Former First Lady Laura W. Bush will receive SMU’s Literati Award for her contributions to the advancement of literacy. The award will be presented April 2, 2011, at SMU’s Collins Executive Education Center by the Friends of the SMU Libraries.
Mrs. Bush will receive the award at the Friends of the SMU Libraries annual fundraising dinner, Tables of Content. Award-winning journalist Rena Pederson will lead a conversation with Mrs. Bush at the event, which also will feature book signings with ten promising young authors. Kathleen Kent, author of The Hereti’s Daughter and The Wolves of Andover; Jennifer Pickens, author of Christmas at the White House, and 10-year-old Alec Greven, author of How to Talk to Girls and School Rules are among the featured authors.
Mrs. Bush, a 1968 SMU graduate and current member of the University’s Board of Trustees, has championed the importance of literacy and education throughout her life, particularly during her years as a teacher, librarian and as first lady of Texas and of the United States. From advocating for the rights of Afghan women to creating the National Book Festival, she presents a consistent message – the ability to read is life-changing.
Soon after arriving in Washington, D.C., as First Lady, Mrs. Bush launched an early childhood development initiative – Ready to Read, Ready to Learn – which helps parents and caregivers prepare infants and young children for success in reading and school. In 2002 she created the Laura Bush Foundation for America’s Libraries, which has provided more than $7.3 million to school libraries in all 50 states.
Mrs. Bush has served as Honorary Ambassador for the United Nations Literacy Decade since 2003. In 2006 Mrs. Bush hosted the first White House Conference on Global Literacy. Last September she addressed the International Literacy Day Symposium at the United Nations in New York. “Education is our most urgent priority. And it should have the highest call on our time and our priorities,” she said.
Expanding access to education and literacy is a central component of Mrs. Bush’s work as chair of the Women’s Initiative at the George W. Bush Institute. The initiative is designed to enhance women’s access to education, literacy, health and economic opportunities.
Mrs. Bush also has supported writers and readers through the 1995 creation of the Texas Book Festival. She joined with the Library of Congress in 2001 to create the National Book Festival. She also is co-author with her daughter Jenna of a children’s book, Read All About It!