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FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
April 22, 2005

First Lady Patti Blagojevich provides keynote address at the Follett Essay Contest for Reading is Fundamental Awards Ceremony
First Lady helps honor Chicago Public School students for award winning essays

CHICAGO-First Lady Patti Blagojevich today provided the keynote address at the Fourth Annual Follett Corporation Essay Contest for Reading is Fundamental Awards Ceremony. The ceremony was attended by over 150 Chicago Public School students who participate in the Reading is Fundamental (RIF) Program.
 
The First Lady joined Chris Traut, President and CEO of the Follett Corporation, and Barbara Van Husen, President of Reading is Fundamental in Chicago, to honor the authors of the award winning essays and emphasize the importance of childhood literacy. The ceremony was held at Chicago’s Field Museum.
“One of the most important skills a child can have in today’s society is the ability to read,” said Mrs. Blagojevich. “It is often the appeal of a single book that begins a lifelong love of reading for a child. I applaud the Reading is Fundamental Program and Follett Corporation for encouraging literacy among youth by providing children with books they can both enjoy and call their own.”
The Reading is Fundamental Program is a critically acclaimed national program that promotes literacy and a love of reading among underprivileged youth. It was started by Margaret McNamara in Washington in 1966 with the purpose of motivating children to read. The Reading is Fundamental Program in Chicago has pursued that mission by distributing over three and a half million books to inner city children through a network, which includes 37 Chicago public schools.
Reading is Fundamental students come from low-income families that cannot afford children’s books. The RIF Program provides these students with free books, and reaches 35,000 children per year in Chicago. The Program is assisted by a network of volunteer parents from participating schools, and holds a series of workshops for parents to help them build the skills and confidence they need to better assist their children’s literacy.
The Follett Corporation is one of the biggest sponsors of Reading is Fundamental in Chicago. In addition to providing funding for four Chicago Public Schools to participate in the RIF program, Follett each year donates thousands of children’s books to RIF’s Parent Community Organization Program, which helps parents promote reading at home. The Follett Corporation also sponsors the annual Follett Essay Contest For Reading is Fundamental in Chicago, and provides cash prizes to the contest winners.
 
For this year’s annual Follett Essay Contest For Reading Is Fundamental, RIF students attending Chicago Public Schools were asked to submit essays on the topic: “What Book Gets Two Thumbs Up and Why?” More than 300 students submitted essays. Three first place winners, representing three age categories, will receive $500 each. Three second place winners will receive $250 each, and three third place winners will receive $150 each.
 
The nine winners include:
 
First Place Winners
 
Primary Category (Grades 1-3): Tiffany Velasco, Perkins Bass Elementary School
Intermediate Category (Grades 4-6): Viviana Park, Alessandro Volta Elementary School
Upper Category (Grades 7-8): LaFaye Garth, Jenner Academy
 
Second Place Winners
 
Primary Category: ChaVaughn Capers, Jenner Academy
Intermediate Category: Zully Martinez, Christopher Columbus Elementary School
Upper Category: Malcom Cherry, Nathan R. Goldblatt Elementary School
 
Third Place Winners
 
Primary Category: Ostap Kukhar, Christopher Columbus Elementary School
Intermediate Category: Alice Mei, Robert Healy Elementary School
Upper Category: Julio Carrera, Alessandro Volta Elementary School
 
 
In February, The First Lady launched “The Children’s Reading Club” literacy initiative to encourage parents to read with their children. “The Children’s Reading Club” consists of a recommended reading list of books the First Lady and her daughters enjoy reading at home. Each month, the First Lady selects a featured book that she believes children, as well as their parents, will enjoy. April’s book selection is In their own words: Abraham Lincoln by George Sullivan. Previous book selections include The Tale of Despereaux by Kate DiCamillo and Charlotte’s Web by E.B. White. Each month’s book selection is featured on the First Lady’s website, http://www.illinois.gov/firstlady
 
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