[Public Papers of the Presidents of the United States: William J. Clinton (1998, Book I)]
[February 28, 1998]
[Page 303]
[From the U.S. Government Publishing Office www.gpo.gov]

[[Page 303]]

The President's Radio Address
February 28, 1998

    Good morning. This morning I want to talk to you about one of the 
most important ways we can help all children live up to their God-given 
potential: giving them the tools they need to master the fundamentals of 
    This week America got a wakeup call on education. We learned that 
our high school seniors are lagging behind those in most other 
industrialized nations in math and science. In a global economy that is 
increasingly powered by information and technology, this is a very 
sobering fact. It tells me we can have no higher priority than to 
transform our K-through-12 classrooms in every community. We need 
smaller classes, better teaching, higher standards, more discipline, 
greater accountability.
    And clearly, we must give our children more help with reading. 
Currently, 40 percent of our Nation's 8-year-olds are not reading even 
at the basic level. And those students are far more likely to get 
discouraged and drop out of school or never to learn what they need to 
know while they're in school. Failing to read early on is a burden that 
can bog down a child for life. That's why I launched the America Reads 
challenge, to make sure all our children can read on their own by the 
end of the third grade.
    Thanks to an amazing outpouring of support, tens of thousands of 
volunteer tutors are already at work in our communities, giving our 
children the intensive reading help they need. More than 900 colleges 
have committed to give their students work study credit for devoting 
after-school hours to tutoring children. And this year 3,000 new 
AmeriCorps members and thousands of new senior volunteers will recruit 
more than 100,000 volunteer reading tutors for our children. We are on 
track to give extra reading help to 3 million children at risk of 
falling behind.
    But we need Congress' help to meet this goal. This past November, 
the House of Representatives voted with bipartisan support to promote 
literacy efforts in the home, the school, the community. Legislation 
with these goals is now awaiting action in the Senate, which means $210 
million in targeted assistance is now on hold in Washington, not at work 
in our communities. So today I call on the Senate to pass this 
legislation without delay. We need it. Our children need it.
    This coming Monday, reading out loud to children will be the talk of 
the Nation. To celebrate the birthday of the late Dr. Seuss, whose much 
beloved books have sparked the imaginations of children and parents 
alike for generations, the National Education Association and many other 
groups are sponsoring the first Read Across America Day. Thousands of 
people, from baseball star Cal Ripken to the 
leaders of the Cherokee Nation to the sailors of the U.S.S. Austin, will 
read favorite books and share the joy of reading with children in every 
part of our country. I encourage parents and grandparents to get 
involved. Read with your child on Read Across America Day and every day.
    Scientists have now shown reading to your children every night 
before bed can help lay the foundation for his or her life and, in turn, 
for our Nation's future. Literacy is the key to all learning. Without 
it, history is a haze, math is a muddle, the Internet is indecipherable, 
the promise of America is a closed book. But we can change all that. 
With an army of reading tutors, well-trained teachers, and involved 
parents, we can make sure every child can read by the third grade. And 
if we do that, there is no limit, in the words of Dr. Seuss, on the 
places our children will go.
    Thanks for listening.

Note: The address was recorded at 3:22 p.m. on February 26 at the 
Spanish Rights Center in Oakland, CA, for broadcast at 10:06 a.m. on 
February 28.