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FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
June 7, 2004

First Lady Patti Blagojevich launches summer reading initiative to improve literacy
Governor’s office partners with First Book and HarperCollins to give thousands of brand new books to Illinois children in need

CHICAGO – In an effort to promote reading this summer, Illinois First Lady Patti Blagojevich today distributed new books to thousands of children from low-income families in Chicago.  At the CMS Office Facility at the Chicago Medical Center, the First Lady gave 100,000 books, provided by HarperCollins Children’s Books, to local organizations that will distribute them to children from low-income families.  The book distribution is part of the “First Book Summer Reading Initiative,” sponsored by First Book and Governor Blagojevich, to promote reading and improve literacy during the summer months.
 
“To a child, a book can be a magic door to a mystery, or fantasy, or adventure,” said Patti Blagojevich.  “But, adults know a book can also be the magic door to success.  When children know how to read well, they can learn just about anything.  A child who can read, can succeed in school and go on to succeed in life.  But, it’s hard to read, and keep on reading, if you don’t have any books.”
 
Researchers have found that when children do not read during the summer, they can experience “summer setback”, or the loss of three months in their reading scores by the time they return to the classroom in the fall.  A three-month reading loss accumulates to a two-year achievement gap by the time children reach middle school.
 
“When children have access to books during the summer, research shows that they are much more likely to read.  And a child who keeps on reading during the summer is going to come back to school in the fall with reading skills that are intact or even improved,” said Mrs. Blagojevich.  “We need to make sure that every child in Illinois gets a chance to walk through the magic door of  books every season of the year, especially in the summer.”
 
Joining the First Lady at the massive book distribution was Diane Naughton of HarperCollins Children’s Books and First Book’s Lidia Soto-Harmon.  Along with distributing new books, First Book has developed bilingual reading tips for parents to encourage reading during the summer break. 
 
“Access to books is essential to reading development.  However, 61 percent of low-income families have no books for children in their homes,” said Lidia Soto-Harmon, Senior Vice-President of First Book.  "First Book salutes the Governor of Illinois and HarperCollins Children's Books for being leaders in the fight against children's illiteracy, and giving the First Book Summer Initiative in Illinois a great kick-off.  Reading is a summer activity too."    
 
A major component of First Book's work is accomplished through the First Book National Book Bank, a centralized donation and distribution agent that enables publishers to donate books and related products to established, community-based programs.  In addition to groups in Illinois, programs across the country will have access to the HarperCollins donated books through First Book National Book Bank. 
 
Mrs. Blagojevich thanked First Book and HarperCollins Children’s Books for their commitment to helping children read.  The First Lady also thanked the Chicago Heights School District, Chicago SCORES, Christopher House, Kiddy Care Preschool and Marillac Social Center for accepting the books and putting them in the hands of children who need them.   
 
About First Book
First Book is a national nonprofit organization with a single mission: to give children from low-income families the opportunity to read and own their first new books.  In neighborhoods across the country, First Book Advisory Boards unite leaders from all sectors of the community to provide books to children in literacy programs, shelters for battered children, housing project initiatives, soup kitchens, after-school programs and other community-based efforts reaching children living at or below the poverty line.  In the last three years alone, First Book has provided more than 20 million new books to children in need in hundreds of thousands of communities nationwide.  For more information about First Book, or to make a donation to help children in need, please visit www.firstbook.org.
 
About Harper Collins
HarperCollins Children’s Books is one of the leading publishers of children’s books.  Respected worldwide for its tradition of publishing quality books for children, HarperCollins is home to many other classics of children’s literature including Where the Wild Things Are, Goodnight Moon and The Chronicles of Narnia. HarperCollins Children’s Books is a division of HarperCollins Publishers, one of the leading English-language publishers in the world


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