CHICAGO – First Lady Patricia Blagojevich today joined approximately sixty preschoolers at the Chinese American Service League Preschool to announce the June selections for her Children’s Reading Club – Hugh Lofting’s The Story of Dr. Dolittle and Gene Zion’s Harry the Dirty Dog. At the book reading, the First Lady talked about the importance of early childhood education and highlighted Governor Rod R. Blagojevich’s landmark Preschool for All plan - a program that makes Illinois the only state in that nation to offer high-quality preschool to every three and four-year-old child. All of the attendees received a copy of a book to take home with them as a souvenir – one book for preschool children and one book for older readers.
“Reading with your children is one of the best ways to spend quality time with them while helping them develop critical skills like building a good vocabulary and active listening,” said the First Lady. “Reading with my daughters is one of my favorite things to do and I hope that more parents can take part in reading to and with their own children.”
In The Story of Doctor Dolittle (1920), the first of Hugh Lofting’s Doctor Dolittle books, the reader is introduced to the good doctor who gives up treating people after Polynesia, his parrot, teaches him animal languages. His fame in the animal kingdom spreads throughout the world and soon he sets off to cure a monkey epidemic in Africa, finding all sorts of exciting adventures on the way.
Originally published in 1956, Harry the Dirty Dog by Gene Zion, illustrated by Margaret Bloy Graham, chronicles the messy adventures of a runaway dog and his transformation "from a white dog with black spots to a black dog with white spots." Despite his showboating, his family doesn't recognize him until he's scrubbed clean.
The Children’s Reading Club is a recommended reading list made up of books the First Lady and her daughters enjoy at home. The First Lady launched this literacy initiative program in March of 2005, and has selected books such as Charlotte’s Web, Harriet the Spy, and Shiloh for the recommended list. Each month’s book selection is featured on the First Lady’s website, http://www.illinois.gov/firstlady.
Mrs. Blagojevich began the Children’s Reading Club to encourage parents to read with their children and hopes the recommended list will enable parents to find books the whole family can enjoy. The Children’s Reading Club applies to all children, but specifically targets children between the ages of seven and twelve. In conjunction with the passage of the Preschool for All program, the First Lady has added new selections to her reading club, to encourage parents of younger readers to engage in early development of reading skills.
The Governor’s Preschool for All plan guarantees that nearly 190,000 children in Illinois will have the chance to attend preschool. Studies have shown that students who attend preschool are more likely to graduate high school, less likely to need special education and less likely to be arrested for committing violent crimes.
As First Lady, Patricia Blagojevich has worked tirelessly to promote initiatives that help Illinois families bring up happy, healthy, and successful children. In addition to her work with children’s literacy, the First Lady spearheaded the Illinois Pediatric Vision Awareness Initiative, the first state sponsored campaign in the U.S. to specifically target Amblyopia, or ‘lazy eye’, in children. Mrs. Blagojevich has also brought attention to Healthy Families Illinois, a program that helps prevent child abuse by supporting high-risk parents. In addition, she has promoted the Prevention Development Resource Project, a partnership between the Illinois Department of Children and Family Services (DCFS) and Prevent Child Abuse Illinois, and the Governor’s landmark All Kids plan, which makes Illinois the only state in the nation to provide affordable, comprehensive health insurance for every uninsured child in the state.