Governor Gary Locke’s Remarks
Governor’s Reading Initiatives Celebration
December 8, 2004

Thank you Deborah for that introduction. I want to thank Deborah and the staff here at the new Central Library for hosting us today.

I especially want to thank Chance Hunt, who worked hard to organize today’s event with my reading initiatives coordinator, Mary Ann Naughton.

It’s exciting to be in this breathtaking new building – a building that is dedicated to learning. This new Central Library is a wonderful refuge and resource for young and old alike who share the love of reading.

I want to thank our other speakers – Jan, Bill and Sarah. Thank you for your kind words, and your dedication to helping the young people of our state.

We’re here today to celebrate our very successful reading initiatives – and how they have helped children become better readers all across our state.

Reading is the foundation of all academic success. We know that students who cannot read by the first or second grade will continue to fall behind in school. During the past eight years, we have focused on the need for all Washington children to develop strong reading skills, through several reading initiatives.

I’d like to thank all the parents, teachers, librarians, VISTA and AmeriCorps members, and business and community partners who have helped our state make important strides in reading. With your help, we have had a profound effect on the lives of children, and adults, in our state.

One of the initiatives that I am most proud of is the Washington Reading Corps. This is truly a success story.

As Bill mentioned, my office launched the Washington Reading Corps in 1998 – working in partnership with Superintendent of Public Instruction Terry Bergeson – to help kindergarten through sixth graders who need help with reading.

Since the program began, approximately 75,000 students have participated in the Washington Reading Corps. These students typically begin a year behind their peers. With the help of the Washington Reading Corps, they are able to make two-years worth of gains in just eight months – and be “on par” with their peers!

Dedicated VISTA and AmeriCorps volunteers recruited and coordinated 9,500 adults and student volunteer tutors each year to work with struggling readers.

Their great work continues. This year, the Washington Reading Corps will serve more than 10,000 students in 131 schools across Washington.

Let’s have the Reading Corps members, staff, and state and community partners who are here stand, and receive our applause.

Sarah spoke about the Reading School of the Month program, which Superintendent Terry Bergeson and I started in January of 2002 as a way to reward formerly struggling schools that have made phenomenal gains in reading.

This program means a lot to both Terry and me. We have traveled all over the state and it’s really amazing to see the transformations these schools have undertaken, in relatively short periods of time.

Superintendent Bergeson and I have been so impressed with the skill and dedication of teachers, principals and parents at the schools that we visited. I want to thank the principals, teachers, and school librarians who are with us today for their outstanding work.

We are making tremendous progress in reading statewide. The 2004 Washington Assessment of Student Learning (WASL) illustrates the great gains our students are making:

· In 1997, 48 percent of 4th graders met the state reading standard. This year, 74.4 percent passed.
· In 1998, 38 percent of 7th graders met the reading standard. This year, 60 percent passed.
· In 1999, 52 percent of 10th graders met the reading standard. This year, 64 percent passed.

Our kids are also making some of the biggest academic gains in the entire nation!

Our 4th and 8th graders scored above the national averages in reading and writing. They had strong performances on the latest S.A.T., the ACT college-readiness exam, and the Iowa Test of Basic Skills. And Washington led the nation last year in reading scores for African-American 4th graders.

It’s important for students to keep reading during the summer to build on the gains they’ve made during the school year. Otherwise, they must spend the first weeks of the new school year making up lost ground. As we strive to ensure that students meet or exceed our tough new 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 started the Governor’s Summer Reading Challenge in 2002. Each summer, we asked every young person under the age of 18 to read at least 15 hours and report back to us. Nearly 5,500 kids participated each of the first two years. This year, 16,026 children participated in the challenge – that’s nearly three times the total number of participants from the previous two years!

Our libraries deserve much of the credit for that. Many libraries partnered with us on the Summer Reading Challenge. Together we were able to make great strides in just one summer. I’d like for all the librarians who are with us today to please stand. Let’s give them a round of applause!

Now, it’s time to award our grand prize from the 2004 Governor’s Summer Reading Challenge!

We conducted random drawings among all of the 16,026 readers who participated in this year’s challenge. Our grand prize, which was donated by our friends at Alaska Airlines, is an all-expenses-paid trip for four to Disneyland. Our 2004 Disneyland trip winner is Brian Hughes!

Congratulations, Brian! Come on up here!

Brian is 11 years old. He lives in Seattle and attends Mercer Middle School. He participated in this year’s Governor’s Summer Reading Challenge through the Rainer Scholars and the Beacon Hill branch of the Seattle Public Library.

His 9-year-old sister, Shannon, also met my challenge. Shannon is also here today, along with Brian’s mother, grandmother, and other family members. Let’s give them all a round of applause!

We also were able to provide 16 book prizes to other Summer Reading Challenge participants through the generosity of the Verizon Foundation and with the assistance of Page Ahead. John Gustafson from Verizon and Sam Whiting from Page Ahead are here with us today. John and Sam, thank you for your support of the 2004 Summer Reading Challenge!

Some of the book prizewinners and their families are also with us today. Participating in the Summer Reading Challenge was a family event for many of the prizewinners and most have siblings who also meet my Challenge. And congratulations to the parents for encouraging your children to read during the summer – and all year round!

Let’s have all of the book prizewinners please come forward!

Congratulations to all of the book prizewinners and their families!

I am proud of all of the progress our schools and students have made in reading during our eight years in office. I also am very proud of the partnerships that have been developed among so many organizations who are dedicated to helping our children become strong readers. We have made great strides in reading in our state, and I am confident our good work will continue into the next administration.

Reading is so important. It’s a lifelong tool that really begins at birth. Mona and I started reading to Emily and Dylan almost right after they were born. And we’ll do the same with our third child, Madeline.

We have a tradition in our family that we follow every night. The kids are allowed about 20 minutes of video during which we serve them a Washington apple. Then, we read and sing to them. Mona reads and sings to one child, and I read and sing to the other. And then the next night, we switch off. I don’t know how we’re going to do it when Madeline is a little older! Maybe Emily will help us read to her!

Mona and I really cherish the time we spend reading with our children. I hope that the parents and children here today share a similar love of reading. Reading is the key to a lifetime of learning and personal fulfillment.

Thank you for joining us today, and for all the work each and every one of you has done to help our children become better readers, and lifelong learners.

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