When “United We Serve” officially launched on June 22, America’s libraries and the Department of Education were poised and ready to be a major part of the program from the very beginning. They will remain engaged throughout the summer, and they call upon all Americans to join them.
At a special kick-off event organized by the Department of Education at Fanwood Memorial Library in Fanwood, N.J., American Library Association (ALA) President Jim Rettig and many regional librarians had the opportunity to discuss how libraries are helping communities by offering reading programs for children to combat summer reading loss and assisting individuals with obtaining job skills and employment.
During the event, U.S. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan and New Jersey Governor Jon Corzine took part in a roundtable led by Rettig, and they later read to a group of children who are just becoming readers. To emphasize the importance of these sorts of activities, Rettig explained:
“Research has shown that children who participate in summer library reading programs are better prepared to continue their education when they return to school in the fall. Students who participate in a program in which they read ten books over the summer show more reading achievement than students who do not.”
The very next week, Secretary Duncan launched “Read to the Top!” At this weekly United We Serve event, the Secretary, other Cabinet members and top Administration officials read age-appropriate books to area children on the Department of Education’s Plaza. At the launch, Secretary Duncan said, “The road to academic success begins early, which is why early childhood learning and reading are so important. When we read to our kids, it helps them become better readers and develop a love of reading on their own.”
U.S. Secretary of Health and Human Services Kathleen Sebelius and White House Senior Advisor David Axelrod have already participated in “Read to the Top” and future guests of the Department of Education’s weekly reading campaign include Chair of the Domestic Council Melody Barnes, U.S. Secretary of Housing and Urban Development Shaun Donovan, White House Chief of Staff Rahm Emanuel, White House Press Secretary Robert Gibbs, Environmental Protection Agency Administrator Lisa P. Jackson, White House Senior Advisor Valerie Jarrett, U.S. Secretary of Commerce Gary F. Locke, U.S. Secretary of Homeland Security Janet A. Napolitano, Director of the Office of Management & Budget Peter R. Orszag, United States Ambassador to the United Nations Susan Rice and U.S. Secretary of Veterans Affairs Eric K. Shinseki.
And libraries will continue to be engaged with United We Serve throughout the summer as well.
Libraries are the cornerstone of every community and have a long tradition of stepping in to meet the needs of individuals in a spirit that resonates with the President’s call to volunteerism. This summer, the American Library Association urges individuals to go to their local libraries to help their neighbors through this difficult economic time by sharing their skills and their time in an effort to unite our country and build a better future together. Search for “library” or "reading" in www.serve.gov or just walk into your local branch library to find out how to connect your talents and interests with the needs of your community.