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Give Kids a Book a Month, Governor Says

Susan Notes: We are jaded by political promises, but this one is different.

Instead of a chicken in every pot, he’s proposing a book a month for every child.

Gov. Blagojevich said lllinois would become the first state in the nation to give kids a free monthly book from birth to age 5 under a plan he unveiled Sunday.

“We want to make sure that every home has books so that moms and dads can read to their kids,’’ the governor said during an appearance at Salem Baptist Church at 118th and Indiana.

The proposal — to be in his fiscal year 2005 budget — would cost the state an estimated $26 million in its first year if every eligible child participates.

Blagojevich defended the plan during a time of budget hardship, saying: “I’d much rather see us spend money on books for kids and encouraging parents to read to their kids than some of the things that we waste money on.’’

Infants would get their first book at the hospitals where they are born, and parents would then have to register to receive age-appropriate books each month for kids through age 5. Families would choose books from a list compiled by educators and early-childhood experts for the Dollywood Foundation of Tennessee, which has targeted literacy, said gubernatorial spokeswoman Cheryle Jackson.

This would mean “personal libraries for every single child that’s born in Illinois,’’ the governor said.

Blagojevich was introduced by Illinois Senate President Emil Jones Jr. (D-Chicago) and state Sen. James Meeks (D-Chicago), the pastor of Salem Baptist, an influential church with overflow crowds and lots of votes.

Blagojevich, whose religion is Eastern Orthodox, sang along to the gospel choir’s rendition of “Lead Me, Guide Me,” which has been covered by his musical idol, Elvis Presley.

Blagojevich told reporters he is proud of his first year as governor, despite criticism that he is press conference-prone and too removed from Springfield. A fellow Democrat likened him to a “used car dealer’’ for cutting programs he’d allegedly promised to fund.

“Before I came to office, this was the wild, wild West when it came to ethics,” Blagojevich said.

Blagojevich, who often talks about his blue-collar roots, said his mother instilled the value of reading when she took out a loan to buy the World Book encyclopedia.

“I learned a lot of different things, from birds to animals, presidents, history,’’ he said. “All those things were things that I learned before I even got to the third grade.’’

His wife, Patti Blagojevich, will campaign to encourage parents to read to their kids, the governor said.

Compared with his mother’s work as a CTA ticket agent and his father’s hazardous post at a steel mill, “this job’s a breeze, in that respect,’’ he said. “Criticism doesn’t bother me at all. It’s what you sign up for.’’

— Maureen O’Donnell
Give kids a book a month, gov says
Chicago Sun-Times


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