Laura Bush Gets Caught Reading

Printer-friendly versionPrinter-friendly version

The first lady, Laura Bush, will appear on a Get Caught Reading (GCR) poster to be released around the time of her second annual National Book Festival, scheduled to be held in Washington, D.C., on September 21, 2002. The first lady is a strong advocate of literacy, said Pat Schroeder, president and CEO for the Association of American Publishers, noting that "our board is thrilled she’s emphasizing books." GCR posters show celebrities or politicians posing with a book or magazine of their choice and are part of the AAP campaign, launched in 1999, that works to promote literacy and to celebrate reading.

GCR, which is sponsored by the AAP and the Magazine Publishers of America (MPA), is an industry-wide initiative, held throughout the month of May. In its fourth year, GCR was the brainchild of Schroeder, who noticed that, due to an onslaught of entertainment choices, the popularity of book reading was waning. More importantly, the U.S. was, and still is, facing a literacy crisis. As the AAP and MPA note on their Web site (, there are 120 million adults that read at a fifth-grade level or less (these figures according to The Twilight of American Culture, by Dr. Morris Berman).

Mrs. Bush joins a long line of celebrities and politicians to pose for a GCR poster. Last year, over 90 senators and members of Congress posed for posters. This year, on a single afternoon in early March, approximately 70 members of Congress posed for the posters, which will be available as PDF downloads on the GCR Web site sometime in April. What’s more, members of Congress who missed the photo shoot asked AAP to come back in June so that they could be in a GCR poster -- these posters will be available in September. In addition to politicians, GCR also offers a number of posters showing celebrities reading books, including Derek Jeter, Sammy Sosa, Rosie O’ Donnell, and Dolly Parton, to name a few.

AAP Vice President Kathryn Blough encourages booksellers to download available posters from the GCR Web site and post them in their stores during May. Additionally, booksellers can find on the Web site a list of suggestions on how to promote "Get Caught Reading Month" in their stores. Furthermore, Book Sense recently sent booksellers information on creating a "Community Wish List" in their stores (for more information, click here and the Book Sense white box will include a special GCR poster of Clifford, The Big Red Dog, for in-store display. ABA noted that all GCR materials are available to its members through AAP or on ABA's Web site.

While May is the official "Get Caught Reading Month," September is certainly gearing up to be a big month for the program, too. Aside from the scheduled release of the GCR poster with Laura Bush, AAP is asking governors in all 50 states to considering lifting sales tax on books during the week of the National Book Festival, September 15 to September 22, 2002.

"They lift sales tax on clothes when the schools open," said Schroeder. "Why not during the National Book Festival -- it’s back to school time." She contends that lifting the tax is one way of making a Washington-based festival more national, and the publicity that would come from lifting the sales tax on books for that week might make people who haven’t read for some time try books again. Just as important, Blough added, it should increase book sales and store traffic. --David Grogan