Literacy Program to start

Published: Wednesday, January 13, 2010 6:09 PM CST

The George W. Bush Childhood Home will kick off its Laura Bush Literacy Program in the coming weeks in hopes of instilling the former first lady's passion for reading in area children.

"We'll read books with them and just really help them to enjoy the reading process," said the home's Executive Director Paul St. Hilaire.

The program has been in the works for about a year, St. Hilaire said, and has been fueled both by local donations of books and a recent grant from the Permian Basin Area Foundation.

In addition to holding story nights where St. Hilaire and volunteers will read with children, the program also will allow kids to take home a book of their own because many area families can't afford to purchase reading material for each of their kids.

St. Hilaire said children also will be permitted to take books home, read them and then bring the book back to trade for another title.

The program will start with one story night each month geared toward a specific age group each time, and likely will grow to the point several story nights are being held each month, St. Hilaire said.

Introducing the reading program, St. Hilaire said, is the start to what they hope will be an extensive growth period at the home.

Eventually, he said, they look to add a permanent exhibit with a high-tech media center and also to further refurbish parts of the home so it remains a relevant attraction for locals and the hundreds who travel to see the site.

"While that's still a long ways off, that's another phase of our growth in the next few years," he said.

The home sees anywhere from 100 to 700 visitors in a month, St. Hilaire said, and still is welcoming people who travel from all over the world.

He said they recently took a man on a tour who traveled to Midland from Paris because he'd read about the home in Bush's book, "A Charge to Keep," and had always wanted to see it.

Part of being able to succeed through this growth period, he said, will depend on having volunteers both to continue the home's current operations and to assist with the reading nights.

They have a core group of about 35 volunteers who give their time weekly, monthly or whenever they're able to, he said.

However, they would like to add about 15 more volunteers to their roster so they'll have two or more individuals to fill each three-hour morning and afternoon shift.

Volunteers are trained at the home and typically work in the gift shop and lead visitors on tours, said volunteer coordinator Gayle Dodson.

She said several get nervous about giving tours, but that they're given a script about the home and the Bush family and then can add their own personal anecdotes from there.

"It's very worthwhile and you meet wonderful people," Dodson said.

The addition of the reading area, she said, will only further the home's current education efforts where fifth graders are given tours of the home. She said they work to remind kids about the uniqueness of being a Midlander because two presidents, a first lady and a governor lived in the home and Laura Bush grew up in Midland.

"We're just so proud we don't know what to do," Dodson said. "Midland's just unique."

Kathleen Thurber can be reached at

To volunteer call 682-3376. To contribute books to the literacy center, call 685-1112 to arrange a time for drop-off or pick-up of items.

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Museum Hours

Tues–Sat 10 AM – 5 PM, Sun 2–5 PM

Tours given until 4:30 PM

Closed Mondays, Easter, Thanksgiving, Christmas and New Years Day

1412 West Ohio Avenue
Midland, Texas 79701

Phone: (432) 685-1112