Governor Gary Locke’s Remarks
Youth Librarian Conference
May 4, 2004

Good morning. Thank you for coming this morning. Many of you traveled quite a distance to be here. We have librarians from Asotin and Walla Walla, as well as many other towns and regions in Washington. So, I truly appreciate the effort you took to be with us today.

I also want to extend my appreciation to Martha Shinners, Jan Walsh, and the staff of the Washington State Library who have worked with my staff to make this event possible.

Today I want to thank you for the great work you do each day for children and families in your communities. Your participation and leadership in literacy efforts and the programs you offer to your communities have a profound effect on the lives of children and adults in Washington state. Thank you for all that you and your libraries do!

I believe that reading is essential our young people’s success in virtually all areas of learning. We know that students who cannot read by the first or second grade will continue to fall behind in school. We must address this need for the development of strong reading skills for all of our children. That is why I have sponsored reading initiatives during my time as governor.

In 1998, my office created the Washington Reading Corps – working in partnership with the Superintendent of Public Instruction Terry Bergeson and the state Legislature – to help kindergarten through sixth graders who needed help with reading.

The Washington Reading Corps currently serves more than 11,000 students in 135 schools across Washington. More than 8,000 volunteers are working with the WA Reading Corps to help children become stronger readers this school year.

Yet during summer break, far too often students do not open a book until the following September. They backslide in their reading skills and spend the first weeks of school making up lost ground. As we strive to ensure that students meet our academic standards and develop the skills, habits, and desire for a lifetime of learning, we must stop this “two steps forward and one step back” cycle.

This is why I began the Governor's Summer Reading Challenge in 2002. I asked every young person under the age of 18 to read at least 15 hours during the summer and report back to me when they had done so. That effort continues this summer.

I believe that the Governor’s Summer Reading Challenge needs to work in collaboration with the many good programs that take place in your libraries. I want to support and complement the good work you do in your communities by promoting summer reading statewide and offering you additional incentive tools. Children who report reading 15 hours or more during the summer will receive a certificate of recognition from me. 2004 participants also are eligible for book prizes, courtesy of the Verizon Foundation, and a trip to Disneyland, sponsored by Alaska Airlines.

Summer Reading Challenge participants are encouraged to read as part of their summer library program. When I speak to the public about the Governor’s Summer Reading Challenge I also speak about libraries. I have filmed a public service announcement that will be aired in June to more than 200,000 households statewide, supporting summer reading and participation in local library and summer school programs. On the Challenge Web site, poster and bookmark we advise participants to visit their local library. Working together I believe we can increase the awareness of the importance of summer reading for our young people.

There is more work to be done and opportunities for all for us to work together. 2004 is a pivotal year for libraries in Washington State. How many of your libraries are participating in the Collaborative Summer Library Program? I am told that the Collaborative Summer Library Program is as close as we come in Washington to a statewide summer reading program.

While the Collaborative program is new to most libraries in Washington, it could provide the basis for new partnerships and a coordinated statewide effort to promote summer reading. I know that some states have created a single summer reading program sponsored jointly by the state’s libraries and the Governor’s Office. Perhaps that is a direction for us to explore in Washington State. I will be following the progress of the Collaborative Summer Library Program, and I’ll be interested to hear from you about how it is working.

As for this year, I know many of you have great plans for your summer programs. I am eager to learn about the things you are doing in your communities. Again I want to thank each and every one of you for the tremendous work that you do in your libraries and communities.

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