Education secretary hands out books to Miss. coast schools

Published 6:23 pm Friday, April 20, 2007

Education Secretary Margaret Spellings read to students along the Mississippi Gulf Coast and passed out free books as part of a new summer reading initiative.

Spellings met Wednesday with students of the consolidated Charles B. Murphy and Gulfview elementary schools, which now holds classes on Hancock Middle School grounds in trailers after their schools were wiped out by Hurricane Katrina. She read “Alphabet Adventure” to about 40 first- and second-graders and addressed students in the gymnasium.

“They are eager young learners just like you’d find at any school across the country, and I think the fact that they face this particular challenge, they are mighty learners, so I am impressed,” Spellings said afterwards.

Sign up for our daily email newsletter

Get the latest news sent to your inbox

First lady Laura Bush had intended to accompany Spellings on the trip, but canceled late Tuesday night.

Spellings said the 2007 Gulf Coast Summer Reading Initiative is a partnership among the Department of Education, First Book and Scholastic Inc. with the goal of passing out 500,000 new books this spring for students in the areas affected by hurricanes Katrina and Rita.

The program would place books in libraries, schools and homes in an effort to keep students’ reading skills honed over the summer.

The schools received the Level 5 accountability rating, which is the highest the state gives, and Spelling said it is proof they are on the right track.

Teachers Katie Wiltz and Lauren Turcotte both said their first- and second-grade students have given much emotional support since the storm and so far, this school year has been much better than the last.

“The kids have done a fantastic job helping us through it,” Wiltz said, explaining the students didn’t mind watching their teachers cry during tough times.