidays. Our thanks to the Executive Residence staff members who recreated the characters. And special thanks to the authors and illustrators who have given us the stories we celebrate.

Some of the decorations even included ornaments first used by former First Lady Barbara Bush in 1989, when she chose a literacy-inspired theme for the holiday decorations.

6. She’s even an author, now!

In addition to writing a memoir, last year Laura Bush and her daughter Jenna Bush Hager co-authored their very own picture book, Our Great Big Backyard, illustrated by Jacqueline Rogers. Commemorating the anniversary of the National Parks Service in 2016, the book pays tribute to the United States’ National Parks and the joys of exploring nature.

Following in the footsteps of So You Want to Be President?, this first book in a new series features fun, kid-friendly facts about America’s First Ladies and shows young readers just why they’re such a big deal.

Did you know that Mary Todd Lincoln played a huge role in fighting to end slavery? Or that Edith Wilson decoded secret messages from our allies during World War I? Or that Michelle Obama has led a nationwide initiative to promote healthy lifestyles for children?

Or how about fun facts: Did you know that Grace Coolidge had a pet raccoon? Or that Dolley Madison loved oyster ice cream? (And would later have a brand of ice cream named after her!)

In addition to being hostesses, ambassadors, activists, educators, historians and role-models, each first lady put her own stamp on the White House and her husband’s presidency. Filled with fun, kid-friendly facts that bring each First Lady to life on the page, this picture book written by a member of a former first lady’s staff, shows us just how much our nation’s first ladies have accomplished from Martha Washington to Michelle Obama.

Thanks to our friends at Penguin Kids, we’ve got a chance for you to win a copy of What’s the Big Deal About First Ladies? Just fill out the Rafflecopter form to get started!

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2 responses to “What’s the Big Deal About First Ladies: 6 Reasons Laura Bush is a Reading Superhero + Contest

  1. danielle hammelef

    I didn’t know the background of this first lady! I love her cause and always give to our library every year and donate books too. I didn’t know she was a published author! I’ll have to check out her book.

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