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October 21, 1997

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Universities Accept America Reads Challenge


[T]o fundamentally succeed in having an America where opportunity is open to everyone who will work for it, and where everyone can be a part of a thriving American community, we must give all our children the world's best education.

President Bill Clinton
October 21, 1997

Today, as part of the America Reads Challenge, the President announced that nearly 800 colleges and universities, from every state, have pledged to commit work-study positions to help ensure that every American child can read well and independently. Less than a year ago, the Secretary of Education enabled the Federal Work-Study Program to pay all of the wages for students who work as reading tutors for elementary school children. In addition, the President named a steering committee of 21 college and university presidents who volunteered to start their own programs and to encourage other colleges to do the same.

  • A Challenge to Help Our Children. Forty percent of our children read below the basic level in the fourth grade, as reported by the 1994 National Assessment of Educational Progress. Research shows that these children too often fall further behind in school, lose interest, give up, and drop out. America Reads answers this challenge by providing tutors so that every 8 year old can read and read well.
  • Involving Young People as Tutors. An essential part of the America Reads Challenge is involving college students as America Reads tutors. Today's announcement means that thousands of college students will work as tutors in pre-schools and elementary schools in their communities to provide the extra help that many beginning readers need to succeed.
  • Building Bipartisan Support in Congress for America Reads. There is enormous interest in America Reads on college campuses and in communities, but to effectively tap this interest requires a commitment of resources for training, coordination, and materials. That is why the President insisted that this investment be a part of the Bipartisan Balanced Budget Agreement. The President's proposal would pay for 25,000 reading specialists and coordinators to enlist, train and mobilize 1 million tutors for 3 million children in grades K-3 who need help. Recognizing that parents are their children's first and most important teachers, the America Reads Challenge Act would also foster effective programs to provide assistance to interested parents so that they may give their children the foundation they need to do well in school and to become successful readers.
  • America Reads Includes Other Initiatives that are Helping Our Children Learn. America Reads incorporates early childhood development through the expansion of Head Start and Even Start; bringing the best teaching practices to classrooms; supporting research and evaluation on reading; and building partnerships with the private sector, including following up on related commitments to the Service Summit.

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