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First lady urges focus on 'family literacy'

CHICAGO -- First lady Barbara Bush thanked the nation's newspapers Wednesday for joining her crusade against illiteracy, urging publishers to work even harder at breaking the 'cycle of despair' by promoting family literacy.

'Parents are their children's first teacher and role model,' Bush said in an speech to the American Newspaper Publishers Association.

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'Many of the estimated 23 million adults with literacy problems are parents.'

Bush warned that children born to illiterate parents are at particular risk of becoming illiterate themselves, because the one thing their parents can't teach them is the value of reading.

'To break this cycle of despair we have to work to establish literacy as a value in every American family,' Bush said. 'And I mean every type of family.'

Bush pointed to hundreds of community literacy projects sponsored by newspapers across the country and thanked the newspapers for writing the stories of 'struggle and triumph' featuring adults who have overcome their illiteracy.

She also assured the crowd of 1,000 that she is in good health.

'George says I remind him of (former New York Yankee baseball star) Yogi Berra when asked if he'd seen (the film) Dr. Zhivago,' Bush said. 'He said, 'Why should I? I feel fine.' That goes for me too.'

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