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First lady Laura Bush gives Corona’s PS 92 book funds

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The Laura Bush Foundation for America's Libraries awarded the elementary school $5,000 to replace aging nonfiction books for the little ones in kindergarten through second grade and expand the library's collection of early readers.

"When you come back next fall, they'll be there," Bush told a gathering of students and administrators from six of the eight other New York City schools that also received grant money as part of the nationwide program. Three others schools are in Queens.

PS 92 Principal Mary Dono thanked the first lady for the funds, saying, "You have gifted us with our dream."

While standing in the school's auditorium, Bush said libraries are the gateway to learning and future success.

"You have to read every day to become a better reader and do well in school," said Bush, whose broad smile never left her face. "The more you read, the more you learn and the better opportunities you'll have in life."

About 40 percent of the grant money received by PS 92 has been earmarked to replace aging books at the school, said the foundation's executive director, Beth Ann Bryan.

"People don't realize how old these books are," Bryan said of the books contained in many of America's libraries.

Bryan, who joined Bush in making the announcement, said nonfiction books in America's elementary schools average about 10 or 15 years old, making them outdated and incomplete.

The $5,000 grant doubles PS 92's annual library books budget, Bryan said.

Nationwide, the foundation awarded grants to 136 schools in 46 states, Washington, D.C. and the U.S. Virgin Islands for a total of more than $660,000.

In New York City eight schools will receive the grants, which vary depending on each school's assessed need. Among the eight are PS 104 and PS/MS 43 in the Rockaways as well as PS 111 in Long Island City.

Foundation officials and an advisory committee selected this year's grant recipients from a pool of more than 1,200.

Before making the announcement, Bush toured the top-floor library where kindergarten teacher Marta Torres read to about 30 pre-kindergartners and kindergartners arrayed around her on the floor.

By the time Bush entered the room, Torres had moved on from "Mommy Go Away" and "I Love Your Stinky Face" to one of the first lady's favorites, "Owl Babies."

In the auditorium, where the first lady was greeted by a patriotic medley from the school's choir and band, Bush encouraged youngsters to dedicate at least as much time over the summer to reading as to watching TV.

"You just can't take a vacation from learning," said Bush, who indicated that the advice came from the president himself.

"Reading isn't easy at first, but the more you read, the more you will enjoy (it)," she said.

As a child, Bush said, she loved reading "Little House on the Prairie" because the main character shared her name. "When I grew up, I made my love of books into my job," the one-time librarian said.

Reach reporter James DeWeese by e-mail at news@timesledger.com, or call 718-229-0300, Ext. 157.

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