Former first lady Barbara Bush stresses importance of family time

Tuesday, January 20th 2004, 12:00 am
By: News On 6

OKLAHOMA CITY (AP) _ A parent's most important job is educating their children, former first lady Barbara Bush said during a literacy fund-raiser.

Citing the home as a child's first school, former Bush stressed the importance of reading and having quality family time Monday night at a fund-raiser held by the Western Heights Public School Foundation and Local Oklahoma Bank.

``Our children are our most important job,'' Bush told the crowd of about 700 people. ``We are their first teacher, and we need to be their home base.''

Proceeds from the event at the National Cowboy & Western Heritage Museum will benefit Oklahoma City area schools, said Mary Blankenship Pointer, president of the foundation.

Bush said families need to read together, especially with children at a young age. Quality family time together with a book helps develop a child's imagination and improve vocabulary, she said.

Bush also drew laughs with some of her comments about her son President George Bush.

Earlier in the evening, she said he was watching ``Fear Factor,'' which he referred to as the Democratic caucus in Iowa.

Before Monday night's dinner, Barbara Bush visited with local school and community leaders in a private reception about increasing literacy awareness.

She discussed a program in Maine that provides parents of newborns with a new book each time they return for a doctor's visit.

``We believe in catching the kid at the hospital,'' she said. ``From the cradle, you should be reading to your children.''

In 1989, she helped develop the Barbara Bush Foundation for Family Literacy. The group's mission is to support the development of family literacy programs.

It has awarded nearly $13 million to 400 family literacy programs in 44 states.

Barbara Bush's son Neil also attended the event. He said his passion for education stemmed from overcoming dyslexia in school and helping his son, Pierce, who was diagnosed with attention deficit disorder.

He created Ignite! Courseware, computer software that helps students learn in a style that builds upon their strengths.

Money raised at Monday's event will pay for the software for Western Heights Public Schools and other districts in Oklahoma City.

When asked how parents should spend time with their children in today's busy society, Barbara Bush resoundingly told parents to make the time.

She encouraged them to eat meals together on a regular basis and volunteer as mentors at their local schools.