Washington, D.C. – The Barbara Bush Foundation for Family Literacy hosted its 2023 National Celebration of Reading on Wednesday, October 11, 2023, at the John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts in Washington, D.C. This signature event – chaired by Kristi Rogers –brought together Bush family members, bestselling authors and entertainers, and special guests including First Lady Jill Biden, Helena Andrews-Dyer, Franc D’Ambrosio, Jeff Nussbaum, Steven Rowley, Cheryl Strayed and Rebecca Yarros to advance the Barbara Bush Foundation’s vital mission.
“Reading forces us to challenge our preconceived notions, question our underlying assumptions, and wrestle with uncomfortable truths. Few skills are as crucial in a democracy that owes its endurance to engaged and informed citizens,” said First Lady Jill Biden. “That’s why the work all of you are doing to promote literacy is so important. Page by page, new reader by new reader, you are shaping minds and building engaged citizens, the keepers and defenders of our grand experiment in democracy.”
“Education—literacy in particular—is an essential part of who we are. It’s the foundation on which we build full, productive lives, as individuals, as families, as communities and as a nation,” said Doro Bush Koch, daughter of President George H.W. Bush and former first lady Barbara Bush, and honorary chair of the Barbara Bush Foundation. “Just like a house built on a firm foundation can stand for centuries, weathering whatever storms it may face, a country where everyone has the ability to read, write and comprehend can thrive today, and for generations to come.”
The Barbara Bush Foundation hosted the National Celebration of Reading, emceed by Pulitzer prize-winning journalist Jonathan Capehart, to promote awareness of low literacy in the United States and raise support for the Foundation’s work providing family literacy services to parents and children across the United States. Featured authors spoke about the impact of literacy and the power of the written word.
Cheryl Strayed, New York Times bestselling author of “Wild” and “Tiny Beautiful Things,” shared, “Reading and writing are central to so many aspects of our lives – to our abilities to thrive on the job and at school, to our capacity to communicate effectively in a world where effective communication is key to employment, security and success. But reading and writing are also central to something else, something equally important: our ability to see ourselves, others and the world, and to do so with the kind of clarity and complexity that literature conveys.”
“I am here with you tonight, and am able to have the career that I do, for two reasons,” stated Steven Rowley, New York Times bestselling author of “The Guncle” and “The Celebrants.” “I had access to a well-funded public school education with teachers who inspired and took interest in me. And I had a public library card from a young age – and parents who encouraged me to use it. I imagine for many of you it was the same. I wish those things for every child.”
“As a mother of six children I absolutely understand the need to protect our kids, to educate them in not just math and science, but critical thinking. To teach them to love reading not just for the escapism, but so they can continue their education long after they leave the school house,” said Rebecca Yarros, New York Times bestselling author of “Fourth Wing” and “In the Likely Event.”
“I’ve spent a career writing speeches and then wrote a book about undelivered speeches. I sometimes feel like I snuck into writing through the side door…Except that there’s only one door into the world of writing. It’s the same door that leads you into just about every other world, and it’s the door the Barbara Bush Foundation is working to open more widely, to more people – and that’s reading,” shared Jeff Nussbaum, former Special Assistant and Senior Speechwriter to President Joe Biden and the author of “Undelivered: The Never-Heard Speeches that Would Have Rewritten History.”
“We talk about books being a window to the world, but we have to be a mirror, too,” said Helena Andrews-Dyer, award-winning columnist for The Washington Post and author of “The Mamas: What I Learned About Kids, Class and Race from Moms Not Like Me.” “I want everyone’s stories given the dignity and star treatment they deserve in every word I write. That is the power of the written word and it is an immense responsibility to wield it.”
About the Barbara Bush Foundation for Family Literacy: The Barbara Bush Foundation for Family Literacy has been the nation’s leading advocate for family literacy for more than three decades. Established by former First Lady Barbara Bush in 1989, the Foundation is a public charity dedicated to creating a stronger, more equitable America in which everyone can read, write and comprehend in order to navigate the world with dignity. To learn more, visit www.BarbaraBush.org.