May 3, 2006 -- For Laura Bush's 11th trip to the devastated Gulf Coast, she came bearing a hefty gift: $500,000 worth of grants for schools to restock their libraries.
Ten grants from the Laura Bush Foundation for America's Libraries will go to seven schools in Louisiana and three schools in Mississippi that were damaged by Hurricane Katrina. The libraries have been rebuilt and are ready to receive books.
"What we want for the libraries is a full collection of fiction and very good up-to-date nonfiction to support the curriculum," Bush said.
The former librarian would also like to see some of her favorites on the shelves.
"Well, in children's libraries, of course, I put in my sentimental favorites like 'Little Women,' which my mother read to me before I could read," she said.
Restocking a library is an expensive proposition -- the basic cost of building a book collection for an elementary school is about $50,000, while the cost for a high school library collection is usually more than $100,000, according to the White House.
In the Gulf Coast region, 1,121 public and private school were damaged to some extent or destroyed. Bush's foundation plans to make more grants to schools throughout the year.
"It is unprecedented for school district superintendents and state school officers to have to rebuild this many school districts," Bush said. "We all know they need a lot of help from everybody."
Bush praised St. Bernard Parish Schools Superintendent Doris Voitier who rebuilt and reopened Chalmette Unified School, which is receiving a grant from the foundation. Voitier was expecting 50 students to 100 students to return to the school, but 600 had returned, Bush said. Voitier will open an elementary school this fall, which will also get a grant.
"She did it on her own," Bush said. "She is a go-getter and just started rebuilding and billed FEMA [the Federal Emergency Management Agency]."